Janet Yieh, Associate Organist at Trinity Church Wall Street, who said goodbye to the congregation at the 11:15am Holy Eucharist on Sunday, January 9, reflects on the past decade, much of which has been connected with Trinity.
What Have You Learned, Janet Yieh?
When did you first come to Trinity?
Trinity brought me on in Fall of 2011 as an organ scholar when I was a freshman at the Juilliard School. It was a fantastic hands-on opportunity (literally) to be immersed in all aspects of being a well-rounded church musician. Renée Louprette, Avi Stein, and Julian Wachner mentored me in how to play hymns for different settings, accompany the choirs, perform Bach Cantatas with the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and new music with our NOVUS orchestra, and run a full music program for all ages. When I returned in 2018 after three years at Yale, I also coordinated the Pipes at One concert series, taught music theory and sight singing classes for our 3rd-12th grade choristers, and founded the St. Paul’s Chapel Choir.
How did you get here—to church music?
I began playing the piano when I was 4 and a half, and the organ in 5th grade thanks to a wonderful program in Washington, DC, called the Potomac Organ Institute, which gave me a scholarship of free lessons for a year. After that I was hooked! I was also lucky to grow up on campus at Virginia Theological Seminary, where the dean gave me keys to practice in the chapel anytime as loudly as necessary! What I love about being an organist is that it’s such a collaborative field. You get to work with singers and other musicians and be with people at some of the most special times of their lives at weddings and holidays, funerals and remembrances.
Do you have a favorite memory or moment here at Trinity?
Almost too many to count! In 2013 we celebrated the Britten Centennial, and one of my tasks was to accompany The Choir of Trinity Wall Street singing “Rejoice in the Lamb” – a 20-minute-long cantata for organist, soloists and choir. This was a tricky piece to learn and Julian Wachner spent a whole Saturday with me in the balcony at St. Paul’s working out the dynamic balances in different passages, writing in notes, and giving advice. During the concert the media team set up a tiny tv screen next so I could see his conducting through a camera from downstairs, since my back was to the choir! Julian has always believed in me and given me big opportunities to succeed, and I’m so thankful for that!
Another special memory has to be December 2019, the first Christmas Eve that we returned to Trinity Church after the rejuvenation. It was absolutely glorious to have nearly 100 singers and musicians making music together and singing Christmas hymns with the congregation!
What is one thing you’ve learned, one thing you’ll take with you into the next part of your life?
I like using the metaphor that choir is a team sport. That music is a great part of it, but what we aim to do is celebrate community, create beauty and then send it on to others as something greater than ourselves. At Trinity, we have such creative, talented individuals in every department, it’s amazing what happens on our campus and the impact we can make in our neighborhood and around the world. We’re the strongest team when we are kind to one another and open to learning from all of the experience around us.
Where are you going and what will you be doing?
I’ve been called by the Church of the Heavenly Rest on the Upper East Side to become their next Director of Music beginning in mid-January! It’s an exciting opportunity where I’ll work with their choirs, build the music education programs, play the organ, and work with our neighborhood partners to develop music as outreach.
Anything you’d like to add?
It’s been such an honor, and my Trinity family will always have a special place in my heart!