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Trinity Church Wall Street’s Midday Concert Series Turns 50; Season Includes World Premieres of Trinity Commissions, Expanded Concert Programs, Performances Around the Country
Source: 21c
25/09/2018

Trinity Church Wall Street celebrates the 50th anniversary of its midday concert series during the 2018-19 season. Trinity Church itself is in the midst of an approximately two-year rejuvenation project that will include the installation of two new pipe organs; consequently, its entire “indispensable and unmissable” (New York Times) array of free, ambitious musical offerings will take place this season at St. Paul’s Chapel. This Georgian-era gem just a few blocks north of Trinity, the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan, celebrated the 250th anniversary of its opening in 2016.

The expanded concert offerings this season include the lunchtime favorite Bach + Oneconcerts on Mondays at 1pm and the Pipes at One organ series on Fridays at 1pm. For Pipes at One, this marks the beginning of a year-round schedule. The perennially popular Christmas Messiah performances return in December, as does the Time’s Arrow Festival in the spring. The season includes premieres by David Little, Ellen Reid, Daniel Schlosberg and Nico Muhly presented in the new Evening Concert Series. Many of Trinity’s concert offerings are professionally filmed, streamed live and available on demand.

Trinity also deepens and expands its musical presence in the community and around the country this season, with performances at the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton, PA; REDCAT in Los Angeles; Brooklyn’s National Sawdust; and Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall, La MaMa, Metropolitan Museum, and The Shed at Hudson Yards, an architecturally spectacular New York venue opening in spring 2019.

Trinity’s Midday Concerts turn 50

Trinity’s midday concerts, which have grown into several series dubbed “At One,” date back to the tenure of Organist and Choirmaster Larry King, who assumed his duties on June 1, 1968. As King wrote in Trinity’s November-December newsletter that year:

“To avoid a conflict with John Upham’s fine recital series on Wednesdays at St. Paul’s Chapel, our noonday concerts have been changed to Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:45. Attendance at these concerts has grown each week and we are surprised if we find less than 140 people in the Nave for any one of these concerts.”

The noonday concerts in turn had evolved out of the noontime organ recitals that began with organist Channing Lefebvre in the 1920s. Larry King broadened the programs to feature professional groups and showcase different forms of music, giving the series the name “Noonday Concerts.” By 1976, the concerts had attracted a benefactor, an anonymous donor whose funding has helped nurture these concerts to the present.
 
After the recent completion of a five-year survey of Bach cantatas by The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra, led by Trinity Wall Street Director of Music and the Arts Julian Wachner, the Bach at One series has been newly christened Bach + One. This new series restarts the survey, this time performing the cantatas one at a time in catalogue order, accompanied by a second complementary piece from a variety of composers.
 
Initiating the year-round Pipes at One concert series on Fridays at 1pm, Trinity’s organists Wachner, Associate Organist and Chorusmaster Avi Stein, and AssociateOrganist Janet Yieh will be joined by celebrated guest artists performing on the newly restored and relocated Noack three-manual pipe organ that was inaugurated in the spring of 2018.

Evening Concert Series

After 50 years of offering midday concerts, Trinity is now offering additional monthly evening performances featuring The Choir of Trinity Wall Street to the Lower Manhattan neighborhood. This fall, concerts explore the theme of the setting sun, through cherished music of the Anglican tradition (Oct 12) and Rachmaninoff’s treasured Vespers (Nov 16). 
 
The new year brings new commissions as concerts in January and February are devoted to premieres of Trinity co-commissions. First up, Wachner, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and resident contemporary ensemble NOVUS NY present the world premiere of a revised version of David Little’s Am I Born. On the same program is the East Coast premiere of Ellen Reid’s Dreams of the New World, co-commissioned by Trinity Church Wall Street and the Los Angeles Master Chorale (Jan 8). The same forces reunite for the New York premiere of Daniel Schlosberg’s nightingale+rose, along with the East Coast premiere of a new work by Nico Muhly (Feb 15). The latter piece was also co-commissioned by Trinity Church Wall Street and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, along with Vocal Essence Minneapolis.
 
In the Christmas season, two “Carols by Candlelight” performances featuring Trinity’s semi-professional chorus Downtown Voices, The Trinity Youth Chorus, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and resident contemporary ensemble NOVUS NY will be led by Downtown Voices conductor Stephen Sands. The three choral ensembles join again with NOVUS NY for a special afternoon presentation on June 16, conducted by both Wachner and Sands, of Stravinsky’s dramatic ballet Les noces (The Wedding) and Carl Orff’sCarmina Burana. The program is rounded out by Bartók’s Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion.
 
Trinity’s “dazzlingly beautiful” (New York Times) annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah is performed four times by the choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra in December. This unique presentation of Handel’s masterpiece, with soloists all drawn from the ranks of The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, has long been a fixture of the New York holiday season and a consistent critical favorite. In 2017, the New York Times described the performance as “perhaps the essential New York ‘Messiah.’ With the church’s choir and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra…Mr. Wachner provides gritty, gutsy, edge-of-the-seat performances.”
 
Finally, Trinity hosts New York Baroque Incorporated, a conductorless ensemble headed by Artistic and Executive Director Wen Yang, for a five-concert residency. A special ticketed fall performance of works by Bach and his sons, in which Wachner and The Trinity Choir joined, opened the season, and in the spring, the early music ensemble returns with four instrumental “Alchemy Series” concerts on the themes Water, Air, Earth and Fire.

Time’s Arrow

Trinity’s Time’s Arrow festival, taking place this season from March 5-9, is conceived as a unique combination of Baroque and contemporary works united by a common theme. Continuing its commitment to amplifying the voices of female artists and exploring sensitive contemporary themes, this year's Time's Arrow festival juxtaposes old and new stories of the biblical figure Susanna. The festival includes Handel's Susanna, as Trinity continues its long-term presentation of the composer's oratorios, and the new opera Artemisia, fully staged by director Christopher Alden. Artemisia tells the story of the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, who portrayed herself as Susanna in her famous painting Susanna and the Elders. The opera was composed by Laura Schwendinger to a libretto by Ginger Strand and will be conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya

Engaging Partners New and Old

Outside the walls of Trinity Church Wall Street and St. Paul’s Chapel, Trinity’s musical forces also have an expanded presence this season. The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and NOVUS NY, led by Wachner, performed a program of music by famed minimalist Terry Riley at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust earlier this month. The Choir and Wachner also reprise Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, an oratorio commemorating the history of coal mining in northeastern Pennsylvania around the turn of the 20th century, which received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music. After a performance of the piece this summer at Mass MOCA with Bang on a Can All-Stars, their partners for the 2015 recording of the work, they reunite for additional performances at the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton, PA, formerly a center of the anthracite coal industry (Nov 10), and at Carnegie Hall (Dec 1).
 
In late November, Wachner and the choir travel to REDCAT in Los Angeles to give the world premiere of Ellen Reid and Roxie Perkins’s new opera p r i s m, co-commissioned by Trinity Church Wall Street and Beth Morrison Projects, before giving the East Coast premiere of the work in New York in January at La MaMa during the Prototype Festival. Trinity musicians and singers also participated in an earlier version of p r i s m called Winter’s Child, performed under Wachner’s direction at the 2015 Prototype Festival. In December, the choir and Baroque Orchestra perform David Lang’s Little Match Girl Passion at the Metropolitan Museum, along with Handel’s Dixit Dominus. And for a total of 42 days in April, May, and June, the Choir gives six performances a day of Arvo Pärt’s Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima – composed as a response to the paintings of Gerhard Richter – as part of the Reich Richter Pärt event during the inaugural season of Manhattan’s much-anticipated new venue, The Shed at Hudson Yards. Additional conductors for these performances are Avi Stein, Associate Director of Music Melissa Attebury, and choir member Thomas McCargar.

Liturgical Music, Neighborhood and Outreach, New Organs 

Each Sunday, the choirs of Trinity Wall Street lead a wonderfully varied repertoire at services that speak to the diversity of New York City. On Sunday evenings at 8pm in St. Paul’s Chapel, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street offers an intimate Compline by Candlelight featuring chant, improvisation, and newly composed sacred works.

Trinity’s Music and the Arts program is dedicated to promoting lifelong engagement with music through a comprehensive program of educational opportunities, cultural activities, and free access to Trinity's acclaimed performances. The Trinity Youth Chorus brings together talented youth, ages 5 to 18, from the five boroughs of New York City, to receive both group and individual training in vocal technique, music theory, sight-reading, and performance skills from a group of dedicated professionals led by Attebury. The choristers provide musical leadership at Sunday services alongside The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and offer concerts throughout the season. Trinity also supports youth from underserved communities in their musical, academic, social, and emotional development, primarily through the study, performance, and appreciation of diverse genres of music. Among its various outreach partners is Hour Children (an organization assisting incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated women and their children), for which Trinity provides teaching artists and music education programs. Trinity also has partnered with community centers such as the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning to stream live webcasts for the community in Queens, New York.

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