“Life without music is unthinkable. Life without music is academic. That is why my contact with music is a TOTAL EMBRACE.” – Leonard Bernstein
Trinity Church Wall Street’s “indispensable and unmissable” (New York Times) array of free, ambitious musical offerings, many of which are professionally filmed, streamed live and available on-demand, begins in full swing in the 2017-18 season, as Trinity’s annualTime’s Arrow festival moves to fall. Continuing the tradition of in-depth explorations of modern masters such as Stravinsky, Britten, and Ginastera, this season begins a two-year survey of the complete works of Austrian composer Anton Webern. His music will be juxtaposed with the early music works from which he drew inspiration and the compositions of contemporary composers influenced by him. Two of Trinity’s exceptional ensembles are showcased by this broad range of programming: the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and resident contemporary music orchestra NOVUS NY, both under the leadership of Trinity’s Director of Music, Julian Wachner. After this season’s Time’s Arrow, the survey of Webern’s music continues in the fall of 2018.
This coming spring, Trinity honors the centennial of one of New York’s most famous and beloved musical icons with TOTAL EMBRACE: Leonard Bernstein at 100. April and May Concerts at One in St. Paul’s Chapel will be devoted to the Bernstein celebration, followed by a four-concert finale (May 31-June 2). The series offers a wide variety of Bernstein’s music, from chamber to large-scale orchestral, plus compositions by composer-conductors with significant ties to Bernstein, New York, and the New York Philharmonic, including Lukas Foss, Gustav Mahler, Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Wachner himself, who was one of Lukas Foss’s protégés.
As an upbeat to the season, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street embarks on a late summer tour this August for three concerts in Norway’s Stavanger Kammermusikkfestival, after which it travels to the Utrecht Early Music Festival in the Netherlands to participate in a new project, 150 Psalms. This ambitious twelve-concert series presents choral settings of 150 psalms by 150 composers, sung by four superlative choirs, with additional performances in New York in the fall as part of the Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival(Nov 2-11). Other out-of-town engagements include The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra in an all-Bach concert at the Salle Bourgie in Montreal, and the multimedia Washington DC premiere of Julia Wolfe's Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio Anthracite Fields at the Kennedy Center, featuring The Choir along with Bang on a Can All-Stars.
Among Trinity’s other season highlights are a week-long festival celebrating the inauguration of the newly restored and relocated Noack three-manual pipe organ in St. Paul’s Chapel, with performers to include many of the world’s leading concert organists, most of whom have had a previous relationship with Trinity or the original version of this renovated instrument.
Following the inaugural festivities, a “Pipes at One” series on Friday afternoons continues throughout the spring, as does Trinity’s celebrated “Bach at One” series, which will feature Bach Cantatas performed by The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra, along with the first chapter in a complete Bach organ survey by Associate Organist Avi Stein. The 2018 installment includes the complete Preludes and Fugues and the complete Leipzig Chorale collection. Trinity’s lauded take on Handel’s Messiah returns for three December performances at Trinity Church, and, after celebrating Monteverdi’s 450th birthday last year with a performance of his Vespers of 1610, The Choir rounds out the season with two more renditions of the monumental work, first in collaboration with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute, and then in early June at the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition.
Time’s Arrow festivalTrinity’s Time’s Arrow festival undergoes a transition in the coming season: rather than being a series of January concerts following on the heels of the holidays, Time’s Arrow will now open Trinity’s musical season in September. A two-year span of Time’s Arrow in 2017-18 focuses on the complete works of Austrian serialist Anton Webern with a series of six concerts in September and nine more the following season. With its signature juxtaposition of early and modern music, the festival presents Webern’s works alongside those of the early contrapuntal composers whose direct descendant he considered himself to be, as well as a sampling of works by the later composers he inspired.
Wachner traces his interest in Webern to a lecture at Tanglewood in 1990 by composer Marti Epstein, a recent Tanglewood fellow and Oliver Knussen protégé, and now a professor of composition at Berklee College of Music. At the time, the 20-year-old Wachner was the assistant director of the composition program at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute; he heard Epstein make the case that of the three primary composers of the “Second Viennese School” – Schoenberg and his disciples Berg and Webern – it was Webern who exerted a disproportionate influence on later generations of composers. She felt that both Schoenberg and Berg were conspicuous in their use of expressive elements from Late Romanticism, whereas Webern’s mature style represented a much more revolutionary break with the past. Many of Epstein’s compositions are interspersed with Webern’s on Time’s Arrow programs.
Part of the intent of this Time’s Arrow festival is to explore Webern’s life, struggles and alleged political beliefs through talks presented in conjunction with the concerts. Webern’s music, like Schoenberg’s and Berg’s, was condemned by the Nazis as “cultural Bolshevism” and “degenerate art,” which was indeed part of the basis for his aesthetic standards being taken up by later generations. He is furthermore known to have helped Jewish friends before and during the war, including Schoenberg’s son, and he was, of course, a devoted disciple of Schoenberg himself. Despite all that, in the intervening years, letters have surfaced that have forced the conclusion that Webern may have had some enthusiasm for the regime. The festival’s examination of Webern allows an exploration of how an artist’s work relates to personal politics and whether the two spheres can be separated.
Time’s Arrow will feature early music by Heinrich Isaac, who was the subject of Webern’s thesis at Vienna University, as well as Senfl, Ockeghem, Tallis, and John Sheppard. In addition to the music of Marti Epstein, other recent compositions tracing Webern’s influence throughout his century and beyond are by Stockhausen, Ligeti, Schoenberg, Babbitt, Heinz Holliger, Kati Agócs, Sebastian Currier, Avner Dorman, and Sofia Gubaidulina.
Concerts at One, Bernstein Festival
Marking the 2018 centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, Trinity’s TOTAL EMBRACE: Leonard Bernstein at 100 presents some of the less-performed works of this great composer-conductor, with a special emphasis on vocal compositions, contextualized by works of other notable New York City composer-conductors including Bernstein’s lifelong friend Lukas Foss, as well as Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Julian Wachner. Bernstein’s relationship to Gustav Mahler is also explored in detail; not only was the Bohemian giant a predecessor of Bernstein’s as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, but Bernstein was in large part responsible for raising the profile of Mahler’s symphonies through his many performances and recordings, firmly establishing all of them in the standard repertoire of orchestras around the country. As Bernstein’s long association with Mahler’s music began with the New York Philharmonic’s centenary Mahler Festival in 1960, it is poetic justice for Mahler to play a prominent role in Bernstein’s hundredth anniversary celebration.
TOTAL EMBRACE begins with a series of Concerts at One in April and May, with NOVUS NY, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and a wide variety of North America’s leading vocal and instrumental soloists. Repertoire highlights include Bernstein’s orchestral song cycle for six singers, Songfest; Arias and Barcarolles in its orchestral version; Halil: Nocturne for solo flute; and Serenade after Plato’s Symposium for solo violin and orchestra. For the four-concert finale, Trinity’s a vocational and educational ensembles, Downtown Voices and the Trinity Youth Chorus, get into the act. Emphasizing larger-scale works, these concerts feature the Suite No. 2 from Bernstein’s ballet Dybbuk; hisAnniversaries for Orchestra; and finally, his Third Symphony, “Kaddish,” dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy and scored for a narrator, mixed choir, boys’ choir, and soprano soloist along with the orchestra. Other highlights include all of Mahler’s song cycles for voice and orchestra; Boulez’s Le Marteau sans maître; Lukas Foss’s Time Cycle and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird; Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Karawane for chorus and orchestra; and Wachner’s Gaudé: an LB Anniversary for Large Orchestra, sharing the bill with Bernstein’s Anniversaries, the work that inspired it. Pianist Lara Downes also gives a solo piano performance featuring the complete cycle of LB Anniversaries she has commissioned from living composers.
150 Psalms, Anthracite Fields
When The Choir of Trinity Wall Street travels to the Netherlands this September, it will join the Tallis Scholars, the Netherlands Chamber Choir and the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir for a monumental multimedia project based on the biblical Book of Psalms. Conceived by Netherlands Chamber Choir Managing Director Tido Visser, 150 Psalms is a combination installation, symposium, and choral festival that envisions using the psalms as a source of themes and ideas in which people of all religions and political persuasions can find common ground. Nearly one thousand years of musical settings come from 150 different composers, including Hildegard von Bingen, Josquin, Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Schubert, and Beethoven, plus newly commissioned psalms from David Lang, Nico Muhly, Zad Moultaka, Mohammed Fairouz, Michel van der Aa, Evelin Seppar, Isidora Žebeljan and many others. The 150 psalm settings are spread out over twelve concerts, each with a unifying theme, such as justice, suffering, power and powerlessness. The project travels to New York in November as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, at which The Choir of Trinity Wall Street will participate in five performances at St. Paul’s Chapel and Alice Tully Hall.
In 2015 The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Bang on a Can All-Stars, led by Wachner, released a recording of Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, an oratorio commemorating the history of coal mining in northeastern Pennsylvania around the turn of the 20th century that received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music. The same forces reunite next spring at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center for the multimedia DC premiere of the piece, accompanied by historic photo-montages helping to recall Pennsylvania's coal-mining past (March 13).
New St. Paul’s Organ, “Pipes at One,” and More
St. Paul’s Chapel, the oldest church building in Manhattan, celebrated the 250th anniversary of its opening last season, for which the installation of the rescued and renovated Noack pipe organ (opus 111/1989) represents a fitting belated birthday tribute. The search for an instrument to replace the organ in St. Paul’s had been in the works for some time when Wachner heard that the Church of the Redeemer in Boston’s Chestnut Hill had similar plans. Coincidentally, he also happened to know their instrument well, and immediately realized that it would be the ideal complement to the much-lauded acoustic of the intimate space at St. Paul’s. To inaugurate the new organ, Trinity hosts the annual American Guild of Organists President’s Day Conference in St. Paul’s Chapel on February 19, after which a week of concerts will demonstrate the full range of the instrument’s capabilities. The final concert of the week will both recall the150 Psalms performances and anticipate the Bernstein centennial later in the spring, as The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and NOVUS NY perform psalm settings by Bernstein, Lukas Foss, and Wachner (Feb 25). A subsequent “Pipes at One” series on Friday afternoons continues the organ celebration throughout the spring, curated by Peter Edwin Krasinski.
After performing the work in celebration of Monteverdi’s 450th birthday last season, members of The Choir of Trinity Wall Street will give a repeat performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, in collaboration with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute and featuring teachers from across New York City (March 24). The performance will be repeated June 8 at the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, a high-profile early music festival founded in 1990 and produced by the San Francisco Early Music Society. Finally, during the holiday season The Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra give three performances of “New York’s finest annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah” (Time Out New York) at Trinity Church (Dec 15-17).
Trinity’s semi-professional choir Downtown Voices, led by conductor Stephen Sands, gives two performances of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers in the fall, plus a Carols by Candlelight concert along with NOVUS NY in December and a concert titled “Northern Lights: The Baltic Tradition” in March.
The Trinity Youth Chorus, after joining the Canterbury Choral Society for Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Carnegie Hall in November, performs Britten’s Ceremony of Carols in December and Bach’s “Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden” in March, both led by Trinity’s Associate Director of Music Melissa Attebury.
Each Sunday, the Choirs of Trinity Wall Street lead a wonderfully varied repertoire at services that speak directly to the diversity of New York City. On Sunday evenings at 8pm in St. Paul’s Chapel, The Choir offers an intimate Compline by Candlelight featuring chant, improvisation, and newly composed sacred works.
About Trinity Church Wall Street
Trinity Church Wall Street is a growing Episcopal community that seeks to serve and heal the world by building neighborhoods that live Gospel truths, generations of faithful leaders, and sustainable communities. The mission is grounded in Trinity’s core values: faith, integrity, inclusiveness, compassion, social justice, and stewardship. Trinity is located in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District, where it has created a dynamic home for music. Serving as director of Trinity’s music program—as well as principal conductor of The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, the period-instrument Trinity Baroque Orchestra, and contemporary-music ensemble-in-residence NOVUS NY—Julian Wachner also oversees all liturgical, professional and community music programming at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. Music at Trinity ranges from large-scale oratorios to chamber music, and from intimate a cappella singing to jazz improvisation. Many concerts at Trinity are professionally filmed and streamed live and available on-demand at http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/videos. Performances by The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Julian Wachner can be heard each Monday at 1pm on WWFM The Classical Network, www.wwfm.org. The Rev. Dr. William Lupfer is Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street and the Rev. Phillip Jackson is Vicar of Trinity Church Wall Street.