With a diverse congregation of old and young, rich and poor, Black and white, gay and non-gay alike, individuals and families with children, Christ & Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church is the oldest church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In 1793, Christ Church was founded as the first new Episcopal Church in Manhattan during the post-Revolutionary War period, followed in 1805 by Saint Stephen’s, the fifth. Christ Church merged with Saint Stephen’s in the mid-1970s.
With the arrival of Robert J. Russell as Director of Music in 1973, the professional men’s choir was reorganized into an outstanding mixed choir and extensive use of our neighborhood’s rich resource of great instrumentalists to enhance the liturgical services began. At one time it included an early music group made up of outstanding instrumentalists, who, along with one of the country’s premier brass ensembles, were in residence at the parish. Original compositions were also encouraged for our use and composers, including Lee Hoiby, Bruce Neswick, Ned Rorem, Paul Turok, and Robert Lehman were given commissions for new works over the years.