Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick's Cathedral

Overview


Victorian-era divas who were better paid than some corporate chairmen, the boy soprano who grew up to give Bing Crosby a run for his money, music directors who were literally killed by the job-the plot of a Broadway show or a dime-store novel? No, the unique and colorful history of St. Patrick's Cathedral.Since its inception more than 125 years ago, the Cathedral Choir has been considered the gold standard of liturgical music-an example of artistic excellence that has garnered worldwide renown. Yet behind this ...
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Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick's Cathedral

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Overview


Victorian-era divas who were better paid than some corporate chairmen, the boy soprano who grew up to give Bing Crosby a run for his money, music directors who were literally killed by the job-the plot of a Broadway show or a dime-store novel? No, the unique and colorful history of St. Patrick's Cathedral.Since its inception more than 125 years ago, the Cathedral Choir has been considered the gold standard of liturgical music-an example of artistic excellence that has garnered worldwide renown. Yet behind this stately facade lies an intriguing mix of New York history, star secrets, and high-level office politics that has made the choir not only a source of prime musical entertainment but also fodder for tabloids and periodicals across the nation. In this unique and engaging book, readers are treated to a treasure trove of vibrant characters, from opera stars from around the world to the thousands of volunteer singers who brought their own hopes and dreams-and widely varying musical abilities-to the fabled choir.As the city's preeminent Catholic institution, St. Patrick's Cathedral has served one of the most dynamic and diverse communities in the world for well over a century. It has been intimately entwined with the history of New York: a major center of culture in the nation's cultural capital. The Cathedral Choir provides an extraordinary and largely overlooked insight into this history, and in Salvatore Basile's pitch-perfectexploration it becomes a microcosm for the larger trends, upheavals, and events that have made up the history of the city, the nation, and even the world. Basile also illuminates the choir's important role in New Yorkers' responses to some of the most momentous events of the past one hundred years, from world wars to world's fairs, from the sinking of the Titanic to 9/11, as well as its central role in the rituals and celebrations that have made life in the city more joyful-and bearable-for millions of people over the decades.While the phrase church choirusually evokes the image of a dowdy group of amateurs, the phrase Choir of St. Patrick's Cathedralhas always meant something quite different. Salvatore Basile's splendid history shows just how different, and just how spectacular, the music of St. Patrick's is.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

". . . Filled with facts that add to the legend of the Cathedral."-Handing on the Faith

"The story of the music at St. Patrick's Cathedral has now been told in a new and richly detailed book."-Catholic New York

"This fascinating chronicle is not only a history of arguably the most visible Catholic church in the world, but indeed all New York's colorful church music landscape, from the earliest recorded days to the present. Basile's very colorful style makes what could easily be a dry subject into a most enjoyable ride through thick and thin times, grand occasions, countless famous personalities, and of course the ever-present church politics. A must read for any American Catholic church musician!"-Scott Turkington, Director, The Church Music Association of America

"Mr. Basile's tome bulges with facts, anecdotes and legend, beautifully woven into a fine narrative covering the period from 1879 to 2010. Thoroughly researched, well documented and wonderfully written, Basile provides the reader with continuous amazement and hilarity. You will not find a better opportunity to 'read between the lines' than in this book."-McNeil Robinson, Chair of the Organ Department, Manhattan School of Music, Director of Music, Church of the Holy Trinity (Roman Catholic)

"Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick's Cathedral (May, $29.95) by Salvatore Basile examines the 125-year history of its choir."-Publishers Weekly

"Basile's writing style and effortless wit projects New York City's civic, musical and ecclesiastical spirit as only a New Yorker would view it."-Stephen Rapp, Director of Music, St. John's Lutheran Church, Stamford, CT

"Salvatore Basile offers a well-written, engaging history of one of the most important churches in New York City, entwining its narrative with a greater one that encompasses elements of the history of media, culture, and religion on a national scale. He also introduces readers to significant church musicians whose lives and music resonated beyond the walls of the St. Patrick's to liturgical arenas as far away as St. Peter's in Rome."-Denise Gallo, Head of Acquisitions and Processing Section Music Division, The Library of Congress

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823231881
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press
  • Publication date: 4/12/2012
  • Pages: 366
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Salvatore Basile is Cathedral Music Historian as well as a soloist and Senior Cantor of the Cathedral Choir at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He has performed in numerous venues and is a music historian with a vast collection of period recordings.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Timothy M. Dolan Dolan, Timothy M.

Preface

Acknowledgments

1 The Substitute Choirmaster (May 25, 1879) 1

2 Mammon vs. Cecilians (1879-1904) 23

3 Only the Right Men, Only the White List (1904-29) 49

4 "Professor" (1929-43) 93

5 The More Things Change (1943-70) 141

6 Boys and Girls Together (1970-90) 190

7 The Trash Twin of Fifth Avenue (1990-97) 250

8 For the First Time(s) in Cathedral History (1998-) 293

Epilogue? 325

Notes 327

Index 335

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 4, 2010

    MORE THAN JUST MUSIC HISTORY

    I must say that this book amazed me. I was expecting the usual dry history of a well-known institution, but "Fifth Avenue Famous" proved to be a page turner. A whole cross section of New York history, a lot of it the juicy read-between-the-lines variety, with music woven in and out of it.

    The author begins in the nineteenth century before St. Pat's was even built, and unveils the whole crazy music scene in Old New York and the equally crazy characters who inhabited it. As the story accelerates, we learn about the men who were picked to make music at the landmark cathedral and the reader is treated to a look behind the scenes that provides interesting tidbits while carefully skirting actual scandal. That's a neat trick, because with these guys, scandal seems to hover just below the surface. Some of this stuff was flying around the New York rumor mill for years, and now any careful reader in Chattanooga can pick up on "secret affections", alcohol problems, battles with the media, and some really, really dirty office politics. There's also a wild section about one pope's decision a century ago to fire female singers from every church choir everywhere, which made for an international media circus.

    "Fifth Avenue Famous" strikes that rare balance between gossip-mongering and a boring list of facts, and the author balances a wicked sense of fun with a real sympathy for his characters. The book's research is solid, and its facts are presented so entertainingly that casual readers as well as career musicians, and even non-catholics!, will find plenty to interest them.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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