The Trinity Choir performs Draw us in the Spirit’s tether


UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE:
El 14 de septiembre de 2014. Muchísimas gracias to Dr Julian Wachner, Avi Stein and The Trinity Choir for their superb performance last Sunday of “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether.” It was an example of choral excellence. Hola, some amigos came over and I was in the process of writing about the Boston University Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus, which I’ll be posting soon. The superb Trinity Choir came up in conversation. I said: well they should all be back by now so we went to the video of the Liturgy from last Domingo/Sunday and I was so pleased that they performed that anthem (Harold W. Friedell’s Draw us in the Spirit’s tether) I had been waiting for them to perform again. It was lovely. Superb. With The Trinity Choir performing that piece, it sort of “sings itself” which is probably why Julian’s conducting was rather minimal for the piece. He’s very interesting to watch and one can immediately hear the results of his conducting because the choristers (wisely) watch him extremely closely. In his conducting for this piece, he did what was necessary and gave indications for certain parts/lines to be brought out per his interpretation of the piece and that’s it. Lovely phrasing. And as usual, The Trinity Choir was perfectly on pitch when the organ (played by Associate Organist and Chorus Master, Avi Stein) came back in after their a cappella section. It was lovely and the choristers seemed to really get into it, which I very much like to see. They seemed to really enjoy the piece. So did I and mi amigos. Then we were treated to Julian’s (what I call) High Anglican organ improvisation. That was equally superb. It was glorious with the censing of the altar and lots of incense. (So they do know how to do it when they want!) The only thing missing perhaps was a glorious choral ending on the end of the organ improvisation. Qué?/What? Well, just hear me out: Maybe a fortissimo slow “Ah-men” at the end of the organ improvisation from the Chorus would be nice, with the sopranos and those superb tenors up in the stratosphere of course. They’ve never done that type of thing because but while listening to the organ improvisation and watching it I and mi amigos felt the organ improvisation also needed the Chorus with the organ in grand and glorious style. That might have been interesting (and beautiful) and if it were me, I’d have The Trinity Choir do it. One amigo suggested they might sing the very last part/phrase of the anthem again as the “choral final” of the organ improvisation.

Un amigo said: you said you weren’t writing anymore about The Trinity Choir. I don’t plan to and just so there’s no misunderstanding here: It’s not The Trinity Choir, Julian or anyone in the Music Department at Trinity Wall Street that I’m annoyed with. It’s the administration/decisions/policies of that place (Trinity Wall Street) and some of the things that they do that turn me off, such as deleting videos of their outstanding choral performances by The Trinity Choir. I’ve gone through some of my articles about them to check the links as I’ve had time, and they’ve left some videos on (by coincidence)? But since I don’t know what videos they will leave on and what they will take off, it’s best if I not write anything about them. Or, write about them on occasion and just not give any links, which is what I’m doing here (see video information below).

Also, most of the choristers are back from last season. I’m glad to see tenor Steven Caldicott Wilson is back. I counted three missing choristers: Eric (tenor), Matthew (bass, countertenor & probably another part upon request) and Dashon (bass). By my count, they had 19 voices and they usually have about 20-23 if I remember correctly.

So enjoy their lovely anthem—I don’t think it could be done better by anyone!—and to Julian, Avi and The Trinity Choir I again say: Muchísimas gracias for doing that. I’ll be watching it many times and thoroughly enjoying it. Chau.—el barrio rosa

So, to see/hear that anthem sung, go to:

trinity wall street dot org
When it finally loads (it’s a very slow website at least on my system), then go down to the bottom of the page and click on “Videos” under the “Media” column. Then find:
September 7, 2014
the 13th Sunday of Pentecost
11.15 am Liturgy
And the Offertory anthem begins at about: 55.35 into the video
Depending upon when you’re reading this, that video may or may not be there.

This article revisited: El 11 de junio de 2014. Hola, I received the following e-mail in the last week:
“Hello, I read where you said you’d not be writing any more about the Trinity Choir and was sorry to hear that but I understand your reasons why. You might know, did the Trinity Choir sing “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether” this season? Thank you for answering my question.—Diane”
My response: Hola, Diane. I haven’t been watching their liturgies. I had thought about this piece recently because I was wondering if the video was still there from last Summer when The Trinity Choir Chamber Chorus (that’s what I call them) performed it. I’ll check on that later. I had also thought that The Trinity Choir (the full Chorus) might perform this piece again this season, but so far they hadn’t, unfortunately. After I got your e-mail, I went to their website and looked around and last Domingo/Sunday (Pentecost) the piece was performed. I was very pleased to see that because I was wondering when The Trinity Choir would perform this again because they performed it superbly the last time they did it (those tenors, ah!) which was during the 2013 season (I’m not talking about the Summer performance). So I clicked on the video for Pentecost, and even though the service leaflet says “The Trinity Choir,” who processes in? The Family Choir. Sigh. I was very disappointed. Someone might say: Well, some choristers of The Trinity Choir are in The Family Choir, doesn’t that make a difference? Not really. That’s the same as putting two choral groups together of different skills/ability levels and one (The Family Choir) contaminates the other (The Trinity Choir). How many people who attended that Liturgy who had not been there before thought they were hearing The Trinity Choir with their reputation, when instead it was The Family Choir that showed up (where the quality level is not the same)?…Julian can only do so much with what he has to work with! He cannot make a Trinity Choir choristers out of someone who does not possess that talent, the sight-reading abilities or high-skill musicianship level). So, the answer to your question is no, The Trinity Choir hasn’t performed this piece since the 2013 season, unfortunately. In what little I did watch of the video, I did notice the camera people’s infatuation with the ceiling of the Nave (again). Gracias for your e-mail. Chau.—rosa barrio

El 10 de octubre de 2013. Hola.  I was in the mood to hear Harold W. Friedell’s choral piece, “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether” after Benjamin Straley, Assistant Organist at Washington National Cathedral, played Gerre Hancock’s “Meditation on Draw us in the Spirit’s tether” for organ recently, and then Benjamin went on to use a little bit of the piece at the beginning of his improvisation. (See: Benjamin Straley’s improvisation on Mit Freuden zart).

I first heard the choral version of “Draw us in the Spirit’s Tether” when The Trinity Choir performed it last season. It was excellent. But since Trinity Wall Street does not archive the Liturgy videos more than 3 months, that performance is gone unfortunately. So maybe the full Trinity Choir will perform that piece again sometime during the 2013-14 season, hopefully. I used my search engine (DuckDuckGo) and it brought up a performance of that piece by The Trinity Choir from early en septiembre 2013. At that time, the full Trinity Choir was still on Summer break so it was really the—what I call—Trinity Chamber Choir: 8 voices. The Trinity Chamber Choir should be very pleased with themselves after their performance. It was excellent. One would not get that same sound or performance with 8 other voices necessarily (unless they were other voices from The Trinity Choir). Give that piece to some other group and it could/would sound like 8 different people singing. In this case, the Trinity Chamber Choir sounded like a smaller version of The Trinity Choir, which was/is the goal.

Janet Yieh is now Assistant Organist at Trinity Wall Street. She was the Organ Scholar until recently—the principal organist left—and Janet is a student at The Juilliard School. She did a nice job of accompanying the Friedell and giving appropriate cues. I was annoyed when she played an organ voluntary Marche Triomphale Op. 65 No. 59/Nun danket alle Gott by Sigfrid Karg-Elert at the end of the Liturgy and no one applauded her, which those who stay for the organ voluntary usually do for any other organist. I thought that was rude of those who stayed to hear her. Why no applause for her? She played well. You usually applaud for anyone else.

Service Leaflet: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 1, 2013

Video: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 1, 2013

The Trinity Choir: Britten/Venite exultemus Domino

Now moving on to the Benjamin Britten anthem. That was intenso. But it may just be me because mi amigo was watching/listening to the Liturgy on St. Michael and All Angels (September 29, 2013) and he didn’t find it intenso. I’m speaking about the offertory Anthem: Britten/Venite exultemus Domino performed by The Trinity Choir. I’ve been listening to that piece and watching it critically as a “choral person” and I found it very intenso. I had not heard the piece before. One could say that the Chorus is rather “exposed” in the piece. There are mostly quite chords in the organ throughout and the Chorus is hushed/quiet through most of it with a couple of f or ff passages. It was beautifully done and with impeccable diction. Some of the choristers looked more relaxed than others. Some looked the way I was feeling watching it: Intenso: On pins and needles. Later in the week we watched the video again and mi amigo said that the piece was a soothing piece for him and he especially liked the organ part (played by Erik William Suter). On that listening, I mostly took off my “choral cap,” so to speak, and listened to it more as he was doing and I agreed it was a soothing/calm piece. I guess it just depends what “place” one is in internally when one listens to it. I would think that with this piece no matter how many times one performed it, it would still feels the same way: Intenso, because of what it is and the way it’s written. But they did a lovely job on it and Erik William Suter’s organ accompaniment was equally fine. This piece was performed as part of The Britten Festival at Trinity Wall Street.

The entire Liturgy was nice and looked very rehearsed orderly. Some nice art work was shown on a screen during the Homily/Sermon and we especially liked the organ improvisations, which I think were mostly by Julian but I think Erik did one or two improvisations (it was hard to tell who was playing from where the camera was). By the way, whatever happened to the side camera that was over on the right side that showed both the Chorus and Julian? That camera doesn’t seem to be used now.

The Communion Anthem: Faure/Cantique de Jean Racine was well sung and also with the clearest of diction. Impeccable diction is one of the characteristics or ways that The Trinity Choir reminds me of the University of Maryland Chorus which I recently wrote a Tribute to at that link, because The Maryland Chorus was especially known for their impeccable diction. Interestingly, Julian and The Washington Chorus, which he conducts, honoured Dr Paul Traver, founder/director of the University of Maryland Chorus three years ago along with Norman Scribner, founder and former director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington, and other choral founders. (The Washington Chorus set to honor Twelve Great Chorus Founders Nov. 9)

So check out the Britten Venite exultemus Domino. I doubt it’s ever been performed better.  Chau.—rosa barrio

Britten begins at 56.50 in the video below.
The Psalm/Anglican Chant begins at 16.33
Faure begins at 01.17.30

Sunday 11:15am Holy Eucharist
9.29.13

NOTE: Just so you know…At least on my system the new Trinity Wall Street website sucks. It is extremely slow. It takes forever for things to load. I suggest lots of patience in waiting for these videos to come up. The Trinity Choir is worth the wait. The videos spin, spin, spin and finally load but they don’t play smoothly. There are little blips in them as they’re playing as if they are still not fully loaded. Who the fuck came up with that website? It was better and faster before someone had the bright idea of redesigning the website. Loco/a.

17 comments on “The Trinity Choir performs Draw us in the Spirit’s tether

  1. Eric

    I’ve spent some time listening to the webcasts of St Thomas Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I do so wish they had video webcasts. That would be so nice to see what I’m hearing.

    St Thomas and Trinity are like night and day. I now call Trinity the toy church after experiencing St Thomas. They just don’t compare. The Trinity Choir is the best thing about Trinity Wall Street. If they didn’t have them, there would be nothing there. The hymn playing at Trinity is most inferior to the hymn playing at St Thomas. It does not compare to the hymn playing or the hymn singing at St Thomas, and that organ at Trinity doesn’t even come close to comparing to that magnificent pipe organ at St Thomas and the way the organists at St Thomas play it. Trinity doesn’t even have a built-in Choir area and if the Choir is supposed to be in the back gallery that’s not that big so the church wasn’t focused much on music when the church was built. I like how informal the parishoners are at Trinity but as I said without the Trinity Choir there’s not much there.

  2. EC

    I read an interview with Julian Wachner in the Washington Post. I didn’t care for the way it was written. The writer was trying to describe how Julian looks coming to the podium and conducting. I failed to understand why that was important. Maybe it was just there to fill space in the article. What I noticed was Julian’s valley girl way of talking (his “and I was LIKE”), not something I had expected from him. Valley girl talk sounds outright stupid and he’s very bright so it didn’t fit him IMO. The article was about the Washington Chorus and them singing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at Kennedy Center.

    There was one comment which I’ll save you from reading if you read the article. It was a troll. The article mentioned Julian’s partner who is an Anglican priest at Trinity. The troll criticized the article for using the word Anglican instead of Episcopal since Trinity is part of the Episcopal Diocese of NY, yes but what’s that part of troll? The Episcopal Diocese is part of the Anglican communion so the article was correct when referring to Julian’s partner as an Anglican priest.

    1. rosa_barrio Post author

      Hola EC. I read the review of the performance (or “reading,” that was the word the classical music reviewer seemed to be obsessed with in her review) of their Missa Solemnis. Generally The Washington Chorus got a good review for that performance, oooops, I mean “reading.” The reviewer made a negative comment about their tenor section (Quote: The chorus’s tenor section often sounded strident and forced, baying out open-throated notes in their upper register on entrances — an approach that finally made sense in the final movement, the “Agnus Dei” End Quote). I think it may have been the same reviewer that made a negative comment about the tenor section of the Choral Arts Society performing the same piece (under Scott Tucker), which I surprised to read. Because when I was in the Choral Arts Society all of our sections were equally good. I never heard or read anyone saying anything negative about our tenors or anybody else. I’m surprised the reviewer didn’t refer to the performance as a “sublime reading” as that has become so predictable with these self-appointed authorities who seem to try to come off pretentiously in their performance reviews. And then they wonder why classical music is dying? TWC only had one performance of the Missa Solemnis. I would have thought they would have had two or three performances. All that work for just one performance. You mentioned Julian’s valley girl way of talking. I wrote about that awhile back although not related to Julian specifically. I went to Trinity Wall Street briefly. I see they’re still showing the ceiling and the stained glass windows, even when The Trinity Choir is performing. I clicked off. Gracias for your comment. Chau.—el barrio rosa

  3. Brian

    Have you noticed they’ve been doing Gospel music for the communion anthem at Trinity for weeks now? Peculiar.

    Recently Julian seems like he’s on a power trip with the organ. He keeps sliding the new organist off the organ bench just like he does with the female organist. Why did he hire the guy as organist if he’s going to slide him off the bench? If it were me I’d be getting annoyed about now from having to dust the organ bench so often. Can’t the new organist improvise and if he can’t why was he hired?

    1. rosa_barrio Post author

      Hola Brian. I stopped watching the Liturgies because the camera work frustrated me.

      I went to their site the other day and noticed The Trinity Choir had performed one of the Howells pieces I like so I watched that but almost clicked off because the cameraperson had to go up the High Altar and show the cracks in the ceiling and stop by the stained glass window and then back down to the Choir. They did that routine a couple of times. Ugh. When I was watching them I noticed what you say about Julian taking the organ bench. He has played some excellent improvisations but can’t Janet and Avi improvise? The ability to improvise is critical in an Anglican Liturgy. When Eric was filling in he usually had Eric play the improvisations.

      As for the regular programming of Gospel music in an Anglican Liturgy, I don’t understand that. Gracias for your comment. Chau.

    1. rosa_barrio Post author

      Hola, well I wouldn’t programme it. I don’t like it (in an Anglican Liturgy). If I wanted to go to a southern baptist or pentecostal church to hear Gospel music (which is where you’d likely hear it) I’d go there. Gospel music seems out-of-place to me in an Anglican Church, just like that piano that’s parked in front of The Trinity Choir. Can you see Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal or St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral programming Gospel music for The Queen and the Royal Family for a Liturgy? Hardly! And I’ve never heard Gospel music down the street from Trinity at St Thomas Fifth Avenue either. I’m getting the impression that someone might be in the wrong denomination at Trinity with this (increasing) interest in Gospel music. I think someone may be trying to demonstrate his skill level (as well as trying to “be all things to all people,” which usually doesn’t work when one tries to do that and can turn some people off, which it’s doing with me). The few people at TWS who have an ear for music and who care about his skill level already know his skill level (it’s among the best). Is someone trying to “show off” The Trinity Choir to show that they can sing all styles?. Well we already know that, so we won’t be needing that again. Let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with Gospel music and I’m not at all putting Gospel music down. It’s just that I don’t think it belongs in an Anglican liturgy. Just as they don’t use an Anglican hymn with soprano/tenor descant or Anglican canticle settings (or any church music for that matter) at the Latin Grammy’s. Just as I wouldn’t use hip hop in an Anglican liturgy either, and there’s nothing wrong with hip hop or reggaetón. They are both art forms in themselves, just as Gospel is an art form. Gospel works extremely well with some Alvin Ailey Dance Company choreography, but not in an Anglican Liturgy, in my opinion. It sort of clashes. It makes the service (or at least the Gospel music part of it) feel more like southern baptist…ugh! Gracias for your comment. Chau.

        1. rosa_barrio Post author

          As I recall, most of Julian’s organ improvisations during the censing of the altar (after the Offertory Anthem) have been excellent. During that part of the Liturgy he usually gives a High Church feel to the Liturgy.

          I don’t care for his hymn playing (just as I didn’t like the hymn playing of the former organist who left (Renée Anne Louprette). I prefer the hymn playing style used at St Thomas Fifth Avenue and they generally don’t use that “full, lush and legato” style of playing at Trinity Wall Street for some reason. When Julian is playing the hymns the organ does not sound like a pipe organ. Isn’t it supposed to? He “doodles.” That’s what I call it; which can consist of playing a stop (which often sounds out of place) on a solo manual and sort of playing the melody of the hymn in Baroque style). He often plays the hymns too detached/non-legato and even bouncy for my preference. Some of it sounds plain tacky and unrefined frankly as if he thinks he’s playing a theatre organ at a carnival or something. And sometimes the organ at Trinity sounds like a theatre organ when he’s playing it. As opposed to when concert organist Felix Hell played it, it sounded like a pipe organ (see videos below). Isn’t that digital organ supposed to sound like a pipe organ? (Are the speakers dying or something?):

          Julian’s expertise are with choral music, not necessarily with the organ, in my opinion. Gracias for your comment. Chau.

    1. rosa_barrio Post author

      Hola myers. Well they had to pay for a hypocritical rector who’s only there for dinero/money and his outrageously expensive luxury townhouse, and condos. The same hypocritical rector that says on auto-pilot before the Offertory Anthem: In the words of our lord jesus christ as he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive. Of course that doesn’t apply to him based on his own behaviour. They used to have a nice pipe organ (Aeolian-Skinner and it was used on a CD I have of The Trinity Choir and it sounds superb…better than the digital organ they have now), but their pipe organ got switched out after the PNAC-Project for the New American Century agenda inside-job called 911, and then they got this digital organ. Depending upon which organist is playing it the organ can sound like a pipe organ, but most of the time it doesn’t. As I remember, Trinity said their pipe organ was destroyed during the 911 inside job, but an organ expert disagreed and had said their pipe organ had been well protected because of where it was in the building. So they ripped it out and stored it somewhere in Trinity, and it’s installed in a church in Texas today. Well if it sufficient for the church in TX, why wasn’t it sufficient for Trinity Wall Street? I think there’s a story there and then some! Gracias for your comment. Chau.

  4. VictorC

    Did you notice that priest talking to the priest sitting beside her while the Trinity Choir was performing “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether?” I thought that was very rude.

    1. rosa_barrio Post author

      Oh yes, I certainly did notice that y muchas gracias for bringing that up. I meant to comment on that. Yes, that was annoying to watch. That priest talked through the first verse of the offertory anthem. She didn’t stop talking until the organ interlude (between the 1st and 2nd verse) began. I noticed it because the two priests were near The Trinity Choir and tenor Steven Caldicott Wilson was on the end near them. I don’t know if he could hear them talking while he’s trying to concentrate on his performance and watching Julian. It was very rude. I don’t think it was Daniel Simons’s fault (he was the priest she was sitting next to). He’s very respectful of the music and The Trinity Choir from what I’ve seen of him from watching the videos. It was the other priest who’s the rude one and I think she’s new. I don’t remember seeing her before. Daniel looked maybe a bit uncomfortable that she was (still) talking when she was supposed to be listening to and respecting the Offertory Anthem. He looked like he was trying to be polite but wanted to listen to the Choir and tried to stop her yapping. This was yet another indication to me that some (most?) of the priests at Trinity Wall Street don’t respect the music. Otherwise they wouldn’t talk over the music, they would listen to it and not consider it “background music” like they do with the organ voluntary. I often think that some of the priests at Trinity are in the wrong denomination. I think that some of them would be quite comfortable in the southern baptist or pentecostal or some such shit like that, instead of Anglican. I also think they would be quite content if they only had that Family Choir. (BTW, who came up with that name? I’ve never heard of a “Family Choir” before. There can be family members in various choirs but they don’t call it a Family Choir. That name sounds like a choir in some out-back, hick, rural church somewhere to me instead of in Manhattan. I still find that to be an odd name for a choir. In other denominations, choirs of that type are usually called the Adult Choir or the Chancel Choir.) But anyway, I don’t think most of the priests at Trinity Wall Street have any ear at all for music and frankly can’t tell one choir from the other. Gracias for your comment. Chau.

  5. Will

    There was a nice descant on the last hymn Praise to the Lord the Almighty. I thought about what you said during that because they started panning to the stained glass windows during the descant.

    I wanted to watch the organist play the French organ piece at the end but like you say they must think the organist is not interesting to watch because they didn’t show much of him, just off and on. Got to see the congregation leave and some sunflowers.

    1. rosa_barrio Post author

      Hola, well if it were St Thomas, the congregation wouldn’t have left. They would have remained in the pews because from what I can tell the congregation at St Thomas view the organ voluntarily as part of the Liturgy, which it is. The parishioners at St Thomas are very respectful of the music, and all of the music. They don’t have video webcasts unfortunately (too conservative for that I think), but listening to the audio webcast, one hears no talking during the organ voluntary. Unlike other churches—including Trinity Wall Street—where it’s yap, yap, yap, yap, yap and are very disrespectful of the organist and his/her organ voluntary. The organist had to take the time to re-prepare or learn the piece (if it’s a new piece) and then few people even listen to it because they’re too busy talking. Very rude. They couldn’t wait until after the organ voluntary to yap? Gracias for your comment. Chau.

  6. David

    Is the Trinity Choir paid or volunteers? Do you have a personal favorite that you’d like to hear them sing that they haven’t?

    1. rosa_barrio Post author

      Hola David. Oh yes, I would think that they’re all paid. One doesn’t usually get that high caliber without paying for it. Well, excluding some Symphony Choruses which are superb but not paid (all volunteer, such as Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus for example). But in a church setting, they usually are paid and from my experience a chorister is paid “per call.”

      A favourite piece: I’d like to hear them perform Howells/I Love all Beauteous Things. It’s rarely performed unfortunately. It’s very “Howells” but they wouldn’t have any trouble with it. They could sight-read it and then begin refining it and could have it ready quickly I would think. Another piece I’d like to hear them do is Howells/Gloucester Service. Gracias for your comment. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Fin. The End.