How the Music is Made During Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life for everyone, including church musicians. Our choirs have not been able to gather in person for rehearsal or services since early March, so the singers and I have had to learn new ways (and new technology) to make music at St. Mary’s!

Here’s what we do each week to provide music for St. Mary’s worship.

1. I choose a hymn or other piece of vocal/choral music after reading the Scripture lessons and conferring with Ann about her sermon topic.

2. Copy the printed music and mark dynamics, breaths, unison or parts, etc

3. Scan and email the music with instructions to the singers (either section leaders or the entire choir)

4. Record a reference track on the piano or organ

5. If the piece is for section leaders only, I set up a project on the Acapella app and record on my I-phone (Acapella only works on Apple, not Android). I send my recording to the first singer who records their part and then sends it on to the next singer. When the last person has recorded, they send it back to me and I edit it for balance. It usually takes 3-4 days for everyone to record.

6. If the hymn is for the entire choir, I record an audio reference track either with the church’s sound system or with Andrew’s assistance on his computer. I send the mp3 file to the choir along with the score. Each singer listens to the reference track on one device and, at the same time, records their voice on another device.

7. The individual singers’ recordings are emailed to me and I upload them to GarageBand (audio editing software) and begin lining up the tracks and editing for balance, cutoffs, dynamics, etc (very time-consuming!). This entire project usually takes about a week.

8. Once a project is edited and saved as an mp3 file, I upload it to Google Drive and share with Ann so she can embed it in the Sunday morning slides for the Zoom service. I also email the texts to include on the slide with the recording.

This process is repeated for each piece of music that is shared during a Sunday service. I’m immensely grateful to Andrew Heintz, who has spent many hours setting up equipment, recording piano and organ music, and offering his expertise about microphones and editing software. Jeff Bonner-Stewart has also been very helpful with using the church’s sound system. Many thanks to the section leaders who have made numerous recordings these past months and to all the St. Mary’s choir members who have bravely learned to record their voices. The choirs continue to meet virtually on Zoom on Thursday evenings.

We will keep calm and sing on!

– Kirsten

The Journey of Four Slate Gravestones

In May of 2008, the Rector Peter Chase blessed four early nineteenth century slate gravestones, which were recently returned to St. Mary’s cemetery by John Rodman, a member of the Board of Directors of the Newton Historical Society. John was cleaning out a garage in Newton where he found the stones. He realized the probable historic significance of the stones, photographed them, and brought the photos to Susan Abele, Curator of Manuscripts and Photographs at the Jackson Homestead for identification. Susan did research on the family names of Neal, Daniell and Mills, but could find no tie to any burials in the three historic Newton cemeteries.

Beverly Hurney, our cemetery superintendent, recognized the names as belonging to Lower Falls families.


Why the stones were removed from, or never set in, St. Mary’s cemetery will remain a mystery. What we do know is that they were discovered in 1965, in the house at 2321 Washington Street, by the Gale Construction Company. The house, adjacent to the church property, was being razed for the development of an apartment building on the lot owned from 1837 to 1905 by the Neal family. Two of the stones had the family name of Neal. From the house on Washington Street the stones were removed for safe keeping to the garage where John Rodman found them more than 40 years later!


The stones were made of local slate, carved and signed by A.A. Park, R.K. Park and J. Park of Groton and each bore one of the following inscriptions:

“MARY ELIZABETH/daughter of/Mr. Jeremiah F. &/Mrs. Sarah Daniell/died Feb. 16, 1832/AEt.
(aetatis, Latin for “at the age of”) 3 yrs. & 8 mos”
“ELIZABETH L./daughter of/William &/Mary A. Mills/died Nov. 11, 1838/AEt. 17 yrs”
“HORATIO/son of/Mr. Benjamin &/Mrs. Eunice Neal/died May 22, 1831/AEt. 4 yrs”
“SARAH MANN/daughter of/Mr. Benjamin & Mrs. Eunice Neal/died Aug. 30, 1826/AEt 15 mos”

Of historic and genealogical interest to St. Mary’s: Mrs. Eunice (Daniell) Neal is sister to Mr. Jeremiah F. Daniell. Mr. Benjamin Neal was the first organist at St. Mary’s and served for fifty years.

COVID-19 and Spanish Flu

True or False: Last Sunday, March 15,2020 was the first Sunday St. Mary’s did not have in-person worship in its 200+ years of history.

False! From our archives, so lovingly tended by Lynn and Bev, we can see that St. Mary’s closed for about four weeks in response what is commonly referred to as the Spanish flu. The service register (*in link below) shows a morning prayer service on Sunday, September 23, 1918 then nothing until Sunday, October 27, 1918. The note reads, “Epidemic of influenza. All churches in greater (?) Boston and Mass in general closed by the Board of Health.” More than 100 years later, we are proud to have taken steps, before any order or mandate was issued, to help “flatten the curve” in our community. We are also so grateful to have alternative ways to connect with one another in this day and age.

1847 Sermon by The Rev. Alfred Baury, Preached on his 25th Anniversary as Rector of St. Mary’s

This portrait of The Rev. Alfred Baury hangs to this day in our Chapter Room. It was painted during his 25th year as Rector of St. Mary’s. The Rev. Baury preached a remarkable sermon  on the occasion of his 25th Anniversary as Rector in which he told the story of the founding of St. Mary’s Church and expressed his “satisfaction of witnessing our scriptural Church advancing, from depression and feebleness, to comparative vigor and strength.” The Rev. Baury and his family our buried in our church yard.

You can read the text of the prepared sermon (PDF) by clicking HERE.


Pew Kneelers

Ever notice the kneelers in your pew at St. Mary’s? Did you know that, like everything else at our lovely historic church, each one has a story? The kneelers are the result of a thirteen-year recent project to redo our one hundred sixty kneelers that was part of the St. Mary’s bicentennial celebration in 2013. Every one of them was handmade by one of thirty-four stitchers.

For a booklet with a picture and information on each kneeler, click here.

 The St. Mary’s “Stitch and Chat” group continues to meet regularly, and welcomes newcomers.

A Gift from Germany After WWII

[Updated: February 21, 2019]


Following WWII, St. Mary’s made substantial financial donations to help rebuild St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Stuttgart, Germany, a parish of primarily Russian refugees.

In gratitude, St. Nicholas parish sent St. Mary’s two paintings, one of Saint Nicholas and one of Saint Mary’s. Both paintings are in our archives.


The back of the icon had a lengthy inscription in Russian, see below. One of our parishioners was able to have it translated, also below, explaining why this particular icon was so special.



A Plaque in the Attic

In June 2018, one of our youth member’s Eagle Scout project was to organize and clean our attic. While clearing out old cardboard boxes, this plaque was discovered on a shelf hidden from view.

We researched and discovered that this plaque was dedicated to the parents – who were born in the middle 1800’s – of two brothers, Julius and Charles Schweinfurth. Both were architects of some repute – one in Cleveland and one in Boston. Buildings in the two cities still stand that were designed by them; including the Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland. (The present Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts was sometime Dean of that Cathedral.)

The plaque was dedicated to the youth of the parish in the room that was set aside for their use. It brings pleasure to the members of this parish to rediscover this valuable artifact, that has so much to do with St. Mary’s, Boston and Cleveland.

Memories of the 200th Anniversary

St. Mary’s cornerstone was laid on September 29, 1813. Less than a year later, the church was dedicated as the first Episcopal parish built west of Boston.

Two hundred years later, in 2013, our parish embarked on a year long celebration of this remarkable anniversary. Through special concerts, a ‘historic worship service’, a rededication of the cornerstone, and celebrations of many types and sizes we marked our ministry in this corner of Newton.

We captured the highlights of that historic year here.

Our “New” Historical Archive

Any church – or any other organization – that has not only survived but thrived for over two hundred years has many stories to tell. So we decided to create a place on our website where these stories, or moments from our history, can be saved for our current and future members, as well as the world at large.

We will try to update as we can.

– February 3, 2019