From the founding of Trinity in 1723, and the completion of the first wooden church in 1753, music has been an important part of its services of worship. By 1776, Trinity was taking the lead in establishing singing as a regular part of all Episcopal services throughout Connecticut. There are records of an organ subscription being taken at the end of the Revolutionary War. Trinity’s famous engraver and parishioner Amos Doolittle was one of the first American to engrave books with scores of music.
The Trinity Choir of Men and Boys is the oldest choir in New Haven, having been founded in 1885. It is the seventh oldest such choir in America. The Men and Boys who comprise its membership come from not only the parish but also the entire central Connecticut area. The Men and Boys usually sing at the 11:00 am service and other special parish services, including occasional Evensongs.
Below is a 1954 Recording of Trinity’s Boy Choir singing The Holly and the Ivy. This traditional Christmas carol features tenors Harry Clarke (lead) and Irving Held (harmony) and sopranos David Ragaini (lead) and Paul Berg (harmony).
Below, is the In the Bleak Mid-Winter, from an 1872 poem by Christina Rossetti, and with a 1909 musical setting by Harold Darke, was voted Best Christmas Carol in a 2008 BBC poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts. This version, by the Trinity Church (New Haven, CT.) Choir, was recorded in 1954 with a solo by David Ragaini.
In 1975 the 9:00 service began to incorporate more contemporary music and instruments, including drums, guitars, and rock style music. The Spirit Singers choir evolved out of the “rock band” choir of the late 1970s, expanding by the early 1980s into gospel, contemporary Christian, and popular music, with the congregation often using the Lift Every Voice and Sing hymnal accompanied by piano. They sang the hymns, solos, service music and anthems, for the 9:00 am service, and every other Sunday in the summer and at special services including the 5:00 Christmas service. In 2012 they were disbanded, ending 37 years of experiment with contemporary music at Trinity.
The Adult Choir was initially created in the 1980s as a place for 11:00 adult parishioners not in the boys choir to sing. In 2012, they were renamed the Parish Choir, merging with members of the disbanded Spirit Singers.
It is fitting that, in a church with such a long tradition of choral leadership by children, the Choir of Men and Girls now takes a prominent place in the worship services of Trinity Church. The choir was founded in the Fall of 2003 comprising members auditioned from all over south-central Connecticut. Girls from grades 5 through 10 form the soprano section of the choir, accompanied by adult alto women, adult tenors and adult basses.
Music on the Green, written by well-known historian (and New Haven native) Barbara Owen, details the long and rich history of Trinity’s music program, from 1752 until the present time. This fascinating softbound book of 100 pages covers Trinity’s choirs, choirmasters, organs, and even the church bells in both words and pictures. It can be ordered through the Organ Historical Society by clicking HERE.