(photo credit: GEORGE MEDOVOY)
NEW YORK – Some guests to the Salisbury Hotel in midtown Manhattan may be lucky
enough to to hear a 35-member church choir going through its
Walking along West 57th Street to the hotel’s front entrance,
I couldn’t help but notice the big red-and-white flag of Calvary Baptist Church
fluttering nearby in the breeze.
But even with the flag, the casual
observer has no way of knowing that the Salisbury and the church share the same
building and that the hotel is owned by the church.
Upon entering the
hotel, you walk through a kind of truncated lobby, and from there, an elevator
leads upstairs to guest rooms above the sanctuary.
Calvary’s assistant director of music and arts, has been rehearsing the choir in
the hotel’s second-floor Regency Room Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. and Sunday
mornings at 10 a.m. – all surprisingly within hearing range of some of the
“You don’t hear (the choir) in the guest rooms,” said
long-time hotel general manager Ed Oliva, “but if you’re walking from the second
and third floor down to the lobby, you hear them practicing.”
Fowler and the choir get some unexpected “drop-in” audiences, too.
guests are taking the stairs,” Fowler said, “they basically have to walk right
next to the Regency Room. So sometimes they’ll poke their head in if the door is
open. People have commented that they heard us and that it made the trip up the
stairs more enjoyable.”
Fowler, a graduate of the Julliard School of
Music and currently a professor of music at Nyack College, performed for a week
and a half in December of 2009 and January of 2010 on the piano in Tel Aviv with
the Mark Morris Dance Group.
“We performed two different programs,
including Schumann’s Piano Quintet, Mozart’s Eleventh Piano Concerto, and
Mozart’s Double Piano Sonata. It was a great experience, and my first time to
visit and perform in Israel,” Fowler said.
“The church choir’s
participants, Fowler explained, are made up of a wide variety of people with
different styles and professional backgrounds – theater people, members of New
York City’s famed Met (who sometimes perform solos in the choir), college
students, Broadway performers, movie actors, “and then there’s people who just
love to sing.”
It’s a mixed bag, too, as far as ages go, with members as
young as 19 – and one in her 80s, he said.
The Salisbury Hotel first
opened its doors in 1931 and was designed with people in the arts in mind
because they obviously needed an address to fit in with their often long
“Almost every (hotel) property in Manhattan that’s
more than 30 years old had… long-term, residential guests,” Oliva
That’s why the Salisbury’s guestrooms are larger than usual for New
York City, he noted, with at least 40 percent of the hotel consisting of
I found the Salisbury’s location in midtown easily accessible to
a number of very popular New York City destinations, including the Russian Tea
Room and Carnegie Hall (across the street), and, of course, Central
But it’s the choir that gives the venerable Salisbury its unique
touch – in Fowler’s own words, “a wonderful spirit and fellowship that I’m
privileged to share with (the choir members) and that they all share
And, one might add, sometimes with the hotel’s guests, too.