Showing posts with label St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Show all posts

Monday, March 10, 2008

Drama And Church Drama

Before I left for New York, I had read the review of David Mamet's play, "November" in The New Yorker. I love Nathan Lane and his larger than life performances and, since the review was favorable, I thought I'd like to see the play. Prices for tickets were quite expensive, so I did not buy before I left. Once I arrived, the ticket agent at my hotel found me a ticket for considerably less than I had been quoted online. A single ticket is often easier to find than multiple tickets. Not that the ticket was cheap, by any means, but I bought it anyway.

I should have paid more attention to the review in the New York Times. The story is of a buffoon of a president of the US who is running for reelection, but whose numbers are abysmally low in the polls. The president is NOT BUSH - or so they say. For the first minutes of the play I wondered if all the humor of the play was to be based on variations of the F-word. The audience was guffawing loudly, but I could not get into the spirit of the thing. I can stay home and say those words, and it won't cost me a dime. It's not that I'm offended by the word, but I wanted to see something more in the way of humor that was not based on one word. Ten or fifteen minutes into the play, things got somewhat better, and although the laughs came from low humor, at least a bit of cleverness began to appear in the dialog. The part of the lesbian speech-writer, who wants to marry her love and has adopted a Chinese baby, is played by Laurie Metcalf, who is superb in her role. Nathan Lane is always a pleasure to watch, but I found the play lacking.

The High Altar and Reredos of Saint Thomas Church
 On Sunday, I attended the 11:00 service at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, which was only two blocks from my hotel. Caminante had already told me that I would find no women priests there, and she was right. The only woman seated in the chancel was the lector. At least, they permit women to do that.

The music was excellent, with the men and boys choir singing during the service, accompanied by one of St. Thomas' two magnificent organs. The large church was about three-quarters full.

If the liturgy has not already begun, my custom, as I take my seat, is to greet the people on either side unless they appear deep in prayer. This I did, but no one returned the greeting. I suppose customs are different at St Thomas. The liturgy was east-facing, which is not my favorite (pace, Tobias). The priest seemed remote at the high altar, with the large chancel between him and the congregation. At St. James in Fordham, Tobias does an east-facing liturgy, but he seemed to turn more often toward the congregation, but perhaps I'm only imagining this. I liked Tobias' way more than that of the priest at St. Thomas.

The coffee hour is suspended during Lent, with the exception of Laetare Sunday, which it was the day I was there. The congregation was encouraged to have a taste of the simnel cake. I could be wrong, but the coffee hour appeared to be catered. There was coffee and other beverages, including wine and Bloody Marys with a sign on the table encouraging a $3.00 donation for the alcoholic drinks. There were several slightly different-looking simnel cakes set out. I took a slice of one of the cakes and a glass of red wine, dutifully depositing my donation in the basket. The cake was delicious. As I stood there, no one came to talk to me - no one at all for a good 15 minutes.  Once I could no longer stand being embarrassed for the folks there, I approached several people, and they were quite affable once I introduced myself, and we had brief conversations thereafter. I felt like the hostess. I made a point to introduce myself to the rector to let him know that I was from Thibodaux, Louisiana, for I thought that I might be his first encounter with someone from my town. He knew and liked Bishop Jenkins. Do I sound like a mystery worshipper from Ship of Fools?

Then I was on my way downtown in a taxi to meet with Queer For Christ, his partner, and a friend of theirs. I was going to include my next two meetings with friends in this post, but since I've run rather long on the play and the church service, I'll get to my other meals with friends in another post.

Drawing from The New Yorker.

St Thomas picture from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Winchester Cathedrel Choir At St. Thomas

High Altar, reredos, and stained glass at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York.

On the Monday morning in New York, I visited the Guggenheim Museum. On my way back to the hotel, I rode the bus and got off near St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue. I had passed the church many times before riding in taxis, but I had never gone in. Since I was on foot, I decided to stop in.

Am I glad I did! The high altar and reredos are a magnificent sight. The stained glass and even the floors are lovely. The website, linked above, offers a virtual tour of the church in which are many beautiful sights. Look at the gorgeous sight of one of the organs and the rose window above the entryway. I'm determined to go back to St. Thomas, because from the virtual tour, I see that I missed several of their treasures.

While I was there, I came upon a notice about a concert the next evening - the only free evening I had left - by the boys' and men's choir of Winchester Cathedral. I bought a ticket as soon as I could find the office.

The choir performance was excellent. I watched the stillness of the young boys as they sang in their lovely voices and followed attentively the promptings of the choir director, and I tried to picture my grandsons in the mix. It didn't happen. My rambunctious crew of five would not fit into the picture. One grandson, who attends Jesuit High School in New Orleans and is learning a bit of military-type discipline, along with politeness, is moving in the right direction.

Among the selections that I most enjoyed were, "Komm, Jesu, Komm", BWV 229 by J. S. Bach, which was splendidly performed, just before the intermission. Following the intermission I enjoyed especially, "The Lamb" by John Taverner, words by William Blake, "Laudi alla Vergine Maria" by James MacMillan, "Salve Regina", by Poulenc, and, the finale, "God Is Gone Up" by Gerald Finzi, which includes nearly the whole second half of the program. The choir made a joyful noise unto the Lord.

From the translation to the words of "Komm, Jesu, Komm" by Paul Thymich:

Come, Jesus, come,
My flesh is weary,
My strength doth fade e're more and more,
For now I yearn
To reach thy stillness;
This bitter path doth me oppress!
Come myself to thee I'll offer;
Thou are the proper way, the true way and the true life.

An old newspaper, The Evening Telegram from Aug. 8, 1905, is on display in the narthex. The article tells the story of the fire which destroyed the third St. Thomas Church, with the headline, "St. Thomas, Centre Of The Social World In Ashes".

Altogether, it was a lovely evening, listening to the beautiful music in an equally beautiful setting.

The reredos are a sight to behold, containing over 80 carved figures and measuring 43 ft. wide and 80 ft. high.