How Long Was George Wm. Warren Organist at St. Peter’s, Albany?

As mentioned in a previous post, the often-cited chronology in which George William Warren was organist and choirmaster at St. Peter’s Church, Albany from 1846 – 1858 and at St. Paul’s Church, Albany from 1858 – 1860 cannot be correct. In Warren’s 1860 letter of resignation to St. Paul’s vestry he wrote:

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.

George William Warren

George William Warren

In this post, we will discuss the likely cause of this error, and determine the date he actually left St. Peter’s, supported by primary sources.

The first reference work to give specific dates for Warren’s employment at St. Peter’s is Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians (John Denison Champlin, Jr., ed. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1890. Volume 3, page 566). Champlin gives the 1846 – 1858 period, and he may be the source of this information.

The first work to mention Warren being at St. Paul’s is Who’s Who in  America 1899-1900 (John W. Leonard , ed. Chicago: A.N. Marquis & Company, 1899. page 768) which says Warren “became organist St Peter’s Ch., also St Paul’s Ch., Albany until 1860; organist Ch. of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, 1860-70.” As we will see, this is the correct sequence.

It is not until 1919 (seventeen years after Warren’s death) that we find the first reference to the mistaken chronology. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (Alfred Remy, ed. New York: G. Schirmer, 1919. page 1013) conflates  Champlin’s erroneous 1846-58 time period with Leonard’s correct sequence and says that Warren held “positions at St. Peters (1846-58) and St. Paul’s (1858-60), Albany; 1860-70, at Holy Trinity, Brooklyn.”

What, then, is the cause of Champlin’s error in Warren’s term at St. Peter’s? While 1846 is the correct beginning date, 1858  is a typographical error (whether his own, or copied from another source) for 1848, as can be determined from St. Peter’s vestry minutes (New York State Library Manuscripts SC19680, Box 4, Volume 2) and St. Peter’s choir vouchers (New York State Library Manuscripts SC19680, Box 13, Folder 9).

Without question, George Warren became St. Peter’s organist in 1846. His letter offering his services without pay (dated 20 June 1846) is transcribed in the vestry minutes for 6 July 1846; on the same date, the vestry accepted his offer for a period of six months [St. Peter’s vestry minutes 8 July 1846].

Geo. W. Warren's offer to serve as St. Peter's organist without pay (Vestry Minutes 20 Jun 1846)

Geo. W. Warren’s offer to serve as St. Peter’s organist without pay (Vestry Minutes 20 Jun 1846)

The position is confirmed by an 1847 St. Peter’s choir list  which includes G.W. Warren as “Organist and Conductor” [St. Peter’s choir vouchers, sheet reverse dated 1847 without month or day].

St. Peter's 1847 Choir List

St. Peter’s 1847 Choir List

Then on 26 April 1848, St. Peter’s vestry authorized its Music Committee to negotiate a salary no greater than $200 with Mr. George Warren to serve as organist “for the year ending in May next,” implying May 1849. [St. Peter’s vestry minutes 26 Apr 1848 ]

Approval for extension of Warren's service as St. Peter's organist until May 1849

Approval for extension of Warren’s service as St. Peter’s organist until May 1849

 

 

If Warren accepted this offer, he changed his mind within six months. On 17 October 1848, his resignation was presented to St. Peter’s vestry, and accepted. [St. Peter’s vestry minutes 17 Oct 1848] The last reference to Warren in St. Peter’s records is the listing of a payment due to him in January 1849 as “late organist.” [Joseph Hooper. A History of St. Peter’s Church in the City of Albany. Albany: Fort Orange Press, 1900. page 294]

As confirmation that George William Warren could not have remained as St. Peter’s organist for much of the 1850’s, an apparently complete set of choir vouchers in that period contains no reference to him after 1847. Between 1852 and 1856, all payments to an organist are made to Albert H. Wood. [St. Peter’s choir vouchers]

By the third quarter of 1849, Warren was organist and choirmaster at St. Paul’s Church. In our next post, we will follow the course of his first term as our organist.

 

 

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