St. John’s of Lattingtown said farewell to music director Eric Milnes after 34 years of musical ministry in the Episcopal church in Locust Valley. His final service was on Easter Sunday, when he was given a standing ovation at the end of the service, with some parishioners visibly moved to tears.
Milnes is now the music director at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck.
Under Milnes’ direction, St. John’s choir gained a reputation as one of the most highly regarded performing choirs in the tradition of Anglican church music in the New York area.
On Sunday, April 17, a celebration was held with a concert in the parish hall, attended by many parishioners, at whose family milestone moments Milnes had played organ: for baptisms, weddings and funerals.
St. John’s Warden of the Vestry Michael Powers thanked Milnes for his many years of service, as did Clarence Michalis, mayor of Lattingtown and longtime parishioner.
Former warden Tom Gimbel presented Milnes with an engraved sterling silver cup, made by the Boston silversmith Frank Smith Company, in appreciation of many years of service at St. John’s.
Milnes played on the Steinway grand piano in the parish hall as the choir performed a program titled “Give Me That Old Time Religion: Music of Praise, Grace and Revival” as more than 30 past and present choir members gathered for a final performance of favorite hymns and Gospel songs, which included “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art” and a beautiful composition by Milnes, “God Beyond All Names,” which was written in 1994 to commemorate the 20-year ministry at St. John’s of the Rev. Charles Newbery, and his 40th anniversary of ordination in the priesthood.
Many of the professional singers with the choir have illustrious careers as soloists, having appeared on Broadway and touring all over the world. Many others are volunteers from the parish.
A reception was held after the concert with delicious refreshments prepared by parishioners Jan Hagnar and Mary Williams, with contributions from many other parishioners.
Milnes has a distinguished career as an organist, harpsichordist, composer and conductor, and is an expert in baroque music. He grew up on Long Island and studied at Columbia University and the Julliard School of Music, and has performed and taught all over the world. He has recorded more than 50 CDs as a conductor, harpsichordist and organist,and his most recent classical CD on harpsichord, “Las cuidades de oro,” with violist Melisande Corrivaeu, won the Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy, for Classical Album of the Year, 2016.
In 2012, at the celebration of his 30 years at St. John’s of Lattingtown, Milnes was presented with the Bishop’s Medal, which is the highest honor for a lay person in the Episcopal church.
An interim organist has been performing at the services until another music director is hired to start in September.