The founder and director of the Westminster Choir, John Finley Williamson, held his summer sessions – for organists, directors and music supervisors – at Silver Bay in 1932, ’33 and ’34. To cap the 1934 session, Williamson assembled a choir of more than 500 voices to sing (after just one rehearsal) hymns including “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “Abide with Me,” “Beautiful Savior” and “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”
At the center of this giant a cappella chorus was the Westminster Choir, already in residence at Silver Bay for 10 days of Williamson’s 20-day session, using the time to tune up for their nine-week European tour of England, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Italy, Yugoslavia and Russia. Williamson was especially proud of the fact that his was the first choir to receive an official invitation from the Soviet Union, and the concert was broadcast live to the U.S.A.
Williamson founded the Westminster Choir in 1920 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Dayton, Ohio, and began the Westminster Choir School in 1926. The choir toured extensively, played Carnegie Hall and the White House (for President Calvin Coolidge), recorded for Victor records in 1926, and, in 1928, joined with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra led by Leopold Stokowski for a coast-to-coast radio broadcast.
In 1932, the Choir School relocated to Princeton, New Jersey. The dedication ceremonies included a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor at the nearby Princeton University Chapel with the Westminster Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski, who contributed the orchestra and his time as a sign of his esteem for the choir.