The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is a grand space consecrated to musical art. It’s no surprise that it has inspired Cathedral donor Katharine Holmes Caldwell, the BSO’s director of philanthropic services. Kate is an accomplished musician in her own right, part of a family whose musical and artistic talents stretch back generations. What an honor, then, to learn that this family’s talents have long been nurtured by, and have found expression in, the Cathedral.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Kate says. “I was a student at the Potomac School, and we sang in a production of Noyes Fludde by Benjamin Britten at the Cathedral.” The Potomac choristers were joined by student singers from Beauvoir Elementary, St. Albans School for Boys, and National Cathedral School for Girls in one of the largest-ever productions of Britten’s operatic account of the Great Flood in the book of Genesis (6–9). Britten had intended the work to be performed in parish churches—even large ones—but the Cathedral production was truly something else. Conductor John “Jack” Langstaff, a noted interpreter of the work and creator of the still-popular Christmas Revels, was at the culmination of his career at Potomac. The space within the Cathedral was so large, and the massed musical forces within so enormous, that, Kate recalls, “several conductors had to be stationed down the nave to make sure everyone came in on time.”
The 1967 production of Noyes Fludde was, for Kate, among the transformative experiences of her youth. But it would not be the last time this soprano would sing at the Cathedral. Years later, at the invitation of then-Canon Eugene Sutton, she would perform regularly at Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage offerings as one-third of the a cappella vocal trio Trinitas. It comes as no surprise to hear that music runs in the family’s blood. Kate’s father, the late George Holmes, was a member of the Yale “Whiffenpoofs” as well as the “Augmented Eight”—and her great-great grandfather, Gen. Luther S. Trowbridge, was at one time president of the Detroit Philharmonic Society.
The Cathedral is a family tradition, too. No fewer than eight of Kate’s close relatives are buried in the crypt or columbarium, in fact, dating back to great grandparents Alexander “Alex” Buel Trowbridge and the former Gertrude Sherman. Alex and Gertrude, who were married in 1896, are said to have met in Paris while she was at the Paris Conservatoire studying music. He was at the école des Beaux Arts continuing studies in architecture and would become a prominent architect in New York City and ultimately dean of the architecture school at Cornell University. His preeminence led to an invitation in 1932 to be part of the Cathedral Council, a governing board that would soon be chaired by industrialist Andrew Mellon. Trowbridge accepted the invitation with alacrity, writing with excitement to Canon Anson Phelps Stokes that “when the nave and tower are finished, the Cathedral will dominate the entire city and will make a very striking silhouette against the sky.” He spent the following summer with Gertrude in England and on the continent, conducting several weeks’ careful studies of Gothic architecture that were soon published in Cathedral Age.
Subsequent generations only added to the beauty of the Cathedral. Kate’s aunt Millie Holmes designed much of the needlepoint for the Children’s Chapel at the Cathedral, for example, and both her grandmother Katharine and great aunt Alice Trowbridge Strong were loyal supporters of All Hallows Guild. Alice is honored by a plaque in the Bishop’s Garden, designed the fountain at the garden’s south wall near the weeping cherry tree, gave the Japanese-style footbridge that spanned the ravine in the Olmsted Woods, and served two terms as chair of the guild’s important Garden Committee. Kate’s father, George, also served for years as a dedicated National Cathedral Association trustee and as an active docent in his retirement.
When George died, Kate wanted to celebrate his life with a legacy commitment in her parents’ honor. The Cathedral—a timeless musical, architectural, and artistic expression that the family had supported for generations—was the obvious choice.
Ultimately, Kate decided to name the Cathedral as a beneficiary of her ira in honor of her father George as well as her mother Nancy—both for their dedication to the family and to the artistic values they championed that the Cathedral embodies. “It was the simplest thing to do,” she notes. But I think it’s also important to give on an annual basis. That ongoing relationship is really what helps to sustain the Cathedral for generations to come.”
Few can speak with as much authority as Kate, whose family has made the Cathedral more inspiring for nearly a century.