Sacred Sites Open House is a weekend of FREE concerts and musical demonstrations, behind-the-scenes tour and more, of more than 100 of NYC’s most famous and most beloved religious institutions in all five boroughs, some of which have NYC Landmark designation.
This is the 8th annual Sacred Sites Open House weekend, May 5/6, and you don’t have to be religious to appreciate soaring architectural beauty or the beauty of soaring liturgical sounds of organ music or choir concerts.
Special tours include: Christ Church Riverdale; a Discover Brooklyn! Tour including exterior visits to nine sites in the “Borough of Churches”; Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan; and a musical walking tour of Staten Island’s Westerleigh (formerly National Prohibition Park) co-sponsored by Immanuel Union Church and the Westerleigh Improvement Society.
There are more than 50 concerts over the Sacred Sites Open House weekend, including at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn and at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum on the Lower East Side on Sunday, which co-incides with the Fourt Anual Greek-Jewish Street Festival.
Sponsored by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, this is the only statwide initiative in the country providing grants and hands-on technical assistance for the repair and restoration of historic religious buildings.
These buildings offer music, art, architecture, history and social programs.
This year’s theme, Sacred Sounds and Settings, provides a backdrop for showcasing musical and performance activities via organ demonstrations, concerts, and special guided tours of religious institutions. Participating congregations will also highlight their cultural and social programs offered throughout the year.
The website lets you search by county and by type of program, including tours and concerts.
Many of the tours must be pre-booked, and some are already sold out, but you should check back closer to the date for cancellations.
Participate in the Landmarks Conservancy’s annual Sacred Sites Open House Photo Contest
Submit photo(s) of a sacred site (church, synagogue, temple, etc.) by May 7th for a chance to win a Best Buy gift certificate (1st prize: $100, 2nd prize: $50, and 3rd prize: $25).
Photo shown here is Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Brooklyn photo credit: Katie Lentz, winner of the 2017 Photo Contest
List of tours, borough by borough, alphabetically:
Christ Church Riverdale (5030 Henry Hudson Parkway East) and The Riverdale Choral Society) will present American Made from Brooklyn to Riverdale featuring American composers: Copland, Wallach, Porter, Gershwin, Paulus, and Effingera at 3:00 PM on Sunday, May 6th. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door.
- Since 1964, the Riverdale Choral Society, a volunteer chorus, has been bringing joy to the community through performances of high-quality choral music. Through live concerts and community outreach, the chorus enriches the cultural life of the greater Riverdale area.
- Christ Church resembles a rural English medieval parish church. Constructed in 1866 to the designs of Richard M. Upjohn, it is an excellent example of both Gothic Revival country church architecture and Upjohn’s early commissions.
Join the Brooklyn Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Landmarks Conservancy as we kick off Sacred Sites Open House with Loreto Aramendi in Concert on Sunday, April 22nd at 4:00 PM at Plymouth Church (57 Orange Street, Brooklyn).
Tickets are $20 ($10 Students & Seniors) and can be purchased at the door.
- Ms. Aramendi studied at the Conservatoire of San Sebastian (Spain) and collaborated with the Basque Symphony Orchestra for many years. She is currently a professor at the F. Escudero Conservatoire in San Sebastian and main organist of the Cavaillé-Coll organ (1863) of the Basilique of Santa María del Coro.
- She will present Organ Music and Transcriptions of Buxtehude, Fauré, Ligeti, Liszt, Pärt, Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saëns and Tournemire on Plymouth Church’s historic 1937 Aeolian-Skinner Pipe Organ.
- Plymouth Church was designed by Joseph C. Well (1850) and is an example of 19th century urban tabernacle architecture with Italianate and colonial motifs. The barn-like church building, with its pews arranged in an arc before the pulpit, resemble more an auditorium or theater than what had traditionally been considered a church, In 1866, the church’s original pipe organ was replaced by E. and G. G. Hook, which installed what was then the largest organ in the United States, expanded further by Aeolian-Skinner in 1937. In 1907–09, the church installed stained-glass windows by the noted J&R Lamb Studios.
- The windows in Plymouth Church are unique in that they do not depict any biblical scenes. Instead they focus on the history of democracy in England and the USA.
- Plymouth Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1961 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Discover Brooklyn! Tour Brooklyn is known as the “Borough of Churches” and on Sunday, May 6th from 10:30 am – 12:45 pm, Marianne Hurley of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission will lead visitors on a tour of the varied architectural religious styles of the City’s first historic district, Brooklyn Heights.
Exterior site visits will include: Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first Roman Catholic parish in Brooklyn Heights (1842); Plymouth Church, where Henry Ward Beecher was the pastor from 1847 until 1887; First Presbyterian Church (1846), one of Brooklyn Heights’ earliest congregations; Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church (1887); The First Unitarian Congregational Society (1846); Minard Lafever’s masterpiece, The Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity (1847); The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue (1858); Congregation B’nai Avraham (1844); Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral (1844), one of the earliest Romanesque Revival buildings in America. The tour will conclude at Richard Upjohn’s Gothic Revival Grace Church with an interior walk-through and a short presentation by Paul Olson, Grace Organist.
The tour will meet at Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 55 Cranberry Street between Hicks and Henry.
On Sunday, May 6th at 3:15 pm members of the Union Church of Bay Ridge (7915 Ridge Boulevard) will be on hand to provide a guided tour and history of the church’s stained glass windows. Notable windows include Resurrection installed 1896, by Tiffany Studios and He Is Risen c. 1924 by Louis Lederle.
Following the tour at 4:00 pm, join the Brooklyn Chapter of the American Guild of Organists for its 2018 Members’ Organ Recital featuring Aaron Comins, Stephen Danziger, Victor Frost, Nick Martellacci, Mark Victor Smith, Maria Rayzvasser, John A. Wolfe, and Ellen Wright.
- The concert and tour are FREE. Advance registration recommended. Click here to register for the tour
On Saturday May 5th in partnership with the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (85 South Oxford Street) will host a panel discussion on women in jazz, Jazz! The Women’s Viewpoint, at 3:00 pm with musical performance by award-winning musician, Martha Redbone.
Guided tours of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian are Sunday, May 6th from 1:00 -4:00 pm, and will include demonstration of the church’s 1910 Austin Organ.
- Advance Registration not required.
At 1:00 pm on Sunday May 6th enjoy an up close look at Marble Collegiate Church’s (1 West 29th Street) new organ, designed by Sebastian Glück, president of Glück Pipe Organs. Visitors will be treated to an organ demonstration led by Marble’s Director of Music, Kenneth V. Dake, followed by a docent-led tour of the historic church building.
- Marble Collegiate traces its history back to the city’s first church, a Reformed congregation established by Dutch colonists in 1628. Completed in 1854 to the design of Samuel A. Warner, the Early Romanesque Revival building is clad entirely in Tuckahoe marble and has Gothic trim and a Wren-like steeple.
- The church has had a number of famous preachers, most prominent among them the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale.
Kehila Kedosha Janina (280 Broome Street) was founded by immigrant Jews who came to New York from Ioannina, Greece in 1902-1924. The members of today’s congregation are descendants of the original founders. The synagogue is the only Romaniaote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.
Two docent led tours of the synagogue and its museum highlighting Greek Jewry will be offered at 10:00 am and 11:00 am on Sunday, May 6th.
- Click here to register for 10 am tour. 11am tour is SOLD OUT
On Saturday, May 5th at 2:00 pm, come for a special tour of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer’s (869 Lexington Avenue) magnificent 86-rank Schantz organ, installed in 2000. The organ occupies a commanding place below the rose window on the church’s west wall.SOLD OUT
Join tour guide and author Anthony W. Robins, on Sunday May 6th at 3:00 pm for an insider’s tour of the Art Deco gem, Hebrew Tabernacle (551 Fort Washington Avenue)
Built in 1932 to house the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, this building has been home to the synagogue since 1973 and is a rare Art Deco house of worship, one of perhaps a dozen in New York City. It is an especially rare Deco church for the Christian Scientists, who generally preferred more traditional styles.
Spots are still available for a Jane’s Walk tour of Art Deco architecture in Washington Heights, including the Hebrew Tabernacle, which and will include a brief organ demonstration by Ralph Selig, an expert in German-Jewish liturgical music.
On Saturday and Sunday May 5th and 6th enjoy full days of instrumental and vocal music presented by various artists at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Shrine (701 Fort Washington Ave.) Located in Northern Manhattan, the historic Shrine rises above the Hudson River on a scenic wooded site chosen by the saint herself. The building is a unique mid-century site, with a wealth of metalwork, decorative brickwork, stained glass windows, and mosaics, including a breathtaking panoramic mosaic of her life and mission.
Saturday, May 5:
10:00 – 10:30 Organ Demonstration by Dave Schmauch and Phyllis Katz
Dave will reveal the inner workings of the rare Tamburini pipe organ in the loft of Cabrini Chapel (Giovanni Tamburini, Cremona Italy, 1960). Phyllis will demonstrate its uniqueness and range.
11:00 – 11:30 Harp and Marian Chant by Ruth Cunningham
Gregorian chants to Mary featured on some of Ruth’s recordings by Anonymous 4;
Original settings and improvisations of medieval Latin texts for voice and medieval harp.
1:00 – 1:30 Vocal Music by Gudrun Bühler, Soprano, accompanied by Maxim Anikushin, Pianist
Classical and contemporary music in honor of the Blessed Mother
2:00 – 2:30 Piano and Organ Music by Maxim Anikushin
Music by Chopin, Mozart and Ligeti; Schubert-Liszt “The Elfking”, Stravinsky “Russian Dance”
3:00 – 3:30 Flute and Electro-acoustic Music by Yael Acher”KAT” Modiano
Bach and original works by this extraordinary multiple- genre flutist, composer, and educator
4:00 – 4:30 Performance on Cabrini’s Tamburini Organ by Paolo Bordignon,
Music of Bach, Handel, Mozart played by this well-known organist. The harpsichordist for the New York Philharmonic.
Sunday, May 6:
12:30 – 1:00 Flute: Bach and Original Works by Yael Acher”KAT” Modiano (See Saturday)
1:15 – 1:45 Organ: Bach, Handel, Mozart by Paolo Bordignon (See Saturday)
2:00 – 2:30 Harp and Marian Chant by Ruth Cunningham (See Saturday)
3:00 – 4:00 Mass in Spanish
4:30 – 5:00 Guitar, Tenor, music exquisitely sung and played by Juan, ‘Junior’ Gil
Songs of inspiration and exultation by the director of Radio Catolica International.
Advance Registration not required.
Discover Queens! Tour Queens is the most diverse county in the United States. With nearly half of the 2.3 million residents born abroad, its neighborhoods are home to families that hail from over 120 countries and speak over 135 languages. On Sunday May 6th visitors will enjoy musical performances that highlight Flushing’s religious diversity. Presented by the Queens Historical Society, sites include: First Baptist Church of Flushing (14210 Sanford Ave), Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist Temple (143-63 Beech Ave); Ebenezer Baptist Church (3612 Prince St); and the Hindu Temple Society of North America (45-57 Bowne St).
Enjoy a musical walking tour of Westerleigh (formerly National Prohibition Park) on Saturday, May 5th at 10:00 am co-sponsored by Immanuel Union Church and the Westerleigh Improvement Society. The tour will be led by architect Mark Anderson and departs from Immanuel Union Church (693 Jewett Avenue).
Immanuel Union traces its roots to temperance movement of the nineteenth century and was associated with National Prohibition Park, today known as the neighborhood of Westerleigh. The Church’s building began with the Deems’ Memorial Chapel (William A. Lambert, 1895) which was expanded in 1916 (James Whitford, Sr.) with a later addition in 1957 (James Whitford, Jr.). Immanuel Union Church is currently under consideration for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Advance Registration suggested. Click here to register.
Click on the Open House Sites https://sacredsitesopenhouse.org/project/open-house-sites/ or Map https://sacredsitesopenhouse.org/maps/ tabs to begin planning your weekend adventure.