Angling for Connection with The Arts at Trinity

The Arts at Trinity

Despite roots that reach back to the earliest colonization of America, Trinity Parish could be considered a “modern” church organization. The Parish maintains two church complexes within a three mile range, one of which, Holy Trinity Church (also known as Old Swedes), is the eighteenth oldest church in America, established in 1698, and has housed an Episcopal parish since 1791.

Yet its outlook is very 2019.

The Episcopal Church, with origins in the Church of England in the American colonies, began ordaining women as priests, and later bishops, in 1974, and then ordaining LGBT people in the late eighties, with the first openly gay person ordained as a bishop in 2003. The church approved transgender ordination in 2012. In 2015, the church passed resolutions allowing the blessing of same-sex marriages and established relevant liturgies.

Church leaders and priests marched with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and the church remains equality and social-justice-oriented.

So it is not surprising that Trinity Parish embraces the arts, and offers rich programming through The Arts at Trinity (TAAT), from the Parish’s home base of 11th and Adams Street, in a neighborhood dubbed the “Trinity Vicinity.” Born out of a previous music ministry at Trinity in 2010, TAAT is an arts and culture series offering concerts and presenting pop-up events in literature, drama, poetry and the visual arts.

Kathryn Jakabcin, co-chair of The Arts at Trinity, describes the connection between the arts and Trinity Parish: “The Arts at Trinity was started as a ministry, or a gift, of the church to the community. The arts and music, in part, share with religion the effort to express the inexpressible. For some people, music and theater and ‘the plastic arts’ – sculpture and painting and photography – are expressions of a religious nature and we address that and give this gift to the community.”

TAAT is put together by a committee: although anyone at Trinity can offer ideas or attend meetings, the selection of art, the planning and execution is primarily performed by herself, Trinity’s Music Director Terrence Gaus-Woollen, who is also Jakabcin’s TAAT co-chair, and Michael Redmond, a journalist and art critic, who writes materials to support TAAT programming, with publicity support from Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald.

She says TAAT’s events are always free but the group is happy to accept donations to support the program. Nearly all events take place on Sundays at 4pm, with some exceptions. 2019-2020 season programming includes:

November 3, 2019, 10:30am (special time): The Trinity Parish Choir & Chamber Orchestra will perform Requiem by Dan Forrest (in the context of the liturgy).

This event highlights a major piece written for worship. In the past, TAAT has featured Bach’s Reformation Cantata.

Terrance Gaus-Woollen directs.

December 1, 2019, 4pm: TAAT offers a workshop by Stephanie Daniels, a professor of theatre studies and dance at Wheaton College. 

Based on the practices of Brazilian dramatist Augusto Boal known as “Theatre of the Oppressed,” Daniels will offer specially-crafted theatre games called, “A Rehearsal for Life,” exploring themes of social justice and deconstructing power inequities.

January 19, 2020, 4pm: Trinity welcomes back “The Serafins,” a group of internationally-acclaimed performing artists (string, wind, piano and vocalists) devoted to collaborative chamber music performances, who often invite guest artists to collaborate.

This concert features Kate Ransom and Amos Fayette, violins, Luke Fleming, viola, Jacques-Pierre Malan, cello, and Victor Asuncion, piano. Programming includes the M. Haydn Duo for violin and viola; the Haydn Piano Trio in C Major Hob XV:27; and Caesar Franck Piano Quintet.

Serafin’s artistic director, Kate Ransom, explains her programming process: “I love doing programming. I get to dream that up and do it pretty independently.” She adds, “I like to create a thematic connection and also create some contrast to that as well.”

The January program compares brothers Michael Haydn and Franz Joseph Haydn.

Franz is considered the grandfather of the string quartet, having created a stylistic genre that is very rich. His youngest brother was Michael, who was also a good composer but not as prolific and didn’t live as long. 

Ransom says, “I thought it would be fun to pair violin and viola by Michael, using a duet he didn’t finish himself. He was supposed to have done a set of six pieces, and only got four finished before getting sick. His deadline came up, so he asked Mozart for help, who, in turn, wrote the other two.”

Two contrastingly rich pieces were published with the original four under Michael’s name. Eventually, it came to light that Mozart was the source of the two more sophisticated pieces.

Ransom believes that presenting work by both the older and younger Haydn brothers and demonstrating the pipeline that led to Mozart will show the strong advancement of the whole genre.

Key to the January program’s “sparklingly wonderful” Michael Haydn music is the visit from Victor Asuncion. This Chicago-based pianist tours internationally and collaborates with other solo artists such as cellists. 

Ransom says, “[Asuncion’s] technique at the keyboard is pearlingly beautiful. It will glisten in the Haydn and be a real treat.”

Further contrast is demonstrated through the Franck quintet. With two violins, viola and cello, the highly romantic and hefty work has a lot of contrast within itself and is different from classicism of the Haydns. 

Plus it brings all eleven Serafin Ensemble members on stage together.

In programming TAAT performances, Ransom says she is, “…looking to create an experience for the audience. I’m looking at the players I want to bring together.”

February 16, 2020: TAAT welcomes back pianist Chad Bowles, Chair of Piano at Peabody Preparatory and the Co-Director of the Peabody Piano Academy.

March 22, 2020, 3pm (special time): Simple Gifts – Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon – will offer a workshop on “The Folk Process.” This lecture-presentation explores the essence of folk music, looking at the creative process that folk musicians follow to take a simple melody and mold it into an interesting performance piece. A concert follows at 4pm.

Earlier in TAAT’s season, in September, Trinity held a concert by Gaus-Woollen. In October, Trinity welcomed The Serafins, joined by Atlanta-based Charae Krueger on cello, as well as frequent collaborator William Ransom, piano, for a program that included Czech Bedeřich Smetana, Mozart, Gaspar Cassadó and Dvořák

Jakabcin said, “Our dream [for TAAT] is to provide a variety of music. I’d love to bring dance. We haven’t pulled that off. We had a small dance piece last year but that’s challenging to find a dance troupe to hold a program in that small of a space. My dream is to do something different.”

She adds that providing exposure in the community to a variety of arts is key to the ministry: “We think that that’s a way to appreciate the divine. It’s not a religious activity…that’s my opinion, I believe the two are inextricably linked.”

Trinity Parish’s website says, “Begun in 1785, the Episcopal Church in Delaware is one of the nine original dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The Episcopal Church today continues to celebrate liberty by making room for questions about God and the church. Worshiping in these beautiful spaces connects us with the past, present, and future — or as we like to say, these spaces embody our 300 years of faith in the city.”

The church says “…there are no outcasts, and all are welcome…” and promotes “thoughtful debate about what God is calling us to do and be as followers of Christ.”

What an INspiring philosophy, and excellent fodder for art.

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