John Speller's Web Pages Marion McGregor, Voluntary in D

John Speller's Web Pages - Organ Music
Marion McGregor, Voluntary in D
Described by her contemporaries as "the leading lady organist of the day," Marion Smith McGregor was born in Newport, New Hampshire, on September 7, 1818. Her father, prominent Newport physician Dr. John B. McGregor, donated the organ to the South Church (Congregational) in Newport, where Marion began her career as a professional organist. From 1839 until 1856 she was organist of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Rochester, New York. In 1859 the Broadway Tabernacle in Manhattan built a new church to the designs of Leopold Eidlitz and purchased a large three-manual-and-pedal organ with 38 stops and a 25-note Pedal compass from Ferris & Stuart of New York. The church recruited Miss McGregor specially to be their organist. Dwight's Musical Journal marveled that a woman was capable of managing so large an instrument. Nonetheless, it added admiringly, Miss McGregor was second to none. While organist at the Broadway Tabernacle she married Joseph Christopher, a New York businessman with interests in life insurance and real estate. She was also the Organist and Vocal Music Teacher at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, a prestigious girls' independent school. Her first publication seems to have been a piano piece, Woodside Waltz, published in 1843. The organ voluntary, reproduced here, was published in the Musical World and New York Musical Review for 1855. Under her married name of Marion Christopher she also published a setting of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Widow Bird (1873) and an anthem for SATB with Organ Accompaniment based on Psalm 20 verse 5, "In the Name of our God we will set up our banners" (1875). She retired as Organist of the Broadway Tabernacle in 1885.

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Broadway Tabernacle showing the Ferris & Stuart organ. Note the separate Chayre/Rückpositiv case for the Choir Organ. In 1904 the Ferris & Stuart organ was replaced by a new Hutchings instrument and moved to Edward F. Searles' residence at Pine Lodge, Methuen, Mass. where the Choir Organ and case were made into a separate one-manual organ and the remaining two manuals and pedals were placed on a gallery in the ballroom. Mr. Searles' house is now the Convent of the Presentation of Mary in Methuen and both the ballroom and the room where the smaller organ is have become chapels.
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