Last month marked the 165th anniversary of George William Warren’s resignation as St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster. Well-known as an organist and composer in the nineteenth century and still remembered today as the composer of “National Hymn” (the tune to which “God of Our Father’s is usually sung), Warren was certainly the most illustrious of St. Paul’s organists and choirmasters until the arrival of T. Frederick H. Candlyn in 1915.
George William Warren
As you can see from his letter of resignation below, Warren served at St. Paul’s for a little less than thirteen years in the period between 1843 (when he was only fifteen years old) and 1860, with his final engagement at St. Paul’s lasting from August 1857 until August 1, 1860. Warren does not mention the dates of his earlier engagements, but the general picture is very clear from his own words: three-quarters of his professional life in Albany were spent at St. Paul’s.
Why, then, does The Hymnal Companion: Service Music and Biographies (Raymond F. Glover, ed. Church Hymnal Corporation, 1994, page 651) say that “at the age of eighteen Warren became organist of St. Peter’s, Albany, where he served from 1846 to 1858, then for two years at St. Paul’s, Albany.”? In future posts, I will explain the likely origin of this error, and show the correct chronology from contemporary records.
George William Warren’s letter of resignation as organist and musical director of St. Paul’s Church, Albany, is transcribed in St. Paul’s Vestry minutes, volume 3, dated 4 May 1860:
To the Rector, Warden and Vestrymen of St. Paul’s Church
About two weeks since, I was waited upon by a Committee from the Vestry of the Church of the Holy Trinity Brooklyn, N.Y. asking upon what terms I would remove my residence to that City, and take charge of the Music of their Church. I was invited to visit them, inspect the Organ, and present my contract to the Vestry at their meeting of last Thursday. All this I did, and as my terms in every particular were instantly and unanimously accepted, I must necessarily beg leave to submit my resignation as Organist & Musical Director of St. Paul’s Church, to take effect the first of August ensuing, which time terminates the third year of my present engagement with you.
It has been my privilege to be a Church Organist in this, the City of my birth, seventeen years; and the best part of that time (nearly thirteen years) has been devoted to the musical interests of St. Paul’s. It has always been my willing duty to try to please you; if I have not always succeeded, the cause has been something else than lack of desire on my part.
From my heart I thank you, for the confidence and kindness I have always received from you, and now that I am soon to remove to another City to leave old and tried friends, and make every honest effort to win new ones, I am most anxious to carry with me the esteem of all those with whom I have been connected. May I not hope for a continuance of your friendship, and good wishes?
I am most respectfully
George William Warren
Albany, April 24, 1860