When I last spoke with Patrick D. McCoy he had just concluded six very productive years at Takoma Park Baptist Church. Since that time the gifted musician and performing arts journalist has seen his star continue its meteoric rise.
As an undergraduate at Virginia State University, he occasionally played for The Reverend Canon John T. W. Harmon at St. Stephens Episcopal Church. When McCoy moved to this area in 2006, he ran into Father Harmon on his way home from Takoma. Little did he know that a relationship forged years before as a child would lead to his current assignment as music director at Trinity Episcopal Church.
“We kept in touch throughout the years and he would ask me and I would always say ‘now is not the time.’ When I left Takoma, even though it was a wonderful departure, I wanted a break from church music and had no intention of going back into music ministry right away. “
That time came in November 2012 when McCoy became the acting music director at Trinity. “This is just such a full circle moment for me to be at Trinity,” he says.
McCoy came on board at Trinity at a crucial time. “Father Harmon asked me to come and play, especially to get them through the main holidays. I came in right at Christmas and that’s a musicians worse nightmare; going to a church at Christmas and it’s a church’s nightmare to lose a musician at Christmas and that’s in fact what happened. So, I had to jump right in to the skillet hot right off the bat, prepare the choirs and although it was supposed to be temporary I was called to be the minister of music last Sunday after serving seven months.”
Although he came in at one of the busiest times, Trinity made it a wonderful transition. “Trinity was very accommodating. It is a rigorous program, as far as the music. It is very intense in a liturgical setting like that. I only had to deal with one choir, so that was a plus. When I came in they were very gracious, very sympathetic to the fact that I hadn’t played at an episcopal service for a very long time. I had to jump right in and my experience at Takoma really helped me through it. I was able to come in with pieces I already had under my belt.”
One of the unique things about Trinity is their willingness to allow non-choir members to participate in Sunday morning services. “A lot of times they may want to sing on the choir, but don’t necessarily want the commitment of weekly rehearsals. Washington, DC is the arts capitol. People come through here all the time they want to sing on a church on Sunday and they might just be passing through Washington on a Sunday or weekend. I welcome them to come.”
Singers communicate with McCoy in advance and he has mechanisms in place to ensure guests are smoothly integrated into the choir.“We have a warm-up on Sunday morning at 9 before the service, really a rehearsal and our service is at 1030. Even if a person had not been to rehearsal on Thursday night, they have the opportunity to come in and learn the music just as they would have on Thursday night and still be adequately prepared to sing with us. It has allowed us to do a little more music than we would normally be able to do if we said ‘if you don’t come to rehearsal Thursday you can’t sing.’ I’m just providing an option to get more people in choir without necessarily having the pressure.”
What are your plans for the music ministry at Trinity? I’m really excited with this new music ministry, because I have a pastor who has had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest musicians, especially African American musicians.
There’s Dr. Carl Haywood who is the editor of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” which is currently the preeminent African American hymnal for the Episcopal church. Our priest at Trinity has the opportunity to work with Dr Haywood who was the organist at one point, so he was exposed to great music from that relationship.
Dr. Carl G. Harris who just passed away was Professor of Music and University Organist at Hampton University. He was in Petersburg, so Dr. Harris had an opportunity to work with Father Harmon on occasion. These excellent musicians have really paved the way for me to work with a pastor who really appreciates, not just craftsmanship, but just really appreciate good music.”
Father Harmon recognizes and appreciates McCoy’s multiple gifts. “He’s open to me using my outside contacts. I’m not boxed in to say ‘church stuff goes on at church the writing stuff goes on here.’ He’s open to me marrying all of the facets of my musical life at Trinity.”
What are your plans for the music ministry at Trinity? “This year kicks off Trinity’s 120th anniversary in October. We’re going to be doing celebratory concerts throughout the year to encourage people to come to our 120th anniversary. We have a lot of youth at Trinity and one of our responsibilities will be to revitalize the Youth Trinity Ensemble. We already have a wonderful choir director on staff, Julie Anderson. She works with the children, so they have a wonderful music director in her.
Trinity has always had an artist in residence or a musician in residence. I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with Thomas Dixon Tyler who is the minister of music at Shiloh Baptist Church and formerly at Metropolitan Baptist Church.
Thomas will be at Trinity every second Sunday and I’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with him. It’s no secret that I hold his work in high esteem and really consider the work that he has done at Shiloh with his choirs as one of the preeminent models of excellence in the African American church community.”
In addition to his musicianship Patrick D. McCoy is a noted music journalist and critic. His work has placed him in the presence of some of the greatest in the fields of music. “I have been very blessed and there’s a lot of things that have happened in the writing and also a couple of new appointments. Shortly after I left Takoma I was named one of the 40 under 40 of Prince George’s County. I was able to stand with not just musicians or writers, but I was able to stand among a variety of people in a variety of disciplines. That was a high honor to be recognized in that capacity.”
“My writing with Washington Life is still going quite strong. I’ve been interviewing so many sought after artists and being able to go to venues in Washington, D.C. and to attend concerts to be able to give my thoughts on it. It is just pretty amazing! Recently I was so honored to be named to the Shenandoah University alumni board of directors. Anytime you are recognized by your alma mater to serve in a capacity where you can influence things and other students that are coming to the school that’s a certainly a major task and a high honor.”
What was your biggest interview? “The crowning achievement would have to be Renee Fleming. She is probably the most famous soprano, classical soprano singing in the operatic world today. When we had superstorm Sandy the Lord told me to reach out to Renee Fleming’s management. Her people got back in touch with me the same day and said how would you like to interview Ms. Fleming tomorrow. I was able to interview her for the December edition of Washington Life.
I found it so amazing that God would ordain a moment. A person who doesn’t have faith would have just said, ‘it’s a storm its a weird time this is not the time to have such a conversation.’ When God ordained the time for you to have the conversation; the conversation will be had. Every time I think about that and I think sometimes people put labels on you, ‘you can’t talk to this person because you’re this you cant go this place because your not this or your not in this circle.’ I think that when God ordains things those misconceptions human beings put on become irrelevant.”
What about your Blog Talk Radio show? “I still do my interviews, not as much as I did because my schedule is quite hectic, but I’ll be doing some more interviews on there. I’m also looking forward to in the future to actually bringing my print column to life, where the audience can actually come and witness a live conversation between myself and any given artist.”
How do you feel about the way your career has soared? “I cant believe it myself. that’s just a blessing by god. When you have witnessed doors closed in your faith then witness God open the same door; that’s nothing but His grace and His benevolence and I’m so thankful.”
Plans are underway for an installation ceremony at Trinity in September. You can keep up with Patrick D. McCoy on his website, listen to him on Blog Talk Radio and read his columns at Washington Life Magazine.