It sounds indulgent – but it isn’t. Instead of wolfing down a slice while walking, or, worse, trying to keep crumbs off your keyboard while multitasking, spend your lunch hour at a concert. Several venues around town offer midday music. Here are five worth checking out, close enough to NYC landmarks and office buildings to appeal to tourists and residents alike. By Jessica Allen.
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Every Monday at 1 pm, the Trinity Choir and the Trinity Orchestra perform cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach—hence the name of the series, Bach at One. These free, all-are-welcome concerts are held in St. Paul’s Chapel, which was finished roughly a decade before the Declaration of Independence was signed. In fact, George Washington worshipped there. The space is intimate, the music lovely. Nearby is the World Trade Center site, which offers its own types of rhythms as construction continues.
If you think of Juilliard as the farm league for the New York Philharmonic or the Metropolitan Opera, then its weekly concert series is like getting to see a young Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. Wednesdays at One features student performers, including pianists and chamber ensembles, doing their thing at stately Alice Tully Hall. This series doesn’t require tickets or reservations. Just bring your ears. Before Hurricane Sandy, Juilliard students had also been performing chamber music at a lunchtime series on Tuesdays at 180 Maiden Lane (formerly known as the Continental Center); check the Lincoln Center events calendar for information about future performances.
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Jazz pianist Ronny Whyte oversees Midtown Jazz at Midday at Saint Peter’s Church, a glass-and-steel building amidst the other glass-and-steel buildings in east midtown. A small donation gets you an hour of sax, syncopation, and scat singing, or some variation thereof, on Wednesdays at 1 pm. Attending this concert not only earns you a spirited, hour-long respite from the workday but also lets you participate in an event that’s been ongoing since 1982. From June through August, the church hosts Jazz on the Plaza as well, Thursdays at 12:30 pm, in the sunken space between Lexington and 53rd. That’s a double dose of jazz!
In addition to Midtown Jazz, Saint Peter’s Church hosts Midtown Concerts, a shorter series focused on classical music. Held on Thursdays at 1:15 pm and lasting about 35 minutes, these concerts dovetail with the church’s mission “to creatively shape life in the city.” Often they feature early music, sonatas and ayres from 18th-century England, for example, or Italian Baroque played on the harpsichord. Concerts are held in the mostly wooden sanctuary, with light filtering in from Lexington Avenue above and people zooming past on their way to the subway or one of the fast food restaurants nearby. Resting in here for a while can feel like a secret.
Just about every other Tuesday at 12:30 pm, the Central Synagogue welcomes a master organist to its sanctuary as part of the Gabe M. Wiener Memorial Organ Concerts. Upcoming organists hail from Turin, Italy; Ghent, Belgium; Poughkeepsie, New York; and Warsaw, Poland. Attendees sit in the sanctuary, designed by Henry Fernbach, considered the first Jewish architect in the United States, and listen to contemporary and liturgical compositions. The custom-built organ is really two instruments, with a total of 4,345 pipes, 55 stops, 74 ranks, and 7 keyboards. It took three years of planning and 21,000 hours to build.