Naomi Lewin, WQXR Host
Naomi Lewin is the weekend host on WQXR, and host of the weekly podcast Conducting Business.
When I was a fledgling opera singer, Trinity Church Wall Street was one of New York's musical powerhouses, with noonday concerts at St. Paul's Chapel every Monday and Thursday, and at Trinity every Tuesday.
The monthly flyer for those concerts listed performers with embryonic careers like mine side-by-side with the likes of Paula Robison and Eliot Fisk, the Crystal Cathedral Choir and Anonymous 4 (who were somewhat more anonymous at the time). And Trinity Church also sponsored Concerts-to-Go, an outreach program that sent folks like me to perform in nursing homes all over the city.
Apparently, Trinity Church has backed off from that kind of music outreach. Instead, they established the series Bach at One, featuring the extraordinary Trinity Choir, led by its equally extraordinary music director Julian Wachner. These 45-minute concerts (with a tiny dollop of religion) quickly established themselves as a midday respite in downtown Manhattan.
So it was fairly distressing for the music faithful when, at the final installment of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio this January, the announcement came that Bach at One was being temporarily suspended. After that, Trinity canceled the premiere of Robert Sirota’s opera Iscariot, which had been scheduled for this May. The explanation? "Expenses for the music and arts program exceeded what was anticipated for 2011."
This week, Julian Wachner performed a Bach organ prelude – and conducted the choir – when Bach at One returned to St. Paul’s. As Trinity Church Vicar Anne Mallonee put it on Monday, "Spread the word! Bach is back!" And the concert was, as expected, glorious. These professional musicians were clearly thrilled to be there, doing what they do best.
Back in the day, the Trinity Church music flyer always had a little note at the bottom, saying that their free concerts were made possible by the Church, and "an anonymous gift to the glory of God and in honor of Johannes Brahms." I don’t know if that Brahms lover endowed the Trinity concerts in perpetuity, but word is that the church has received additional donations for the music program, and has provided some additional funding itself. I can’t think of a better, more spiritually satisfying use of their money.