Every now and then a special gift happens to us – a kind of miracle that brings so much joy and happiness to our lives. That gift happened at my church, the huge Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. A few months ago Kent Tritle came to the Cathedral as the Director of Music and organist. In the short time he has been with us, he has brought so much life and light to the Cathedral. It’s hard to describe what is happening there. It feels like people have found a new bounce in their musical steps, and there has been a kind of musical resurrection.
Yes, we are lucky and blessed indeed! Kent is one of America’s leading choral conductors, and according to The New York Times, is “the brightest star in New York’s choral music world.”
Kent’s accomplishments and biography are quite unbelievable – yes, almost preposterous! He’s the Music Director of Musica Sacra, the longest continuously performing professional chorus in New York City, and Music Director of the Oratorio Society of New York, the acclaimed 200-voice volunteer chorus. He founded and directed Sacred Music in a Sacred Space, a concert series at New York’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. In addition, Kent is Director of Choral Activities at the Manhattan School of Music and is a member of the graduate faculty of the Juillard School. And if that’s not enough, he is also the organist of the New York Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra, and the host of a weekly radio show “The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle” on WQXR. If you are interested in seeing more about Kent, his concerts, his degrees, and his many accomplishments, you can visit his website at www.kenttritle.com
But here’s the amazing part, Kent is very warm and accessible, and he has a heart as big as all outdoors – big enough to embrace and fill up the awesome space of the Cathedral (which is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world). Yet he is humble, kind, loving, and full of humor. In one of his first concerts at the Cathedral, when he forgot to bring his music to the conductor’s stand, he smiled at the audience, ran out to get his music, came back waving at us and hugging the music to his chest as he returned to the stand. We have absolutely fallen in love with this awesome, gifted musician who has opened his heart to us at the Cathedral as if we were his long lost friends. And perhaps we were!
For many people, Kent became truly REAL on Ash Wednesday. Usually at the Cathedral we sing rather high church music (not always sing-able). But Kent has brought us back to sacred earth with superb music of all kinds ranging from Gospel music to classical favorites to what I call old-fashioned down-home music. As the Ash Wednesday service wound down, Kent slid onto the piano bench and began playing “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling.” I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the Cathedral as we sang that hymn. Thank you, God, for giving us the gift of Kent and this miracle of music.
Oh, God, you do tenderly and softly call us back to you through the gift of music. Thank you so much for sending Kent to us – to help us remember how to celebrate you with music, to sing unto you a new song for you are worthy to be praised. Amen.