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Fifth Avenue Famous

3rd March 2010

Papal Mass SPC 2008 photo 

Easter Sunday, 1904.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the most famous church in America, is jammed with reporters as well as worshipers – all straining to see if the women in the choir loft are sobbing.  

 The cause of this commotion is a new Papal edict, intended to “reform” church music throughout the world, not only by changing the music itself . . . but by banning all women from all choirs, a decision that wouldn’t be reversed for over fifty years.  With both Women’s History Month in March and the Easter holiday coming in April, this nearly-forgotten chapter in the story of New York, and St. Patrick’s, takes on striking new significance. 

Photo of Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Choir

 Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, by Salvatore Basile, examines in depth not only thisfifthaveincident, but the full story of musical life at the nation’s most famous church in the world’s most vibrant city.  The book explores in deeply personal fashion the stories of musicians both well-known and unknown, and the men who helped to cement St. Patrick’s position in the music scene, often at the expense of their own lives.  It’s a story of New York itself, ranging from small-scale musical scandals of the 19th century, to concerts that caused riots on Fifth Avenue, to groundbreaking radio and television broadcasts – to the moment, exactly a century after that shattering Papal edit of 1904, when the Cathedral came full circle to appoint a woman as its music director.  For fans of New York, this book presents their city in a fascinating new light.


Join us for the official Book Launch on May 13th at 6 pm at Fordham’s Lowenstein Building, in the 12th Floor Lounge!