The ASQ has maintained a warm and mutually-supportive relationship with our CHS “sisters” for almost 25 years. The Episcopalian covent known as the Community of the Holy Spirit has been our “home away from home” in New York City since we moved to California more than 22 years ago. While we wont necessarily say we’ve grown “old” yet, we certainly all have matured and perhaps ripened beautifully over this nearly quarter century.
Our relationship began when Sandy’s son Jonathan began attending the sisters’ school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, St Hilda’s and St Hugh’s as a pre-kindergartener in 1988. A block south of their school, the sisters lived in a wonderfully warm and pleasantly ramshackle convent, St Hilda’s House which comprised three conjoined brownstones (painted white with brilliantly welcoming red doors).
Over the years, but especially after we relocated the quartet to California, St Hilda’s House became our ground zero. Whether trying out a tricky new program among friends or recording at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, whether teaching at our longstanding Silberman residency at CUNY’s Baruch College or simply returning to perform and tour on the east coast, the sisters were and remain among our closest and most supportive family. During Sandy’s six years on the board of Chamber Music America, he became practically a fixture among the community, often attending and frequently performing within their beautiful liturgies in the exquisite 3rd floor chapel. The Quartet has joyfully performed many benefit concerts for the Community over the years including a particularly memorable and festive production with a distinguished slew of celebrity CHS supporters at St Michael’s on Amsterdam Avenue for Garrison Keillor and his perennially popular NPR fixture, The Prairie Home Companion.
There have been a few occasions when we have even performed for some rather more far-flung friends of the Community, not long ago when on tour in Germany for the Christusbruderschaft Community in Selbitz and most recently, in Panama City for the National Concert Association founded and coordinated by another old friend of the sisters, the Reverend “Terry” Ford.
The Manhattan based order recently surrendered their much loved St Hilda’s House to Columbia University and have relocated to a beautiful and efficient “state-of-the-art” convent at 149th and Convent Avenue. Their new home is comfortable, compact, efficient and purpose-built to their own design, reflecting their quiet, sustainable and engaged lifestyles, caring and nurturing the environment and each other as well as their neighborhood and those who share it with them.
Meanwhile the country cousins of the same CHS order care for their beautiful Bluestone Farm at Melrose, just outside of Brewster NY working their land in the same devoted and holistically informed (sustainable) manner. They care for their 19th century homestead and neighboring structures – the Living Arts Center, with dedicated and frequently back-breaking hard work! We had the opportunity to visit recently and played a short concert for a small, festive gathering of friends and supporters of the Community. We enjoyed a tour of the farm, admiring their expert animal husbandry while sampling many of the organically produced riches en route. After our relaxed “informance,” we almost hedonistically enjoyed some stellar examples of the sisters’ wines and even some superb cheese produced from their own cow’s milk along with outstanding preserves and produce. Life in the country is not for everyone but as spring is springing in Putnam County NY on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, the Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit at Melrose can make a detour richly rewarding.
Check out the CHS sisters’ website for more information at: www.chssisters.org!
— Sandy Wilson
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