March 25: Katherine Roberts Quail Pearson (1890)

Over a period of 22 years (1868-1890), Mrs. Kate Quail Pearson served as Epiphany’s organist and choir director during a period of great growth for the parish. When she first started playing the organ at Epiphany at age 20, she is referred to in records as “Miss Katie Quail.” Four years later, she was married at the church to Quincy A. Pearson by rector Wilbur Watkins. After the 1874 renovation of the church, music became an increasingly prominent feature of worship. The 1874 renovation is the one that literally raised the roof and gave the interior the hammer beam ceiling visible today. It also brought a new organ (the church’s third) that was placed in the rear gallery.

Rector William Paret was not musically inclined, so he left things related to the choir up to Mrs. Pearson. For several years, there was a paid double quartet with a few volunteers. Later, Paret advocated for a larger choir to promote heartier congregational singing. The rear organ gallery was rearranged to accommodate a 70-voice choir, although the number never grew much above 40. After Mrs. Pearson’s untimely death on March 25, 1890 at age 43, her funeral was at Epiphany. William Paret, now Bishop of Maryland, returned to Epiphany to lead the service. Later the vestry paid tribute to Pearson’s “skill and taste as a musician, her ability as a director, and her tact as a woman” and acknowledged Epiphany’s debt to her “for the phenomenal success of its music, which has combined in a rare degree artistic excellence with religious feeling.

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