George William Warren at St. Paul’s — Part 1, 1848-1851

As we have seen, George William Warren resigned as organist and choirmaster of St. Peter’s Church in October 1848. We know that he was to spend most of the period until August 1860 at St. Paul’s Church, Albany. But when did Warren first come to St. Paul’s Church?

George William Warren

George William Warren

Warren’s obituary in the New York Times (17 Mar 1902) specifically says that he came to St. Paul’s in 1848. And Warren himself suggested that year as well: first in his 1856 classified advertisement (Albany Evening Journal 1 Apr 1856) in which he identifies himself as “Organist and Musical Director at St. Paul’s Church (for eight years),” and second in his 1860 letter of resignation to the St. Paul’s vestry, in which he says that he spent “nearly thirteen years” at St. Paul’s. The thirteen year figure is repeated in an article in Dwight’s Journal of Music for 15 Nov 1856. Another contemporary sources also implies a 1848 start date: an article in Dwight’s Journal of Music (15 Nov 1856) which says Warren had been “for eight years director at St. Paul’s.”

St. Paul’s vestry minutes are silent on musical activities in this period, and we may never know the precise date or month in which he started. The first evidence comes almost a year later, when we read that “George W. Warren Organist of St. Paul’s Church” is offering piano and organ lessons (Albany Evening Journal, four insertions in mid-August 1849). Warren also advertised his music lessons the next year, describing himself as “Organist and Director of Music of St. Paul’s Church.” (Albany Evening Journal, 2 Sep 1850)

George William Warren must have begun composing early in the period. We have two compositions specifically mentioning performance at St. Paul’s. The first is “Rock of Ages,” which Warren (in his Hymns and Tunes as Sung at St. Thomas’s Church, New York (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889) dates to 1849. It was first published in 1851, dedicated to St. Paul’s rector, William Ingraham Kip, and with the notation “as sung in St. Paul’s Church Albany by Mrs. Eastcott, Mrs. Gourley, Mr. Squires and Mr. Whitney in 1850.”

Rock of Ages by George William Warren

Rock of Ages by George William Warren

We also have Warren’s composition “Come Holy Spirit,” first published in 1850 with the notation “as sung by the choir of St. Paul’s Church (Albany)”.

Come Holy Spirit, by George William Warren

Come Holy Spirit, by George William Warren

And finally, we have Warren’s “Love’s Twilight Star,” published in 1849. While this is a secular work, it is dedicated to the popular Albany soprano Miss Electa Cone, who received payment (probably as soprano soloist) from St. Paul’s in 1850.

Love's Twilight Star, by George William Warren

Love’s Twilight Star, by George William Warren

In addition to proving that Warren was at St. Paul’s in 1849, “Rock of Ages” is important for giving us the first list of the St. Paul’s choir. At this time, and into the early twentieth century, St. Paul’s had a quartet choir, composed of four paid soloists. Most of Warren’s early compositions were written for such a group. The names of the choir members are also of interest. Mrs. Gourlay and Mr. Whitney were local talent. Margaret Campbell Gourlay was an Albany voice teacher, a member of St. Peter’s Church and a member of St. Peter’s choir with Warren in 1847. We will meet her talented son Willie as member of the boy choir that Warren formed in 1855. Stephen W. Whitney was a local businessman with a long  career as a church and concert soloist. The stars were Lucy Grant Eastcott and Henry Squires. Both were recent arrivals in Albany (in 1850, the Albany Evening Journal  praised St. Paul’s hiring of Lucy as a sign of “stirring up of the dry bones” ), and both were to leave the city within two years. They went on to distinguished opera careers in the United States, Europe and Australia, about which we will have much to say in a future post.

In April and May 1852, George William Warren advertised in the Albany Evening Journal for “a soprano and tenor, to fill vacancies in the choir of St. Paul’s Church.” Lucy Eastcott (who would soon begin styling herself Madame Escott) had already left the city; Henry Squires would leave by that October, bringing this first chapter of Warren’s years at St. Paul’s Church to a close. We will pick up the story in a later post, beginning with the events of autumn 1852 and continuing through 1856.

2 thoughts on “George William Warren at St. Paul’s — Part 1, 1848-1851

  1. Pingback: George Wm. Warren at Albany’s Second Presbyterian Church | Grain, Once Scattered

  2. Pingback: George Wm. Warren’s “fanciful and somewhat comic style” | Grain, Once Scattered

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