I’ve had the impression for sometime that Trinity Wall Street would prefer to be a Southern Baptist church. When might they be leaving the Anglican Communion to become part of the bigoted and prejudiced (specifically anti-gay) Southern Baptist Convention?
Hola. I think it’s time to give up on Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan (a parish church of the Anglican Communion) and I’ve pretty much done that. I’ve observed several Anglican churches over the past years, but I’ve not come away from any of them as consistently frustrated as I have been with Trinity Wall Street (TWS).
Having been most fortunate to be given the opportunity and privilege of being a chorister in three major Orchestra Choruses in my past — if this is your first time here I’ll list them: the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the University of Maryland Chorus and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus — the main reason I was watching their Sunday Liturgy was because of the music: The superb Trinity Choir, and Avi Stein (the organist) and Dr Julian Wachner (his direction of The Trinity Choir, and his High Church organ improvisations during the censing of the free-standing altar).
The frustration I have felt with TWS has mainly been over two aspects of their Liturgy: 1) Their choice of music — for well over a year they have been in this gospel-spiritual rut, which is very odd for an Anglican church — as well as 2) their incompetent/inferior camera work. And any complaints about these things are mostly ignored because they do what they want. Watching their Liturgy is supposed to be a pleasant experience, not one that induces frustration and makes one want to click off the video, as I often feel. But I’ve come to realise that they don’t care about the complaints they’ve received and they’ve made that clear, otherwise they would have made the suggested changes. They do what they want to do, and their unspoken message is: “If you don’t like what we do, don’t watch our Liturgies. No one is forcing you to watch our videos.” And frankly, when you’re a corporate church with at least $2 Billion US Dollars, and the former rector (Cooper) required a SoHo town house paid for by the church that was estimated at $5.5 million, you don’t have to care what anybody thinks. Then there’s the new rector. He chooses to live very simply (sarcasm intended). He requires a $15,000/month place (a Luxury Condo?) with three terraces (Dahling) facing the river (Dahling). I would feel embarrassed to require a place that cost $15,000.00 a month and expect my employer to pay for it. I have to ask: How many members of The Trinity Choir live in a place that costs $15,000/month? Something tells me that very few, if any, do. Why do these rectors require such expensive, elaborate, elitist places to live? They’re no better than anybody else, but they appear to have placed themselves up on this elitist grand pedestal because they have the title “Rector” behind their name. (roll eyes) Just like the last corporate parasitic rector, I think this new rector saw nothing but $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ when he saw the TWS job listing for a new rector and applied for this job. As I see it, these rectors are merely exploiting the church in the name of corporate greed that they’re working for and the church allows itself to be exploited. To this church, money is #1 and it’s what this church is about. The Anglican faith is merely “cover” and secondary to the real reason for the church’$ primary existence. Didn’t TWS learn anything from the greed-based Cooper ExperienceTM? Apparently not. Corporate Greed is what it is. And at TWS, they don’t need to care what anybody thinks, do they?
A reader of pink barrio e-mailed me awhile back stating he had written to TWS expressing many of the same criticisms I have about the church, particularly the camera work. He said they said they would forward his e-mail to some committee (how very corporate Wall Street). I thought when reading that: Oh lord, not a committee! You don’t leave things like this to a committee. What do they do sit around and debate whether the camera should show the Choir during the Communion Anthem or whether the camera should be off showing the ceiling instead? Loco. Just make the changes; you don’t need some useless committee to sit around and gab about it for hours while sipping their lattes, for goodness’ sakes. This stuff is basic. It’s as if they try to see how difficult they can make things by dragging in some waste-of-time committee. Anyway, he said that they made some of the changes — such as showing the Choir during the Communion Anthem, but only for a short time and then they went right back to doing things the way they were before he sent the e-mail. He felt his effort was a waste of time. Typical.
One of my commenters brought this to my attention. On November 15, 2015, these pieces were programmed for the Liturgy:
Alice Parker/ Robert Shaw – I Got Shoes
Josquin des Prez – Ave Maria
The “I Got Shoes” (*roll eyes*) Offertory Anthem was not performed, I don’t think. What was it replaced with? I wasn’t familiar with that piece, but I think it was maybe Poulenc. I only heard it once; I’d have to hear it again to see if I would still go with Poulenc. Whatever it was it was beautifully sung by the superb Trinity Choir and the same for the Communion Anthem. But it would seem that some people have had a lobotomy at Trinity Wall Street when I hear a Renaissance piece sung beautifully by The Trinity Choir, and then within the next minute the mood from that is completely and instantly destroyed because Julian sits at the baby grand piano and begin playing the introduction to the Communion hymn, which was from their “Lift Every Voice and Sing” hymnal. His piano introduction sounded very similar to some of the NPR bumper music and I was waiting for the rector to stand and say, “This is NPR. National Public Radio.”
Some personal history: I listened to National Public Radio for years before it unofficially became National Pentagon Radio, a shill and hack for the Military Industrial Complex and The Establishment. I remember when that Cokey Roberts was gushing over George W Bush and saying to Bob Edwards (who got kicked out of NPR) on “Morning Edition,” “He’s a very attractive candidate.” The woman was referring to George W Bush. I thought: Attractive candidate? Clearly, the woman has no taste/standards! I remember screaming at my radio when I heard that, “What is going on at NPR? What the hell drugs is this woman on? NPR shouldn’t allow people near their microphones when they’re spaced-out on drugs.” Well that’s when I began to question NPR and what they were becoming and over time the more I heard I began giving up on that network. But before that, I listened to NPR all the time. I knew all their music well (they played some very nice music), and I could even rattle off the “funding credits” (their commercials) as fast as the guy from the network read them, which went like this: “Support for this programme is provided by this and other NPR member stations and the NPR News and Information Fund. Contributors include: The John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, ….(and so forth). This is NPR. National Public Radio.” Then they went back to the local NPR member station usually. (Related: NPR fawns over neo-fascist Marine Le Pen).
Or the newscast at the beginning of “All Things Considered” one heard:
“From National Public Radio News in Washington, I’m Ann Taylor.”
Is Ann Taylor still at NPR, does anybody know?
Now back to Julian at TWS, that’s how his piano introduction to the Communion hymn struck me. It reminded me of some of the NPR bumper music, specifically something from the Windham Hill label. I played the video for mi amigo and he said: “You’re right, it does sound like Windham Hill.” The point is that it was such a clash in styles from the Renaissance piece we had just heard moments ago and the peaceful mood that had been set, but they seem completely oblivious to this clash in styles at TWS as they abruptly change the mood. And this happens often. Unless one has no feelings or consciousness at all, how can one not hear or notice such a drastic clash in styles from High Renaissance to: “This is NPR. National Public Radio” and their Windham Hill bumper music in a matter of a minute? Julian plays the piano beautifully and the piano introduction was beautiful, but it was out of place. Again (for the thick people), it was a major clash in styles following the Renaissance piece the Choir had just sung, and it was not what one would expect to hear during an Anglican Liturgy. It would have fit nicely in a Southern Baptist service. And this Southern Baptist theme keeps reappearing at TWS through the music chosen.
What is wrong with these people at TWS? That’s a valid question: Would Julian programme the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 for his The Washington Chorus in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall or The Trinity Choir’s Messiah performance at Lincoln Center and have on the same programme the following repertoire:
Piano music from the Windham Hill label, and then have The Washington Chorus (at the Kennedy Center) or The Trinity Choir (at Lincoln Center) perform the following:
“We Shall Overcome”
“I Got Shoes?”
“Fix me Jesus?” and
“Gimme dat ‘ole Tyme Relig’on” and others.
Would he programme that? Something tells me he wouldn’t. So if he wouldn’t programme Monteverdi on the same programme with Windham Hill (and those other pieces I listed because it’s a clash of styles/genres) at those concert venues, why is it acceptable to do that at TWS? I don’t understand that.
Incompetent Camera Crew
Then, while the Trinity Choir was performing their Offertory Anthem, where was the camera? The camera was off showing the altar and the priests preparing for Communion/tidying up. But the Choir was singing. Shouldn’t the camera be on the Choir? DUH. Then the camera showed the backs of the choristers. (I always enjoy seeing the backs of choristers, don’t you?) At one point, the camera showed one side of the Choir from a distance — I take it that their zoom/close-up function is broken or they have forgotten how to use it? — but the other side of the Choir was not shown (other than their backs), and then we were treated to the backs of the choristers again. Then, the Choir was still singing but the camera was off in the back of the Nave looking towards the High Altar. I asked my PC screen: What are we doing back here? Shouldn’t the camera be up near the High Altar where the Choir is singing? Loco./Crazy. What is wrong with these people at TWS? They’re Inept. Incompetent, and they don’t care what anybody thinks who disagrees with their insipid decisions. Until fairly recently, the Choir was seated in front of the High Altar. I didn’t like that because nothing is supposed to be in front of the High Altar. But there was one positive thing about that: Viewers could see clearly which choristers were there when they sat in that arrangement. During the Offertory Anthem, the camera would occasionally go down both rows of the Choir and one could clearly see who was there, and that is something that I look for. Now that they’re seated in the English Cathedral choir arrangement facing each other on either side of the High Altar it looks dark (it looks much brighter in front of the High Altar) — did they not think to adjust the production lighting for this new Choir arrangement? — and it’s hard to see which choristers are there, in part, because of the dim lighting on them. The camera crew doesn’t seem to have a clue on how to show the two sides of the Choir clearly and they seem to think they have to keep the camera moving like the US corporate media do to keep viewer’s short attention span. And despite complaints, the camera crew absolutely refuse to have the camera on The Choir during the Communion Anthem. Loco. They might as well be playing a music CD during Communion. The Choir is performing the Communion Anthem therefore the camera should be on the Choir, no? That seems pretty basic, no? But the idiots of their incompetent camera crew think that watching people receiving communion wafers and sipping wine is more interesting to watch, or scanning the walls and stained glass windows, or like last week: focusing the camera on some woman’s baby during Communion. *roll eyes* A suggestion (not that they’re about to take it): Go over to B&H Photo in Manhattan and get some instruction on how to be a superb camera crew for goodness’ sakes, unless you prefer to remain being an incompetent camera crew.
These days, I can hear some of the priests at Trinity Wall Street telling someone: “You’ll love our church. We have anything you want. If you’re Low Church, we’ve got that. If you’re High Church, we’ve got that too. Anything you want we have. Are you into gospel-spiritual music? We’ve got lots of that and nearly every Sunday. (The person the priest is speaking to is thinking: Gospel in an Anglican church?) We’ve got English Cathedral Music on occasion. I’m told we have a good choir but to tell you the truth I can’t tell the difference between one choir and another and that’s why I sometimes (rudely) talk with the priest sitting next to me while they’re singing because to me all choirs sound the same. Well, anyway, you’ll love it at Trinity Wall Street so come and visit us and remember that offering plate when it passes by, and you’ll see that we have it all. We have anything you want at Trinity Wall Street.
Yes, I guess one could say that, and the part that the priests are leaving out is that it’s one big mess. TWS tries to be all things to all people and it doesn’t work, and nobody seems to notice (other than the superb choristers of The Trinity Choir).
Mi amigo/My friend asked me: Will this gospel-spiritual music obsession/fixation that they’re on continue into Advent? Why wouldn’t it? I suspect they’ll be doing this year-round, even in subdued Lent. There are some slow and quiet gospel-spiritual pieces they could drag out for Lent. And with that mess called TWS, what does the season of the church year have to do with anything anymore? Nada.
I think they really do prefer gospel-spiritual music at TWS, and that has caused me to ask when they might be bringing in praise bands at TWS? It wouldn’t surprise me if they were to do that considering the direction the church is going. It’s just that I wouldn’t expect to have a church so fixated on gospel-spiritual type music on corporate Wall Street, would you?
Viewers of TWS videos at one time could watch the organist play the organ voluntaries and hymns, just as one can watch the organists at Washington National Cathedral. But TWS apparently decided that no one has any interest in watching some “boring organist” (not me saying that) — even though Avi Stein plays beautifully and can make their digital organ sound like a pipe organ because he knows registration — so they removed the camera they had at the organ console. Why? I don’t understand many of the decisions made in this church. One gets the strong impression that they have a glaring lack of interest in the music. I can confirm that since they’ve deleted all of the many stellar performances given by The Trinity Choir during the 2013 season. What idiots would delete that music? Many of those performances I considered legendary, no exaggeration. They also deleted their superb live performance of Israel in Egypt and their live Messiah performances from their website. So I no longer link to them because of all the dead links from them I have on this site. By comparison, Washington National Cathedral keeps all of their videos on their site for (I think) up to 6 years.
Would you send a check to billionaire Donald Trump each week?
Mi amigo asked me: Why do they have an Offertory at TWS? His point was that with a church that has billions and all their real estate in Manhattan they don’t need to take up any offering at all. And why would anyone put dinero/money in the offering plate for a church that already has billions? That’s the equivalent of sending billionaire Donald Trump a check each week. What idiot would do that? They could take all the dinero collected during the Offertory and split it evenly among the choristers of The Trinity Choir — if anyone deserves the offering they do — so that they are paid better than they currently are considering some of that god-awful repertoire they have to endure/sing each week just to earn their salary. And then they have their trip all the way down there to Lower Manhattan for rehearsals and the Liturgies.
TWS is an odd church. Mi amigo asked me: Are they trying to be Low church, High Church or what? I said: Yes, all of it and historically there’s a reason for each type of church (Low, Middle, High). They seem to be trying to be all of that in one and they throw it all together — and it becomes one big chaotic mess and other than the astute choristers no one seems to notice — without any consideration for the various clashes in styles.
It’s a major waste of talent when you have your exquisite Trinity Choir consisting of some of the finest choristers in New York City with their stellar level of expertise, years of training and superb sight-reading ability having to perform gospel-spiritual music on a regular basis while English Cathedral anthems/canticle settings and High Renaissance works are left collecting dust on the shelf of the Music Library. Someone will surely be asking about now: Why are you putting down gospel-spiritual music? I’m not. I like some gospel-spiritual music, such as Chanticleer’s performance of “Twelve Gates To The City,” for example or the music used in the Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s signature piece “Revelations” (everyone’s seen that, haven’t they?…”Wadin’ in the Water” and “Rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham” come to mind). It takes a very different skill level for performing gospel-spiritual music than it does to perform High Renaissance or the choral music (anthems and canticle settings) of Herbert Howells which The Trinity Choir absolutely excel at. Just as it takes a very different skill level to perform a Hip-Hop/Reggaetón piece (Daddy Yankee, for example) as opposed to the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto. I’m not putting any of that down. They are all art forms in themselves including gospel-spiritual music. It’s just that I and others don’t think that gospel-spiritual music belongs in an Anglican Liturgy. Just as Hip-Hop/Reggaetón, Salsa (Celia Cruz) or jazz (the disband Pat Metheny Group…one of my favourites) doesn’t belong in an Anglican Liturgy. Now, the Rachmaninov Vespers would work nicely though.
I’ve never seen an Anglican church like this before and I hope I never see another one. It’s “Damn odd, Ms. Bucket” as Ms Councillor Nugent said to Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced “Bouquet”) in the BBC’s comedy, “Keeping Up Appearances”. Chau.—el barrio rosa
Coming Soon: The Trinity Wall Street Praise Band