A Few Musical History Moments at GSL

The Fire

A few weeks ago, Chapman Morrow (Stewardship Associate) was organizing some files in the archives and brought an old article and a book to my office. I’m sure many of you already know, but it was news to me: the article was about Grace Episcopal Church catching fire on November 16, 1893, at Vance and Lauderdale. And the number one suspect: Samuel J. Gilbert, the PARISH ORGANIST!! I could not believe it. As always, I’m sure there was more to the story, he was born in England and had previously worked in New York City, Buffalo, and Boston with a wife and kids remaining in Boston. Seems like a lot of moving around for the late 1800’s! We think our Baptismal Font and a small silver box which was later laid in the cornerstone in the new building were the two artifacts to survive the fire. 

Grace Church Fire

The Book

The book was the “Minute Book of Grace Church Choir Guild, Organized August 14th 1908.” In it were the bylaws of the original Music Guild, programs from choral programs and organ recitals (which began at 8:15PM!!), and also an updated customary of choir rules, among them: being on time for rehearsals, wearing dark shoes under your vestment, and phoning the choirmaster if you were planning to miss a Sunday… I guess some things actually don’t ever change! But some things do, a ledger was kept in the back of the book: an arrangement of flowers cost $2.00, printing of programs for a concert cost $7.00, and ice cream for a choir party cost $1.75. 

Music Book Cropped

The Record

The 78rpm record. When Debbie Smith was serving as interim before my arrival, she was gratefully going through files, music, and books that had been left in the office by at least four former directors of music. She came across a 78rpm record. On one side of it was a recording of “O come, all ye faithful” by the GSL choir on Christmas Eve of 1942. 

O Come Cropped

On the other side were two Bach Organ Chorales with the name of a famous organist written under it, E. Power Biggs. E. Power Biggs was perhaps the most famous and widely known organists of his generation. We’ve tried to find more information about this possible trip to Memphis, but have found very little except these two Bach Chorales. Debbie took this record and had it digitized. We’ve made the recordings available by visiting the GSL website (

OR listen here.

Bach Cropped

Dr. Patrick A. Scott
Director of Music and Organist
901-252-6323 | pscott [at] gracestlukes [dot] org

Posted by Lucy Anne Owens at 00:00