Music

Archives

William Tuckey | Edward Hodges | Henry Stephen Cutler | A.H. Messiter | Victor Baier | Henry Herman Wetzler | Channing Lefebvre | George Mead | Larry King | Chapels | Noonday Concerts | Church Services

Music, 1847-1994

5.5 boxes, 2.75 linear feet plus oversize 

Historical Note:

Trinity Church first opened its doors for services in March of 1698 but it wasn’t until 1703 that its Vestry formed a committee to consider acquiring an organ. Thirty six years later, in 1739, John Clemm of Philadelphia made a proposal to build an organ for the Church which was accepted. Trinity Church had its first organ installed in the West gallery in 1740. The Church gave itself another three years before sending to England in 1743 to “procure for the Church a good sober organist.” John Rice arrived from England in 1744 to fill the position. In 1739, probably in anticipation of the first organ, the vestry resolved to hire someone to teach boys to sing. William Tuckey, who immigrated to this country from England in 1752, took up choral duties the following year. He had been vicar choral of the Cathedral Church of Bristol and Clerk of St. Mary Port, also in Bristol. At Trinity Church, he was made clerk and his tasks, besides teaching choir, were to set out the music for the service and lead the singing of psalms. The Vestry removed Mr. Tuckey from his clerk position when he refused to officiate during Divine Service but he continued with music. In 1766, he was paid by the vestry for “preparing the Musick and assisting at the performance” at the opening service for St. Paul’s Chapel. He gave the first New York perfomance of parts of Handel's Messiah in a benefit concert held in January of 1770.  On October 3 of the same year, Trinity Church followed with a concert of excerpts from the Messiah at a service for the relief of widows and children of clergymen.

By 1761, Trinity was ordering a new organ from England. The organ was received in 1764 but was destroyed with the Church in the Great Fire of 1776. Its replacement was again ordered from England in 1791. In 1820, Peter Erben became the organist, a position he held until 1839. He had been an organist for St. George’s and St. John’s Chapels since 1807 and he was the father of the organ builder Henry Erben. In 1838, Trinity Church contracted for a new organ and the Vestry appointed a committee to review the state of the music of the Church. The committee resolved to appoint a Chorister to have charge of the vocal music of all the churches and to establish a school for music. Peter Erben, who was now 70 years old, was informed that he and his choir were to be replaced when the new organ was installed. He protested his dismissal and, in a letter of November 11, 1839, gave his perceptions on the state of Trinity Church music before and during his tenure. He says that when he began as organist for St. George’s Chapel

The music was at that time scarsely attended to at all by the Congregations of this City, and the chanting was entirely devoid of any thing like propriety, in the adaptation of the words recited. At the suggestion of the Rev. Bishop Moore, I established a school, procured all the best publications then to be had on the subject of chanting, made collection of previous manuscript compositions, and made every exertion in my power to have the performance of the musical part of the service conducted with the propriety its importance demands. These labours were continued for years, and the improvement made must still be in the recollection of many of the Congregations. Most of the music then introduced, still continues in use in the Churches, such various opinions are existing relative to the manner and style of music called the modern School differing from that of a half a Century past, that it is now very difficult for me or any one performer to do his duty satisfactorily, in a Style to suit every one. Under these various opinions no doubt complaints have been made, although I still flatter myself my performance has not been unacceptable to the elder members of the congregation. It is by those who are younger considered antiquated and uninteresting.

Mr. Erben was retired on a pension and Edward Hodges replaced him as organist.

William Tuckey (ca.1753-1765)

1 file

Historical Note: 

William Tuckey, who came to New York from England in 1752, was hired in 1753 as Parish Clerk. He was appointed to officiate at Trinity Church and St. George’s Chapel on alternating Sundays. While he was removed from his Clerk position by the Vestry in 1756, he continued a musical relationship with Trinity Church, composing and conducting music for the church for years to come. 

Scope and Content Note: 

One piece of published choir music for a Tuckey composition entitled “Jehovah Reigns.”

 

Edward Hodges (1839-1863), 1847-1858

2 files

Historical Note:

Edward Hodges was born in Bristol England in 1796. He became an organist in his home town where he composed and made improvements to the organ. He received a doctorate in music from Cambridge in 1825. Hodges took a position in Toronto in 1838 but was immediately dissatisfied with the conditions. He soon moved to New York where in 1839 he was appointed organist of Trinity Church. The third church building was in the process of being constructed so Dr. Hodges began his work at St. John’s Chapel. The organ intended for Trinity Church was sent to St. John’s Chapel and Hodges worked with Henry Erben and the architect Richard Upjohn to create a new organ for the new Trinity Church. Erben constructed the organ according to Hodges’ directions but the two could not bear each other and they quarreled throughout Hodges’ tenure.

The Vestry paid Hodges’ salary to be instructor of music at Trinity School beginning in 1843. By 1854, the Vestry accepted Hodges’ resignation from the school as he devoted his efforts to building his own choir. The same year, Hodges asked to be allowed to move from Trinity Church to Trinity Chapel where he was again advising on the building of the organ. He stated his reasons were because of his knowledge of the Chapel’s organ, because the move was “the general desire and expectation of the people who will constitute the congregation” and because it would remove himself from proximity to Henry Erben. But by the end of the year, Hodges was in failing health suffering in part from paralysis. He was given leave to go to England in 1858.

In the meantime, Henry S. Cutler became organist of Trinity Church on a yearly basis. Cutler began pushing through changes that were in line with the High Church liturgy but opposed by members of the congregation. In 1859, Cutler moved the choir into the chancel dressed for the first time in surplices. Dr. Hodges, who had recommended Dr. Cutler as his temporary replacement, was incensed at these bold steps which were contrary to his practice. After returning to New York from England, Hodges was unable to play. He hung on as the titular organist while he petitioned for compensation for his services. He finally resigned June 1863. The vestry expressed their appreciation for his service as a composer, performer, and conductor of Church Music but they refused him the pecuniary assistance he desired.

Scope and Content Note:

The Choir Attendance Book and folder of published choir music are the only records from Dr. Hodge’s tenure. See the vestry minutes and vestry papers for other information.

Henry Stephen Cutler (1858-1865)

1 file 

Historical Note: 

Dr. Henry Stephen Cutler, an organist out of Boston, came to Trinity first in a temporary capacity, coming on permanently as Organist in 1858. Cutler made several occasionally controversial changes during his tenure, including taking the music at a quicker tempo, removing the last remaining ladies from the choir, and moving the choir to the chancel. 

Scope and Content Note: 

One file containing two published compositions for choir. 

A. H. Messiter (1866-1897)

2 files

Historical Note:

Dr. Messiter was born in 1834 in England. He studied music in Europe and moved to the United States in 1863. He was appointed the Trinity Church organist and choirmaster in 1866. His predecessor, Dr. Cutler had been dismissed in 1865 after he took Trinity choir members on a concert tour leaving no provision for Trinity Church services. Dr. Messiter established a choir library and wrote A History of the Choir and Music of Trinity Church, New York from its organization to the Year 1897 published in 1906. The vestry arranged for retirement with a stipend following the bicentennial celebration of the founding of Trinity Church. Dr. Messiter willingly accepted in June 1897.

Scope and Content Note:

The only records for Dr. Messiter are one folder of published choir compositions and a copy of a choir boy’s diary which dates from his tenure as the choirmaster. See vestry minutes and vestry papers.

 

Victor Baier (1897-1921), 1897-1921

3 files

Historical Note:

Mr. Baier was a lifelong member of the parish of Trinity Church having been baptized and confirmed there. He was a singer in the choir from boyhood and all his training in music was with Dr. Messiter. In December 1884, he was made assistant organist. He was named temporary organist in 1897 and permanent June 13, 1898. He became ill January 1921 but returned to Trinity to play in July services. He died August 11, 1921.

Scope and Content Note:

Mr. Baier’s file contains clippings and items on the choir, published choir music compositions, and items from a pupil relating to the Trinity School of Music, which date to his tenure.

 Henry Herman Wetzler, Assistant Organist, 1898-1901

Historical Note: 

Henry Herman Wetzler was Assistant Organist of Trinity Church under Victor Baier

Scope and Content Note: 

One folder of published choir music. 

Channing Lefebvre (1922-1941), 1906-1932

 6 files

Historical Note:

Channing Lefebvre was appointed organist May 1, 1922. After a new organ was installed in 1924, Dr. Lefebvre began midday organ recitals. Dr. Lefebvre started a singing group which became the Downtown Glee Club in 1927. He resigned his post as organist in 1941 to take a position at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.

Scope and Content Note:

Dr. Lefebvre’s files contain three files of published organ and choir music, photographs of the Trinity church Choir and the Trinity Choir Alumni Association as well as a choir roll book.

 

George Mead (1941-1968), 1933-1963

1 box, .5 linear feet

Historical Note:

George Mead was a composer, conductor, and opera translator. He attended the Chapel School of Trinity Church and earned a master’s in music from Columbia University. His roots at Trinity were deep. His father was Sexton of Saint Paul’s Chapel from 1920 to 1944. He himself was baptized, confirmed, and married in Trinity Church, and sang in the choir beginning in 1930. Mead was assistant organist from 1925 to 1936 under Channing Lefebvre. He then became organist at Central Congregational Church in Brooklyn. He returned to Trinity as organist in 1941. He was the first accompanist for the Downtown Glee Club and he became its conductor in 1941. From 1947 to 1948, Mead’s Assistant Organist, Andrew Tietjen—“a major talent among organists, a gifted choral trainer, and a man of engaging personality”-- trained and directed the Trinity Choir of St. Paul’s Chapel for Sunday morning broadcasts by CBS radio.

George Mead resigned as organist and choir master on June 9, 1968. The Vestry memorialized him with these words: “He never gave us more pleasure, and we believe himself more joy, than when he was performing under the influence of Sir Arthur Sullivan who reveled in the loud braying of the trumpets and the proud banging of the brasses.”

Scope and Content Note:

Mr. Mead’s files refer to the Choir and organs. Some of the records are those of Mead’s assistant organist, Robert Arnold. The photographs are historical photographs of the organ, the former choirmaster Henry Stephen Cutler, the Trinity Church Boy’s Choir, and panorama photographs of the Choir Alumni Association. Also included are two folders of Mead's published choir music compositions.

 

Larry King (1968-1990)

2.5 feet plus media

Historical Note:

Larry Peyton King was appointed Organist and Choirmaster at Trinity Church on June 1, 1968.  A Californian, he received his master’s degree in 1960 from the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York.  He had a special interest in the use of electronics in instrumental and choral music.  In January 1973, the position of organist was renamed Director of Music.  Mr. King organized the Family Choir in 1977 and contributed to a radio ministry, Trinity Church Hour, on WQXR from 1979 to 1986.  As a composer, King “could mesh classical choirs and organs with contemporary rock in wonderful, unusual music that spoke to everyone.” (Tom Horan, 1989)  King retired in September 1989 and died April 12, 1990.

Scope and Content Note: 

Mr. King’s office files are arranged chronologically.  His files include information on Church feasts, the Festival of Lights, the Family Choir, the Trinity Church Choir, assistants, music, musicians, personnel, the Noonday Concerts, the organs, the chimes, the bells, recordings, and radio. Also included are several contemporary works of “experimental” and avant-garde music commissioned by King for performances at Trinity Church. 

 

Chapels, 1880s-1985

4 files

Scope and Content Note:

The individual chapels all had their own organist and choir. There are only a smattering of records on the chapel music programs, mainly organ specifications and photographs, with some published compositions from a few of the organists. The chapels represented are St. Paul’s Chapel (1910-1964), the Chapel of the Intercession (1961-1985), St. Augustine’s Chapel (1958), St. Chrysostom’s Chapel (1880s), St. Agnes' (n.d.), St. John's (n.d.) and St. Luke’s Chapel (n.d.). 

Noonday Concerts

The noonday concerts evolved out of the noontime organ recitals that began with Channing Lefebvre in the 1920s. Larry King broadened the organ concerts to showcase different forms of music in 1968. By 1976, the concerts had attracted a benefactor, an anonymous donor whose funding has helped nurture the noonday concerts to the present. David Varnum was hired as the first concert manager in 1981. In 1983, he introduced Concerts to Go, taking the noonday concert programs into hospitals and nursing homes. In 1996, Noonday Concerts was renamed Concerts Administration and separated from the music department. See Programs and Ministry.

Scope and Content Note: 
The records contain flyers, brochures and schedules. 

Church Services

Contained in this subgroup are a litany kyriale book used by the congregation in Trinity Church Services.