The History of St. Paul's Akron (continued)

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The organ at the church on East Market Street was rebuilt and enlarged in 1930 as a memorial to Mr. and Mrs. George W. Crouse by their children. This encouraged more organ recitals which led to a Sunday afternoon program with a half hour organ recital followed by a one hour choir musical program. From the time Varley became choirmaster, a Christmas Carol Service was held on Christmas Eve at 8:00 p.m.; this carol service was later repeated during the holidays. Also, a Midnight Service at 11:00 p.m. was started with a 15 minute organ recital preceding the service.

The Reverend Walter F. Tunks became rector in 1930. He seemed to have a high esteem for the Choir, for during Lent in 1931 the choir sang the sacred cantata "Olivet to Calvary" by J. H. Maunder. Dr. Tunks said: "I am happy on this occasion in Mid-Lent, to give over the sermon time, in order that the choir may have the opportunity of presenting this splendid music." Under Varley, the 35-40 boys in the choir came from several denominations and from all parts of the city as well as Springfield Lake, Cuyahoga Falls and Kenmore. There were at least three rehearsals a week, with the Choir singing the Sunday Service and a special musical program once a month. Two former boy choristers recall receiving a monthly envelope with the payment of 14 cents per rehearsal and a special bonus of 50 cents for solos. This is the way it was in the 1930s!

A special Concert was held at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland in 1933 at the American Guild of Organists' National Convention. Six boys' choirs performed from northern Ohio. "It is the first time so many choirs will have been brought together to sing at one time," said Varley. (Akron Beacon Journal, June 4, 1933)

In 1935, the 100th Anniversary of St. Paul's Church, the Men and Boys Choir played an important part in the church's centennial celebration. At this time, the male choir was composed of 42 boys and 15 men. Dr. Walter F. Tunks offered this tribute in the celebration: "Let us carry on with the pride of the noble past, and the confidence of a great future."

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Ralph E. Clewell, Choirmaster, with choirboys, 1965

Ralph E. Clewell replaced Varley as choirmaster in 1936. Clewell was Director of Music at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson and Choir Director at St. Paul's, Canton. Clewell worked through the public schools to recruit boys for choir membership. In addition to working on the repertoire for the year, the boys were required to study music theory and learn to sight-read music. Public school teachers were invited once a year to a Vesper Service as appreciation of their help and to hear some of "their boys" sing. Every year some of the boys sang Christmas carols at Children's Hospital. Clewell often composed his own descant arrangements for the choir when he was unable to find an arrangement.

Since Clewell was on the faculty at Western Reserve Academy he organized an Annual Spring Music Festival in Hudson where the Boys Choir sang with the Academy Glee Club. This was later enlarged to include the men of the choir, the Hudson Congregational Church Choir, the Festival Orchestra, Academy Orchestra, musician friends, and perhaps a String Ouartette from Western Reserve University or Kent State University. There were also joint concerts of choir members from St. Paul's and the Academy, singing in Hudson or Akron.

The Men and Boys Choir sang at the prominent wedding of Martha Parke Firestone and William Clay Ford in July 1947. The earliest record of the Men and Boys Choir singing at a wedding was in 1932 at the wedding of a past curate of the church John D. Zimmerman.

Starting in 1950, the full choir participated in the CBS nationwide program "Church of the Air" over ADC. The rector's sermon, followed by the offertory hymn, was broadcast. The choir recorded "Hear My Prayer" by Felix Mendelssohn and other favorites of the congregation in 1951(78 rpm), at the request of Raymond C. Firestone. He later donated two records to each choir boy. This was the first known recording of the choir.

Prizes of merit for first year choir boys completing music theory were awarded. A "code of Ethics" was written by tile choir boys, and leaders were chosen to supervise game time before and alter rehearsals. There were now annual pool and checker tournaments, as well as touch football and basketball.

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Copyright 2001 Larry Ford All rights reserved
This page was last modified on 15 September 2002