In addition to the regular round of choral services, 2016 was a memorable musical year that included new recruits, special services, spectacular events, and a wonderful Gala concert before the summer break. Here are some of the highlights:
The St. Cecilia Choir of Girls provided music at a service of Choral Evensong, celebrating the season of Epiphany. This was the first in a series of Choral Evensongs marking high and holy days of the church year. At the end of the month, the Christ Church Singers traveled to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, to present a special Choral Evensong.
The organ committee met several times in February, as it narrowed down the selection of a builder for a new organ at Christ Church. Lent began with a moving Ash Wednesday service, sung by the Christ Church Singers. The final Sunday of the month saw a Choral Evensong for Lent, sung by the Choir of Men & Boys, preceded by an organ recital by Jonathan Ryan.
The Vestry approved the selection of Harrison & Harrison from Durham, England, as the builder for a new organ at Christ Church. The month continued with the beautiful and moving liturgies of Holy Week, concluding with a full performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, sung by the St. Cecilia Choir of Girls, accompanied by strings. The Christ Church Singers ushered in Easter celebrations at the Vigil on Holy Saturday, followed by great festivity on Easter Day, with the Choirs of Men & Girls, Men & Boys, and a brass quartet.
The Choir of St. John’s College Cambridge gave a magnificent and well-attended concert as part of its USA tour. A lavish reception followed. The Christ Church Scholars rounded out the month with a Choral Evensong featuring the music of visiting artist Philip Moore.
The annual Confirmation service took place in May, followed one day later by the Casey Memorial Evensong. This was the first such evensong since the recent restoration of the sanctuary.
June was a month for graduations, farewells, and celebrations. On the first Sunday of the month, our combined choirs, together with orchestra, presented a festive Gala concert, including music written for grand occasions, such as the Handel Coronation Anthems, and Parry’s magnificent I was Glad. We recognized our many volunteers at an annual Choir Recognition on the lawn of the Tomes Higgins House.
On June 13, the St. Cecilia Choir of Girls performed Choral Evensong at the annual conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians, a nationwide body of professional church musicians. The evensong was a resounding success, and those in attendance were deeply impressed by the high level of musicianship of the girls’ choir. Some have subsequently referred to the choir as ‘the best girls’ choir in America’. This was a moment of great pride for the music department, reflecting the great commitment and dedication of our wonderful girls.
Our 2016-17 musical season began with the Great Fall Festival. Choir Open Houses welcomed new recruits to the program.
October saw our first Choral Evensong of the new choir season, given by the Choir of Men & Boys. There was a party for choir parents, and the Music Committee committed to a series of regular meetings. Harrison and Harrison began designing the new organ for Christ Church, including a visit to take detailed measurements.
The Christ Church Singers began our annual series of fall special services and musical events, with a stirring performance of Duruflé’s Requiem, conducted by Associate Director of Music, Jonathan Ryan. The following weekend saw a special service of Choral Matins, sung by the choir men with the St. Cecilia Choir of Girls.
The month began with the traditional service of Advent Lessons and Carols, sung by the Choir of Men & Boys. The choir was on top form, and received many compliments. We continued in fine musical style with a stirring rendition of Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols given by the St. Cecilia Choir of Girls, accompanied by harpist Lynette Wardle. Carols by Candlelight brought the musical year to a fitting conclusion.
Looking back, this has been an extremely active year for the music department at Christ Church. Of particular note was the AAM evensong in June, at which our girls performed flawlessly, cementing Christ Church firmly at the center of the musical map in the Anglican Choral world.
We said farewell to 5 girls this past summer (4 graduated, and 1 moved), and 4 boys graduated to the back row. In spite of these transitions, the younger choristers have risen to the challenge and are now finding their feet as new leaders to the steady stream of novices who are emerging behind them. This is both exciting and gratifying, indicating great health in the choir community. At the same time, parental commitment is growing, with an increase in volunteers and a strengthening of the choir support network.
I am indebted to all who have contributed so much to make our program so successful. I am particularly fortunate to have such a hard-working and talented Associate Director of Music, Jonathan Ryan. His dedication to the Christ Church Singers in particular has led to an impressive increase in participation and capacity.
Finally, our ongoing association with Philip Moore continues to bless us as a church community. Philip has been Visiting Artist for a number of years. This is only made possible by the continued generosity of Robert and Susan Morris, to whom we are extremely grateful.