Monthly Archives: February 2016

George William Warren at St. Paul’s — Part 3, 1857-1860

George William Warren

George William Warren

As we saw in an earlier post, George William Warren resigned as St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster sometime in the fall of 1856. At that point, he had been at St. Paul’s since 1848, other than (perhaps) ten months in 1852 — 1853 when he had been in business with Richard H. Pease at the Temple of Fancy. During the fall and winter of 1856 – 1857, Warren probably served as organist at the Second Presbyterian church, but the only evidence we have for that is the article cited in the previous post.

Albany Evening Journal 20 Jan 1857

Albany Evening Journal 20 Jan 1857

He was certainly busy that winter with the second Concert for the Poor, which again featured Isabella Hinckley and William Gourlay of St. Paul’s. That spring, Warren organized a farewell concert for Isabella Hinckley, raising funds so that she could  begin her operatic career in Europe. For information on Isabella’s brilliant career and her untimely death, see Don Rittner’s post. Isabella Hinckley’s funeral was conducted by our rector, William Rudder, at St. Paul’s , in whose choir “her extraordinary musical talent first attracted attention”.

Warren’s position at Second Presbyterian may not have lasted long. Already in February of 1857, Warren was performing with St. Paul’s boy choir in a service at Grace Church. By the spring of 1857, St. Paul’s terminated its contract with Albert H. Wood and the quartet choir, and a month later George William Warren again offered his services to St. Paul’s. Warren resumed his duties at St. Paul’s on August 1, 1857.

Even before his term officially began, Warren advertised to fill vacancies in the St. Paul’s choir.

Albany Evening Journal 15 Jun 1857

Albany Evening Journal 15 Jun 1857

Advertisements for boy choir vacancies also start at this time and continue for the next few years, including this from January 1858 “None need apply except those with good voices, gentlemanly manners and under 13 years of age.” Could this have been a reference to the horseplay mentioned by Charles M. Nickerson, who sang with the boy choir in this period?

Worshippers afflicted with nerves are sometimes heard to complain of the restlessness of the boys in the chancel, especially during the sermon, but choirmasters nowadays certainly maintain a stricter discipline than their predecessors of the time of which I write thought necessary. When the sermon began, it was our wont to draw the curtain that hung over the front of the organ gallery and then slip out one by one through the door behind the organ into the Sunday School room, there to regale ourselves on candy and peanuts and enjoy general conversation until a signal from the choirmaster called us back for the offertory hymn. This was in the old Saint Paul’s, the one time theatre on South Pearl St. The Sunday School room in the rear of the organ loft had no doubt served as the lobby or bar of the theatre. Strange, as it may seem, our way of passing the time during the sermon was winked at alike by rector and choirmaster as long as we kept reasonably still. But it being a physical impossibility for a dozen boys to be in a room by themselves for half an hour and not become exhuberantly (sic) active, the inevitable happened. When the noise we made penetrated to the Church and even to the pulpit, the decree went forth that we must remain in our seats during the sermon, which we thought rather hard lines.

Bishop Horatio Potter

Bishop Horatio Potter

When Bishop Horatio Potter made his annual visit to St. Paul’s in May 1858, the choir sang the canticles Cantata Domino and Deus Misereatur from a service setting from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “The first of these, as rendered by the choir, with the organ accompaniment of Mr. Warren, exceeds anything in church service we have ever heard.” The reporter was equally impressed that nine of the choir were confirmed by Bishop Potter that day.

We do not know the conditions under which Warren returned to St. Paul’s, but it seems that he had been granted a raise in salary and improvements in the organ and in choir facilities. Four months after his return, the church organ, a three-manual instrument built in 1840 by Thomas Robjohn in a contract with Firth & Hall, was rebuilt by the firm of William A. Johnson. And in May 1858 the church treasurer, E.E. Kendrick, announced a $680 budget shortfall consisting in large part of expenses related to Warren and the choir, including: “fitting up and arranging the organ loft and north room with carpets, gas, painting, gilding and decorating for the convenience of the musical director and the choir, and the salary of the organist increased from $850 to $1100.”

Warren’s personal life also saw a major transition at this time. On September 16, 1858 he was married to Mary Eliza Pease at St. Paul’s. Mary Eliza was also a member of the congregation, and the daughter of Warren’s former business partner, Richard H. Pease.

That same month, a reviewer gave a mixed assessment of Warren’s work at St. Paul’s:

He has one of the best organs in the city, which he handles with much skill in the lighter style of music, which no doubt gives delight to admiring friends, but your correspondent would like to see it changed to a style more adapted to the church and to the organ. The choir, comprising several good voices, sing the musical compositions of Mr. Warren very well, but it would be to the advantage of all concerned, if more prominence were given to other church compositions of established merit. Miss C[arrie] Ross, the leading soprano, is quite a treasure to the choir…

Miss Ross was later to marry James Mason Sayles, composer of “Star of the Evening.”

As we have seen, Warren submitted his resignation to St. Paul’s vestry in April 1860, “to take effect the first of August ensuing, which time terminates the third year of my present engagement with you.” We can now see that the “nearly thirteen years … devoted to the musical interests of St. Paul’s” consisted of the period from 1848 until 1860, broken briefly only during parts of 1852-1853 and again in 1856-1857. The young man’s concern for the good opinion of St. Paul’s vestry is evident in his statement “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.” Warren was only thirty-years old, and had played at St. Paul’s since he was barely out of his teens. The vestry responded affectionately with three resolutions:

The following resolutions in answer thereto were unanimously adopted and a copy ordered transmitted to Mr. Warren.

Resolved, that we have heard with regret the communication of Mr. Geo. Wm. Warren announcing his determination to leave this City and resign his position as Organist and Musical Director of this Church, a determination which leaves a void in the musical portion of the service of our Church and inflicts a loss on those who appreciate and enjoy excellence in church music.

Resolved, that in view of the long connection of Mr. Warren with the Choir of St. Paul’s extending over a period of thirteen years, we cannot allow the occasion of separation to pass without expressing the satisfaction which his services have given during the whole of that period.

Resolved, that we tender to Mr. Warren our best wishes for his prosperity and his success in his new home and that we warmly commend him as a Gentleman whose moral character, professional ability and industry entitle him to abundant reward.