I work with the New York Landmarks Conservancy on their annual Sacred Sites Open House weekend. This year the event, May 5 and 6, had as its theme Sacred Sounds and Settings, an opportunity for congregations to showcase music programs as well as architecture, with organ demonstrations, vocal and instrumental concerts, recitals, rehearsals, and special tours.
On warm, sunny Saturday, I went to several sites including St. Luke’s in the Fields where I
St.Luke in the Fields’ garden
met a lovely couple who recently moved here from Newport Beach, CA. The man reported seeing his first New York hummingbird in the church’s fabulous garden that has places to sit, read the paper and so on. There was an organ demo but first came a piano performance in a setting banked by displays of lilacs and yellow tulips. As to the organ, Music Director, David Schuler, told the group (all ages, one small dog) that, prior to electricity, choirboys hand-pumped pumped the bellows for the organ and displayed his organists’ shoes that are narrow, with one-inch heels and slippery soles, to facilitate playing the pedals.
Organ shoes on pedals
That afternoon I went to St. Vincent Ferrer on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, served by Dominican Friars, one of whom led an excellent tour. Director of Music James D. Wetzel welcomed a large group before turning the program over to recent Julliard graduate and Assistant Organist, Alexander Pattavina, who demonstrated the instrument’s range and invited visitors up to the keyboard to see him in action. Pattavina is a mere twenty-two with incredible poise and, I assume, musianship ( I don’t think I’d know a good organist from a so-so one but his playing seemed sublime.)
Sunday was cold and windy. Getting anywhere by subway on the weekend is awful as New Yorkers know so the trip to Brooklyn was long. Once there I joined the Discover Brooklyn! tour led by Marianne Hurley of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. As we trotted in her wake, Marianne described the social causes associated with many Brooklyn religious buildings including Plymouth Church that served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The route featured the outside of religious buildings until the last
Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights
stop at Grace Church where there was lots of organ music to enjoy.
The weekend is one of those great New York attractions—not just City-wide but throughout the state. If you’d like to know more or get word of the 2019 event, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and join the mailing list. The event is go at your own pace, come alone or with friends, and discover buildings you may have walked past for years but have never really noticed.
And now to food. Organ meats have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to health concerns. This recipe is for chicken liver pate, which is delicious and you’re not going to serve or eat it that often. It’s easy to make and keeps well.
Chicken Liver Pate—Jacques Pepin
1/2 pound chicken livers, well-trimmed
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Cognac or Scotch whisky
Freshly ground pepper
Toasted baguette slices, for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor; process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Add the Cognac, season with salt and pepper and process until completely smooth. Scrape the pâté into 2 or 3 large ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.
(The pâté can be covered with a thin layer of melted butter, then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.) Or just cover and put in fridge—I promise it will vanish in no time. Serve with drinks and organ music.