If you haven’t been downtown recently to see what’s happening, take a ride on the east or west side train to Broadway and Fulton to see the Handel Project–continuing this Wednesday with Act II and the following week with Act III of Handel’s Jephtha at St. Paul’s Chapel. (ny-pictures.com) After that, they will perform all of Handel’s oratorios which are like operas but without the costumes and the choruses which are stupendous.
Right in the heart of the 9/11 district complete with memorable new structures which still cause a pang lies the newly restored church. St. Paul’s Chapel was built in 1766–it is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan (wiki). This beautiful church, the inside of which reminds me of the Old North Church in Boston, has been hosting concerts here for the noontime working folks for a long time. For the last five years, St. Paul’s has been producing all of Bach’s cantatas. They have no fear– they moved Bach to Mondays at 1 pm and will continue with his organ and keyboard works. On Wednesdays at 1 pm, it’s time for Handel.
The choir, the instrumentalists and the director are all professionals but the concerts are free. I asked the music historian how this can be and he said that they’re paid out of Trinity Church’s music budget. This surprised and delighted me as I hadn’t heard the words “music budget” in a long time.
The small pipe organ has real pipes, temporary until the large pipe organ undergoing restoration in Massachusetts returns in the fall. The concerts last an hour and if you want a seat downstairs, get there an hour before. Otherwise, you can sit upstairs. The acoustics are excellent and you can hear and see from any seat.The church, very ecumenical in outlook, also hosts the local Jewish congregation, Tamid, until they get their own home.
When I opened my program I saw sheet music for the hymn we all sang to begin the concert. That was nice. It’s clear that the word is out–I spoke to a number of people who do not work locally but travel down to hear great music beautifully played. Music director Julian Wachner conducts Handel with joy and animation–no soggy bogged-down phony reverential stuff here–real blood and guts Handel.
Trinity and St. Paul’s maintain so many programs, classes, lectures and concerts, I can’t list them but go to http://www.trinitywallstreet.org for more information.