Music and Choir
Trinity Church has a long-standing tradition of excellent music and is currently enjoying significant growth in this ministry thanks to strong musical leadership, and the investment of time and money in this vital program. Trinity's 30th Rector, The Rev. Canon Anne Marie Richards, is a strong advocate for music, often repeating St. Augustine's words, "He who sings prays twice." The church has been home to some historically important musicians, most notably the "American Pachelbel," Charles Theodore Pachelbel (1690-1750), son of Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), and William Selby (1738-1798). Today, Trinity's music program presents great music in the Anglican tradition while exploring works of contemporary composers such as Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and John Rutter.
The Trinity Choir
Trinity's choir plays an important role in weekly and special liturgies. In addition to leading the congregation in hymnody, the choir praises God through the singing of excellent choral music. Trinity's choir currently numbers twenty-plus adults plus four choral scholars.
The Trinity Choir is open to experienced adult singers of any age. In addition to singing two anthems every Sunday, the choir sings occasional Evensongs, concerts, weddings and funerals. Rehearsals are on Thursday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 and Sunday mornings at 8:45, in preparation for the 10:00 service.
It has long been said that Handel played Trinity’s organ in England before it arrived in Newport. Presented to Trinity by the Rev. George Berkeley, D.D. through the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the organ was completed by renowned builder, Richard Bridge, in London in July 1733. Shipping arrangements were made by mid-October, and the instrument arrived in Newport in February 1734 on ship owned by Godfrey Malbone, a Trinity parishioner.1
George Frideric Handel once wrote of Bridge in 1749, “I very well approve of Mr. Bridge who without any Objection is a very good Organ Builder.” 2 Handel’s knowledge of Bridge’s work leads us to believe that, when Henry Newman, secretary of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, wrote, “[The organ] has been touched and approved by some of the most eminent Masters in London ...,” he might have been referring, in part, to Handel.
Aside from a brief visit to Oxford in June and July of 1733, Handel would have been in London to try the organ after its completion. And it is very likely that he did. Even today, organ and harpsichord builders will contact prominent local musicians to try out new instruments before they are passed on to their purchasers.
Today, a few relics of the original instrument are intact. The center facade of the current instrument is original. (The wings were added by Providence architect NormanIsham around 1926.) Some of the central facade pipes, part of the original Bridge organ, will sound if blown through. They are not, however, part of the current working instrument by Wicks (1973) . We are very fortunate that the original console (i.e., keyboard and stops, pictured left) is preserved and currently on display at the Newport Historical Society’s Museum of Newport History. 3
Trinity Church’s first organist was Charles Theodore Pachelbel (1690-1750), son of Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706). It is not known when Theodore, baptized as Carl Theodorus, came to the New World. We do know that he was working in Boston when he was called by the wardens of this church in 1733 to oversee the installation and tuning of the organ. He liked it so much he stayed for two years. From there, he moved to New York where he gave a public performance off his Magnificat for double choir. That concert, at 6:00 pm on January 21, 1736, is notable in that it is the first public record of a concert given in the New World. Theodore eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where he worked at St. Philip’s Church. His death year, incidentally, is the same as that of Johann Sebastian Bach. 4
1This and much subsequent information from: Hattendorf, John B. Semper Eadem: A History of Trinity Church in Newport 1698-2000. Newport: Trinity Church , 2001.
2Hogwood, Christopher. Handel. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1988. 217.
3photo credit: from the Collection of the Newport Historical Society.
4these notes © 2006 Paul Cienniwa.