Trent Johnson - Biography
Trent Johnson is an organist, composer, pianist and conductor. He is the Organist and Assistant Director of Music of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City and is the Music Director of the Oratorio Singers of Westfield, New Jersey. The Oratorio Singers perform the great choral masterworks with professional soloists and with members of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Johnson is a graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and The Juilliard School, NYC. His organ instructors have included John Weaver, Donald Sutherland, Peggy Haas-Howell, and Glenn Carow. In addition he has studied piano with Walter Hautzig, Glenn Carow and Edgar Cosimi. Major conducting influences have come from his work with Frederik Prausnitz, Dr. David A. Weadon and Norman Scribner of the Choral Arts Society of Washington DC. Mr. Johnson was formerly the Assistant Organist of the Brick Presbyterian Church in NYC.
He is an organist at Radio City Music Hall in NYC, were he plays the "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ for the Christmas Spectacular Show. He was also chosen to play the "think music" for the television show Celebrity Jeopardy! taped at Radio City Music Hall in 2006. In January 2007 the NY Theater Organ Society invited him to give a joint organ recital on "The Mighty Wurlitzer" organ at Radio City Music Hall with organist Bob Maidhof.
An active organ recitalist, Mr. Johnson has performed recitals in many of the major churches, concert halls and cathedrals in the United States, Europe and Asia. His musical journeys have taken him to Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, England, Canada, Japan, Russia and Ukraine. In March/April of 2011 Trent performed numerous organ recitals on a highly successful concert tour of Russia. Some notable recital venues in America have included; the Riverside Church, St. Thomas’ Church 5th Avenue, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, the Brick Presbyterian Church, and Radio City Music Hall in New York City; Washington National Cathedral, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and the National City Christian Church in Washington DC; the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, and Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Baltimore; Boston’s Trinity Church Copley Square, and Newark’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.
In 2004 he was one of 4 American organists invited to participate in the Second International Organ Festival in Kiev, Ukraine. While there he performed 4 recitals in Kiev and Donetsk, Ukraine and led a masterclass in composition at the Mykola Lysenko School of Music and Drama in Kiev. In April 2005 the Peabody Institute featured him in recital as organist and composer and invited him to lead an organ masterclass.
Mr. Johnson often collaborates with brass soloists and ensembles, having performed with members of the New Jersey Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Westfield Symphony and American Brass Quintet among many others. He has recorded with Ray Mase, of the American Brass Quintet, David Sampson's Tenebrae and The Mysteries Remain, both for trumpet and organ for Summit Records, and has recorded the organ works of Pulitzer Prize winning composer George Walker for Albany Records.
Trent is also a fan of silent films and has provided largely improvised accompaniments to a number of silent films in concert including: The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde (1920), Nosferatu (1922), The Son of the Sheik (1926), The General (1926) and The Freshman (1925).
As a composer, Mr. Johnson has written numerous works for various soloists, ensembles and musical organizations. Among them are chamber music, choral works, art songs, works for organ and piano, cantatas, concertos, orchestral works and an opera..
Some recent compositions include his bass trombone concerto entitled "Across Continents" (2021), written for bass trombonist Darrin Milling, his 10 pieces for organ (2021), written during the Covid pandemic, his opera Kenyatta (2017), commissioned by Trilogy: An Opera Company and his oratorio Wittenberg - The Story of Martin Luther (2018), written for narrator, soloists, chorus and orchestra. This work tells of the German religious reformer and highlights his famous trial in the city of Worms. Other works include The Wisdom of Solomon (2016), for chorus, brass ensemble, organ, timpani and percussion, the oratorio Saint Augustine (2014), for soloists, chorus and orchestra, and the children's anthem We All Love to Sing (2017) written for the 10th anniversary of the Celebration Singers of Ashville, North Carolina. In March of 2012 he conducted a preview of his Cantus Avium Solamen Est, or Birdsong Brings Relief, a concerto for clarinet, bird whistles, chorus and orchestra, featuring NJSO clarinetist Andrew Lamy. In 2011, an American Guild of Organist Commission saw the premiere of his Concertante for organ and string quartet, featuring organist Marilyn Keiser and the Shanghai String Quartet. In 2010 he premiered his Concert Variations on The Carnival of Venice for organ on the von Beckerath organ at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Milburn, NJ, and conducted the premiere of his Celebration Overture for orchestra, for the Oratorio Singers of Westfield's 30th Anniversary concert. 2009 saw the premiere of In Homage of Spring for soprano solo, chorus and orchestra, based on poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Kahlil Gibran, with soprano Rachel Rosales and the Oratorio Singers of Westfield.
In April 2008 he traveled to Kiev, Ukraine to participate in the Kiev Contemporary Music Festival. While there he premiered his Viola Concerto, Trumpet Concerto and Elegy for organ and strings. He also performed an Organ and Jazz concert at the White Church in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine.
Other recent works include a Quintet for the Cygnus Ensemble, Five Psalms for soloists, chorus and orchestra, The New Colossus for orchestra, the cantata The Paschal Lamb, a Saxophone Quartet, a Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, a Poem for viola and orchestra, and a Petite Suite for orchestra.
In April 2003 he was featured on the acclaimed new music forum, Ars Vitalis at Kean University, Union, New Jersey. He has been interviewed and featured on Washington DC's WGMS Spotlight and on NPR station WNTI’s radio program Jersey Tomatoes as both organist and composer. He is the recipient of several grants and funding from Meet the Composer, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and is the recipient of the Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Award in composition from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in NYC.
As conductor of the Oratorio Singers and Orchestra of Westfield, NJ, Mr. Johnson has led this organization in the Requiems of Mozart, Brahms, Verdi and Faure, Haydn’s Die Schopfung, Mendelssohn’s Symphony #2 Lobgesang, Elgar’s The Music Makers, Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces, Bach’s B minor Mass and St. John Passion, Kodaly’s Missa Brevis, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Poulenc's Gloria, Dello Joio’s To St. Cecelia, Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives, Handel’s Messiah, Israel in Egypt, Coronation Anthems and Judas Maccabeaus, among many other great works. Mr. Johnson has conducted the Oratorio Singers in several premieres of his own works.
The Oratorio Singers have performed with the New England Symphonic Ensemble at Carnegie Hall NYC under conductors Dr. Eric Nelson and Charles Hausmann, with the New Philharmonic of New Jersey, under conductor Leon Hyman with Metropolitan Opera singer Jane Bunnell performing Brahms' Shicksalslied and Alto Rhapsody; with the Westfield Symphony under conductor David Wroe in Verdi's Othello; and in the Verdi Requiem at Carnegie Hall. In December 2002 and 2003 Mr. Johnson was invited to conduct at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, in the National Chorale’s annual Messiah Sing-In.