Message from the Choirmaster: 2017 Summer Newsletter

A Brief History of the Pipe Organ and Church, by Jesse Ratcliff

The most attention-grabbing object in the church, aside from stained glass windows is the pipe organ. With its commanding appearance and rapturous tone, it’s difficult to ignore. In worship, its primary job is to lead hymns and accompany the choir. The prelude, on the other hand, though not integral to the service, is sometimes the most overlooked role of the organ.

The history of the prelude is extensive, but has always held an important role in regards to worship. In the Baroque era, (1600-1750) Bach utilized the prelude as a means of conveying a chorale/hymn melody to the congregation. He utilized numerous compositional tools to enhance the chorale text.

Continue reading “Message from the Choirmaster: 2017 Summer Newsletter”

History of Saint James’: Organists

In 1982, the late Jeanne Davis compiled personal reminiscences of Saint James’ congregants, mostly elder, as part of a nationwide Episcopal celebration reminding us that our church is a body of people with rich and varied gifts.  The following is taken from these recollections found in “Gifts of the Generations” (St. James’ Church, September 1982).

“Many remembrances of personalities center around the organists and choir members.  Among the organists was Charlotte Holt, daughter of the Rev. George Washington Nelson, Rector 1880-1903.  Also, Dr. Bromley, organist during the early tenure of Mr. Bowden, organized a boys’ choir made up in part of boys from Stuyvesant School.

Continue reading “History of Saint James’: Organists”

Music Ministry Updates from Jesse Ratcliffe

To the people of Saint James’, I give my sincere thanks for the vestry resolution presented to me and the music program last month. It is an honor to serve as organist and music director at Saint James’. I am most grateful for the hard work and dedication of everyone in the adult choir, handbells, and youth chorale as they lift their talents to God to provide inspiration and encouragement to the member s of Saint James’ and beyond.

Continue reading “Music Ministry Updates from Jesse Ratcliffe”

History of Saint James’: The Organ and Other Music

For many, music is at the heart of worship.  The Church’s great occasions and major feasts are enhanced by beautiful music, just as they have been throughout the ages.  God is glorified through the music in our worship, and worshipers may experience a touch of the holy when church music is done well.  Most of us have strong opinions about it, and usually rank it with preaching and ceremonial as important elements in our worship. The Living Church

The Organ – A History


  • 1853 – Saint James’, Culpeper Street – a reed organ           
  • 1870 – Purchase of Baptist Church’s pipe organ in Washington           
  • 1912 – New pipe organ            
  • 1922 – Rebuild of the 1912 organ            
  • 1970 – Overhaul the 1912 organ, expand, and replace console              
  • 1987 – Rebuild, revoicing, and expansion of the 1912 organ           
  • 2011-13 – Major organ renovation

Continue reading “History of Saint James’: The Organ and Other Music”