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One unexpected sighting in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood is the General Theological Seminary, a leafy green campus which takes up an entire city block on West 20th Street. In an area known better today for its art galleries, the campus of the Episcopal Church’s oldest seminary is an anomaly today. If you haven’t explored General Theological Seminary yet, the dynamic Chelsea Music Festival, which continues through this Saturday, will give you a chance to do so.

The Chelsea Music Festival will have two events this week in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, the musical center of the seminary. Many architectural elements of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd resemble those found on university campuses in England. For instance, the chapel’s 131-foot tall bell tower, its most distinguishable feature, is based on that of Magdalen College in Oxford. Three times a day, the student members of the Guild of Chimers ring the chimes in the Chapel’s tower as a call to worship for their entire campus community. The campus layout with a quadrangle centered around a close, comes from the Oxford college campus model.

Two other parts of the Chapel also have references to England: the inscription etched onto the steps of the Chapel, which reads, “Blessed are they that enter in through the gates of the City,” suggests that the Chapel’s gated entrance is meant to resemble the gates of a medieval city such as Oxford. Also, the interior of this chapel is inspired by the interior of the chapel in Keble College, another school at Oxford.

gts chapel steps
Image via 455West20Street

The first event of the Chelsea Music Festival at the Chapel will be a pre-concert talk this Thursday about Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach, a German composer, whose written and musical works inspired composers such as Beethoven and Brahms. After this pre-performance lecture, C.P.E. Bach’s music, along with that of Georg Phillipp Telemann, who was also German, will be played in a concert titled “Prayers, Concertos, and Mutations.”

Both of these events relate to the deep engagement of General Theological Seminary students with music. They often sing and listen to choral and instrumental music during their regular gatherings at the Chapel during the school year. For instance, the members of the General Theological Seminary community sing Evensong, or the Evening Prayer in Anglican liturgy, four times a week. This is one of the approximately sixty musical works that the school community sings in any given week.

Chelsea Music Festival General Theological Seminary 2013 NYC Untapped CitiesLast year’s concert at the General Theological Seminary. Photo courtesy of the Chelsea Music Festival.

The Chelsea Music Festival events that will take place in the Chapel of the General Theological Seminary will provide an integrated experience of music and striking architecture to those who attend. For a full list of events, click here, see more photos of the General Theological Seminary, and read more about another fantastic festival location, the Church of St. Paul.

Get in touch with the author @evelynyettikim.

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