It was not until the year 1873 that the present writer paid his first visit to the Church of the Holy Cross and to the Rectory which stands by its side. There he was impressed first of all by an unfailing hospitality. There too he breathed a pleasant atmosphere, that of a home where the priest dwelt in the midst of music and pictures.
Acquaintance was made with the Church building, both as to exterior and interior. The first suggestion conveyed by the structure was the flavor of an old-world existence, also of a style of Churchmanship representing culture and religion.
Conducted into the school by its pastor and chief instructor, the visitor was introduced to a class of bright girls gathered about a grand piano. One of the teachers took a seat at the instrument, to play an accompaniment. Doctor Tucker, by means of a baton, conducted the singing of one of the exercises by Concone. These well-known compositions have been made use of, in many localities, for the cultivation of the solo voice. Here they were applied to the vocal training of a large class, and with eminent success. The unison was delivered smoothly as by a single well-trained soprano, the intonation was true and the phrasing just. The singing of that exercise is remembered vividly even to this day.
After a return to the Rectory, there was afforded an illustration of the playfulness which welled up in the every-day life of the Rector.
It has been said that he, early in life, made choice of an ascetic career. Distinctly and resolutely, he did renounce the pomps and vanities of the world. But he was never an ascetic in disposition. He was a happy man himself, and he cared more than all else to make other people happy.
The example referred to occurred in the way of table talk. For some cause the conversation had turned upon the administration of Baptism in Church. Speaking of the deportment of babies under the circumstances, Doctor Tucker remarked in passing that he had noticed this: that if infants cried at all, they were accustomed to begin just when he would reach that part of the service which told them that they were to "hear sermons."
Another visit and a Sunday spent in Troy brought further disclosure of the interest attaching to the work. Along in the seventies, some of the best men singers were engaged to help only at the Choral Evensong on Sunday afternoons. These would drop in after morning service, to take part in a full rehearsal. At such a practising-time it was that I received first suggestion of the "swelling anthems "as sung by the famous choir.
At Evensong I made further discovery about the basis of that fair fame.
The Choral Service was impressive, pure, and round-toned. Manifestly it meant praise. There was a trace of independency about the method of the Choral use, owing no doubt to the fact that the Church was a pioneer, starting out with no traditions. For example, not only in Gregorian tones, but at the beginning of the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, there was no "Priest's intonation"; cleric and choir began together, "full" at once. At the time, the choir was using the Helmore Psalter. The delivery of the psalms was unhurried, thoughtful, and reverential.
But especially notable was the music of anthems, now soft and persuasive, now rising into a rolling-tide of vocal harmony, a solid and satisfying reverberation of chords. There never was anything else just like it.
The quality of tone, loud or gentle, was always musical. The altos were phenomenally rich and effective. Both sopranos and altos, and they were many, sang with voices fresh and yet mature. One must think perforce about the cultivation of tone and of its unusual effectiveness. The results of skilful training were evident in every note. Yet the art was concealed; no chorus singing was ever more spontaneous and unshackled.
The voice culture of the choristers and the musicianship of their reverend instructor found their peculiar province in that part of the service devoted to the anthem. It will be remembered that this Church started in the one way--assigning a prominent position to the standard composition of florid music. So it has continued without variation, and so it gave example to the Church in all America, as influential as the other initial suggestions about Choral use, or the surplice in the pulpit, or flowers over the altar, or the Offertory as an act of worship.
At a later day, when Bishop Doane wrote a brief introduction to a pamphlet containing the words of anthems, he gave testimony about the singing of standard compositions at the Holy Cross.
Dr. Warren at my request has made the following selections' of anthems from those in use of late years at the Church of the Holy Cross in Troy. I have greatly desired that our Cathedral use should take its flavor from this most dear and sacred place, which has been the fons et origo of Choral worship in the American Church; of whose beloved foundress Dr. Warren carries on the name and the benefactions; and where my dear friend and brother Dr. Tucker has ministered for so many years, pattern of Priests and pioneer of Precentors.
As I left the place, I recalled a phrase of the same Bishop, occurring in an address, in which he speaks of the "lovely Evensong of the Holy Cross."
Is it any wonder that Doctor Tucker was accustomed to boast of his girls? Indeed it seemed to be only by virtue of Christian fortitude that he could tolerate any other sort of choir. I remember one morning in Albany, at the temporary Chapel of All Saints, when the first Cathedral choir was yet new and little trained.
As was their custom, the boys were in the chapel, practising for the daily Choral Evensong. They had just rehearsed the Psalter, to be sung that afternoon. Immediately after, I went out into the chapter room, where Doctor Tucker happened to be waiting. lie spoke of the progress made by the new choir, and in particular of their success in chanting, mentioning their unanimity and distinctness in the enunciation of the words. "But," said he, "they sound like cats. All boys' voices sound like cats," He was thinking of his girls at Holy Cross.
The healthful popularity of the incumbent was not subject to change or diminution. Somewhere about 1874 he received a call to accept the charge of St. Paul's parish in Troy. The invitation conveyed an especial compliment, as it was addressed to one, resident in the midst of this people during thirty years; it issued, too, from the mother Church of the region. It was thought for a time that Doctor Tucker would accept. He had the matter under serious consideration. Some of his own parishioners were so sure of his going that they made application at St. Paul's to secure pews, so that they might be ready to follow their shepherd.
This was one of the many calls to other posts of usefulness. Besides those already mentioned, invitations were extended by the parishes of the Advent in Boston; St. John's, Washington, also by the authorities at Nashotah, seeking a successor for the lamented Dr. De Koven. Moreover, far back at the beginning of the Troy rectorship, it was given out by Major Tucker that his son was soon to go to Dr. Muhlenberg, to labor with him in New York City.
Between the mother parish in Troy and the daughter upon the hill there has always existed a kindly feeling. The circumstances connected with the origin of the latter, of its going out from the parent hive, were indicative not of strife or contrariety, but of a religion pure and undefiled.
The St. Paul's people always cherished for Doctor Tucker himself an admiration second only to that prevalent among his own parishioners. The sentiment came to the surface when there was an informal celebration of the fortieth anniversary of his Rectorship.
At Christmas time in the year 1884 there happened a "Surprise Party." The Doctor had no premonition of the celebration in so far as it related to himself. He was completely surprised.
The report of "A Notable Christmas" may be quoted from a newspaper of the day, dated December, 1884:
One of the most noteworthy of the Christmas gatherings that have taken place this season was the Christmas-tree celebration at the Mary Warren Free Institute, Christmas eve, commemorating, as it did, the fortieth anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Tucker's pastorate over the Church of the Holy Cross. Although appreciating Dr. Tucker's well known aversion to anything like ostentatious parade, yet the trustees of the school individually determined that an occasion that rounded so unusually long and successful a ministry should not pass unnoticed. At their request the Bishop of the Diocese kindly accepted their invitation to be their representative, and accordingly on Wednesday evening at the school-room of the Mary Warren Free Institute, where the pupils of the school and a large number of the congregation and the friends of the Messrs. Warren had assembled. Bishop Doane presented to Dr. Tucker, in behalf of the trustees, elegant and unique testimonials, in solid silverware, of their love and affection for their revered Rector. The Bishop prefaced his remarks by alluding to his being the representative of Albany, which was originally settled by the Dutch, whose patron saint was St. Nicholas, and that he therefore was the direct representative of that good saint, a most happy fact in view of the pleasant task before him. He also paid a high tribute to Dr. Tucker for the good he had done during his long connection with the Holy Cross Church. He said that as a Bishop one of the most discouraging as well as unpleasant features of his work was the oft-recurring changes between pastor and people, and that, therefore, he felt most strongly the force of the occasion they were then commemorating. After the presentation and Dr. Tucker's reply, in which he alluded also to the Bishop and claimed the honor of having first associated his name in connection with the bishopric, another surprise was in waiting for Dr. Tucker, for the Rev. Dr. Harison came forward and in a very happy preface presented the Doctor a massive silver "loving cup"--a poculum caritatis--a gift from the Vestry and Wardens of old St. Paul's Church. Dr. Tucker in his reply referred to the early history of the Church of the Holy Cross as an off-shoot from St. Paul's, and feelingly alluded to Mrs. Mary Warren, the founder of the former Church, paying a most affectionate tribute to her memory. Nathan B. Warren acknowledged the tribute paid to his mother. After the singing of carols, bountiful gifts were distributed to the scholars from a beautiful Christmas tree, when the assemblage departed, all wishing the Doctor a very merry Christmas and very many of them, in which wish the community heartily joins. Dr. Tucker also received a number of costly gifts from members of the congregation.
Mrs. H. C. Lockwood, parishioner and friend, was absent, detained on account of sickness; she sent her own greeting in the form of a poem, which made so strong an impression that I have heard it spoken of to this day.
Five years later brought on another celebration retrospective in its character. Then it was that the Trojans kept the one hundredth anniversary of the naming of their city.
On "Church Night," at a great public meeting held in Music Hall, Doctor Tucker was one of the speakers. That which he had to say is of enduring interest--as follows:
Mr. Chairman, My Reverend Brethren of the Clergy and Fellow-Citizens of Troy; Some men have honors thrust upon them. The honors which I bear this evening have grown upon me, like the ivy upon the Church wall. No one, I fancy, would covet or claim the honors which are conferred only by the lapse of years. As a minister of the Gospel, I have gone preaching the kingdom of God among you for nearly fifty years--not a century plant, but something more than a semi-century plant. I am not to the manor--Van der Heyden manor--born, but am an adopted citizen of Troy, "a citizen "in the language of St. Paul, as I feel, "of no mean city."
Why have I stayed here so long? Why have I resisted the alluring solicitations of occupying "a larger field of usefulness?" Because I love my work, and my faithful, generous fellow-workers at Holy Cross, and because my feelings have helped my conscience, and every year I have grown less willing to sever ties of friendship which bind my heart with the hearts of my fellow-citizens who have so generously extended to me since the first welcome their affection, sympathy and regard, and I am glad that I have been allowed to stay long enough to be with you on this joyous occasion, when we are celebrating the naming of our city. This is a matter of interest to us all. But what, I ask, is the naming of a city in comparison with the incident of giving a name to the richest, most generally enlightened and principal nationality in the world? The familiar synonym, wherever the English language is spoken, of the United States, "Uncle Sam," originated in this city on Mount Ida or along our wharfs in the year 1812, where the provisions for the army, which were marked "U. S.," were facetiously said to stand for "Uncle Sam"--Uncle Sam Wilson, one of the inspectors of military stores that passed through this city.
But this is wandering beyond my province. When I came to this city there were three Episcopal Churches. We have now seven, wit1! a large and growing interest in the*Cathedral of All Saints, Albany. Among my clerical associates and pastoral friends four have been elevated to the Episcopate, Scarborough, Starkey, Worth-ington and Potter, the Bishop of New York, once so closely and dearly associated with St. John's parish; and who, from his elevated position, might seem now to rank as metropolitan of our Church in this country. Dr. Van Kleeck, for many years Rector of St. Paul's parish, through faithful and efficient service as a parish priest, was promoted to the more arduous and prominent position of secretary of our Board of Domestic Missions. Rev. Dr. Fairbairn, for years Rector of Christ Church, is now President of St. Stephen's College, Annandale; and there, by his talents, tact and energy, has acquired for himself and college, distinction and public esteem. Dr. Eliphalet Potter, President of Hobart College, who, with personal traits and gifts that win affection and respect, bears, along with his brother, the Bishop of New York, a "clarum et venerabile nomen" may be regarded as the founder of the free Church of St. Barnabas. Dr. J. Pelham Williams, late Rector of St. Barnabas', who recently left us with regrets and good wishes, is a brother honored for his scholarly attainments, genial converse, and the faithful maintenance of his opinions and convictions. And here I have to recall the names of Drs. Walter and Cox, once Rectors of St. John's, the deep theologian and sharp controversialist Dr. Coit, the faithful, hardworking Hanson, a man who, by his knowledge of canon law and zealous energy, belonged to the Church at large rather than to St. Paul's parish.
St. Paul's Church, which we fondly call our mother Church, like the eastern banyan tree, has dropped her branches, and those branches are growing up into good and stately trees; while the old mother Church herself seems to renew her youth and blossoms forth in "the beauty of holiness," and her boughs are richly graced with "the fruits of the Spirit."
St. John's Church is closely identified with the first enterprise of the Episcopal Church in the foreign field. . . .
In this city was introduced the Choral service through the energy and liberality of my worthy friend and parishioner, Dr. Nathan B. Warren, a name identified with the progress and improvement of ecclesiastical music in this country.
Here was established the first or second missionary Church in our communion. Here was the first observance of Saints' days and the Festival of the Ascension. Here the first Episcopal minister preached in a surplice. Here were first heard in one of our Churches the old Gregorian tones. I might refer to other novelties, as they were once called, introduced in this city, and which are now well-established usages throughout our communion. The name of Troy has been wafted by a tide of sacred melody over oceans to the Azores, Japan, Greece and Rome, and brought back a cheering response even from the Lord High Chancellor of England, the author of the "Book of Praise."
By reason of circumstances I feel as if I stood here this night as a kind of representative man among the ministers of Troy. We, as I proudly and boldly claim, are the guardians of the palladium of Troy. When the wily Greeks captured and destroyed that sacred image of Pallas, the patroness of Ilium, Troy fell. The palladium of our city and country is the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. For that religion is the safeguard of our civil rights and social blessings. The clergy are the sworn defenders and champions of our holy faith. May I not, then, my fellow-citizens, claim for us, to whom are entrusted the care and custody of your choicest privileges and dearest hopes, your hearty sympathy and generous cooperation, while I express what I believe is the sentiment of every priest and minister on this broad platform, that we are endeavoring, each according to his convictions, his conscience and ability, "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?"
The same year, 1889, was marked further by an important enlargement of the Church fabric--a considerable addition to the length of the chancel. When this new chancel was consecrated by the Bishop, the men of the choir were habited for the first time in cassock and cotta. Fortunately, the girls retained their uniform, that of red cloak in winter and white in summer; the girls have never been vested in men's ecclesiastical garments. Their head-covering took the form of a "Tam-o-Shanter "cap, still in use. In the connection it has been remarked that the motto of the founder of the Church was "She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet." The words are chiselled into the stone, around the fireplace at the school.
Processionals were started, a crucifer taking his place at the head of the line.
By the latest alteration the effect of the imposing architecture is much increased. There is now an unusual length of nave and chancel. When the choir is in place, and the lights burning, at a Sunday Evensong--always held at five o'clock--the impression which the soul receives through the eye is fit counterpart of that conveyed by the organ of hearing.
The Rector referred to the last improvement of the structure in a sermon preached in April, 1894, on the semi-centennial anniversary of the laying of the corner-stone of the Church.
When I look back nearly fifty years it is with difficulty that I can identify myself with the first pastor of the Church of the Holy Cross. He has seen so many changes in the edifice itself and in the look of things! The Church has grown in dimensions and has gathered fresh grace and beauty with its years. It docs not look like the little Church in which I once ministered. Friends have come and gone, how many dear, loving and much loved friends! I have many more parishioners, as I feel, awaiting me with prayers and hopes in Paradise than I now can reach with look and voice.