Emmanuel Church has always valued music. Music appropriations in the 1860s started at nearly $3,000 per year and rose to $4,000 in 1897, $7,000 by 1904, and $8,500 by 1911. Lists of salaried workers in church yearbooks from 1883-1917 usually included three organists, and the number of salaried choir members ranged from 55 to 75. Early vestry minutes record discussions about arranging for a Hook organ even before building funds had been completely raised.
Frederic Dan Huntington, first rector of Emmanuel Church from 1860-1869, edited two hymnals and wrote hymns. His daughter Ruth Huntington Sessions, mother of composer Roger Sessions, studied music in Leipzig in the 1880s and
described services at Emmanuel in her 1936 autobiography Sixty Odd:
When we got into the Rector's pew, just under the pulpit, we all went down on our knees, and as we were very punctual but not ahead of time, that was usually the exact moment when the processional march wound up and the organ quieted down to slow soft chords, then came to a stop. An instant's silence followed. Then from far off, as if he were up among the stars, Father's voice rang out declaring, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." That turned the place into a Holy of Holies. Afterward all the music seemed worshipful, although it must be conceded that most of the church music of the day was inferior. But we didn't know that. Only now and then could we get a fine English anthem or a solo from a really great oratorio. When we did have that happiness, it was imprinted indelibly on our memories. I can hear Annie Louise Cary [1841-1921], a famous contralto who began her career in Emmanuel choir, as she sang Mendelssohn's "O Rest in the Lord" to a rapt congregation.
Under Rector Leighton Parks (1878-1904), a Committee on Music, consisting of the Rector and one or two vestry members was established by 1890. Heinrich Schuecker, harp and Edith Jewell, violin players from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, began accompanying the choir in 1902. The 1905 Emmanuel Church Yearbook listed Mr. Heinrich Schuecker as harpist and Mr. Adolph Bak as violinist. Emmanuel choir festivals sang an annual Bach cantata from 1901-1908. Parks resigned from Emmanuel in 1904 to go to St. Bartholomew's Church in New York, where he hired Leopold Stokowski as organist and choir director in 1905. The St. Barts choir had a vocal quartet and fifteen sopranos, nine altos, six tenors, nine basses, a harpist, and occasionally a violin. Their 1895, Boston-built, Hutchings organ was at that time the largest in America. Stokowski began with a $13,000 music budget, which rose to $19,000 within three years. His chorus and soloists learned parts from Bach's St. Matthew's Passion in his first New York season and gave one of the earliest American performances of the entire work in 1907.
Debates about the appropriateness of professional church musicians are not new. In 1892, S.B. Whitney maintained: 
||In the days when quartette choirs prevailed, there seemed to be a general complaint that the choir appropriated the entire music of the services, so that the congregation was obliged to remain silent, even in the singing of the hymns…. The question as to how much of the musical part of the services the choir can justly appropriate to itself is one which is constantly recurring, and so much has been written about this whole matter of congregational singing, that it is only necessary to dwell upon it for a moment. It ought never to be forgotten that the office of music in religious worship is twofold, not only to express but also to excite devotion; and the devout worshipper can often be moved and made better as much by hearing an anthem as a sermon.…There can be no greater model for a church service than Bach's Passion Music, written as it is for trained soloists, a trained chorus, and the great congregation, when those mighty chorales occur, in which each and every worshipper is supposed to join, thus making a service in which all the known resources of the musical art are brought into play.
Elwood Worcester, rector of Emmanuel from 1904-1929, wrote in his report in the 1908 Yearbook: “Through the kindness
of a member of the congregation we are to have this year the services of a very talented young violinist on Sundays when
our regular accompanists are obliged to be absent. In my opinion, the addition of a good cello would greatly improve our
Arthur Sewall Hyde, Organist & Choirmaster from 1905-1908, reported, “A full choir of fifty boys and men sung on all Sundays
from Oct 2, 1904 to June 25, 1905.” Hyde also worked with parishioner composer Amy Beach to present a number of
her compositions. She exclaimed in a 1914 interview:
||Ah, Bach! I don’t mind calling him my idol of idols among composers. And his day is not even yet fully come. Do you remember how Chopin used to play nothing but Bach for a whole day before he gave a piano recital?” … Some time I believe the day is coming when I shall play nothingelse but Bach....What he has said musically cannot be repeated.
Hyde became organist and choirmaster at St. Bartholomew's in New York in 1908, working again with former Rector Leighton Parks and composer Amy Beach.
Lynwood Farnham, organist from 1912-1918, who also performed a number of Amy Beach's compositions, maintained: "Bach is
an easy first, evergreen and inexhaustible. The longer I live, the more wonderful he becomes ."(2) The Lynnwood Farnam Society notes that Farnam’s
"complete organ works of Bach series in 1928-1929 [in New York] was the first truly complete Bach series to be finished
in the world. It was so popular that he had to play each program at least twice. He also championed contemporary organ
music, especially from France. He was close friends with Marcel Dupré and Charles Tournemire.” (3)
The 1912 Choirmaster's Report says: "In the spring I started what should be in time an interesting and useful addition to the musical
library of the church, namely, a musical reference library containing examples of most of the best known oratorios and
sacred cantatas, the service music and anthems most in use, and bound programs of the services of Emmanuel Church
from 1900 to the present day." Our senior wardern, Peter Johnson, says scores from that time are still in Emmanuel's collection.
Rector Elwood Worcester, wrote of Weston Gale's retirement in 1913 and the choice of Lynnwood Farnam to succeed
him in 1914:
||We sustained a severe loss during the year in the retirement of Mr. Gales from the conduct of our music,
to which he had given himself, body and soul, for five years...I think I am voicing the sentiment of all our people when I
say that the Music Committee was well guided in the choice of Mr. Farnam as Mr. Gales' successor, and I hope that the
difficult problem of music and of the character of our services has been settled for years to come. I have never known a
congregation so appreciative of music as ours. A great many of our people are musical and very sensitive to the music<
performed in the church service....As an organ player, Mr. Farnam has few equals.
Boston Symphony Orchestra [BSO] harpist Alfred Holy joined violinist Adolph Bak in accompanying the choir that year.
The Report of the Organist and Choirmaster in the 1917 Yearbook said: “The past season has been one of unusual interest. Among the choral works sung were...a selection from Bach's "St. John" Passion, a new Cantata Domino and Deus Misereatur by Mrs. Beach, and a notable number of unaccompanied works (including several of the Russian school)”. Worcester wrote of the new organ: "The organ is the greatest musical instrument human genius has created. It is capable of inspiring every noble emotion, whether of joy or sorrow, of tenderness or adoration. It was the instrument of Johann Sebastian Bach, and through it his holy voice still speaks to Christendom."
Albert Williams Snow [d. 1939], Emmanuel Organist 1918-1938, taught organ at New England Conservatory and performed with the BSO. In 1936, the 75th anniversary of the Church's founding included music composed by parishioner Amy [Mrs. HAA] Beach and an anthem composed by organist and choirmaster Dr. Albert Snow. A special musical service on Dec 20, 1936, featured the choirs of Emmanuel and Trinity Churches including a Bach prelude, Martin Shaw anthem, Cesar Franck psalm, West's Magnificat in E Flat, anthems by Wesley and Brahms, Whiting's Te Deum and an organ recital.
Bach’s St. John Passion, was sung on Palm Sunday 1953 conducted by Grover Oberle, organist 1946-1958.
Craig Smith came to New England Conservatory in the Fall of 1967 and began singing in the choir's tenor section. He was appointed Precentor in 1968 and Music Director in 1970. The service leaflet for Feb 15, 1971, says:
||An entire cantata by JS Bachnis a regular part of our services until Easter, both at 11:15 on Sundays and 5:30 pm on Thursdays. The enthusiastic responses to the Cantatas done so far is an inspiration to all the persons who work so hard to undertake such an
incredible program … An isolated Cantata is performed now and again at a special church service or as a concert piece. But this series is unique in our time; the use of the cantatas as Bach intended -- as an integral part of regular congregational services of worship. The instrumentation being used is exactly that originally called for by Bach - with one exception. Mr. Smith is using a harpsichord as more nearly approximating the small but brilliant organ that Bach used in his own parish.
Carolyn Roosevelt is writing the 150th anniversary history of Emmanuel Church, which will include Emmanuel Music. The
Centennial (1960) history is a wonderful document, but we’ve found a number of interesting aspects of music through
the years it didn’t cover. Emmanuel Church and the Handel & Haydn Society, Boston Cecelia, and Bach Cantata Club
Emmanuel Staff and parishioners show up in the history of other Boston musical institutions.
- Original pew owner Matthew
S. Parker was part of a group of Boston merchants and
musicians eager to improve the level of available music, who founded the Handel and Haydn Society in 1815. Parker, who was the first Secretary, then Treasurer and Trustee, served for over 46 years.
- Stone Thompson, Emmanuel organist and choirmaster 1939-1945, was Artistic Director of Handel & Haydn from 1927-1959.
- Fifty Emmanuel choristers sang in the St. Matthew Passion with the Boston Cecelia in 1911.
- The Bach Cantata Club was founded in 1929. Walter Raymond Spalding, who was Emmanuel Choirmaster & Organist from 1898–1900, described it: “The chorus consists of about a hundred voices, mostly graduates of Harvard and Radcliffe. The aim of the club is to present works of the caliber and length of Bach cantatas, and gives its
concerts in a church where the music, which was never meant for a concert platform, may have its natural surroundings....The Club's own concerts have been given at St. Paul's Cathedral and Emmanuel Church in Boston, and in the Fogg Museum in Cambridge.(4)
1. S. B. Whitney, Surpliced boy choirs in America. The New England Magazine 8(2), April 1892, available at http://anglicanhistory.org/music/whitney_surpliced.html. For his portrait and further text, see http://www.boychoirs.org/library/history/hist004.html.
2. A Chat with Lynnwood
Farnam, The Musical Times 966 (August 1, 1923): 543.
3. Lynwood Farnam Brief Biography, available at http://home.istar.ca/~butlers/lfs_bio.htm.
4. Walter Raymond Spalding, Music at Harvard: A Historical Review of Men and Events. New York: Coward-McCann, 1935.