Trinity Choral Festival – Celebration of the Installation of the New Organ

Event Information

Trinity Church

Manager / Director:
Henry Stephen Cutler

Event Type:
Chamber (includes Solo), Choral

Performance Forces:
Instrumental, Vocal

Record Information


Last Updated:
12 July 2020

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

07 Dec 1864, 12:00 PM
08 Dec 1864, 8:00 PM
09 Dec 1864, 8:00 PM

Program Details

choirmaster of Trinity Church: Dr. H. S. Cutler

Mr. Taylor is the oldest living organist in the U.S. The first part of the program was a musical lecture, delivered by Rev. Dr. Vinton, and illustrated with selections from different styles of music sung by the choirs of Trinity church, the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, and the Church of the Advent, New York. The combined choirs totaled over 100 voices. The second part of the program was a concert of sacred music. Thurs. only: Mayer sang “If with all your hearts” by request.

Cantate Domino novum, Gregorian Chant, monophonic chant, intoned by Right
Rev. Bishop Talbot, with choral responses

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Composer(s): Unknown composer
Composer(s): Turle
Composer(s): Handel
Participants:  George Washbourne Morgan
Composer(s): Cutler
Participants:  Henry Stephen Cutler
Composer(s): Handel
aka Great God, what do I see and hear?
Composer(s): Luther
Text Author: Ringwaldt
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Text Author: Schubring
aka Hear Ye, Israel; Hear What The Lord Speaketh; Elias
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Text Author: Schubring
Composer(s): Haydn
Participants:  Mr. [bass] Allen
Composer(s): Haydn
Composer(s): Lefébure-Wély
Participants:  George Washbourne Morgan
Composer(s): Handel
Participants:  George Washbourne Morgan
aka Wohlan, Alle die ihr durstig seid
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Composer(s): Handel


Announcement: New York Herald, 07 December 1864, 5.

      “The musical festival at Trinity church, will take place today at noon, and the programme will be repeated on Thursday evening.  The occasion of this festival is the completion of the new chancel organ, which will be exhibited by Dr. Cutler.  The festival will take the shape of a musical lecture, to be delivered by Rev. Dr. Vinton, and illustrated with selections from different styles of music sung by the choirs of Trinity church, the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, and the Church of the Advent, New York.  The second part of the festival will consist of a concert of sacred music, selected from Handel, Mendelssohn, Hayden [sic] and Bach.”

: Strong, George Templeton. New-York Historical Society. The Diaries of George Templeton Strong, 1863-1869: Musical Excerpts from the MSs, transcribed by Mary Simonson. ed. by Christopher Bruhn., 07 December 1864.

      “Grand Choral Festival at Trinity Church this morning to do honor to the operating of our new chancel organ.  Church filled at a dollar a head.  About 100 men and boys, including a church choir from Brooklyn & one from Boston.  The performance good, & certain boy solos admirable.  But the programme, tho there were fine things on it, was as a whole hard and dull.  Cutler is strangely unable to appreciate the value of geniality--sentiment--expression--feeling--in musical compositions.  E.g. he selected from The Creation its least effective solo, viz, ‘Now heaven in fullest glory shone.’”

Announcement: New York Herald, 08 December 1864, 1.

Review: New York Herald, 08 December 1864, 1.

      Lengthy review, the end of which is very difficult to read.   “For some months past Dr. Cutler, the organist and musical director of Trinity church, has been preparing, for those interested in the subject, a display of church music such as has not been known in this country before.  The event took place yesterday, and as the senses of sight and hearing were both gratified, the success of the enterprise was decided.  It appealed to a somewhat different class of people than the recent Methodist Musical Festival, and was conducted in a much more elaborate and formal style.

     There were a few excited individuals who came to the church as early as nine o’clock in the morning, though the exercises were not to begin till noon. . . . Fully one half of those present were ladies. . . .

     . . . As the lecture [by Dr. Vinton] proceded, the choirs at proper periods illustrated the description of any particular class of ecclesiastical music by its performance.  In this way a Gregorian chant of the sixth century, a German choral, by Martin Luther; a chant by Turle, the present organist of Westminster Abbey, and several solos and chorus extracts from Handel were sung, the audience appreciating them highly, though restrained by the sacredness of the place from venturing to applaud.  Organ music was illustrated by selections from Cutler, played by the composer; from Handel and Wely, played by Mr. Morgan; and from Bach, played by c. Jerome Hopkins.  Besides these gentlemen, Mr. Walter, of Trinity chapel, and Mr. S. P. Taylor, a venerable organist, eighty-six years old, and apparently good for a quarter of a century to come, assisted as accompanyists [sic].  In some of the choruses the effect accompaniments on both of the organs—the old one in the lower of the church and the new one in the chancel—was tried with good success, though the difficulty of playing simultaneously two instruments one hundred and forty feet apart will at once be obvious.

     Among the vocalists—for though the festival took place in a church, the fact that there was an admission fee allows of criticism, as at an ordinary concert—Mr. Samuel D. Mayer, who was formerly a member of Trinity choir, won much praise for his graceful, efficient rendering of the air from Handel’s  Sampson, ‘Total Eclipse.’  Mr. Allen, who possesses a very fine bass voice, usually heard in the Broadway Tabernacle choir, sung well an air from Haydn’s Creation, and Mr. George L. Weeks, Jr., gave with much vocal force the prescient air from Judas Maccabeus, ‘Sound an Alarm.’  The soprano solo from Mendelssohn’s Elijah, sung by Master Coker, leading soprano of Trinity choir, was listened to with great pleasure, the clear [illeg.] notes of the little vocalist [illeg.] richly through the church, above the heavy accompaniments of the chancel organ.  Master Ehrlich sang a portion of Handel’s air, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ acceptably, and Master Grandin, who has a powerful alto, took the solo, ‘O thou that tallest.’

     There was, however, a desire expressed by many present to hear more choral music, even at the expense of a few solos.  The latter can be heard almost anywhere; but the body of skilled singers brought together by Dr. Cutler can only be listened to at rare intervals.

     The festival is so successful that [illeg.] only will there be a repetition of it to-night, as previously announced, but it will probably be repeated again on Friday evening. The occasion is one which largely interests all who have anything to do with church music, while to the mere amateur, the massive harmonies, the double organs, the rich architectural effects of our finest Gothic church when artificially [?] linked, combine to render the Trinity choral festival a decided feature to the music of the season. Dr. Cutler deserves credit for his energy and [illeg.] in organizing the whole affair, and the clergy of Trinity church have [illeg.] operated with him in the most cordial manner, [illeg.] only to be [illeg.] that the high price of the tickets will prevent many impecunious lovers of music from enjoying the [illeg.].

Announcement: New-York Times, 08 December 1864, 4.

      “The Choral Festival at Trinity Church ends to-night. The performance yesterday exceeded the expectations of those present, and it will of course be better to-night.”

Announcement: New York Herald, 09 December 1864, 5.

Review: New York Herald, 09 December 1864, 5.

      “The evening performance of the choristers of Trinity church and assisting choirs, took place last night, the programme of Wednesday being adhered to with the exception of a few changes in the solos.  Mr. Samuel D. Mayer, by request, introduced the Mendelssohn air, ‘If with all your hearts,’ singing it and the ‘Total Eclipse,’ from Handel’s ‘Sampson,’ with excellent taste and effect.  The choruses were sung with greater precision than on Wednesday.  So many tickets had been sold that the church was more than crowded, very many going away unable even to obtain standing room.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 09 December 1864, 4.

      Very brief.  “The attendance last evening at Tirinity Church was so large that it has been found necessary to repeat the Festival to-night (Friday.)”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 24 December 1864.

      “New York, Dec. 10. The long expected Choral Festival proved so important and interesting that it demands special notice. The inauguration of the new Chancel Organ was made the occasion for the Festival, and it would have been almost impossible to carry it through successfully without the aid of the new organ, which is intended to supplement the Grand Organ in the Choral service of Trinity Church. It is not a large organ, but a very effective one. It has two manuals, of a compass of 4 1-2 octaves, and a Pedal of a compass of 29 keys; and has 24 registers. Though the number of stops is comparatively small, yet the fact that they all run through the manual will show it to be an effective instrument. It was built by Hall & Labagh, after plans by Dr. Cutler. It occupies a position on one side of the chancel, elevated about eigh feet from the floor, and is supported by a frame work extending through the stone wall which divides the chancel from the aisle. It has no case, but the larger metal pipes are displayed at full length, both in front and on the sides, and are to be decorated in gold and colors.

     The Festival was of a character common in England, but never before introduced in this country. The exercises began on Wednesday, December 7th, at noon, and were performed by a choir of one hundred male voices, mostly boys, being the united choirs of Trinity Church, New York, Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, and Church of the Advent, Boston, under the direction of Dr. Cutler, the accomplished organist of Trinity. The singers were clad in surplices, after the manner of the choir boys of the Church of England. The first part of the programme was an interesting lecture on music, by Rev. Dr. Vinton, of Trinity Church, which was illustrated by several choral performances of different styles of music, as follows [gives entire program with the following annotations]:

     [On the Gregorian chant] All voice on the melody, without organ, as in ancient times.

     [On the Angel Trio from Elijah] This was magnificently sung and commanded the most earnest attention of the audience.

     [On the selections from Israel in Egypt] Mr. George W. Morgan displayed his wonderful command of the pedals.

     [On Cutler’s Organ Fantasia] This fantasia was in polyphonic style, in which Dr. Cutler is especially admirable, both as composer and executant.

     [On “O thou that tallest”] Sung in a very clear and effective voice.

     [On “Total eclipse”] Mr. Mayer’s clear voice rendered this beautiful solo with excellent effect.

     [On “I know that my Redeemer liveth”] Sung with excellent finish and expression.

     [On “Sound an alarm”] This was given in a very energetic and effective manner.

     [On “Hear ye, Israel”] This was the most interesting solo of all. Master Coker’s beautiful soprano voice created a marked sensation, and was listened to with breathless attention.

     [On Haydn’s “Gloria”] The solos were finely rendered by Masters Coker and Pratt, and Messrs. Weeks and Giles.

     [On the quartet from Elijah] This beautiful Quartet was without accompaniment, and was given with fine feeling and delicate expression. The voices were well balanced.

     [On Bach’s Toccata in F] Here was the true organ music, and justice was done it by Mr. Hopkins. The effect was glorious. If there is an organ in the country which for power and grandeur may dispute the palm with the Great Organ in the Boston Music Hall, it is that of Trinity Church. Lest the reader may regard this as an exaggeration let him consider that there are upon the Manuals of this organ six sixteen-foot stops, two of these being 16 feet reeds; besides these, a 32 feet open stop in the Pedals. [“If,” indeed—Ed.]

     [On the Hallelujah chorus] Accompanied by the full power of both organs, and rendered with splendid power and precision. The vast edifice seemed to surge and rock as wave after wave of the rich music poured into it from the laboring organs and the pealing voices of the choir. It was an admirable and fitting climax to all that had preceded.

     The accompaniments on the Grand Organ, whenever it was used in connection with the Chancel Organ, were by Mr. W. H. Walter, organist of Trinity Chapel, New York.

     Though the weather was exceedingly unfavorable, on Wednesday, the church was well filled. It was repeated on Thursday evening, and so great was the desire to attend, that though it was advertised to commence at eight o’clock, at seven every seat and every spot of standing room was occupied; it was estimated that over one thousand persons were unable to gain admission.

     For this reason, it was repeated again on Friday evening, and to a crowded audience. It was a notable event in our musical history and will be long remembered by everyone who took part in it, or had the pleasure of listening. It is intended to make it an annual Festival, and it will become an important institution; it must have a most pure and healthy influence upon public taste, especially in the matter of Church music. The superiority of a choir of male voices over one of mixed voice, in the elements of unity, precision and energy, must be apparent to every listener. [?—Ed.] The admirable fulness [sic], nerve, and vigor of the boys’ voices is the proper counterpart to the solid and substantial timbre of the voices of men.

     The responsibility of this Festival has been entirely on the shoulders of Dr. Cutler, and to his untiring zeal and energy is due the credit of it. Those who assisted have faithfully done their best. Their reward will be the remembrance of a true success.”

Review: New-York Times, 24 December 1864, 4.

      This choral Festival did not consist in the performance of a single oratorio, nor would the term sacred concert fully describe it. The whole arrangement was a novelty. The regular choir of the church, a chorus of one hundred male voices—and the full diapason of two organs, were responsive to the call of Dr. Vinton, illustrating, illuminating, emblazoning, as it were, his simple story of sacred music, from the rude days of Jubal to the present high refinement of the art.

     The venerable organist, S. P. Taylor, was reverently conducted to a seat not far from the new instrument. Finally, as the chimes aloft told the hour of eight, Dr. Vinton, and the other clergy, entered from the festry, and knelt at the altar. Then were the opening sentences of the Church service intoned, together with the Confession and the Lord’s Prayer. Dr. Cutler, the organist of Trinity Church, placed himself before the new organ, and the Rev. Dr. Vinton ascended the pulpit to commence his ‘Explanatory Lecture’. . .

     Space will not permit me to give even a synopsis of Dr. Vinton’s instructive lecture. He first alluded to the music of the Jewish nation, both vocal and instrumental, in its earliest days, and quoted its frequent mention in Holy Writ. He adverted to the custom of singing psalms and hymns as adopted by our Saviour and his disciples. Noticed the style of music in the fourth century, the composition of the Gregorian Chant in the sixth century, by Gregory I., when the art of singing in parts was still unknown.

     The reverend speaker gave a history of the Church Organ from its first introduction in 670, through its material improvement in the fourteenth century, with a notice of the largest and most noted organs in the world. In America, as stated by him, the large organ of Trinity Church is second in size and power, only to the great Boston organ, newly built in that city.

     Then came the first illustration, a Gregorian chant, ‘Cantate Domino Novem,’ given by all the voices on the melody, and without the organ, as in olden time. Next was a ‘German Chorale,’ as a specimen of the music of the German Lutheran Church. It was rendered in the German tongue, purely congregational in its manner, and accompanied by the organ, with interludes between the lines, and not between the verses. At this point, Dr. Vinton gave us a brief account of Martin Luther as a musician. And later in the evening Luther’s ‘Judgement Hymn’ was sung by the full choir, accompanied by Mr. Taylor on the organ, when Dr. Vinton mentioned incidentally his hope that a national hymn might be adapted to the majestic measure of this melody.

     Mr. Taylor, of whom mentioned has been made, is the oldest organist in this country, being now eighty-six years of age, and having begun his musical career, as a choir boy in England, seventy-seven years ago. He was appointed organist of Christ Church, New-York, in 1807, and was the first to introduce the chant to the American Church service. Fifty years ago oratorios were performed in St. Paul’s Chapel under his direction, and venerable ladies were present this night who, in their youth, had enjoyed those rare performances.

     This Choral Festival was under the able direction of Dr. Cutler, who also not only accompanied the choristers alternately on one organ and the other, but enchanted all hearers by an original Fantasia, taking as a theme the favorite carol, ‘We three Kings of Orient are.’

     And Morgan, the organist of Grace Church, developed by his skillful touch on the sweetest tones of the instrument in one of Wely’s ‘Offertories.’

     I cannot command language to convey an idea of the entrancing effect of solos and trios, duets and quartets, from the oratorios of the grand old masters. Among the gems were the solo and chorus from the ‘Messiah’—‘Oh, thou that tellest.’ And from the same oratorio—‘I know that my Redeemer liveth,’ (which initial sentence was graven on Handel’s tomb in Westminster Abbey.) The ‘Total Eclipse,’ from Handel’s ‘Samson,’ was very affecting, as was given by the sweet tenor voice of Mr. Mayer, and was the more touching because in it the great master had unconsciously foreshadowed his own benighted days.

     ‘Sound an Alarm,’ from the ‘Judas Maccabeus,’ a most spirit-stirring war-song, is most singularly adapted to the sonorous tenor voice in which Mr. Weeks rendered it with such thrilling effect. And the grand organ answered from afar, with a crash of warlike din—a mimic alarum [sic], from which pealed forth the voice of ‘silver trumpet’ and ‘clarion loud and clear.’

     Mr. G. E. Aiken, with a bass voice of tremendous power, yet of melodious sweetness, sung an air from Haydn’s ‘Creation.’ It was descriptive—quite as much in the music as in the words—of the first peopling of earth, air and water. The line, ‘By heavy beasts the ground was trod,’ was given in notes so low and deep, that the air and all our material surroundings vibrated and shuddered quite as much as did the new earth under burden of leviathan tread.

     The ‘Angel Trio,’ from Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah,’ was fitly sung by three boys, who needed only the wings—for their voices and faces were those of aeraphim and cherubim.

     Midway in the fragmental performance, the audience united with the full choir in the ‘Gloria in Excelsis.’ The effect was grand beyond conception—not only in volume of sound, but in the sight of that vast human sea, as it surged to the alter in one great wave of obedience at the words ‘Only begotten Son of Jesus Christ!’

     To one who has never heard it, no words can convey an idea of the ‘Grand Haliujah [sic] Chorus,’ which concluded the entertainment.

     When the Beneditciton was pronounced, the audience, taking the key-note, responded in one deep musical ‘Amen.’ And thus ended this ‘linked sweetness, long drawn out.’”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 07 January 1865.

      “New York, Dec. 19, 1864. – The Choral Festival at Trinity Church, incident to the opening of the new chancel organ, has been the musical feature of the season. Performances were given on Wednesday, the 7th inst., at noon, and on Thursday and Friday evenings. The whole entertainment was one of rare merit and success, and reflected great credit upon Dr. Cutler, who has been the leading spirit in personal services and means, not only in the preparation for the festival, but in the purchase and erection of the new organ. The fact that he has contributed so largely from his own funds, is a somewhat unusual instance of liberality on the part of a church organist.

     The chorus consisted of over one hundred male voices, boys and men, selected from the choir of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, the Church of the Advent, Boston, and Trinity Church of New York. Dr. Cutler presided at the new Chancel organ, and Mr. W. H. Walter of Trinity Chapel, at the large organ, the two playing in unison, and with great success, considering the distance and the position of the organist.

     The choristers were robed in white surplices, and entered the chancel in procession, preceded by the rector and ministers of the parish; together with Bishop Talbot and several other representatives of the clergy. After the intoning of several of the prayers of the church, one being a special one for a blessing upon the performance, Dr. Francis Vinton ascended the pulpit, and began the programme, by reading a short sketch of the rise and progress of church music from the time of the Jewish nation to the present day. The music of the different eras was interpreted by the choir at intervals during the lecture, and opened with a Gregorian chant of the sixth century: “Cantate Domino Novum,” all voices singing the melody unaccompanied. A German Choral of 1529, by Martin Luther, illustrated the reference made to that person. The peculiar feature of this was the playing between lines instead of verses.

     Some very interesting facts in relation to Handel were given, and his compositions illustrated by an organ performance—on the large organ—of selections from ‘Israel in Egypt,’ by Geo. W. Morgan. In addition to this the following vocal selections . . .  Mr. George E. Aiken, the basso of the Broadway Tabernacle Church, sang ‘Now Heaven in fullest glory shone,’ from Haydn’s ‘Creation,’ and in an artistic and finished manner, showing an admirable control of voice, and an enunciation most remarkable. Every word could be heard at the remotest part of the church, and nothing gave more general pleasure and satisfaction than this gentleman’s rendering of the portion of the programme allotted to him. A ‘Gloria in Excelsis,’ from Haydn’s 3d Mass was also sung by a quartet and chorus.

     The instrumental portion of the programme consisted, further, of one of Wely’s ‘Offertories,’ by Mr. Morgan; Bach’s ‘Toccata’ in F, performed in a very creditable manner, by Chas. Jermone Hopkins, and an Organ Fantasia with pedal obligato, by Cutler, founded on Rev. John Hopkins’s Carol, ‘We three Kings of Orient are,’ a curious theme admirably worked up and performed by Dr. Cutler.

     One of the features of this festival was the introduction of Mr. S. P. Taylor, probably the oldest organist in this country. He was born soon after Handel’s time, being now in his eighty-fifth year. He began his musical career seventy-six years ago as a choir boy in an English Cathedral, and has played the organ since he was twelve years of age. He came to America in 1806, and was appointed organist at Christ Church in Ann Street, this city, in 1807. Mr. Taylor was the first to introduce the chant in church service, and under his supervision Oratorios were performed in St. Paul’s Chapel.

     During the festival Mr. Taylor, a venerable looking old gentleman, ascending the Chancel steps, preceded by Mr. Cutler, and seating himself at the Chancel Organ, played the accompaniment to Luther’s Judgment Hymn, with a firm touch, and with a look of childish pleasure. Seventy-three years at the organ board! What a crowd of memories must have flashed through his mind as he sat at that organ playing that grand old choral!   T. W. M.”