Category Archives: Music

The Albany Theatre Becomes the Home of St. Paul’s Church

As we saw in our earlier post, the first period for the Albany Theatre ended with Henry W. Preston’s surrender of the lease to the Albany Theatre Association on April 1, 1839. Fifteen managers in almost as many years had staged the best of drama with some of the finest actors of the time, but none was able to consistently make money for the investors. The Association chose to sell, and found an unusual purchaser. Just as had happened with the Green Street Theatre earlier in the century, the Albany Theatre was sold to a church, St. Paul’s Episcopal.

St. Paul’s, Ferry Street

In February 1839, St. Paul’s was a dozen years old, but like the theater, had never been able to find financial security. Founded in 1827, the congregation had moved two years later into their new building on South Ferry Street. In this period, Albany was growing rapidly as a result of the completion of the Erie Canal. Trade on the canal brought in many new residents, and the South End was the area of most rapid growth. St. Paul’s was something of an experiment: the hope was that the new congregation could attract St. Peter’s parishioners who had moved to the South End, but also draw residents of the area who were unchurched. This plan would only work if those attracted were able to support the church by purchasing a pew and paying an additional annual pew rent. At that time, this was the most common way of supporting a church.

Diagram of Ferry Street Church, showing pew appraisals

The new church building was quite expensive, and the vestry went deep into debt, assuming that they would be able to pay the principal and interest as new members purchased pews. But the expected influx of new residents did not occur, and those newcomers who did join were not able to purchase pews. St. Paul’s found itself on the underpopulated edge of the city, with pews not paid for, and unable to pay its creditors. The congregation struggled for several years, but the crisis came in January 1839, when a court ordered them to sell the building in order to pay the creditors.

We do not know if St. Paul’s vestry had another option, but we do wonder why they chose a new site only three short blocks from St. Peter’s Church, the other Episcopal Church in the city of Albany. In the same January 24 vestry meeting at which the decision was made to sell the Ferry Street building, the vestry also agreed to obtain a right of refusal for purchase of the theater. And they took the first steps toward modifying the theater by hiring Henry Rector “to draw plans and estimate expenses of alterations necessary to convert the Theatre into a Church.” A month later, the vestry closed the sale on the theater, and approved plans by Rector to convert the building for use as a church.[i]

And so St. Paul’s moved from one Philip Hooker-designed building (the Ferry Street church) to another (the Albany Theatre). This was doubly appropriate, because Hooker’s parents had been among the earliest communicants of St. Paul’s.[ii]

At the sale of the building, the Albany Theatre Association turned over all the original stock certificates to St. Paul’s. The association also provided the congregation (for reasons that are not clear) with a “Schedule containing a list of Scenery &c in the Theatre belonging to the proprietors.”

Booklet documenting sale of Albany Theatre stock to St. Paul’s Church

With sale of the Ferry Street building in July, St. Paul’s had no place to meet. The congregation of St. Peter’s invited the homeless congregation to join with them during the interim, and the two congregations met together for the next eight months, with the two rectors, William Ingraham Kip and Horatio Potter, sharing clerical responsibilities. This was the second time the congregations had share ministers. The first was 1832, when St. Paul’s rector, William Linn Keese, also served St. Peter’s, when it was between rectors.

Trinity Church (image credit: Albany Group Archive)

But the entire congregation did not leave the South End. In a major split, a number of St. Paul’s families, including those of several vestry members, chose to stay in the South End and continue faithful to the original purpose. They formed a new congregation, to be known as Trinity Church. The new congregation was not strong or wealthy in its early years, but by 1848 they were able to build a handsome building on what is now Trinity Place, where they remained until they closed in about 1980.[iii]

As to the modifications necessary, Dr. Kip remembered later that “there was nothing left of the original edifice, but the four walls and roof.”[iv] The extent of the modifications is confirmed by a 14-page proposal in our archive (probably the Henry Rector plan), with detailed description of the modifications, beginning with the statement:

To accomplish the object intended, it will be necessary first to remove all the floors, partitions, boxes, seats & etc. in the interior of said building; leaving the whole area enclosed by the exterior walls from the cellar to the [word illegible] of the principal tie beams in one unencumbered space and then proceed to the construction of the walls, partitions, floors, galleries, seats, pulpit, chancel, ceilings and rooms for sextons & etc. as shown by the annexed plans.

Given the congregation’s financial condition, there were limits to what could be done. They were not able, for instance, to afford stained glass for the windows, and had to settle for “common ground glass.”[v]

St. Paul’s was, however, able to afford a new organ, replacing the instrument sold with the Ferry Street building. Negotiations began in early 1839, and by May of that year, the New York City musical instrument dealer Firth and Hall had agreed to liberal financing. This instrument, designed and built by Thomas Robjohn, under contract with Firth and Hall, was installed in September 1840.[vi]

The women of the parish also raised money to purchase communion chalices and paten that are still in use at St. Paul’s.[vii]

One of the chalices purchased in 1839

The extensive renovations took longer than expected. The congregation initially expected to be in the new building by November 1839[viii], but the renovations were not completed until February of the next year.

The remodeled building was consecrated by Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk, Bishop of New York. The event had originally been scheduled for February 21, but “in consequence of the state of the roads” the bishop was not able to reach the city, and it was postponed until February 22.

A newspaper account of the consecration describes the renovated building:

We have heard but one opinion of the interior of this spacious edifice. Without pretension to architectural display, the effect is nevertheless admirable – and the arrangement and rich but chaste finish, well adapted to the sacred uses to which the building is now appropriated.[ix]

This account concludes with the reminder that the sale of pews would begin the next day. St. Paul’s continued to fund itself by the sale and rental of pews, and would for the next 80 years. It was not until 1927 that St. Paul’s did away with pew rents, despite a growing consensus in the denomination that pledged contributions were a much better option for supporting a congregation.

Pew Deed to William M. Gregory, dated 1 Jun 1854

While the choice of a theater so close to St. Peter’s seems odd, the vestry’s selection was a happy one, because the congregation flourished on South Pearl Street. Despite the closeness to St. Peter’s, the building’s location was an advantage. In the 1830’s, Pearl Street was one of the most prestigious residential areas of the city, and many neighbors became members of the new congregation. Barent P. Staats, a member of the 1827 vestry, described the situation in 1839 forcefully: “it [the church] was discovered shortly after the present [i.e., present rector, William Ingraham Kip] came to be hopelessly wrecked and it was absolutely necessary to take a new position & in reality to begin a new enterprise.”[x] Indeed it was a new enterprise. Rather than attempting to attract newcomers, as did those who broke off to form Trinity Church, St. Paul’s was now situated to attract Albany’s better class. As J. Livingston Reese, St. Paul’s rector 25 years later wrote: “It is most probable that this change of location saved the parish from ultimate extinguishment, and brought it where it could reach a larger and more influential part of the population.”[xi]

1858 receipt from the Albany Insurance Company on St. Paul’s South Pearl Street building

A later rector said:

I do not think it too much to say, that it was while St. Paul’s congregation worshipped in the edifice on South Pearl street, that it attained its greatest influence and distinction. This was practically during the long and brilliant rectorship of the Rev. Dr. William Ingraham Kip, who became rector in 1827 [actually 1837] and remained at the head of the parish until 1853.[xii]

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

Kip left St. Paul’s in 1853 to become missionary bishop of California. He was succeeded by two very strong leaders: Thomas A. Starkey (later Bishop of Newark, New Jersey) and William Rudder (subsequently long-term rector of St. Stephen’s, Philadelphia). Kip and Rudder were particularly known for their dynamic preaching, which attracted many new members.[xiii] Starkey was known for his pastoral skills, and for his interest in social outreach, including the creation of St. Paul’s Church Home for Women.

Thomas A. Starkey

During these years, the new Robjohn organ was presided over by a series of remarkable musicians: William L. Reston[xiv], Oliver J. Shaw[xv], John Underner[xvi], and William M. Daniell[xvii].

In a letter to the editor of the Albany Evening Journal, an Albanian signing himself “A Listener” provided this review of one of St. Paul’s services in its first year on Pearl Street:

I last evening had the pleasure of attending services in St. Paul’s Church, and I confess myself highly pleased with the whole service. Mr. Kip gave us a very highly finished sermon, at the same time calculated to carry conviction to the conscience of every individual. His was was “the second coming of our Lord to judge the world,” and the solemnity of the scene was heightened by the impressive manner of the speaker.

The organ (which by the way is one of the finest I ever listened to), was handled in an admirable manner by Mr. Shaw, a gentleman who stands deservedly high as an organist. The rich full chords, the perfect harmony, the ease and grace of the movement, spoke the master of the instrument. On the whole, the prospects of the church are flattering as could be wished, and the congregation are highly favored with the privilege of such religious instruction.[xviii]

This series culminated with George William Warren[xix], St. Paul’s most illustrious organist and choirmaster of the nineteenth century.

Rock of Ages by George William Warren

We have very few descriptions of the building’s interior in this period. One is most unflattering:

To the Wardens & Vestry of St. Paul’s
Church, Albany —
Gentlemen, —

When I purchased the pew in your Church, I was assured that a window would be opened at the north end of it. At present on a cloudy day or when an assemblage of darkly dressed persons are in front of us, you might as well attempt to read in a coal-hole. The pew will no longer answer us and I therefore return your deed on which I have paid my first instalment. You will probably be of my opinion that some portion of it may be & ought to be refunded to me.

Remaining Gentlemen

Your obt. Servant

Charles Smyth[xx]
Albany 8th January

We also have a brief description from one of the choirboys in George William Warren’s short-lived boy choir. Writing more than fifty years later, Charles M. Nickerson remembered that the boys sat in the organ loft, with the organ to their right and the quartet choir on the other side.

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 by 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 [George William Warren] called us back for the offertory hymn. This was in the old St. 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.[xxi]

George William Warren

The “organ loft and and north room” are again mentioned in vestry minutes in 1858, when major renovations were made “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” as part of the May 1857 negotiations to rehire George William Warren for his final three years at St. Paul’s. These expenses contributed to the church’s budget shortfall, requiring the next year a plea from the vestry for pew-owners to increase their pew rental.

By 1860, the advantages of the Pearl Street location had faded. The neighborhood had changed from largely residential to commercial. The vestry determined to look elsewhere in the city and sold the Pearl Street building.

William Rudder, rector at that time later remembered:

The old church had served its purpose, and its day of fullest usefulness was gone. The part of the city in which it was situated had completely changed its character within a few years. The church had become hemmed in by places of business, and by other surroundings of a very undesirable character; and the congregation was drifting away, and more and more each year, to the more desirable western portions of the city. Under these circumstances the vestry determined to build a new church edifice to meet the new conditions of the case, and one more worthy of the position and ability of the parish.[xxii]

William Rudder

In October 1862 the building was sold for $14,000 to Hugh J. Hastings, who a yer later leased it to theater architect John M. Trimble.[xxiii] In our next segment, we will follow the building’s history as Trimble makes the church once more a theater: the Academy of Music.

[i] Joel Munsell, The Annals of Albany, Series 2, Volume 3 (Albany: Joel Munsell, 1871), 338-339.

[ii] Samuel Hooker (1746-1832) and Rachel Hinds Hooker became communicants of St. Paul’s in July and August 1830 respectively. The couple moved to Utica, New York in 1832.

[iii] Joel Munsell, The Annals of Albany, Series 2, Volume 3 (Albany: Joel Munsell, 1871), 337-394.

[iv] John Edward Rawlinson, “William Ingraham Kip: Tradition, Conflict and Transition” (Ph.D. dissertation, Graduate Theological Union, 1982), 18, quoting a 9 Apr 1852 letter from Kip to Thomas N. Stanford, partner in the publishing firm of Stanford & Swords.

[v] Rawlinson, 18.

[vi] Albany Argus 4 Sep 1840. Correspondence and the bill of sale are held in the archives of St. Paul’s Church.

[vii] Rawlinson, 18, quoting a 29 Oct 1839 letter from Kip to Mr. Sherman.

[viii] Parochial report for St. Paul’s, Albany in Journal of the Proceedings of the Fifty-fifth Convention of the Diocese of New York: Held in St. Paul’s Chapel in the City of New-York on Thursday, October 3d and Friday, Oct. 4th, A.D. 1839 (New York: Printed for the Convention), 1839, 67. A vestryman, Simeon DeWitt Bloodgood, had also hoped that the congregation would be in the new building by fall (Bloodgood’s 30 Mar 1839 letter to Harmanus Bleecker, transcribed in Harriet Langdon Pruyn Rice, Harmanus Bleecker: An Albany Dutchman 1779-1849 (Albany: William Boyd, 1924), 187-188).

[ix] Albany Argus, 25 Feb 1840.

[x] St. Paul’s vestry minutes, volume 2, 77.

[xi] “Historical Sketch of St. Paul’s Parish: From a Sermon of the Rector,” in The Semi-centennial Services of St. Paul’s Church, Albany, N.Y. 1877 (Albany: The Argus Company, 1877), 13.

[xii] William Prall, “The Past, Present and Future: A Sermon Preached January 26th, 1902 in Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the Parish of St. Paul’s, Albany, N.Y.,” 4.

[xiii] Brooks, “Sermon delivered by the Reverend Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks on Sunday morning, November 17th, 1907, in commemoration of the Eightieth Anniversary of the Founding of St. Paul’s Parish in the City of Albany,” printed in St. Paul’s Year Book for 1907, pages 7-8.

[xiv] St. Paul’s organist 1839-1840. Born about 1811 in England. Organist at St. John’s Church, Kirkheaton, West Yorkshire. Teacher at the Albany Female Academy.

[xv] St. Paul’s organist intermittently between 1840 and 1847. Born about 1817 in Providence, Rhode Island, son of noted composer Oliver Shaw. Active there and in Bangor Maine. Music teacher, performer and composer of popular music in Albany 1841-1852 or later. Moved Utica where he was again active as performer and teacher until his death in 1861

[xvi] St. Paul’s organist 1846-1847. Born 1829 in Albany, member of a prestigious musical family. Composer, accompanist to Jenny Lind on her United States tour. Died 1904.

[xvii] St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster 1847-1848. Born 1811 in England, educated at the Royal College of Music, accomplished horn player as well as organist. Died 24 Aug 1892 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

[xviii] Albany Evening Journal, 21 Dec 1840. City directories from 1858 – 1860 show a number of wholesale and retail groceries in the block. One neighbor “of a very undesirable character” was the Empire House on the corner on South Pearl and Beaver, with 42 guest rooms that seem to have been particularly favored by actors, and a “lager beer saloon” on the first floor.

[xix] St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster 1848-1856 and 1857-1860.

[xx] Charles Smyth (1783-1844) was a St. Paul’s vestryman for a single year (1835), possibly serving out another’s unexpired term. He had earlier served for ten years on St. Peter’s vestry. Smyth was in business in Albany with James Byrne, doing business as Byrne & Smyth, “vendue and commission business” as early as 1803. Later he was in partnership with James Wood (as Wood & Smyth), dissolved 1814. In 1818 (seven years before completion of the Erie Canal), he was assuring transportation of goods to the upper Great Lakes (Detroit and Sandusky) “by the most faithful and experienced teamsters” for no more than $4.50 per hundred-weight. Later he was involved in shipping, both in steam-boats on the Hudson River, and on the Erie Canal.

[xxi] Charles M. Nickerson, “St. Paul’s Choir of Fifty Years Ago” pages 25-26 of St. Paul’s Year Book for 1907. Is Nickerson perhaps referring to the second floor saloon, or the third floor area for refreshments mentioned in Hooker’s description of the theater?

[xxii] “Sermon of the Rev. William Rudder, D.D.,” in The Semi-centennial Services of St. Paul’s Church, Albany, N.Y. 1877 (Albany: The Argus Company, 1877), 35-36.

[xxiii] “An Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 13 Oct 1863. “Fire This Morning,” Albany Evening Journal 29 Jan 1868.  H.P. Phelps (in The Players of a Century. Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880, pages 329-330) reports that Hastings sold the building to Trimble for $5,000 cash and a mortgage of $10,000. This cannot be correct. When the building was destroyed in 1868, Hastings was still the owner, with Trimble’s widow holding a ten year lease, with a right to purchase in five years.

The Windows of St. Paul’s: The Baptism of our Lord

Last Sunday we celebrated the Baptism of our Lord. St. Paul’s has had two windows depicting the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and I’d like to tell you about both of them.

We saw the first depiction in an earlier post, because it is a section of the window donated by Donald Shore Candlyn. This window was originally placed in the Memorial Chapel on Lancaster Street, and brought to the chapel on Lancaster Street building in 1966. Like all the chapel windows, it was designed and built by the Wilbur H. Burnham Studios of Boston. This section is titled “The Baptism of Christ,” and a pamphlet on the windows by William S. McEwan refers to the account in Mark 1:9-11.

“The Baptism of Christ.” in St. Paul’s Chapel

The other window was originally installed in the nave of the Lancaster Street church. It was donated by “a large number of persons who received the Rite of Holy Baptism in St. Paul’s Parish,” and dedicated on Palm Sunday 1914. This donation was probably one response to the 1906 appeal of our rector, Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks to the congregation “to repair and beautify their church by memorial gifts.” Titled “The Baptism of Christ,” it was designed by Frederick Stymetz Lamb, and built by the Studios of J. and R. Lamb, New York City.


“Baptism of Chris”



Detail, “Baptism of Christ”

















This window, along with eleven other windows from the Lancaster Street nave, was brought to the Hackett Boulevard church in 1966, and installed in the narthex.  In the photograph below, you can see “Baptism of Christ” in the lower right corner.

Early photograph of the Hackett Boulevard narthex, with stained glass windows.

These windows remained in the Hackett Boulevard narthex until about 2005, when the deteriorating condition of the window supports forced our vestry to sell the windows and replace them with new glass.


Captain John Cooke

It is Veterans’ Day again, and time to remember those of the St. Paul’s family who served in the military. We have mentioned veterans of two twentieth century wars. A year ago, we celebrated our one-time organist and choirmaster, T.F.H. Candlyn, who served in World War I. And we have mentioned those from St. Paul’s who died while fighting in the Second World War. Today, we reach back into the preceding century, to a man who fought with the United States army in two wars. But there are other reasons to remember this man, who contributed significantly to Albany’s entertainment and musical life in the middle third of the nineteenth century.

John Cooke was born in England about 1797. He came to the United States in 1820 as part of the circus band with the Page, Austin and Tufts Menagerie. By 1825, he was in Providence, Rhode Island, where he formed his first band.

National Band of New York, performing with the Menagerie of June, Titus, Angevine& Co., 1834

Shortly afterward, he moved to Albany, where his first job was again as a band musician, with a circus situated on North Pearl Street, now the site of the Capital Repertory Theater. Settled in Albany by 1830, John Cooke quickly established two institutions that formed an important part of the city’s entertainment: the Albany Brass Band and Castle Garden.

The Albany Brass Band (often referred to as Cooke’s Brass Band), was Albany first wind band, and during the antebellum period the only source of popular wind music here. Between 1830 and 1861, the band played at many public events, and sponsored concerts, military events, dances, cotillions and balls. The band was also associated with Albany’s Republican Artillery. The band drilled with the soldiers, and accompanied them on a formal visit to New York City.

In 1833, Cooke created Castle Garden, a pleasure garden located on State Street, near Dove “from whence a spacious view of the river and the surrounding countryside for several miles can be had.” But the view was hardly the only entertainment. Castle Garden was known for its fireworks, some designed by “Mons. T. Alesander, from Paris, an artist well known, and who has distinguished himself as a pyrotechnist.” Displays included such exotic and extravagant exhibitions as The Battle of Algiers, Bengola Lights, The Chinese Lychenaise, and Zannia Peruvia. There were also balloon ascents (one conducted by Louis Anselm Lauriat “the celebrated aeronaut”), and refreshments, including “ice cream, soda water and many other delicacies of the season.”

Neither the brass band nor Castle Garden produced much income. But their popularity, and the personal affection felt for Cooke, can be gauged by the numerous benefits for him, each attempting to cover the losses of the season.

Cooke volunteered for the army during the Mexican War of 1846-1848. He was appointed a First Lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment of the First New York Volunteers. Cooke ended that conflict as a captain of artillery, and used that title for the rest of his life.

Albany Morning Express 31 Jul 1857

During the 1850s, Cooke’s Brass Band continued its busy schedule of balls and cotillions. Castle Garden had closed as a pleasure garden in 1845, but for much of this period Cooke continued a smaller business as a bowling saloon at the same address. “Saloon” should not be understand to mean Captain Cooke was serving alcohol: advertisements make it clear that this was a soda parlor, serving ice cream during the summer months to quench the thirst of the bowlers.

With the advent of the Civil War in 1861, John Cooke joined those responding to President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers. When that three month enlistment expired, Cooke, now 64 years old, volunteered as a captain in Company F of New York’s 91st Infantry Regiment.

Two years later, in May 1863, while leading his men on an assault of a Confederate battery, Captain Cooke was injured at the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. A bullet struck his right shoulder and lodged against the bone, shattering the arm. Cooke was evacuated to St. James Hospital in New Orleans, where he spent 44 days. He was mustered out on June 22, 1863 and by August of that year had returned aboard ship to New York City, on his way home to Albany.

Captain Cooke wanted to return to military service, but his health would not allow it, nor it seems was he able to return to work with his band or his saloon. In 1867, a newspaper reported that he was “in the most indigent circumstances.” It had been hoped that the Constitutional Convention of 1867 might award him a pension, but that did not happen. Instead, his friends held yet another benefit, this time a concert at Tweddle Hall.

Tweddle Hall, northwest corner of State and Pearl Streets (image credit: Albany Institute of History and Art)

In 1870, Captain John Cooke was appointed a messenger in the Adjutant General’s Office, and he held that position until his death in December 1875. Cooke’s funeral was held at St. Paul’s church on Lancaster Street, the service read by our rector, J. Livingston Reese. The building was crowded with his many friends, and particularly the musical and military groups with which he had been associated. A contemporary newspaper praises the music, both choral and instrumental, which would have been led by our organist and choirmaster, Edward Savage.

St. Paul’s Chancel before 1901

St. Paul’s, Late 19th century

The procession from St. Paul’s to Albany Rural Cemetery must have been very impressive, with uniformed enlisted men and officers of the Ninth Brigade, the 10th and 25th Regiments and the 91st Volunteers, as well as Albany’s Burgesses Corps. Klein’s Band was joined by 45 bandsmen of Doring’s Band and the Albany City and Tenth Regiment Bands. Veterans from Post 21 of the Grand Army of the Republic were represented as well. From St. Paul’s, the process moved west on Lancaster to Swan, north on Swan to State, east on State to Broadway, and thence to the Albany Rural Cemetery. We are told that “[a]ll along the route of the procession the streets were occupied by an immense concourse of people.” Cooke’s tombstone at Albany Rural reads simply “Capt. J. Cooke.”

Captain John Cooke’s tombstone, Albany Rural Cemetery

A final memorial was made to the old veteran the next year, with the publication of “Captain Johnny Cooke’s Grand March,” by James Haydn Waud, organist at Albany’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It is dedicated “to the surviving members of the Albany Brass Band.” The cover displays the only likeness of Captain Cooke that we have been able to find. It shows him late in life, heavily bearded, with his crippled right arm supported in a sling.

“Captain Johnny Cooke’s Grand March,” by J. Haydn Waud

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


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.


From St. Paul’s Church to San Quentin: the Life of William Henry Hill

William Ingraham Kip (portrait attributed to Asa Weston Twitchell )

In his first decade as rector of St. Paul’s, William Ingraham Kip saw three young man enter the ministry from the congregation. We have already spoken of Sylvanus Reed, but the first of these three was William Henry Hill, who was not only an active member of the congregation, but also followed Kip to California. How Hill came to serve eight years at San Quentin Prison is only one of the fascinating things about this son of St. Paul’s Church.

William H. Hill was born in Connecticut in 1816, and came to Albany at age 15. He became a communicant of St. Paul’s in 1839, shortly after Kip arrived here as rector. Hill was soon busy in the life of the parish, particularly as “chorister” (then used to mean the leader of the church choir) intermittently from 1841 until 1845, while the organist was composer Oliver J. Shaw. He also represented the congregation at diocesan conventions in 1844 (during the contentious discussion of the fate of disgraced Bishop Benjamin T. Onderdonk) and again in 1846. During this period, he worked as a reporter and assistant editor for the Albany Evening Journal, owned and edited by the powerful Whig politician Thurlow Weed.

William Henry Hill

William H. Hill became a candidate for ordination in 1844, and was ordained deacon in 1846 and priest the next year. His first pastoral assignment was St. Paul’s, Brownville (Jefferson County, New York), where he served from 1846 until 1851. Interestingly, the Brownville church’s first rector was William Linn Keese, who was also the second rector of St. Paul’s, Albany. William H. Hill was then rector at Zion Church, Morris (Otsego County, New York) from 1851 until 1855.

California Clipper advertisement (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

William Ingraham Kip was elected Missionary Bishop of California in late 1853. A year later, William H. Hill followed him to the far distant west, which was still in the throes of the Gold Rush of 1849—1855.

Nevada City, California about 1856 (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Initially he served the church in Nevada City, and next was rector of Grace Church, Sacramento (where he also served several terms as superintendent of the city schools) from 1856 until 1871. His final parish assignment was at St. Athanasius, Los Angeles from approximately 1871 until 1878.





William H. Hill (San Francisco Chronicle 28 Oct 1896)

Have you been worrying about how Hill came to serve time at San Quentin? Well, you can relax, because he was definitely on the right side of the bars. William H. Hill was chaplain at San Quentin from 1878 until 1885. After a few years as a traveling missionary, he retired to Berkeley, where he died in 1896.

San Quentin Prison (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)




The Windows of St. Paul’s: Advent

As the first in a series of St. Pau’l’s Church windows for the liturgical year, here is the lower panel of the chapel window donated by Donald Shore Candlyn, showing the Annunciation. This window, like all those in the chapel, is the work of Wilbur H. Burnham Studios, in Boston.

The Annunciation: lower panel of the Donald Shore Candlyn window

The Annunciation: lower panel of the Donald Shore Candlyn window