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Stephen Schaeffer retires from Birmingham's Cathedral Church of the Advent

September 21, 2012

Stephen G. Schaeffer retired on August 15, after serving twenty-five years as director of music and organist at the Cathedral Church of the Advent (Episcopal) in Birmingham, Alabama. Appointed in 1987, his first major project was selecting, planning, and guiding the installation of the 100-rank
M. P. Möller organ (1988). He developed the program at the cathedral to include a music series, anchored by the monthly Mid-Day Musical Menu concerts, an adult handbell choir that regularly performed both in worship and on the music series, and Psallité Singers, a choral chamber ensemble. In September 1997 he was named Master of the Cathedral Choir, which in the last fifteen years has made two CD recordings and made concert tours to St. Thomas Church for Sunday services (2000), to England for residencies at the Cathedrals of St. Albans and Ely (2004) and Durham (2008), and to the East Coast to sing in parishes in Atlanta, Winston-Salem, Chapel Hill, Arlington, and at Washington National Cathedral, St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (2011).

During his tenure at the cathedral he also supervised the installation of a fifteen-bell Paccard carillon, the purchase of a Lammermuir continuo organ, and enhancements to the Grieb-Williams organ installed in 1988. On his twentieth anniversary he was honored with the painting of his portrait by noted artist Jason Bouldin. In March 2012 Sonare Recordings released a solo CD, Stephen Schaeffer Plays the Advent Organ, featuring the cathedral organ in a varied program of literature.

Prior to his appointment at the cathedral in 1987, Schaeffer was on the music faculty at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina for sixteen years, the last four as Chair of the Department of Fine Arts. During his years at Presbyterian College, Dr. Schaeffer was organist and then director of music and organist at Broad Street Methodist Church and later organist at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, both in Clinton. He also was active in the Greenwood AGO chapter, serving both as dean and sub-dean. In Birmingham, he has also served the AGO as sub-dean and executive committee member and on the Diocesan Liturgy and Music Commission.

Since 1987 Schaeffer has also been active in the Association of Anglican Musicians, serving on its executive board and on the editorial board of The Journal. He has maintained an active recital schedule and has served as organ consultant to many churches in South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Early in his musical career, Schaeffer was a choirboy at St. Thomas Church under William Self. While in high school he studied organ and piano at Salem College with John and Margaret Mueller. His degrees are from Davidson College and the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati, where his organ teachers included Wilmer Welsh, Gerre Hancock, David Mulbury, and Roberta Gary. In 1981 he enrolled at the Conservatoire national de région in Lyon, France, where he received the Premier Prix in organ under Louis Robilliard. He has completed internships in choral conducting with Barry Rose and Jon Washburn.

Schaeffer was honored with a retirement celebration on July 20 and a reception following his final service at the cathedral on August 12. His retirement plans include remaining in Birmingham and being active as an organist.