Music at Saint Paul's
In a written reminiscence about the early days of St. Paul's, Alice Broughton Barnes recalls that a Mrs. Lansing was the first organist at the church, and Mrs. Barnes succeeded her. From early photos of the interior of the church, it appears that the instrument they played was a small parlor organ. The first choir consisted of Mary and Elvira Gilman, William Bool, James Fairley, and Mrs. Barnes. (The Gilman ladies and Mrs. Barnes were also among the first persons baptized and confirmed in the parish.) Evidently, music was regarded as a priority. The choir quickly established itself as a fixture in parish life and attracted new members, including, according to Mrs. Barnes, Carrie Fox, Carrie Allen, Emma Gilman, and Albert Broughton.
By the mid-1880s, the parish had set its sights on a proper pipe organ and had the good fortune to acquire the fine 1855 E. & G.G. Hook organ which a parish in Dorchester, Massachusetts, was replacing. This was a significant acquisition, requiring the building of the south transept to house the instrument. For many years, a vested choir sang at services, and had a rehearsal room on the upper floor of Burton Hall. Although the choir disbanded some years ago, the small rural parish continued to have the services of professional organists who welcomed the opportunity to play its historic organ. Through the years, both parish organists and guest organists have offered recitals on this instrument. In May 2004, organist Don Kerr joined with trumpeter Ron Anderson for a concert of organ and trumpet music sponsored by Music from Salem.
In 2003, the parish revived a more fully sung Sunday service. In addition to hymns, the ordinary of the mass is now sung every Sunday, as well as the gradual psalm which is sung antiphonally by cantors and congregation. On greater feasts, the Gospel is chanted. Choral and solo music is also offered occasionally. Parishioners Jared Stamm, Cheryl Miller, John Mielke, and Nancy Jo Davidsen form a small schola cantorum, under the direction of parish organist William Briggs, to sing before and during services.
In November 2004, the parish signed a contract with the A. David Moore Organ Company of North Pomfret, Vermont, for the full restoration of the historic Hook organ. A detailed report on this project may be seen on the Organ Restoration pages. The restored organ was rededicated on the Feast of Pentecost, 2006, and the inaugural recital was played by Mireille Begin Lagacé on June 9th, 2006.