With so many great sources of inexpensive music (e.g., see my similar article on “The Schools” from October, 2012), confess. You’ve got to feel a bit guilty if you’re an Upper West Sider. It doesn’t seem fair. Yet our neighborhood is also blessed with a wealth of ecclesiastical venues for soul satisfying music. And you can enrich your spirit without depleting your wallet. If a concert isn’t free, a voluntary offering will often suffice and, where it won’t, admission seldom exceeds $25—often with student and senior discounts. Working our way uptown, here are nearly a dozen of the more divine places to congregate:
Also check out:
HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH
3 W 65th Street, 212-877-6815
Offering one of the City’s premier church-based programs, with several dozen liturgical and classical concerts a year, Holy Trinity is most noted for its Bach Vespers series, which “presents Bach’s cantatas and other great works in their intended liturgical context.” Admission is rarely more than $20—and is often free—for top ensembles, such as the critically-acclaimed Juilliard415, the renowned music school’s principal period-instrument group. Check out http://www.bachvespersnyc.org/calendar.asp for program details, timing and, where applicable, prices.
GOOD SHEPHERD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
152 West 66th Street, 212-799-1259
The Good Shepherd is the standard venue for the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, an offshoot of the Jupiter Symphony. If you’ve got a taste for chamber music, you can’t go wrong with this group, with the Times’ music critic rating the players “top notch” and the church an “acoustically vibrant place for chamber music”. And the price is right. Tickets, which can be ordered in advance or purchased at the box office 35 minutes before each concert, range from $10 to $25—and the cheap seats are absolutely fine. The Jupiter’s season includes 20 themed concerts, including a solid mix of big name and lesser known composers. It runs from September to May, on Mondays at both 2:00 and 7:30 pm. You’ll find comprehensive program information at http://www.jupitersymphony.com/Calendar.htm
CHRIST & SAINT STEPHEN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
120 West 69th Street (between Columbus & Broadway), (212) 787-2755
Christ & Saint Stephen’s, the oldest church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, hosts a variety of musical programs throughout the year. In addition to its mostly liturgical offerings at Sunday morning and holiday services, four major concerts (English Song Cycles, St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir, classical guitarist Jerry Willard and organist Benjamin Sheen) are scheduled for 2014-5. Suggested donations are $20 ($10 for students and seniors). See http://www.csschurch.org/sites/317/uploaded/files/Music_at_CSS_20142015.pdf for full details.
SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH EPISCOPAL CHURCH
552 West End Avenue (Entrance on 87th St), 212-580-3326
Taking advantage of its superior acoustics, St. Ignatius boasts its own choir of eight professionals, whose programs are mainly from late medieval and Renaissance periods, and 19th to 20th century Anglican choral traditions. See http://www.saintignatiusnyc.org/Music_Schedule.html for a listing of the choir’s several dozen annual performances for the coming year, most of which are at Solemn Masses beginning at 11 A.M. The church has also hosted about two dozen choral concerts, featuring early and sacred music from several ensembles-in-residence, each autumn through spring. Check the “music” link on http://www.saintignatiusnyc.org/index.html to see what’s in store for the coming season. Last year, “Prime” tickets ran as high as $50, but admission was more typically $25 or less—often with student and senior discounts—and occasionally free.
ADVENT LUTHERAN CHURCH/BROADWAY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
2504 Broadway (at 93rd St), 212-316-5700
These congregations’ Music Mondays Concerts offer mostly classical chamber pieces, though they’ve also presented occasional outliers like Balinese gamelan music. The monthly performances, running from September through May, are listed at http://www.musicmondays.org/, with links providing program details. In most cases, you can even check out excerpts to help you judge whether a particular night sounds enticing. All concerts start at 7:30 pm—with doors open at 6:45—and are free of charge. And if that weren’t enough, each performance is followed by a casual wine reception, where you can meet the musicians.
THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF SAINT JOHN THE DIVINE
1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th St.), 212-316-7540
This New York landmark is home to a multiplicity of music programs, many of which don’t require tickets (though donations are always appreciated). Free performances include Sunday recitals on the Great Organ, “one of the largest and most spectacular instruments of its kind,” held in the fall and spring, as well as on Mondays from 1 to 1:30, and the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace (with both free general admission and ticketed seating). See http://www.stjohndivine.org/visit/calendar/events/tag/music for the full music schedule. When visiting the cathedral, the fourth largest Christian church in the world, be sure to explore the stunning Gothic Revival architecture and beautiful interior. You can take a guided tour (call 212-316-7540 for information) or wander through on your own. Highlights include the stained glass windows, including the largest rose window in the U.S.; seven chapels, each in the style of one of New York’s major national groups; the great west doors in bronze, with 48 relief panels from the Old and New Testaments; the figures of saints carved into the external columns; and the biblical garden.
THE BROADWAY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
601 West 114th Street, 212-864-6100
In recent years, Broadway Presbyterian has been the concert venue for the Broadway Bach Ensemble, a fine 45-piece community chamber orchestra, many of whose members have performed professionally. They’ve been playing at the church three times a year, in October, February and May, with works spanning the 17th through the 21st centuries. The concerts are free, though of course donations are welcome. This year’s schedule is at http://www.broadwaybach.org/. You can also subscribe to their mailing list (on the same site) and/or phone for information at (914) 654-1062.
THE INTERCHURCH CENTER
475 Riverside Drive (119th & 120th), 212-870-2200
The Center houses offices and agencies of several religions; not exactly a church but, hey, if they offer free music, we’re not fussy. Relatively brief performances are held in the Chapel, most Wednesdays at noon, between September and May. The music is largely classical, typically with one or two performers (piano, organ, cello, vocal, etc.) but, over the course of the year, you’ll also find international, folk, choral and gospel. You can review the monthly calendar at http://www.interchurch-center.org/eventcalendar. While you’re at the Center, be sure to visit the Treasure Room Gallery in the southwest corner of the main floor to see the current art exhibit.
THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH
490 Riverside Drive (120th St.), 212-870-6700
With its elaborate Neo-Gothic architecture modeled after the 13th Century cathedral in Chartres, the Riverside is the tallest church in the U. S. Rising high above its neighbors (including Riverside Park and Grant’s tomb), its massive bell tower houses one of the largest carillons in the world, with the collective weight of its bells tipping the scale at over 100 tons. Carillon recitals are best appreciated from the parks around the church, on Sundays at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3:00 (or 2:30 p.m.), as well as on special occasions. Inside the church, you might typically find one or two concerts a month—running the gamut from hip hop brass band to middle eastern oud to handbells to . . . well, you get the idea; it’s pretty diverse. And if you also count theater and dance, there are well over 100 performances a year. When admission isn’t by free will donation, admission is generally $25 or less. You can find the particulars on this season’s concerts at http://www.theriversidechurchny.org/pdfs/Music_At_Riverside_Brochure_2014-2015.pdf, a description of the church’s choir programs at http://www.theriversidechurchny.org/events/?music and tour information at http://www.theriversidechurchny.org/about/?tours
CORPUS CHRISTI CATHOLIC CHURCH
529 West 121st Street, 212-666-9350
Corpus Christi Church, which has been called “acoustically superb” by the New York Classical Review, offers a full program of choral and organ music each Sunday and holyday in addition to hosting concerts by Music Before 1800, the longest-running early music concert series in New York. This season there will be eight Music Before 1800 concerts at the church, all on Sundays at 4 pm. Tickets range from $20 to $45 with a $5 discount for seniors and students. Further savings are possible with various subscription options. Program and ticket information is available at http://www.mb1800.org/ or you can phone (212) 666-9266.