Chestnut Hill conductor named organist/choirmaster at St. Mark’s Church

by Michael Caruso
Posted 7/4/24

Chestnut Hill’s Donald Meineke has been named the new, permanent organist and choirmaster at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Center City.

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Chestnut Hill conductor named organist/choirmaster at St. Mark’s Church


Chestnut Hill’s Donald Meineke has been named the new, permanent organist and choirmaster at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Center City, and will leave the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square where he has been director of music for nearly three years.

Meineke, who is also the artistic director of Choral Arts Philadelphia, will succeed Robert McCormick, who left St. Mark’s in January to become the organist and choirmaster at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont.

“I am overjoyed to be joining the St. Mark’s community as your next organist and choirmaster,” Meineke said in a statement. “I humbly accept this calling, celebrating the incredible music tradition established and nurtured by the distinguished legacy of the distinguished organists and choirmasters before and the dozens of choristers, volunteers and staff musicians who serve as faithful stewards of this tradition.”

During his tenure at Holy Trinity, Meineke successfully built up the parish’s choir and oversaw the completion of the church’s organ project. That effort included the installation of the pipe organ that formerly graced the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia at 17th and Sansom Streets. First Baptist was the home congregation of the late Earl Ness, a legendary figure in local church music. For decades, Ness headed the Oratorio Choir of Philadelphia. The chorus performed major selections from the sacred choral repertoire every Sunday afternoon of the traditional liturgical season. He conducted from the console of the organ that is now in place in the gallery of Holy Trinity Church.


Meineke comes to St. Mark’s Church after leading the music programs at such venerable parishes as the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in New York City, where he established a series of “Bach Vesper Services.” He was also co-founder and artistic director of Ensemble VIII, a professional early music vocal ensemble in Austin, Texas, specializing in Renaissance and Baroque repertoire.


In his statement, Meineke also praised the parish's unwavering commitment to profound sacramental worship, faith formation through liturgy and song, and the “living out of the Gospel in all that you do. Throughout the search process, I was witness to St. Mark’s steadfast faithfulness through the graciousness and visionary leadership of Father David Cobb (interim rector at St. Mark’s), Mother Megan Mazur (associate rector), the search committee, members of the vestry, and staff.”


St. Mark’s parish was founded in 1847 and began worshiping in John Notman’s gothic revival masterpiece on Locust Street in 1849. Notman was also the architect of Holy Trinity Church on Rittenhouse Square as well as St. Clement’s Church at 20th and Cherry Streets just south of Logan Square on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 


St. Mark’s was designed specifically in the “High Church/Anglo-Catholic” tradition of the Church of England. It is often called the “Oxford Movement” in reference to its foundation at Oxford University by Anglican clergy such as St. John Henry Newman, who later converted to Catholicism.  The movement’s intention was to revive many of the pre-Reformation traditions in music, liturgy and (most important) piety of the pre-16th century Church in England, when it was still a part of the Holy Catholic Church of Rome. England’s King Henry VIII broke with Rome over his demand for a divorce from his Queen, Catherine of Aragon, because she had not given him a son that lived beyond childbirth. Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, formally established the Church of England as a “middle way” between the newly established Protestant churches and the historical Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.


Holy Trinity Church was built in the “Low Church” style, more Protestant in character. St. Clement’s (named after the martyred third successor to St. Peter as Bishop of Rome and Pope) was originally designed as a smaller version of Holy Trinity. It was only in later decades that it became an Anglo-Catholic bastion, which it remains to this very day. The Church of Good Shepherd in Rosemont is also Anglo-Catholic in conviction and tradition.


The liturgy at St. Mark’s Church offers a full setting of the Ordinary of the Mass in either Latin or English, anthems at the Offertory and Communion, a choral setting of the Psalm of the day, and numerous antiphons and responses, plus a major organ prelude and postlude.


In his statement to the Local, Meineke continued, “I am thrilled to be joining St. Mark’s Church, whose venerable musical and liturgical tradition transcends our souls from all the noise and chaos of the world to a realm of beauty and peace. So woven together is St. Mark’s culture of radical welcome, their compelling presence in the city and unwavering commitment to artistic excellence that, for me, it feels like coming home.”


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