Author Archives: Paul Nance

Where was St. Paul’s Lancaster Street Building?

Where was St. Paul’s Lancaster Street building? Sounds almost as silly as asking “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”

The answer of course, was on the south side of Lancaster Street, halfway between Hawk and Swan. But the building (and 98 acres in the heart of Albany), was demolished in 1964 to make room for the South Mall. So let’s reframe the question: where, in what we now call the Empire State Plaza, was St. Paul’s building? Many think it was near where the Center for the Performing Arts (popularly known as “the Egg”) now sits, but we’ve known for some time that it must have been farther west, somewhere between Agency Buildings 3 and 4.

Thanks to the New York Public Library, we can now answer the question precisely and definitively. The NYPL web site has images of a detailed 1876 map of Albany showing the church’s location. And they recently added software that allows the user to lay the old map precisely over the current Google map of the same area. The result is below.

1876 Map of St. Paul’s neighborhood, with overlay of 2014 Google map

The darker portions of the image are from the Google map. You can clearly see the edge of the Plaza Concourse in blue near the bottom right corner; the large green rectangle is the park-like area on the Plaza’s northwest corner, between South Swan Street and Agency Building 4 (shown in dark gray). In the bottom left in orange is the South Mall Arterial and immediately above it is Agency Building 3, also in dark gray.

The older map appears in lighter shades of gray, showing the streets, lots and major buildings as they existed in 1876.  And yes, hovering  just off the north corner of Agency Building 3 is the ghostly  St. Paul’s, labeled simply “Church.”

St. Paul’s Church and Rectory

The Plaza’s Central Air Conditioning Plant and Transformer Vault lies beneath what was once an entire city block, the block on which St. Paul’s stood. As we’ve mentioned before, St. Paul’s hopes for staying in their building as part of  the South Mall  were dashed when the block was chosen for the cooling and heating facility. St. Paul’s rector, Nelson F. Parke, reported that at a meeting with St, Paul’s vestry in September 12, 1962, the State’s Assistant Commissioner of Housing

told us quite bluntly that plans for the South Mall in the block bounded by Lancaster, Hawk, Jay, and Swan Streets were such that the continued existence of the Church at its present location was entirely impossible, that the demolition of the Church was inevitable, that we would have only three years in our edifice before it was torn down, and that the possibility of our being able to relocated in the South Mall area was extremely remote.

But St. Paul’s was not to have even three years. In May 1964, the Commissioner of the Office of General Services wrote St. Paul’s new rector, J. Raymond McWilliam, to inform him that

Our present schedule calls for the completion of construction plans and specifications for the Central Air Conditioning Plant and Main Transformer Vault by July 1, 1964. They would then be advertised for bids calling for initiation of work by about mid-August. The site extends from Chestnut Street on the north to Jay Street on the south, and the area to be excavated includes the entire Church property.

This work will require the severing of underground utility lines (gas, water, sewer), the relocation of the underground telephone duct system, and the closing of Jay, Lancaster and Chestnut Streets. The extensive excavation (which at the site of the Church will average about 30 fee in depth) and the other construction activities will create such disturbance in the general area that even if it were possible to program the construction so as to delay the need for the Church property as long as possible, I believe the conditions would soon become disheartening to your congregation.

The commissioner ended the letter by asking that St. Paul’s vacate the building by the end of August 1964, almost a year earlier than had been promised. The last service in the Lancaster Street building was held July 26, 1964, and the building was demolished in October of that year.

Diagram of proposed Empire State Plaza microgrid

St. Paul’s location has been in the news again lately, when it was announced that the main switchgear for the new heating and cooling system would be placed int the central air conditioning plant, precisely where St. Paul’s stood until its demolition in October 1964,

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is demolished to make way the South Mall Oct. 19, 1964, in Albany, N.Y. Historic buildings and streets 1960s, Empire State Plaza. (Times Union archive)

Before Holy Innocents: an 1847 Proposal for Two Mission Chapels

We’ve told the story of how St. Paul’s rector, William Ingraham Kip, proposed a chapel of ease for the parish, and how the first steps towards forming the Chapel of the Holy Innocents were taken 1848. But we’ve recently seen a letter (held in the archives of the New-York Historical Society) written by Kip that provides additional information about an earlier proposal. It details plans which were quite different both from those discussed in 1848 and from the independent Church of the Holy Innocents as it was incorporated in 1850.

Holy Innocents

Kip’s letter, dated May 27, 1847, was addressed to Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, a vestryman of Trinity Church, Manhattan, the richest congregation in the Diocese of New York, which then included the state as far west as Utica. Trinity had provided financial aid to many struggling congregations across New York, including a $5,000 grant to St. Paul’s in 1833 that had kept the congregation afloat during a critical period.

William Ingraham Kip (portrait attributed to Asa Weston Twitchell)

Kip now asked for another grant of $5,000 from Trinity Church, but toward a wider mission. Kip’s goal was to establish not one but two mission churches in Albany, infusing “new Spirit with the entire Ch[urch] in Albany.” He saw need in the two fastest growing parts of the city: the north end “between Broadway and the canal” and in Arbor Hill, in the area just up the hill from the Ten Broeck Mansion. They would serve newcomers, mostly immigrants, many of whom had been members of the Church of England before emigrating. Kip describes the “immense mass of foreign destitution about us” and pleads “for thousands of the destitute, many of whom were Ch[urch] going people in England, but here feel that ‘no man careth for their souls.’”

Importantly, Kip did not ask that Trinity Church directly fund the two new churches. Rather, he proposed that the grant be designated to pay off half of St. Paul’s outstanding debt, reducing the interest the congregation would have to pay, and speeding the repayment of the principal. To justify this proposal, Kip reminds Verplanck of St. Paul’s recent history. Kip probably chose Verplanck because he would have already known some of this history, having lived in Albany from 1820 until 1823 as a State Assemblyman, and then again from 1838 until 1841 as a member of the State Senate.

St. Paul’s Ferry Street Building as it looked in the early 20th century

St. Paul’s financial problems had started with its founding in 1827, culminating in 1839 with the forced sale of the Ferry Street building and the move to Pearl Street. The church could have simply reincorporated and walked away from the debt arising from the construction of the Ferry Street building. Instead, they chose to honor those debts as they began what Kip describes as their “new enterprise” in the former Pearl Street Theatre. The congregation had grown significantly since then, and the parish was stronger than it had ever been. But St. Paul’s was still burdened by $10,000 in debt, and reluctant to start new ventures while holding that debt. Halving the debt, and substantially reducing the interest payments, would encourage the congregation to respond to the city’s needs.

St. Paul’s Second Building on Pearl Street

Kip’s vision, then, was not of missions funded and supported from the outside, but of a vibrant St. Paul’s, no longer constrained by heavy debt, that would be allowed to create and support new outreach, to venture forth in mission. These new missions, he stressed, would be entirely St. Paul’s work, fully supported by the parish.

The request was an urgent one, particularly because the two areas with greatest growth also had very few churches. In 1847, there was one Roman Catholic church in the North End (St. Joseph’s, in its original home on the corner of North Pearl and Livingston Avenue) and a Methodist Chapel in Arbor Hill (Arbor Hill Methodist). And Kip points out that John McCloskey, who had been appointed Albany’s first Catholic bishop a week earlier, was likely to plan moves into both of these areas.

William Henry DeWitt

We do not have Verplanck’s response, but it must have been negative. Within the next year, Kip and his senior warden, William H. DeWitt, had begun plans to fund a single chapel of ease in the North End through subscriptions. Those plans also failed, and it was only through DeWitt’s donation of the land and the cost of construction that Holy Innocents came to be built.

This, then, is the back-story of Holy Innocents. The passion of this letter, and Kip’s vision of St. Paul’s mission work explain Kip’s disappointment and anger when DeWitt formed Holy Innocents as a separate parish. Kip had seen the mission chapel as a vital outreach that would both enliven St. Paul’s and enhance the church’s cause in the city. But DeWitt’s creation of a separate parish had not only ruined that plan: Holy Innocent’s deed provided that DeWitt and his heirs would have the right to nominate the church’s rector in perpetuity, even over objections from the congregation. DeWitt’s vision of his own private, family chapel was the very antithesis of Kip’s plan.

Kip (with the rectors of Albany’s Trinity Church and Grace Church) protested the consecration of Holy Innocents. The consecration had proceeded only when DeWitt agreed to change the objectionable terms in the church deed and Kip withdrew his protest. In our next post we will learn more about Holy Innocent’s after-story: how hard feelings between Kip and DeWitt lingered even after Kip withdrew his protest.

Wm. Ingraham Kip at St. Paul’s altar (from an 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton)

 

Albany and the New York Times

Would you be surprised to learn that the plan to create the New York Times was made here in the city of Albany? And that two of the three principals involved were then members of St. Paul’s vestry? Well, both statements are true, and here is the story.

Albany in 1848

Albany Harbor in 1856 (credit: Albany Group Archive)

The Albany in which the plan for the New York Times was hatched was a bustling place, sitting at the crucial intersection of the Erie Canal and the Hudson River. Goods from the American Midwest flowed into Albany through the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals, and were transferred at the canal basin for shipment to New York City. This flow supported large numbers of wholesale and retail businesses. According to the 1840 census, Albany had 53 commission house, 35 importing houses, 440 retail dry goods stores, 612 grocery and provision stores. And because those goods had to be paid for, there was also a busy financial connection between Albany and New York City, already then the financial center of the country. Albany’s population was also growing quickly: from 24,000 in 1830, the population had reached almost 34,000 by 1840 and would exceed 50,000 by 1850.

Albany Basin in the 1850s (credit: Albany Group Archive)

St. Paul’s vestry elected in 1848 was representative of this thriving business environment. The two wardens were businessmen with ties across the state and region: William H. DeWitt, a dealer in lumber, and John Tweddle, a malt and hops merchant. Both of these businesses involved major trade across the state and throughout the region, and an especially strong connection with New York City. Two of the vestrymen were also major businessmen. Four vestryman were involved in banking and finance; only two were professionals (one a doctor, the other an attorney).

Bank Note Brokers

Of the four vestrymen involved in banking and finance, two were bank note brokers. At that time, regional banks could issue paper currency. Currency issued by Albany banks was accepted at full value here, but only at a reduced value in New York City; the reverse was true for currency issued by New York City banks. Bank note brokers made their money by buying Albany bank notes at a discount in New York City and carrying them back to Albany where they were redeemed at full value; they could then purchase New York City bank notes at a discount in Albany, and redeem them at full value in New York City. One of our vestrymen reported routinely carrying $20,000 in cash on the steamboats between the cities in this operation.

These two bank note brokers, members of our vestry, were Edward B. Wesley and George Jones. Both were New Englanders, both born in 1811, who had come to Albany for business. And it is they who were instrumental in establishing the New York Times.

Edward Barton Wesley

Edward Barton Wesley

Born in Leicester, Massachusetts, Wesley came to New York City as a young man. He found employment with a steamboat line that ran between New York City and Albany and quickly learned that he could make extra money by speculating in goods (fish, butter, eggs, vegetables, “nearly everything in the market”) in the New York markets, and shipping them to Albany where he sold the produce for a profit. From this beginning, he moved into brokering bank notes. By 1845, he had set up a brokerage partnership in Albany with Norman S. Washburn. That same year, he was elected to St. Paul’s vestry for the first time.

George Jones

George Jones

Jones was born and raised in East Poultney, Vermont. As a teenager, he worked as a clerk and errand boy in a local grocery store. There Jones became friends with Horace Greeley, who was a printer’s apprentice in a newspaper operated by the owner of the grocery store. Like Wesley, Jones went to New York City as a young man. After other business experience, in 1841 he found employment with his friend Horace Greeley, working in the business office of Greeley’s New York Tribune. Here he met Greeley’s editorial assistant, Henry Jarvis Raymond, who was destined to become the third principal in the founding of the New York Times.

In 1842, George Jones moved to Albany, at first running the Albany News Depot, a news agency selling newspapers from New York City and other major cities of the United States and England, as well as magazines and books. In about 1847, he sold the News Depot, and started brokering bank notes, using a desk in the offices of Edward. B. Wesley. It was shortly after this that Jones was elected to St. Paul’s vestry for the first time. Jones had several personal connections to members of St. Paul’s: he also rented office space from Leonard Kip (a member of the church, and brother of William Ingraham Kip), and one of his closest friends was banker Edward E. Kendrick, our treasurer and a member of our vestry.

All Three in Albany in 1850

So, by January 1850, both Wesley and Jones were in Albany, working as bank note brokers in the same office, and serving on St. Paul’s vestry (they were both reelected in April 1850) and the vestry’s finance committee. Jones’ former colleague Henry J. Raymond was also in Albany, having recently arrived as a newly elected member of the New York State Assembly.

New York State Capitol, 1860 (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Jones and Raymond had discussed creating their own newspaper during their time together on the Tribune in 1841 – 1842, but nothing had come of these plans. Thurlow Weed, politically powerful owner of the Albany Evening Journal, had offered to sell his newspaper to Jones and Raymond in 1848; that offer fell through when one of Weed’s partners refused to sell his shares. Jones and Raymond again discussed the newspaper idea during the legislative session of 1850, but the time seems not to have been right.

Across the Icy Hudson in 1851

The plans only became concrete in early 1851, with Raymond again in Albany, in this legislative session having been elected Speaker of the House. There are two stories about how the discussions were renewed, and both involve a walk across the ice-covered Hudson River, from Albany to the Hudson River Railroad station in Rensselaer.

Across the Icy Hudson (1850)

According to one account, Jones and Raymond were walking across the Hudson to meet Raymond’s father’s train. “When half way over,” Raymond again suggested a new newspaper. Jones responded that he was doing well in his bank note business. Raymond pointed out that a bill was pending in the Assembly which would make the business far less profitable and suggested (jokingly, perhaps) that it would be in his interest to see that the bill passed, if it would encourage Jones to join in his venture.

According to the other account, it was Jones and Wesley who were crossing the Hudson in order to buy copies of the New York newspapers when Jones asked Wesley to join him in his plans with Raymond.

Founding of the New York Times

Whatever the sequence of events, the bill on bank note brokers did pass, and both Wesley and Jones joined Raymond. The original partnership was known as Raymond, Jones & Co., with Jones and Wesley each putting up $20,000 in cash to begin production. The company’s Articles of Incorporation were signed by Raymond, Jones and Wesley. The first issue of the new newspaper, then known as the New York Daily Times, was issued on September 18, 1851, with Henry J. Raymond as editor, and George Jones as business manager.

First edition New York Daily Times, 18 Sep 1851

Jones’ and Wesley’s later roles at the New York Times and St. Paul’s Church

When Jones resigned after only six weeks’ due to bad health, Edward B. Wesley became the Times business manager, and served in that role for most of the newspaper’s first ten years. At the end of his long life, he was angered that Jones was given more credit than he as a founder of the newspaper. Jones, he argued, may have had a larger role in the initial founding, but he (Raymond) was the one who built it up over a decade and ensured its survival.

Edward B. Wesley was on St. Paul’s vestry for a total of seven years, from Easter 1845 until Easter 1852. He lived the rest of his life in New York City, and died there in 1906 at the age of 95, his obituary in the New York Times describing him as “The Dean of the Speculators.” He would be pleased to know that it also gave him full credit as a founder of the Times, as well as the Union Trust Company.

George Jones

After his resignation, George Jones was not involved with the newspaper for many years. When Raymond died suddenly in 1869, however, he returned to the Times and was its publisher for twenty years.

As long-time publisher of the New York Times, Jones deserves considerable credit for its success. In 1870 – 1871, he supported and encouraged the Times’ investigative journalism into the abuses of Tammany Hall. Jones refused a bribe of $5 million (the equivalent of well over $100 million today) by the city controller, Richard B. “Slippery Dick” Connolly, to stop the attacks.

Thomas Nast cartoon, showing Richard B. Connolly and William M. Tweed

George Jones was on St. Paul’s vestry for a total of eight years, from Easter 1848 until
Easter 1856. He also lived the rest of his life in New York City, and died there in 1891.

Conclusion

Although Wesley and Jones were not Albany natives, and lived here for less than twenty years, we can take pride in  the role our city played in bringing them together in business and in the vestry room of St. Paul’s Church. The next time you pick up a copy of the New York Times, remember the thriving business, financial and social connections between the city of Albany and New York City in the 1850s that brought the newspaper into being.

 

St. Paul’s Presents: “Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat”

Today we turn from St. Paul’s long history to an event that many of us remember well: the performance of “Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat” on April 8, 1990.

“Fat Fat Jehoshaphat” Program Cover

This “musical that teaches the the power of prayer” required the efforts of several dozen parishioners of all ages, as well as our choirmaster, Albert Melton, and the rector, Bruce Rodgers.

“Fat Fat Jehoshaphat” Rehearsal

Our first photograph shows a rehearsal, with the choir and their director, Jennifer Johnston, on the left side of the altar. Left to right, they are:

  • Jennifer Johnston (Choir Director, with guitar)
  • Beth Mahony
  • Kirk Hauser
  • Judy Condo
  • Grace Dennis
  • Sarah Feedore (in front)

To the right of the altar are:

  • Chris Kleinman (Page)
  • Happy McPartlin (Chief Priest)
  • Julie McPartlin (High Priest)
  • Jon Bugler (King’s Guard, in front with head turned)

“Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat” set construction

Here we see part of the stage crew building the set. They are:

  • Martha Murphy
  • Andrew Murphy
  • Ann Jaquish

“Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat” Luncheon

And here is a photograph of the luncheon that followed the performance. On the left is Donna Williams, the only person we have been able to identify so far.

Finally, here is the complete cast listing for this performance.

“Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat” Cast List

“Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat” Cast List

 

Easter 1967

On this Easter morning we share two slides taken on Easter Sunday fifty years ago, March 26, 1967.

Easter Sunday 1967

Easter Sunday 1967

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are four undated photographs, mostly likely from Easter, and possibly also from Easter Sunday 1967. The rector, J. Raymond McWilliam, is clearly visible. Does anyone recognize the server or the other priest?

Altar, possibly Easter 1967

Altar detail, possibly Easter 1967

Procession, possibly Easter 1967

Altar party, possibly Easter 1967

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday 1967

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. Today we share five slides taken fifty years ago, on Palm Sunday 1967, the congregation’s first Palm Sunday in the new building. The high altar had been consecrated on Maundy Thursday of the previous year.

The first slide shows the nave, at the beginning of the service.

Palm Sunday 1967

Then we see two servers at the rear of the nave preparing for the procession. Can anyone tell us who these two are, or identify the chorister just behind them?

Palm Sunday 1967

Next, we see the rector,  J. Raymond McWilliam, reading the gospel from the liturgical north end of the altar, as was then the custom.

Palm Sunday 1967

The final two slides show Father McWilliam receiving the offering. We have been able to identify only two others in these shots: of the men facing the altar, the two on the left are Herb Brown and Jim White. Can anyone identify others in the pictures?

Palm Sunday 1967

Palm Sunday 1967

 

The Albany Diocesan Choir Festival

A few weeks ago, St. Paul’s choir sang “Christ whose glory fills the skies,” one of the most popular works of T.Frederick H. Candlyn, our organist from 1915 until 1943.

T.F.H. Candlyn 25th Anniversary at St. Paul’s

As we finished singing the piece (one that we regularly perform with pleasure), I noticed the note on the last page: “Copyright 1942. Commissioned by the Eleventh Albany Diocesan Choir Festival, Albert F. Robinson, director,” and wondered (not for the first time) what the Festival was. Within the past ten years, the Cathedral of All Saints has hosted an Epiphany choir event, in which the choirs of Albany deanery parishes joined. Was the 1942 Festival similar to this more recent “Battle of the Choirs?” No one seemed to know, but the answer was to be found in newspapers of the time. And a very interesting story it was.

T. Frederick H. Candlyn at St. Paul’s organ.

The Albany Diocesan Choir Festival was begun in 1931 by J. William Jones, organist and choirmaster at All Saints Cathedral from 1929 until 1939. In the early years, these were small events, with just a few local choirs. But by the fourth annual Festival in 1935, with 22 choirs taking part, the festival had become a huge occasion, with (as a contemporary newspaper reported) “hundreds of voices” that was “attended each year by throngs.”

The 1935 festival was the culmination of a six-day “Festival Week of Music” at the Cathedral, including a concert of Candlyn’s compositions, sung by St. Paul’s choir and Candlyn’s chorus from the State College for Teachers. The week’s schedule was:

  • Monday: recital by the Cathedral choir featuring works of Palestrina
  • Tuesday: organ recital by Ernest White of Trinity Church, Lenox, Massachusetts
  • Wednesday: recital by Major John A. Warner piano, Earle Hummel violin
  • Thursday: concert of works of T. Frederick H. Candlyn
  • Friday: a chorus of American Guild of Organist choirs, conducted by Dr. Russell Carter. The  massed choir was composed of choirs from Reformed, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist congregations in Capital District.
  • Saturday: Fourth Annual Diocesan Choir Festival, conducted by J. William Jones. Part of this service was broadcast on radio station WGY.

Candlyn was again involved in the 1936 event as accompanist. That year also he was also president of the Albany Diocesan Choirmasters’ Association, which was very active in promoting and organizing the festivals, but also in sponsoring recitals, conferences and in commissioning choral works. The Association even published a newsletter, “The Chorister.”

Cover of “The Chorister,” May 1941

Candlyn was also accompanist in 1937, when twenty massed choirs sang his work “Thee we adore,” which he dedicated to the Festival choir.

St. Paul’s Choir, with T.F.H. Candlyn, 1937

By 1938, the Festival had “grown to be of national importance,” and had become the model for other festivals across the United States. That year, the Albany Diocesan Choirmasters’ Association conducted district festivals in each of the diocese’s deaneries, preparing the parish choirs for the diocesan event in Albany. The Ogdensburg event, for example, gathered 200 choristers from 14 choirs to St. John’s, Ogdensburg for rehearsals and for a choral service presided over by Bishop G. AShton Oldham.

George Ashton Oldham, Bishop of Albany

1938 was also the first year that the Albany Diocesan Choirmasters’ Association commissioned new works to be performed at the festival. The composers and their works were:

  • Healey Willan (1880 – 1968) of Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto: “Before the ending of the day”
  • Everett Titcomb (1884 – 1968) of Church of St. John the Evangelist, Boston, Massachusetts: “Benedictus es, Domine”
  • Gardner C. Evans (1897 – 1951) of Church of Our Savior, Brookline, Massachusetts: “Thy kingdom come”

The Association arranged for publication of these works (as well as “Magnificat and Nun Dimittis” by Titcomb) by Carl Fischer, Inc., in Series I of The Albany Diocesan Choir Festival Series.

Healey Willan, “Before the Ending of the Day” cover obverse

In 1939, the Choir Festival was again part of “Festival of Music Week.” That year, the schedule was:

  • Monday: Albany Federal Orchestra (an organization supported by the Works Project Administration)
  • Tuesday: Liszt Choristers, Booker T. Washington Choral Society, Schenectady NYA Choir
  • Wednesday: chamber music recital, again with pianist Major John A. Warner, as well as a violinist, a horn player and four cellists.
  • Thursday: J. Stanley Lansing, Dean of the Eastern New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists conducted a massed choir from nine area congregations
  • Friday: organ recital by Thomas Mathews of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Philadelphia
  • Saturday: Albany Diocesan Festival, with 50 choirs, Mr. Jones conducting

William Jones, whose energy had moved the festival from small beginning into a project that “has spread throughout the length and breadth of the Diocese of Albany, with a fine organization of choirmasters and clergy as its sponsor and its own magazine which now has a national circulation” resigned from the Cathedral staff effective December 1, 1939, his tenth anniversary at the cathedral.

“Cathedral of All Saints” by Earle L. Kempton

Jones’ place as director of the Festival was taken by Albert F. Robinson, organist and choirmaster at Trinity Church, Potsdam. Albert F. Robinson oversaw the district festivals that year. We have a record of the Albany deanery festival, which drew 10 choirs to St. Andrew’s Church in Albany.

The 1941 Festival may have been the grandest of them all, with 50 choirs and 500 voices joined. Two new anthems were commissioned for the service:

  • Alfred Whitehead (1887 – 1974) of Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal: “Come Thou Almighty King”
  • Gardner C. Evans (1897 – 1951) of Church of Our Savior, Brookline, Massachusetts: “O Saving Victim”

These, along with the following piece (probably commissioned for the 1940 Festival) were published by the Diocesan Choirmasters’ Association in Series II of Fischer’s The Albany Diocesan Choir Festival Series:

  • Charles O’Neill (1882-1964), professor at the State Teachers’ College at Potsdam, New York (now the Crane School of Music): “I will extol Thee”

As mentioned above, Candlyn’s work “Christ whose glory fills the skies” was commissioned for the 1942 festival. It also was published in Series II of the Fischer series. With the war on, this was a smaller event, held in conjunction with the Diocesan convention “to aid in conservation necessitated for war measures.” We assume that this refers to gasoline rationing, which would have made it very difficult to transport 50 choirs for a separate event. This year was to be Candlyn’s last at the Festival: in 1943 he resigned from St. Paul’s to become organist and choirmaster at St. Thomas Church in Manhatttan.

Healey Willan, “Before the Ending of the Day” cover reverse

The Diocesan Choir Festivals for 1943 and 1944 were again held in conjunction with the diocesan convention. There seems to have been a break during the last years of World War II.

The first Festival after the war was in 1947, when 500 singers from all parts of the diocese were directed by Duncan Trotter Gillespie, of St. George’s, Schenectady, and accompanied by organ and a brass choir from Albany High School. In 1950, in a sign that the festival had returned to its former glory, the regional festivals were held once again: the Albany deanery met at St. Andrew’s, and other events were held in Cohoes, Staatsville, Morris and Ogdensburg.

1951 was a slightly smaller event, with 25 choirs attending, but scheduling the festival with the newly-organized Tulip Festival helped with attendance: the audience, we are told, filled the cathedral to overflowing.

All Saints Cathedral (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Starting in the 1954, when the Choir Festival was again held in conjunction with the Tulip Festival, the director was W. Judson Rand Jr., organist and choirmaster of St. Peter’s church, who had been the festival’s organist back in 1941. The Diocesan Choirmasters’ Association continued to organize the event, which attracted 200 singer in 1955.

The last reference to the Festival that I’ve been able to find is an advertisement from 1965. It is a pity that we have lost this element of diocesan life. With smaller congregations and smaller choirs in many Episcopal churches, it would be difficult to organize such a festival today. But think of the benefits of bringing together musicians from across the diocese to meet, to form friendships, and to join together in song.