By the fall of 1852, George William Warren had been at St. Paul’s Church, Albany for four years. We have been able to follow his work with the choir, particularly Mrs. Eastcott and Mr. Squires, and the works, both sacred and secular, that he composed in those years.
In October of 1852, Warren seems to have decided upon a career change. This was hardly a mid-life crisis; Warren was only twenty-four years old. Warren entered into a partnership with Richard H. Pease, a lithographer who also operated the successful Temple of Fancy, a variety store. In the notice published in the October 2, 1852 edition of the Albany Evening Journal by Pease, he explained that “Mr. Warren will have the general superintendence of the Variety Store, whereas the undersigned will attend to the Lithographing, Engraving, &c., as heretofore.” George Wm. Warren published his own advertisement, inviting “his old friends and other to call upon Pease & Warren and examine the new and elegant Fancy Goods, Toys, Games, Gloves, Worsteds, etc.”
For the next ten months, Albany newspapers regularly contain Pease & Warren advertisements for goods such as games, valentines, cards, cutlery, fans and perfume. During this period, Warren must have reduced his musical schedule: newspaper between October 1852 and July 1853 contain no references to him performing or conducting.
It is only in August 1853, that we find the next notice, with Warren advertising for a soprano soloist for St. Paul’s choir. The next month, September 1853, is the last advertisement for Pease & Warren. While the partnership seems to have been ended, the dissolution must have been amicable. Warren used the Temple of Fancy as his business address for three more years, but always as “Professor of Music,” no longer a partner in the business. Richard H. and Mary Pease named their son born in September 1853 George William Pease. Warren stood godfather at St. Paul’s for both his namesake in 1856 and his older brother Charles Elliott Pease in 1858. Most tellingly of all for continued warm relations, Warren married the Peases’ daughter Mary Eliza at St. Paul’s on September 16, 1858.
In December 1853, with Warren once again devoting full-time to music, we find the first contemporary description of the choir and of his compositions. A review in New York City’s The Musical World and Times describes St. Paul’s choir as consisting of G.W. Warren organist/choirmaster and tenor (he must have been unable to find a suitable replacement for Henry Squires), Mrs. Henry soprano (probably hired in August, since she received payment for one quarter due in November of that year ), Miss Scovil alto, Stephen W. Whitney bass.
The description of his compositions is not laudatory:
I cannot concede that the style of music usually performed in this church [sc. St Paul’s, Albany] is that of legitimate church music. A great portion of it is of Mr. Warren’s own composition, and is, in most instances, very nicely wedded to the words: yet I am more reminded of the concert room by it than of the church. I believe this state of things is owing to the fact the congregation require it. Mr. W. knows their taste and composes and adapts his music to their wants, like a good, obedient child.
Later that same month, St. Paul’s vestry minutes mention George Warren for the first time. A vestry resolution, dated December 13, 1853, reads “Resolved that Mr. Warren be requested and directed not to allow the organ to be used without the consent of the Vestry.”
We do not know what prompted this directive. Had he used the organ for a non-church function? Had he permitted someone else to use the organ? Whichever it may be, this was a turbulent time in the church’s life: our long-time rector, William Ingraham Kip, had just resigned to become the first missionary bishop of California. Kip appears to have left Albany with warm feelings for Warren. Thirty-three years later, he inscribed a carte de visite “To Mr. George Wm. Warren in remembrance of old times. Wm. Ingraham Kip Bishop of California 1886” A new rector, Thomas A. Starkey, was called at the end of December 1853.
In May 1854, Warren became a communicant of St. Paul’s Church. During the years 1854 and 1855 we find three newspaper notices of his performing at the inauguration of new organs, with two of these describing his extemporizing on themes. Each identifies him as organist of St. Paul’s church. The 1854 notice says that he “extemporised in his usual fanciful and somewhat comic style.”
Warren had been teaching organ, piano and singing since 1849, but in the fall of 1854, he organized larger singing classes for girls, on both Rudimental and Advanced levels. At this time, he did not offer a boys’ class, but recommended singing the classes for boys taught by Mrs. Margaret Gourlay, his former soprano soloist.
In October 1855, Warren was offered the post of organist and choirmaster at St. Paul’s Church, in Troy, New York. He chose to remain at St. Paul’s, Albany, with his salary doubled, and announced big plans for the future: “I am forming a choir of boys, in addition to a quintette choir and hope to have very delightful music this winter.”
This was to be the first boychoir in the city of Albany. It was composed of twelve boys, not vested, who supported plainchant and hymns. A quartet choir provided all remaining service music. One of the choirboys reported that he never learned to read music, and so the level of performance was probably not high. The most talented of these boys was William James Gourlay, the son of the Warren’s soprano soloist in 1850, Mrs. Margaret Gourlay. “Willie” was not only a soloist at St. Paul’s, but also appeared in Warren’s 1856 Concert for the Poor, where he was billed as “Master Gourlay, the little vocalist of St. Paul’s Choir”.
Another highlight of the “delightful music” that Warren promised for the winter of 1855 – 1856 was his recently-discovered soprano soloist. Isabella Hinckley was only fifteen years old, but she had studied piano with St. Paul’s former organist, Oliver J. Shaw, studied voice with St. Paul’s former soprano soloist, Electa Cone, and had proved herself as choir director at the Church of the Holy Innocents. She was featured in Warren’s Concert for the Poor in 1856 (“her first appearance”) and again in 1857.
In 1856, Warren published another piece of music with a St. Paul’s connection, “A Christmas Carol, Written for the Children of St Paul’s Church, Albany with Words by their Rector Rev. T.A. Starkey,” published by J.H. Hidley of Albany.
In April of 1856, shortly after finishing the busy schedule for the Concert for the Poor (featuring Miss Hinckley, Master Gourlay and fifty members of his singing class) in February, Warren for the first time advertised singing classes for boys. A reminiscence by one of St. Paul’s choir boys suggests that Warren used these classes to attract and train candidates for the St.Paul’s boy choir. In this classified advertisement, he identified himself as “Organist and Musical Director at St. Paul’s Church (eight years)” implying that he had worked at St. Paul’s continuously since 1848.
But a break was about to occur. According to vestry minutes for 6 September 1856, “George W. Warren account for services as Organist & amounting to $698.77 was present and referred to Messrs. Kendrick Tweddle & Raymond with power & authority to adjust the same.” The size of the demand suggests that it covers salary for multiple months, and that Warren was settling his accounts with the church.
This supposition is confirmed by a November 1856 article in Dwight’s Journal of Music, which first describes the music program at St. Paul’s as consisting of
an excellent quartet at one side of the organist, and a choir of twelve boys at the other. Quite a number of singers, of a great deal more than ordinary ability, have been engaged at St Paul’s. Mrs. Lucy Eastcott (who is now an acknowledged European prima donna) was their soprano for two years [1850-1852] and Mr. Henry Squires, now a leading tenore in London, was in the same choir at the same time. Their soprano of last season [1855-1856], Miss Isabella Hinkley, has a voice of remarkable beauty, and her talent is to he further cultivated and perfected by a thorough musical education in Italy, for she goes to Florence next May.
But then the article announces Warren’s resignation, which prompted a round of musical chairs among Albany’s organists and choir members:
But choir matters have been through a constant series of changes this season; George William Warren, for eight years director at St Paul’s resigned, and accepted at Dr Sprague’s [Second Presbyterian]. Albert Wood resigned at St Peter’s and accepted at St. Paul’s. The choirs of these and some other also changed and exchanged and it would hardly fair to report the degree of excellence in either present, but be assured a deep interest is felt have good church music and excellent salaries paid to our host organists and singers and it not be the fault of our people if the good is attained.
St. Paul’s vestry minutes do not note Warren’s resignation, and we may never know his reasons for leaving. Nor do we know why Albert Wood chose to leave St. Peter’s after a tenure of at least four years; the earliest St. Peter’s salary receipt (housed at the New York State Archives) for Wood is from August 1852 and the latest from August 1856 (shortly before his resignation), with several from every year between those dates.
George Wm. Warren must not have stayed long at Second Presbyterian church, because he offered his services to St. Paul’s in May, 1857. In a future post, we will conclude our story of Warren’s time at St. Paul’s Church with an account of his final period here, from August 1, 1857 through August 1, 1860.