The History of St. Paul's Akron (continued)
Alexander Barr continued as Musical Director until 1904, when Bertha Emery from Lexington took over as director and organist at $50.00 a month. The choirboys continued to sing at morning and evening services, musical programs, and special events. They seem to have presented one or two cantatas each year and special events such as "Twelfth Night Fete- a bit of merrie old England" in January 1906, when they sang "The Walts' Song."
Bertha Emery continued until 1908 when John B. Norton was employed as choirmaster and organist. At this time, the choir was made up of choirboys and adults, both women and men.
In 1909, St. Paul's Parish built a church on the corner of East Market and Fir Streets, adjacent to the parish. The church had a seating capacity of 500, and choir stalls which could accommodate 70. Up to this time the Sunday School building had served as the parish church. As a memorial to his wife, George W. Crouse gave the generous gift of a new pipe organ which was installed in the church. With the installation of this fine organ in the new church many organ recitals were given by John B. Norton and visiting organists from Northeast Ohio. There was often an annual series of seven organ recitals, open to the public, each given after the Sunday evening service on the third Sunday of the month.
After the resignation of John Norton in 1913, Sydney Webber soon assumed the position of choirmaster and organist. He was not only a recital organist but had more than ten years' experience in choir work. He established a choral school for boys. In a newspaper account on April 19, 1913, the following appeared: "It is interesting to note that a regularly organized choral school for boys has been established in St. Paul's parish house, where boys of all ages are trained for the beautiful choral service of the Episcopal church. A very thorough education is given to the boys on the proper production of their voices, the reading of music, and choir and solo singing. The boys go direct to this work from the grade school, and the classes are now meeting four times a week." Vestry Minutes of April also report that the mixed choir was dissolved at this time. The choir was now composed only of boys and men. In November of 1913, St. Paul's Church Bulletin lists 24 trebles, 2 altos, 4 tenors. and 7 basses, as well as a librarian in the choir. This all took place under the rectorship of the Rev. Franklin Cole Sherman.
In the Vestry Minutes of December 1913, it was resolved that "the expenditures for street car tickets and stipend paid the choir boys be limited to a minimum of $25.00 monthly," which averages about $1.00 per choir boy. Church records indicate that Webber had a very disciplined approach to the training of the choirboys. Sydney Webber only stayed one year and was succeeded by John G. Seeley.
Seeley seemed to care about the needs of the choirboys. He emphasized the need for a new parish house so the boys choir could have a room, with adequate space for basketball or other games since there was no gymnasium. He seemed to encourage the choirboys to sing for other organizations. The first mention of the choirboys singing outside of the church was at the Christmas services of the Y.W.C.A. in December 1915. They sang again at the Vesper Service of the Y.W.C.A in 1916 and 1918; also, seven boys sang for the patients of the Springfield Lake Sanatorium in 1918.
Choir of September 1, 1935
Seeley resigned, and Frank E. Fuller took over as choirmaster and organist from 1918 to 1923. He encouraged more men to enter the choir and wrote that "the compelling power of music, and especially of vocal music, has been recognized from the beginning of the world." He evidently restored the practice of paying the choir boys. "The expense of paying them is comparatively trifling, while the inconveniences resulting from not paying them are often serious." Rehearsals for the boys were held every Wednesday afternoon, Thursday evening, and Saturday morning, with a Sunday service at 9:15, Church School at 10:30, a Morning Service, and a 7:15 Evening Service. There was also a special rehearsal for boys who had entered the Choir within the last six months, and for older boys who were interested in the study of the Service, Chants, Psalms, etc. A very heavy schedule for young boys between the ages of nine and twelve!! Fuller installed a new system of rules regarding rehearsals, making parents responsible to return cards if their son was absent from rehearsals.
The full choir of men and boys joined other choirs on Armistice Day in 1920 and sang at the Akron Armory, commemorating both the Armistice and the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. The chorus of several hundred sang Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" and other selections. The combined choirs of St. Paul's and St. Paul's Church, Canton, gave a rendition of the Sacred Cantata, "Gallia" by Charles Gounod at both churches in 1921.
Evidently, Fuller's tenure was cut short by illness, and Orland Mitchell became choirmaster and organist from late 1923 to 1925. Little information is available from the Archives, St. Paul's Parish Visitor, or the scrapbooks during his term.
Ellis C. Varley took over the post of Choirmaster and Organist in 1925 and continued until 1936. He further developed the music program at St. Paul's by exposing the Men and Boys Choir to community engagements. The Choir went to Cleveland in 1926 during the early days of radio and broadcast a Christmas program over WHK. The excellence of the choir was being recognized. Four Episcopal choirs from Akron and environs gave a combined concert at St. Paul's in 1926. A sacred music concert, open to the public, was given at Central High School auditorium, and the Choir also broadcast during the "Sky Pilot" radio hour over Station WFJC in 1929.
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