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Historical Music Notes and Organists of Church of the Holy Comforter from the Fr. Miltenberger Book
Excerpted and Compiled by Candace Bawcombe
1943 - Mr. Keskeys retired as organist. (He had been recruited by the Parish to immigrate to Cleburne from England to take the position of Organist/Choirmaster). We will hear more about Mr. Keskeys in future notes.
In 1943, the position was filled by Mrs. Vestal Wright, who was organist until her health forced her to retire in 1968. For many years she was ably assisted by Mrs. Bakewell, wife of the Rector, Fr. Bakewell. The rector and congregation reluctantly acceded to her request. Not only had she provided good music with devotion, but she and Mr. Wright had cared for the pipe organ and the electronic organ during the 25 years. (I would deduct from this statement that Mr. & Mrs. Vestal Wright were passionate about music and were the principal donors to all the maintenance issues regarding the organs for years). At this point we should pay tribute to the two organists whose gift of the time and talent covers nearly 70 years of the parish's life, Mrs. Wright & Mr. Keskeys. We who are the beneficiaries are prone to forget the many hours of preparation which are necessary for the Sunday services as well as other occasions. This was brought home to the present rector when, arriving early for his first service, he found Mrs. Wright already at the organ preparing her music. Equally fine and devoted was the singing of Dr. Gerstenkorn who retired from the choir in 1969 after more than 50 years. When the Bakewells' daughter, Mrs. Robert A. Stewart, came to Cleburne, she added her lovely voice to the choir, and she continued to be a source of strength and inspiration to the other members of the choir and to the current organist during her childhood.
October 23, 1954.
"By authority of the rector and vestry, we submit the following to the communicants of the Church of the Holy Comforter:
Around the 'turn of the century,' our church was presented a pipe organ by Mrs. T. Lawrence, in memory of her departed husband, for many years a prominent Cleburne merchant. Emblematic of her faithfulness, the organ has served over a long period of time. However, since nothing lasts, the old organ has come to the end of its period of usefulness, and must be replaced.
We are sure no one will question the statement that, since music is a large part of our service, there can be no question but that it is necessary for us to get together and all do our part in making possible the replacement of the old organ just as soon as it consistently can be done. In fact, it is hoped that a new organ can be installed immediately following the laying of the carpet so generously presented by Mr. and Mrs. Jimmie Young.
After due investigation from all angles, it has tentatively been decided to purchase an electric organ which will cost, installed, approximately $3,500.00. We have on hand about $600.00 and are hoping this will be increased to $1500.00 shortly, so down payment can be made and organ installed. The balance will have to paid within not more than two years.
The idea of a memorial book has been conceived, and it is proposed that the installation of the book be make concurrent with that of the organ. This book is to show the names of the donors in the past of all furnishings presernted to the church, such as the cross, litany desk, etc., and the names of the loved ones in whose memory presented. This book will, in the future, contain the names of any one contributing, including any who donate toward the organ in any amount of $100.00 or above, with the understanding that, including down payment and pledged, it is paid within two years. This book will be prominently displayed in the church, under glass, so it can be viewed at any time by any one.
It should be understood that, aside from the organ, our church must operate and progress as usual, and that any pledges or cash payments made toward the organ should be considered over and above our regular church pledge.
If prayerfully and conscientiously we apply ourselves to the task at hand, we shall get the job done; but to accomplish it we must all do our part. A follow-up personal solicitation will follow where necessary.
'All things come of thee O Lord; and of thine own have we given thee.'
Mrs. Vestal Wright
February 24, 1872
The Episcopalians immediately identified themselves with the cultural, civic, and civil affairs of the town. James W. Brown was County Attorney in 1868. Mr. Lawrence (Linda Wallace spoke of him on Sunday) was an early alderman. Several member (Episcopalians) of the group were among the founders of a Philharmonic Society. The purpose of the group was the cultivation and improvement for scientific musical taste and talent among members. Officers are listed. As soon as it was formed, it began to give benefit performances for the Episcopal Sunday school and church and for the Methodist church. Admittance was 25 cents. Page 15.
The Sunday School had a Xmas Tree and Concert on Xmas Eve, in which the Philharmonic Society was invited to participate.
The Sunday School of the Episcopal Church intend having a Xmas tree and Concert combined, on Wed evening next at the Court House. The Cleburne Brass Band will play…. The concert will commence at half past 6, and will consist of Songs by the Sunday School, Songs, Duets, Quartetts, and Choruses by the Philharmonic Society, and Music by the String Band. Santa Claus will appear. The Xmas Tree will be free to all to hang presents on for their friends.
A bazaar was opened during the holidays, where the various articles donated will be placed for sale. $246 was raised at the Bazaar. The Cleburne Brass Band played. Page 19
Episcopal Sabbath School - Saturday night the ladies of the Episcopal Church held their Sociable at the new church building (Henderson & Robinson) entertaining the visitors with sweet music, both sacred and secular, and serving them with ice cream and cake. The proceeds will be applied to aid in the completion of the interior of the building. Page 20
March 8, 1875 Bishops’ notes
The Singing was warm and sympathetic---full of heart and Spirit.
March 9, 1875
The singing was as before, excellent.
Cleburne Visitation: Feb. 12, 1875
Organ – Value $400 (So, they had some kind of organ in the old church.) Page 24.
Mr. Thomas Lawrence, had a jewelry store on the first floor of the Cleburne House. He and his wife boarded at the hotel but he had rooms down the street in the building which he later occupied for his store. They were extremely nice to ask me down to play games in the evenings. He was the bass in the choir; Mr. Ransone, tenor; Mrs. Mary Lowry was organist and soprano, and I sang alto. (described by Mrs. Ada H. Tracy Timms). Page 28 First mention of an organist. The Music at the Festival Wednesday night was good but the songs by Miss Ludy Nash was better. Entertainment, singing, ice cream social. $30 raised for the purpose of helping the poor and destitute. Later in the year a concert was held in the Music Hall (?) on Dec. 29. 1880. A review appears. Page 31.
1911 Page 34
Mrs. Lowery’s concert for the benefit of the Episcopal church, in Cleburne, was in all respects a grand success. We have heard Mrs. Lowery’s singing very highly extolled. We trust she may favor the public with another treat of her exquisite musical powers.
1911 Page 35
During the first 20 years after the organization of the congregation there were several organists. Miss Willie Kerr may have been the first. Mrs. D. T. Bledsoe a member of the Roman Catholic church also played the organ. Mrs. Lowery (later Mrs. D. S. Ross of Fort Worth) was organist as was Mrs. Hutcheson, Mrs. Timms played the organ for the Sunday school then Miss May Lorance (Mrs. A. C. Scurlock) was organist, then Mrs. Reeves (who received a salary from the Ladies Guild); also J. A. Lindgren, Miss Flavia Hall (Mrs. John D. Waring) and Mrs. J.R. Ransone, Jr. Mrs. Timms indicated in a previous quotation the make-up of the choir.
more to come . . . .