Category Archives: Choir

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)

 

 

 

T. Frederick H. Candlyn Anniversaries 1938 and 1940

This photograph has hung in the robing room for choir men for many years, but we were never sure of the occasion represented, or the names of those pictured, other than T. Frederick Candlyn (St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster 1915 — 1943), who is seated in the center.  Thanks to a scrapbook compiled by parishioner Grace McKinlay Kennedy in 1940, we now know that the photograph was published in the Knickerbocker News for April 22, 1938, with all explained.

1938 Choir Boy Reunion with T.F.H. Candlyn

1938 Choir Boy Reunion with T.F.H. Candlyn

The event was a reunion of former boy choristers, probably occasioned by  the 23rd anniversary of Candlyn’s arrival at St. Paul’s that month.  In addition to Candlyn, those pictured are:

  • Ted Bearup
  • Ed Newcomb
  • Charles Tremper
  • Marion Henry
  • Harold Henry
  • Herbert Devlin
  • James McCammon
  • James Shattuck
  • Harvey Sayles
  • Raymond S. Halse
  • Russell LaGrange
  • Charles Loftus
  • Edward Jackson
  • Laird Robinson

In the same scrapbook, Grace McKinlay Kennedy included this drawing of Candlyn, published in the Knickerbocker News April 20, 1940, on Candlyn’s 25th anniversary at St. Paul’s.

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

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

The scrapbook also explains a photograph of Candlyn that had puzzled us all. It shows Candlyn with George A. Taylor (St. Paul’s rector 1932 — 1948) standing in front of the chancel, with Taylor handing Candlyn what appears to be an umbrella.

Candlyn and George A Taylor, June 1940

Candlyn and George A Taylor, June 1940

This photograph, she tells us, is not from Candlyn’s 25th anniversary as organist and choirmaster. It was taken two months later, in June 1940, when Candlyn was honored for twenty-five years’ perfect attendance at Sunday School.

 

Holy Week 1883: What was St. Paul’s Choir Rehearsing?

We are now half-way through Holy Week, and St. Paul’s choir met last night  for our Easter Sunday dress rehearsal. I thought it might be interesting to take a peak at what Easter repertoire the choir would have been rehearsing more than one hundred years ago.  From the church archives, here is the card showing the Order of Easter Services for March 25, 1883.

Easter 1873_0001Easter 1873_0002

Among composers who can be identified:

  • The processional “Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem” is by George William Warren, born in Albany and organist/choirmaster at St. Paul’s (with a few breaks) from 1848 until 1860.
  • The Te Deum and one hymn are by Dudley Buck (1839 — 1909), a prolific and very popular American composer.
  • The Jubilate was by Wolfgang Josef Emmerig  (1772-1839).
  • The Ascription is the chorus “All Glory to the Lamb that died” from the oratorio “Last Judgment” by German composer Louis Spohr (1784 — 1859).
  • The Offertory is the Gloria from an unnamed Mozart mass.
  • The Evening Service anthem “Hosanna to the Son of David” is probably by the English composer and musicologist Sir George Alexander Macfarren (1813 — 1887).

We do not know the identify of the paid soloists in the quartet choir, or the names of the members of  the larger amateur chorus that would have performed this music. It is certain, however,  that the organist/choirmaster was Thomas Spencer Lloyd, who had served in the role at St. Paul’s since 1865. Unfortunately, this was Lloyd’s last Easter. A week later he fell ill, and he died on April 10, 1883, his 53rd birthday.

T Spencer Lloyd Miniature from AIHA

Thomas Spencer Lloyd Unknown photographer Ambrotype, ht. 3 3/4" x w. 6 1/4" Albany Institute of History & Art Library, HO 81_02, 376

Members of the Chorus — James Mason Sayles and Star of the Evening

128.078.000.webimage

During the nineteenth century, St. Paul’s choirs were dominated by a professional quartet, with a supporting role played by a chorus. We can trace the names and careers of St. Paul’s quartet for most of the century, but there is much less information available about the chorus.

The first chorus in which we can identify individuals was under George William Warren in the late 1850’s. Warren had operated a singing school, and from those students he selected twelve boys to serve as a chorus. We can name three of these boys; while two of the three were Episcopalians, only one of the two had parents who attended St. Paul’s.  This short-lived experiment was the first boy choir in this area, although the Church of the Holy Cross in Troy had had a girls’ choir as early as 1844. St. Paul’s was not to revive the boy choir until 1906.

In the next three decades, we have full choir lists only for the Christmases of 1869 and 1875. The women were quite young: most were single and no older than their mid-twenties. And there were family connections: in each of these years, there was a pair of sisters. The men were slightly older, on average in their early thirties, and more likely to be married. And among both men and women, only a few were members of the congregation.

Among St. Paul’s members in the 1869 choir was a young couple, Carrie Ross Sayles and her husband James Mason Sayles. Carrie, age 29, had been St. Paul’s soprano soloist on and off since 1858. She was an Albany native, and was much in demand as a concert soloist. James, age 32, had been confirmed at St. Paul’s in 1860. The couple had a daughter, also named Carrie, who had been baptized at St. Paul’s in 1867. The young family lived at 309 Hudson Ave.

But James was not just a member of the bass section. When he was not working as a bookkeeper at the National Albany Exchange Bank, he was a busy composer.  You probably don’t know most of his popular songs; When the Roses Bloom,  The Golden Grain Was Waving and The Trumpet Sounds the Challenge all slipped inWhen Roses 001to obscurity a century ago.

His most famous work, Star of the Evening, was a verse he wrote at age 17  in a young lady’s autograph book, and for which he later wrote a melody.  It became an international best-seller, and publication reached fifty editions, including many arrangements. His obituary included this statement:

“This song was sung by all the beaux and belles of 1855 and for years later. All of the music stores in this country and Europe offered it for sale, and William Vincent Wallace wrote variations upon it for the piano. It was sung in countless places of amusement and whistled on the street.”

You might find the chorus of this work familiar, if it were crooned with appropriate Victorian portamento:

Beautiful star, beautiful star

Star of the evening, beautiful, beautiful star

That’s right. James M. Sayles’s “Star of the Evening” is the sentimental song parodied in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when the Mock Turtle sings:

Beau—ootiful soo—oop, Beau—ootiful Soo—oop

Soo—oop of the e— e—evening, Beau—ootiful, Beau—ootiful Soup!

Alice_par_John_Tenniel_34

"Alice par John Tenniel 34". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alice_par_John_Tenniel_34.png#/media/File:Alice_par_John_Tenniel_34.png