Photo credit © Kay Winter, 2013

Paul Winter and the Paul Winter Consort, Winter Solstice Celebration, Photo credit © Kay Winter, 2013

The world’s largest cathedral, St. John the Divine is also known as “the green cathedral.” In the 1980s and 1990s, it became the center of a global forum of thinkers and seekers working on issues of ecology and environment and world peace. In 1980, then Dean of the cathedral, the Very Reverend James Parks Morton, invited Paul Winter to become artist-in-residence,  to build bridges between spirituality and the environment with his music. Cosmologist Father Thomas Berry greatly influenced Paul’s musical-ecological vision, and helped shape his intent to awaken in people a sense of relatedness with the larger community of life.

“The opportunity to play in the Cathedral’s extraordinary space inspired me to look at the big picture,” Paul explains. “I wanted to celebrate the universals, the things we hare in common with all peoples. We were coming out of the 1970s when we had become accustomed to seeing the photos of the whole Earth the astronauts brought back from space. This cosmic dimension gave me the answer I was seeking: the Winter Solstice, at least for northern peoples, has, since ancient times, been the turning point of the year, when at this darkest and coldest time we welcome the return of the Sun.”


"Sunrise", Photo credit: Cliff Sobel, 2013

“Sunrise”, Photo credit: Cliff Sobel, 2013

“Ever since St. John’s Day, Dec. 27, 1892, when the cornerstone was thrice struck into the living rock of Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, St. John’s has aimed to be a ‘house of prayer for all people.’ To its great bronze doors have come all the faithful — Christian, Jew, Buddhist, existentialist, best-dressed, lesser-blessed, socially distressed — seeking joy and triumph over the universal demons.

Photo © Cliff Sobel, 2013

The sun gong rises, Winter Solstice Celebration, Photo © Cliff Sobel, 2013

“In the arboreal stillness of its towering columns and arches, they have listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Buckminster Fuller, the Mayor of Jerusalem, Duke Ellington, the Dalai Lama, Cesar Chavez, Rene Dubos, Thomas Berry, Jesse Jackson, Vaclav Havel, Gary Snyder, Brian Swimme, Secretaries General of the United Nations, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Paul Winter Consort.

“Under the jewel light of its 10,000 pane Great Rose window, they have prayed together for war’s end. Though its keynote is distinctly American, as is that of the Episcopal Church, the Cathedral — affectionately called “Big John” — peals a message around the globe: ‘Peace on earth, good will toward all.’ ”

– Wendy Insinger (from Town & Country magazine)