St. Mark’s Church Choir Goes on Strike

Posted: Monday August 28, 2017

St. Mark’s Church Choir Goes on Strike

Although Reverend John Henry Houghton was well loved by many people in his congregation at St. Mark’s Church, members of the choir there weren’t so happy when he criticized their singing in the late 1800s. The choir members, most of whom had been singing at the church for years, were also tired of giving their services for free and getting the occasional roast in return, so a vast majority of the them quit, even Houghton’s cousin.

Choir member Arthur Roeschlaub was fed up too. He thought Houghton had made a serious mistake when he criticized their singing. They’d been training with organist Dingley Brown and Roeschlaub didn’t think there was any room left for criticism on the part of the reverend.

“Of course,” Roeschlaub said, “if he wants a paid choir he can get better music but I think for a choir whose work is given voluntarily we cannot be surpassed. When he said point blank at our choir guild that our singing was not what it should be, the trouble arose, and I know some of those who left the choir will never go back under any circumstances. Some of those he would like have nominally been members of the choir, but have never sun with us except when they rendered solos.”

While most of the choir members ditched St. Mark’s, Houghton then tried to poach singers from other Episcopal churches in Denver, including the nearby St. John’s Cathedral, by promising increased wages. George Crampton, director at St. John’s choir, went so far as to pay his singers a small amount to make sure they stayed in the choir.

“Of course, it makes but little difference to us in which church we sing,” one cathedral choir member said at the time. “They are both Episcopalian. And if the inducements are better at St. Mark’s there are a number I know of who will not hesitate to go, particularly at this time, when more or less jealousy exists.”

Houghton was successful in rounding up more choir members and the singers who left St. Mark’s organized their own singing club.