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Holy Week at Trinity Wall Street: two passions for Palm Sunday

The music program of Trinity Wall Street has developed a reputation for what the New York Times has called “transcendent” and “moving” performances of sacred music, with Trinity often reframing the experience of familiar works by bringing out their liturgical contexts. The Trinity Choir, led by music director Julian Wachner, will mark Holy Week next month with two passions that dramatically illustrate the diverse musical responses to this rich, long-lived genre. On Palm Sunday, April 1 at 11:15am, the Trinity Choir will present an “Improvised Passion,” based on a text created by the National Conference of Christians and Jews; this passion has been offered previously as a dramatic reading – but never before musically. Taking advantage of improvisatory skills developed over its past year of Sunday night Compline services (which the choir begins again this autumn), the Trinity Choir will create a musical setting for these words extemporaneously, improvising modally over drones. This extraordinary service will be webcast live (at Then, at 3pm on Palm Sunday, Wachner will lead the Choir and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra in a service featuring J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, presented within its original liturgical context with sermon and congregational participation. This is a free, unticketed event at St. Paul’s Chapel.
Last spring’s presentation of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion by the Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra under Wachner was “arresting from the opening notes of the orchestral introduction,” according to the New York Times, with the conductor eliciting playing of “taut and dramatic vigor.” The Times review went on to say: “The ensemble performed with impeccable clarity and crispness. The concertmasters Robert Mealy and Cynthia Roberts played their solos with flair, as did the viola da gamba player Lisa Terry. The buoyant, elegantly shaped orchestral sound meshed beautifully with the lithe, immaculate and colorful singing of the chorus, which expressively conveyed the drama and sorrow of the chorales. There were plenty of spine-tingling moments, like the chilling `Open the fiery abyss, O Hell’ and the moving simplicity of `When I must depart one day’.”
Other musical highlights of this April’s Holy Week programs at Trinity Wall Street include the weekly Bach@One concert on Monday, April 2, in St. Paul’s Chapel. Wachner will lead the Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra in four works by Bach – “Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot” (BWV 678); “Wir glauben all an einen Gott” (BWV 680); “Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir” (BWV 228); and “Der Geist hilft unser schwachheit auf” (BWV 226) – along with motets by his great German predecessor, Heinrich Schütz. And, on April 6 at noon, Schütz’s St. Matthew Passion will be heard as part of the Liturgy of Good Friday at Trinity Church.
In December, the New York Times gave Trinity Wall Street’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah the highest praise. Trinity, “largely on the strength of its extraordinary choir, pierced the heart,” the review said, adding that while other groups present Messiah as “a comfortable holiday tradition, Trinity put on something closer to a sacred rite.”
About Trinity Wall Street
One of the oldest, largest, and most vibrant of all Episcopal parishes, Trinity Wall Street is located in the heart of New York’s financial district, where it has created a dynamic home for great music. Trinity Wall Street’s 2010-11 season got off to an exciting start with the appointment of noted conductor, composer, and keyboardist Julian Wachner as Director of Trinity’s Music and the Arts program. Serving as principal conductor of the Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra, he also oversees all liturgical, professional, and community Music and Arts programming at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. The Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra offer a full season of concerts, ranging from large-scale oratorios to intimate evenings of a cappella singing and chamber music.
Trinity Wall Street: Holy Week 2012
April 1, Palm Sunday, at 11:15am
Trinity Church
Palm Sunday Liturgy and Procession
Improvised Passion
Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra / Julian Wachner
April 1, Palm Sunday, at 3pm
St. Paul’s Chapel (Broadway and Fulton Street)
J.S. Bach: St. John Passion
Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra / Julian Wachner
April 2, Monday, at 1pm
St. Paul’s Chapel (Broadway and Fulton Street)
Cantatas by Bach, Motets by Schütz
Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra / Julian Wachner
April 6, Good Friday, at noon
Trinity Church
Liturgy of Good Friday
Schütz: St. Matthew Passion
Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra / Julian Wachner
All concerts at Trinity Wall Street are professionally filmed and broadcast live at
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