Samuel Prowse Warren

Samuel Prowse Warren. Organist, choirmaster, editor, composer, teacher, b Montreal 18 Feb 1841, d New York 7 Oct 1915. The oldest son of Samuel Russell Warren, he began studying the organ at 11 and gave his first recital at St Stephen's Chapel in Montreal.

Warren, Samuel Prowse

Samuel Prowse Warren. Organist, choirmaster, editor, composer, teacher, b Montreal 18 Feb 1841, d New York 7 Oct 1915. The oldest son of Samuel Russell Warren, he began studying the organ at 11 and gave his first recital at St Stephen's Chapel in Montreal. He was the organist at the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal for eight years (until 1858), having succeeded his father. He went to Berlin in 1861 to study with Karl August Haupt (organ), Gustav Schumann (piano), and Paul Wieprecht (theory).

He returned to Montreal in 1864, but moved to New York the following year to become the organist at All Souls Unitarian Church. He was organist 1868-74 and 1876-94 at Grace Episcopal Church, New York. He inaugurated weekly recitals, giving over 230 recitals himself, covering the entire spectrum of organ literature, one of the most remarkable series of recitals ever given in any country. He was organist 1874-6 at Holy Trinity Episcopalian Church, New York.

In 1895 he became organist at the First Presbyterian Church in East Orange, NJ, where he remained until his death. He was a founding member of the American Guild of Organists in 1896 and became an honorary president of the organization in 1902. His second wife, Jeanne Joséphine Croker-Southward, was a professional opera singer of French origin.

Warren collected rare books and manuscripts and his musical library was said to be one of the most complete in America, containing valuable manuscripts and scores of rare works written for the organ. He is purported to have spent more than $10,000, a large sum of money at the time, in collecting it. He was a close friend of the noted French organist Alexandre Guilmant and he held in great esteem the music of Rheinberger and of Widor. For nine years he was the conductor of the New York Vocal Union and for several years acted as a musical examiner for the Toronto College of Music. He was an administrator of the American College of Musicians and a member of the Boston Conservatory. It was said that his one unconquerable fault was modesty, for on several occasions he declined honorary doctoral degrees from various universities.

His musical compositions were numerous, both sacred and secular, and included anthems, songs, piano and organ solos, but few were published during his lifetime. Several of his songs, however, were published by G. Schirmer for whom he prepared an edition of Mendelssohn's organ works published in 1924, after his death. He also edited the Church hymnal In Excelsis published by The Century Co. He transcribed works by Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, and Weber for organ, and was the only Canadian to subscribe to the complete edition of Bach's organ works. His song 'The Wings of Song' and his Prelude and Fugue in A-flat Major for organ are published in CMH vols 3 and 4b respectively. As a teacher he was widely respected and many of his pupils went on to distinguished careers, including Augusta Lowell, one of the first women organists of North America to attain widespread recognition as an interpretive artist of the first rank.

See also Thomas D. Warren and William Henry Warren (his uncles), and Charles Sumner Warren (his brother).


Further Reading

  • Jennings, Pauline. 'Samuel P. Warren,' Music, vol 17, Nov 1899-Apr 1900

    'S.P. Warren, the dean of organists, is dead,' The Diapason, 1 Nov 1915

    'In memory of S.P. Warren,' The Diapason, 1 Jan 1916

    Raudsepp, Karl. Ms on the Warren family