The Music Man
Cathedral canon celebrates more than 35 years at Trinity
By Jessica Laskey
David Link recently had an epiphany. At 64 years old, he’s served as the Canon for Music at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Midtown for almost half his life—which, by Link’s calculation, makes him the second longest-standing organist of an episcopal church in the country.
During his nearly 36-year tenure, David Link has overseen not only an expansion of the cathedral’s choir offerings, but also the complete restoration of the church’s Reuter pipe organ—which Link plays at least three hours a day now that the pandemic has temporarily slowed church proceedings.
Link grew up in a musical family. His mother was a public school music teacher. His father, a Presbyterian minister, was a singer and classical music enthusiast who moved the family from Southern California to Sacramento when Link was 14 to take a job at a church in Rancho Cordova. Link started piano lessons at age 5 and majored in it in college, but admits he was “lazy about practicing.” He also admits that, even though he grew up singing in church choirs, he was never really a fan.
“I actually hated choir for the longest time,” says Link, who, incidentally, expanded Trinity’s Cathedral Choir and also founded the less traditional Celebration Choir in 1990. “My parents would listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir every morning while they were getting ready and I didn’t like the sound—it was very heavy. When a friend gave me a record of hymns sung by the Choir of King’s College, it stopped me in my tracks. I thought, ‘Wow, you can understand what they’re saying and they’re singing in tune!’ It was a total revelation.”
Link’s musical tastes have always been diverse. In high school, he played in a “really bad” garage band and performed in the jazz band at Sacramento City College. But it wasn’t until trying the pipe organ that Link found his musical match.
“My dad’s friend was hounding me to try the pipe organ,” Link says, “so to get him off my back, I went to a little Catholic church in Land Park and played theirs—and fell in love with it. I seemed to have a natural knack for it.”
Though Link considers his playing a “late start” (at age 20), he dove headfirst into studying what many consider one of the most difficult instruments. Pipe organs can have two to five keyboards in addition to a 32-pedal foot keyboard that must be played simultaneously.
After completing a summer of study at the Royal School of Church Music in England, Link began playing at local churches for services and choir rehearsals. Link realized he might have a knack for choir direction as well, so he started a madrigal choir with some friends and eventually served as a choir director before being hired by Trinity Cathedral in November 1984.
In his first two years, he whipped the Cathedral Choir into such good shape he had them send an audition tape to cathedrals in England that accept visiting international choirs. The Trinity choir was invited to sing at three cathedrals in 1990 and has since made four more “choir pilgrimages” to cathedrals, including Winchester, Lincoln, Norwich, Truro, Southwark, Peterborough, Canterbury, York Minster and Westminster Abbey. They were planning a return trip this summer, but due to COVID-19, they’ve delayed their travel plans until next year.
David Link also founded Trinity’s popular Cathedral Music Series and Annual Diocesan Choir Festival, served as music director for the consecration and installation of three Diocesan Bishops—and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, in 2004.
“The wilderness is my respite,” says Link, who also road cycles, backpacks and hikes near his Greenhaven home. “After Christmas and Easter, I run away to the hills for a few days. It keeps me sane.”
But each time he roams, he’s always happy to come back.
“I’m all about our community,” Link says. “We have a very diverse congregation. That’s why I’m still here after 35 years—the community has kept me here.”
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.