Bigamy Scandal Sinks Sacred Music Group! A Case Study of the Rise and Fall of the Church Music Association, 1869-1874




Gerber, Steven K.

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Regular, series concerts of major choral-orchestral repertoire in 19th-century America were risky ventures, and promoters struggled to develop sustainable entrepreneurial models. Prominent Wall Street lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong, a music connoisseur, devised an ingenious business plan for his part-volunteer, part-professional Church Music Association in 1869, one that relied on advance sale of private subscriptions to the affluent, who then shared their large allotments of tickets with personal guests. But after three successful seasons in Steinway Hall, culminating in the American premiere of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, the group lost its “star,” brilliant choral conductor James Pech, when he was found to be a bigamist who had deserted his first family in England. The subsequent demise of the demoralized organization illustrates the precariousness and vulnerability of concert infrastructure at this time.


Presented at the 2012 Conference of the Music Library Association (MLA) held in Dallas TX, from February 15 to 18, 2012. This paper had been selected for the MLA's "Best of the Chapters" award, based on a national competition of papers presented at regional conferences in 2010.


Strong, George Templeton, Pech, James, Church Music Association, 19th-century music, Beethoven, Ludwig van, Missa solemnis