Memories of the Prof. James T. Moore, a Person of Many Talents

Professor James T. Moore (middle)

By Louis C. Zuccarello, Ph. D., Professor Emeritus, Marist College

It was the mid 1940’s, and there I was, a nervous 4th-grade student, newly arrived at St. Frances of Rome School from P.S. 87 in mid-September, because an opening had unexpectedly developed. I was happy because my parents were happy. I was also wary about what I was expected to do to make sure that I fulfilled the expectations of the teachers, who were unlike any teachers I had ever known. They were nuns, with elaborate, special clothes who were known to be both disciplinarians and holy women. At this stage, I had not received the sacraments of Penance, Holy Communion or Confirmation. Within the next eight months, I had confessed my sins and received the Eucharist for the first time. Confirmation was reserved for the following year.

I recall that Sr. Mary Rosaria, my teacher, had just volunteered me to join the choir at our Church. I and most of the other Bronx “kids” who were being trained to bolster the soprano and alto sections of our all-male choir had no musical training; no idea of the correct pronunciation of Church Latin; no clue as to the differences between Gregorian chant and Baroque polyphonic music when we started. Our choir director, Prof. James Moore, had seen our likes before. He and the “men” (those who sang the tenor and bass parts) had seen IT all before. IT refers to the transition of novice sopranos and altos into young people who could sing their parts; read the music on our sheets, books or handouts; and even handle some of the nuances of the Gregorian chant. I can still recall some of Prof. Moore’s directions—the chant must not be interrupted by a breath; the flow must appear to be seamless; do not sing too loudly on the higher notes. At Christmas, the Prof. insisted that we avoid the tempting Silent Night trap of merging the words “Infant” and “so” and thus, producing a new word, “Infantso tender and mild.” We also avoided screeching out, “Sleep in heavenly Peace…” with undue emphasis on the upswing in the second part of Peace. Prof. Moore expected us to pronounce our Latin and English correctly with some understanding of what we were singing. Some years later, when I was in high school, I heard some students from a highly regarded high school reviewing their Latin homework and quoting Caesar as saying, “Weni, Widi, Wiki.” Prof. Moore would not have approved—It was Veni, Vidi, Vici.

In short, Prof. Moore provided us with the beginnings of a classical education. He instilled in us a love for sacred, choral music and a willingness to take on musical challenges we could never have imagined when we said YES to Sister’s statement—“You would be good in the choir.” (Note that the request was stated as a declarative sentence.) Our dutiful response was “Yes, Sister.”

Even in the 4th grade and in the ensuing grammar school years, we were keenly aware that, in the Bronx, choir singing was not the most “macho” of activities for boys. This might explain our fierce competition with the altar boys. They, unlike us, were not required to wear bows with their cassocks and surplices. Once a year our trip to Steeplechase Park at Coney Island was fraught with tension, because we were traveling with them—the altar boys. We loved the trip to Brooklyn to enjoy the salt water pool, the rides, and the adventure of it all. This was the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, a time when the Latin Mass was the norm; there were no female altar servers or  choir members; the changes and challenges of the 1960’s were still a decade away, although the currents that would shape them had already begun to take shape in the nation, in the Church and in the neighborhoods of the North Bronx.

During Lent, Prof. Moore directed a Passion Play in our school auditorium. This was just one of the numerous stage presentations that he supervised in the schools and churches with which he was associated. The cast and stage crews were primarily composed of parishioners and students from the schools in which he taught. Recently I spoke to one of those students, Annamaria Verde Stefani, who had been recruited for the stage crew as a freshman at St. Barnabas High School. She continued in that capacity through her senior year, accepting increasingly responsible roles, assisting the Prof.’s management of the particular productions.  After majoring in biology in college, she worked as a medical researcher. However, after a number of years in research, she met and was hired as a personal assistant to Luciano Pavorotti . It seems plausible that her experience with the Prof.’s dramatic and musical productions provided some preparation for her work with the gifted opera star’s business and organizing needs during the years she was with Sig. Pavarotti.

I witnessed the Passion Play as a member of the choir. We were expected to sing appropriate hymns, contributing to the musical dimension of the production. At times, It was difficult to stay awake for the entirety of the 8 p.m. shows. Fortunately, the drama was staged well, with impressive sets and colorful wardrobes. 

I recall being nudged awake by one of the “men” as we watched the final scenes of the Crucifixion. Prof. Moore would usually catch my eye and glare a warning to prevent future dozing. He insisted on excellence and reverence. The importance of understanding the Latin words we sang was stressed, as was appreciating the significance of the liturgical events in which we participated.

Eventually I got to be a “man” and could sing with the baritones after a brief stay with the tenors. As a “boy” I had gone from soprano to alto, the part I liked best. By the way, being a “man” meant I was now in high school and had developed a voice which would allow me to sing in the back of the choir. In the 1990’s I went back to St. Frances of Rome to attend an open house and alumni reunion. There I met one of the older “men” who had been a part of the choir in the 40’s and 50’s. He told me that Professor Moore had passed away and I cried. It was hard to think of St. Frances of Rome without him leading the choir, which was one of the gifts that he gave to his choir members and to the parishioners whom they served.

Professor Moore, Bronx, N.Y.

As I grew older, the man who led the choir, “Prof.” James T. Moore, fascinated me but remained unknown to me in so many respects. He was there for choir practice each week; Miraculous Medal devotions on Monday afternoons and for High Mass celebrated at 11am each Sunday during the school year. He prepared us for the special liturgies of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and special holy days. He taught us how to breathe, using our diaphragms to control the flow of air and sound. He insisted that we enunciate the words, clearly and correctly. Patiently (most of the time), he taught us to sing the litanies that were part of Holy Week services; to respect the importance of crescendos and de crescendos and other musical modulations represented by symbols in the musical score. He applied brakes to our tendency to rush certain phrases and made sure that we resisted the temptation to overdo the volume in certain phrases that some might feel inclined to shout, misinterpreting the label of “Forte” as license to do so. Prof. Moore also taught us by example. I can recall that frequently, after an evening service, as we were anxiously moving out of the sanctuary, he would stay behind and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and quietly pray.

And who were we, the choir members, the raw material that he shaped into a group capable of making such beautiful, harmonious music respecting the sacred themes of the liturgy and by singing, praying twice, as some suggest St. Augustine had noted. We were not young boys attending an elite private school where the central focus was on producing well- trained choristers. We bore little resemblance to the lads who filled the choir pews in some English cathedrals. Most of us were from working class families with working class incomes, who would eventually achieve some upward mobility and provide the way for our own children to realize the American Dream more substantially. We were after all, “kids from the Bronx;” who were not necessarily exceptional in our lives as young boys.  We were “kids” who, during lunch time, played King of the Hill on the small incline at the corner of Pitman and Digney Avenues. Our games often involved riding our bikes to Seton Falls field to play baseball with a ball covered with black tape…no uniforms, no leagues, no official umpires, no real bases. In school we all had strengths and weaknesses and the Presentation Sisters were there to meet us where we were and to help us become better. Prof. Moore discovered talent among these kids and worked with them to produce a glorious sound to the Lord. By the way, Prof. was also our teacher in the parish elementary school, where he introduced us to the study of art and music.

The fact of the matter was that we saw Prof. Moore as our teacher and as our choir director. I knew little to nothing else about him and never really sought to learn more. Yet, from time to time, I would remember him and relive moments from my days as a choir boy under his tutelage. I became a teacher and appreciated the challenge of trying to motivate students, who possessed varying degrees of interest and of skills, to give their best effort to engage and master the subject matter of the course. He had done that, and done it quite successfully, without threats of poor grades and report cards. A choir relied on the mutual support of each member to contribute his part to the group effort that resulted in a beautiful blending of sound and meaning. Prof. Moore led this effort and got us beyond the simple mechanics of the task, to produce music that could touch our emotions and our souls.

However, there were moments, (there always are) where things did not go as planned. One that has remained with me, relates to a very warm spring day, when the church was packed with worshipers, attending the confirmation of a large group of the school children. The bishop who presided at the service was Francis Cardinal Spellman. The choir had been moved to a side section of the church, near the confessional boxes. We waited because the Cardinal and his entourage had been delayed by traffic on his way from Manhattan to the North Bronx. The choir was ready for the Cardinal’s entrance, tucked away as we were on the extreme side of the Church. Prof. was ready; the congregation was ready. As the Cardinal entered, the organ sounded and the choir pronounced the message, the majestic message, “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, qui in diebus sui placuit Deo, Ideo iure iurando, fecit illum Domine crescere in plebem…” BEHOLD THE HIGH PRIEST, who in his days pleases God…, the Lord raised him up among the people…” As the Cardinal began down the aisle, I was seated in a pew next to another alto, Ralph G., who overcome by the heat, fainted. The nearby ushers came quickly to aid the lad. Seeing Ralph’s chin resting on the back of the pew in front, I tried to ease it off but giggled at the awkward scene. Noting that Ralph was being cared for, Prof. continued playing the organ and directing the singers. The Cardinal was completely unaware that anything had happened and the confirmation ceremony proceeded as planned. My friend Ralph recovered nicely after being moved to a cooler locale. He was also able to join us later as we chanted the solemn verses of “Veni Creator Spiritus…” invoking the support of the Holy Spirit for those who were being confirmed.

After I retired from my teaching and administrative duties at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., I again began thinking of Prof. Moore, the choir years at St. Frances of Rome, the Presentation Sisters, the diocesan priests of the parish and of how much they meant to me and to so many of those with whom I shared those times. I decided that I wanted to remember Prof. Moore. I wanted to learn more about him and his life.  Until now, he was my choir director in a time long ago. I wanted to visit his grave and pay my respects to him, to his work and to his memory. I was not alone in this desire to underscore the importance of those years, the 1940’s through the mid- 1960’s. Even today, one of the sites on Facebook is devoted to former students and parishioners of St. Frances of Rome School and parish. It’s worth a look and includes passing references to special people and events in the history of the parish and of this wonderful, Bronx neighborhood.

My family was part of the generation which worshipped in a basement church and which kept alive the dream that someday the parish would have an impressive edifice in which to worship. The seeds of that dream were planted at the turn of the 20th century when the parish began to take shape under the leadership of Fr. Francis P. Moore (no relation to Prof. Moore). The dream was realized in 1967, when Cardinal Spellman came to dedicate the newly completed upper church.

“Prof.” James T. Moore was born on January 1, 1907, in New York City.  He passed away, quite unexpectedly, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, CT, on October 27, 1980, a few years after he retired from St. Frances of Rome. We know that the first pastor, Rev. Francis Moore, in planning the development of the parish, had hired young James Moore to assist him with the design of the early buildings. James Moore had studied architecture at Manhattan College and continued practicing his profession throughout his life. He began working as a very young architect. He also was asked by Pastor Moore to become the Church’s organist when James was only 13 years old. Pastor Moore discovered the boy’s musical talent one day when Prof. was practicing his lessons under the supervision of Mother Fidelis, a Presentation nun working at the parish. The pastor happened to be passing by and was so impressed with what he heard that he made inquiries about the lad’s training and his proficiency at the keyboard. This fortuitous experience seems to be the origin of Prof.’s identification with the development of religious music at this parish.

One of the Prof’s nieces shared a story with my wife, Barbara and me on a recent visit to Bethlehem, CT. She said that young Jimmy did not seem interested in the piano lessons that had been provided for him by his parents. Several family members recommended that his mother save the money being spent on the lessons because they felt that the boy had no real interest in music. One day the family was shocked to find James and his friends pushing an abandoned parlor organ toward the site of the family home on E. 224 Street.  James proceeded to get the organ into decent shape and eventually devoted himself to mastering the salvaged musical instrument. Subsequently, he went on to set up a modest amusement park in his backyard for summer fun. Clearly some of his musical education was self- taught. In his later years, he encouraged his niece, Rita Barbieri-McGuire, and much later, his nephew, Gene Donnelly, to take on challenges for which they thought they were ill prepared. Both had received music lessons. Rita was proficient playing the piano and quickly learned the organ and other instruments. However, imagine her surprise when Prof. asked her to fill in for him when he was unable to provide the music for an evening service at St. Frances of Rome or at St. Barnabas, both in the north Bronx. Scheduling conflicts did occur due to the number of churches and schools that relied on Prof. Moore for classroom instruction in both art and music. His nephew, Gene Donnelly recalled being asked to lead a scheduled choir practice that Prof. was forced to miss. After a brief orientation to the program that the choir was preparing, Prof. reiterated his confidence in Gene’s ability to help the choir review the pieces and to prepare for the Sunday high Mass service. Prof’s niece, Rita, recalled that several years earlier, she had been occasionally enlisted to do similar last-minute subbing for the Prof.

Both knew their Uncle Jim well and admired not only his musical talents but also his creative and generous spirit, and his belief in and practice of a life of service to others. Uncle Jim was the older brother of their mother, Alicia, who lived with her family in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, adjacent to the Wakefield section where Uncle Jim and their mom had grown up. The Moore family was comprised of Prof.’s dad, James F. Moore, and Prof.’s mother, Justina Riefenhauser Moore. Both parents were 2nd generation Americans. The father, James F., was a mason, who had a business located on White Plains Road in the Wakefield section of the Bronx and had had experience working on the building of the Panama Canal as a mason.                                                                                                                              

James F.’s wife and Prof.’s mother was a housekeeper. In 1936, Prof. provided the architectural plan for the new home that Alicia and Charles Donnelly had built in Woodlawn. Prof.’s brother, Justin, did much of the masonry work and the work on the fireplaces for the new home. Justin sought more rural surroundings and moved to Bethlehem, CT. in the early 1930’s and was later joined in the area by Prof. Moore. After building their homes, both brothers continued to invest in property acquisitions in that area and attracted other relatives to settle near-by. At this time, Justin was married and had a family. Prof. lived close by and in future years other members of the family and friends settled in the area. Many of Prof.’s childhood friends from the Bronx would come on weekends to help him with various projects. Beautiful as the life and land were, it did pose a challenge for Prof. Moore, who was making his living in the north Bronx and at times even in Manhattan. Rather than attempt to commute daily, Prof. visited his sister Alicia Donnelly’s house in Woodlawn on Sunday and Monday; during the rest of the week he usually had a small apartment in the New York metropolitan area and returned to Bethlehem when he had free time. Thus, his niece and nephew, Gene and Rita saw a good deal of their uncle and were affected by his influence and example. Their relationship was such for the Prof. to feel at ease when he asked them to take over a service or practice that he could not make. He took an interest in their activities and schooling. His niece, Rita, recalled his suggesting to her that she consider attending college at Manhattanville for its music program; but she had set her mind on studying nursing and so she did at Hunter College. He also encouraged his nephew, Gene, to continue studying music at Bronx Community College. Gene’s talent on the organ and his success working with the choir when his uncle could not be there provided ample evidence of his musical abilities. But like Rita, Gene decided to pursue a career outside of music.

The other members of the Moore family included Ann who married a Donnelly (no relation to Alicia’s family); Frances Hosty, and Rita Stewart. Four daughters and two sons. The mother of the family, Justina, was of German background with roots in Bavaria; the father, James F., was of Irish background.  Both were devoted Catholics and shared their commitment to their faith with their children. Prof. Moore is thought to have entertained the possibility of studying for the priesthood but did not follow that path. Rita and Gene both recall that Prof.’s residences were usually rather small living quarters, almost monastic in character. They also mentioned that he always had with him, his Breviary (the official book of daily prayers and readings used in the Roman Catholic religious tradition.) The somewhat worn red covers showed signs that the book had been well used.

Prof.’s education was begun in the Bronx, where he initially attended schools that were close by. A newspaper article at the time of Prof.’s celebration of his Golden Anniversary at St. Frances of Rome parish listed the following schools which he attended: P. S. 21, Evander Childs H.S., Manhattan Prep, and Manhattan College. Graduate studies at Fordham University and Columbia University added to his grounding in history and in music. These experiences would be followed in later years by course work in Liturgical Music at the Pius X School at Manhattanville and by studies of Gregorian Chant at the Benedictine Monastery in Solesmes, France. Given the many groups that he served as a teacher and as music director, I speculate that he may have attended some of these institutions as a part-time student.

He became the full-time organist at St. Frances of Rome in 1920 at the age of thirteen. He went on to develop the boys choir and eventually expanded his teaching at a number of schools and parishes. The 50th Anniversary newspaper story listed the following programs with which he was associated: the parishes of St. Frances of Rome, St. Barnabas, St. Nicholas of Tolentine, Holy Rosary, St. Martin of Tours, Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of Solace, St. Michael’s. He also was honored by Cardinal Cooke at the Graduation Exercises of the Lavelle School for the Blind, for his work with their student chorale. Prof. Moore was also remembered for his work developing the Bugle and Drum corps at St. Barnabas. An interview with Edward McEnerey described how the Prof. persuaded young Edward, a Barnabas grammar school student, to study the bugle and then went on to teach him how to play it for the St. Barnabas Corps. Ed noted that the Corps practiced regularly, marching though the streets of Woodlawn preparing for participation in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Ed also shared that the young ladies of the neighborhood were impressed by the music and by the precision marching that Prof. Moore had taught the group. Asked to identify what he regarded as some attributes of the Prof., he cited the following: he had the ability to encourage young, grammar school students to take up music in varied forms; vocal, band, instrumental. Ed also recalled Prof. as being smart, patient, disciplined, encouraging and affirming. He noted that the young musicians respected their teacher as being a hard worker who enjoyed his work.  Another former St. Barnabas student, Beth Kennedy recalled that Prof. periodically put on musicals and encouraged students to participate and “give it a try.”

When Prof. Moore decided to retire from his teaching and conducting at the institutions where he had worked, those who had been beneficiaries of his efforts insisted on honoring him for his years of faithful service. James Hannigan, a former member of the choir and a good friend of the Prof. led the effort. This event, which was held on Sunday, May 23, 1976 at Mayer’s Parkway Restaurant on East 233rd Street in the Bronx, six years after the celebration of his 50th Anniversary at St. Frances of Rome, on Sunday, May 31, 1970, echoed many of the tributes that had previously been offered at the 50th Anniversary gathering. Family, relatives, parishioners, friends and colleagues packed Mayer’s to say thank you to the reserved and appreciative Maestro, whom some had perhaps taken for granted, given the longevity of his presence among them. Between those who attended the earlier Anniversary tribute and those who attended the farewell dinner and tribute, an estimated 1,500 people participated in honoring Prof. Moore. The attendees included former students who had achieved significant professional success on stage. Dolores Wilson of the Metropolitan Opera, Jane P. Coleman and Helen Gallagher of the Broadway stage joined a host of former choir singers, band members and associates of the Prof. from the clergy, from religious educators and lay colleagues to say “thank you” and to wish him well in his retirement.

As choir boys we knew nothing of the larger world in which Prof. Moore moved, but his career coincided with some important movements in liturgical music. One important initiative had been launched in Rome, by Pope Pius X in 1903. To promote the spirit of the Pontiff’s message, the Archdiocese of New York under Cardinal Hayes, convened a conference in 1920 dedicated to the study of Sacred Music in the Catholic Church. One of the key objectives was to define more clearly the expectations for the creation and promotion of “Musica Sacra” in Church services. Attendees gathered from a wide variety of Catholic institutions both in the States and abroad. A key question considered was how did religious leaders understand the reforms sought by Pius X in his document of Nov. 22, 1903, e.g. “his call for a return to the tradition of Gregorian Chant and the classic polyphony of the 16th century…”  Given my memory of the type of music to which Prof. Moore introduced us in the 1940’s and 1950’s, one could see that he had embraced the objectives of Pius X’s efforts to distinguish the unique aspects of the Catholic “Musica Sacra.”

Individuals emerged to provide leadership to local schools and choirs as they learned to implement the types of music that Pope Pius X had identified as embodying the true historical Catholic music tradition. University centers and monastic institutions for the study and practice of that musical legacy sought and gradually received the economic and scholarly support necessary to advance this curricular priority. Essential to making real progress was the need to orient and educate the laity, of all ages, to appreciate the renewed musical part of the liturgy and to participate in it fully. In the United States, Dr. Justine Ward and Mother Georgia Stevens of Manhattanville emerged as energetic spokespersons and began the task of constructing a curriculum and a pedagogy that would educate grammar school children in the elements of Gregorian Chant and elements of the polyphonic tradition.

There is reason to believe that Prof. Moore was influenced by the methods employed by Dr. Ward and Mother Stevens in that the Prof., in addition to probably noting that Dr. Ward had the same first name as his mother, Justina, produced  a set of instructional booklets that appear to have followed the style and principles promoted by Dr. Ward. (The Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series included the following entries: Moore, James T., ed. Pray and Sing in Beauty; music course of study, grade 7B, another for grade 5B, A Christocentric education series; compilation & revisions of Scriptorium; 29 Dec98;A382.277. Pray and Sing in Beauty, Music course of Study, grade 4B, ed. James T. Moore). These were examples of works published in Bethlehem, CT., Prof’s home area during these years, under the title Scriptorium. In each of his teaching booklets, one finds the following statement, clearly showing his awareness and active support for the movement to realize the reforms announced by Pope Pius X:


The success of this method of music education is entirely due to the zeal and co-operation of the Pastors, Principals and particularly the teachers, lay and religious, who, for more than 35 years, have permitted me to labor with them. I am deeply indebted to the late Mother Georgia M. Stevens of Pius X School whose methods and devotion to liturgical music inspired this work. Unbounded gratitude is acknowledged to the Superintendent of Schools and the Supervisors of the various Communities who, in showing interest or adopting this method, have given me the courage to proceed. Through their fervent example may our children learn to sing and pray in beauty.
…..James T. Moore

Copyright, 1959, by SCRIPTORIUM, Bethlehem, Conn.
Printed in the United States of America
New York, November 6, 1959

He gave importance to teaching his “kids from the Bronx” (we choir members) to sing the Chant associated with key religious holy days e. g. at Easter.  After some seventy years, I can still recall singing e.g. “Victimae Paschali Laudens.” He also instructed us to sing polyphonic hymns, e.g. “Ave Verum” by Mozart.  Listening to them just now brought a realization of how fortunate we were to have had the opportunity to learn and to pray this music.  

The talented young man from East 224 St. in the Bronx gave us this great gift. He studied at some of the most prominent centers for the enhancement of sacred music in the Church and in the concert hall. He travelled to monastic centers in Europe, including his favorite site for appreciating the beauty and discipline of the Chant, the Monastery Abbey of Solesmes. In this he shared the mission of the leaders of the renewal movement, including those associated with the establishment of the Pius X School of Liturgical Music at Manhattanville College during the years immediately before and after 1920. The Pius X School made special efforts to help educate the many choir leaders and teachers who were in the front lines of the effort to encourage the understanding and participation of the laity in this renewal. In addition, over time, the School offered a more formal degree granting program to more traditional graduate students. The test of the effectiveness  of the promotion of this “Musica Sacra” was seen in the joint student choirs assembled to sing the Mass at conferences of those involved in the local work of training the singers and musicians, the work of people like James T. Moore.

The movement, however did have problems: differences of opinion about the correct rules for singing the Chant; competing priorities in times of limited funding and limited resources; personality tensions and competitive ambitions threatening leadership cooperation. Most of these realities never reached the laity and the amateur choir members struggling to grow in their understanding and effective presentation of this solemn and beautiful music. The right way for them was the way they were taught by their teachers and directors, who knew better. These concerns certainly never bothered the “kids from the Bronx,” who had other things to worry about.  Let the Prof. figure those things out. We knew we could trust him to guarantee that we did it correctly. We knew so little about him personally, his training; his opinion on some of those contentious matters; what he did in whatever spare time he had…  What we did know was that the best models of singing the Chant were the Monks of Solesmes. We knew that if we listened to Prof. and followed his directions, we wouldn’t sing too sharp or too flat, too loud or too soft, or at the wrong time. Why? Because he told us so and we did not want to disappoint him. Because we respected him.

At some point, we became aware that Prof. seemed to live in two different places. Some of the “men” shared with us that he lived in a country area in Connecticut, in or near a town named Bethlehem and later in Morris.  We then caught bits and pieces of the story that in Bethlehem, his home area also included space for a working farm and farm animals, cows, chickens, pigs and for a time some prize Angus cattle. He seemed quite happy as a gentleman farmer. In the 1960’s, Prof was joined by a nephew from California, Jim Stewart, who helped work the farm and started his family in the area. Prof. gave his house to the Stewarts and moved to a nearby property. His nephew, Jim, shared the responsibilities for the farm, easing the burden on Uncle Jim. The young man also worked for the local phone company. Much time was spent working the farm and raising the cattle with the help of other family members and friends, who lived nearby and were enlisted to help out with the chores. Prof.’s nephew, Robert Moore, shared with me Prof.’s interest in raising new varieties of some familiar vegetables and the joy he experienced when it turned out right. Another family member described Prof.’s skill as a gourmet cook who produced some exceptional meals using a pot belly stove. In Bethlehem, Prof. was very much a key part of the Moore family and someone that family members looked up to and could go to for advice or for help with “growing pains.” He enjoyed family gatherings and initiated performance events that took place in a living room where he had posited a small stage in his design of the room. (Remember part of Prof. Moore’s work was as an architect.)

On the farm, Bethlehem, CT

His nephew, Gene Donnelly, described the Prof.’s cars for several years before he retired as stylish Cadillacs, stylish in outer appearance, but inside the trunk and the interior, like a working farm vehicle:  a bit muddy, no clear pattern of organization of tools, bushels, etc. This revelation shocked me because I recalled him as either in a cassock and surplice, his church vestments, or in a suit or blazer and a shirt and tie, his professional outfit. He was always well-groomed and well- dressed, except on the farm, where jeans and boots were the preferred attire.

Oh, his nephew, Gene did note that Prof was not a trained mechanic and did neglect his car until it finally gave out and then was repaired or replaced by another.

He spoke softly for the most part and did not raise his voice or yell to reprimand a rude or misbehaving member of the class or choir. He was very much in charge of his students by his poise and somewhat reserved demeanor. It was also noticeable that he was not self-centered or competing for praise and accolades for himself. He was a very authentic and mature gentleman, self-assured and without pretense.

The Bethlehem phase of his life included his interacting with the cloistered nuns of the Monastery of Regina Laudis, which was established in Bethlehem, CT. in 1947. One of the priorities of the founder, Mother Benedict, was that the community would emphasize the Chant as an integral and vital part of the community’s prayer life. Prof. Moore’s proximity to the monastery allowed him during the earlier years after its founding, to provide assistance to the nuns in their preparation for singing the Psalms to be prayed at the Sunday liturgy. In my recent visit to the Monastery, Mother Maria showed me her notes in the “old Gradual” for her preparation for a Sunday Mass in 1972. She had written Prof. Moore’s name and the suggestions he had given for the singing of the Psalms. She stated that it was a long time ago, but she remembered him as “being enthusiastic and knowledgeable.” She also mentioned that Mother Assumpta knew the Chant and respected Prof. Moore. The interview was somewhat brief since the Monastery was being renovated and work was in progress right around the cloister door where I met Mother Maria. In later years, the nuns welcomed the help provided by monks from Solesmes who visited Regina Laudis and by the guidance of Dr. Theodore Marier, with whom the nuns prepared two chant CD’s, Women in Chant and Recordare.

There is so much more that could be said about the Prof. and his legacy, much of it probably better summarized at the well-attended events which honored him in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, I was not aware of any of them. There may be others who remember the Prof.  and wonder what happened to him. This brief memoir may answer some questions and perhaps bring a smile and a tear for a good time gone by in a good place with good people. You may understand my desire to bring closure, not that it could ever be complete, to this important part of my life. When I visited Prof. Moore’s home in Bethlehem, I was able to fulfill my long-held desire to place a bouquet of flowers at his grave site and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts he gave to the many people whose lives he enriched. His remains were placed beneath a large rock in the rear part of his yard. The grave is unmarked, except for the stone. It is in a spot that one might take for granted but like him it is unpretentious but substantive.

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I thought that a good way to conclude this essay would be to cite the words of the Prof. as posted in a full-page statement he made in the booklet commemorating the dedication of the new Church of St. Frances of Rome in 1967.

The 1967 Memorial Book of the Dedication of the New Upper Church, March 12, 1967,  70 Years After the Founding of the Church of St. Frances of Rome, Bronx, NY.  Full page Statement by Prof. James T. Moore 


JAMES F. and JUSTINA M. MOORE, R.I.P., MY PARENTS,      for their careful guidance.

REVEREND FRANCIS P. MOORE, L. L. D., Ph.D.,  Founder of This  Parish      who invited me to become the organist in 1920.

REVEREND PASTORS, AND ASSISTANTS, LIVING AND DEAD ,  for all their consideration and kindness.

MOTHER MARY CLARE, R. B. V. M., FIRST PRINCIPAL,      who invited me forty years ago to teach art and music in the school.

SISTERS OF THE PRESENTATION FOR THEIR EXAMPLE AND ZEAL      and for their dedication to the children.



THE CHOIR, MEN AND BOYS, whose efforts have made work a joy.                

MONSIGNOR MICHAEL A. McGUIRE, WHOSE UNTIRING EFFORTS have brought the work of all those preceding him to this magnificent conclusion.


Acknowledgements: I am very grateful to those who assisted me in researching the information that allowed me to develop this modest sketch of Prof. Moore.  Rita Barbieri-McGuire and Gene Donnelly, the Prof’s niece and nephew, helped me to find sources and materials. They were generous in sharing their memories, scrapbooks, documents, clippings, and their time. They worked with their cousin, Robert Moore, another nephew of the Prof, who planned a delightful luncheon, at the Prof’s former residence in Bethlehem, Ct. There, on a beautiful day, Barbara and I met many of the members of the Moore family who shared stories and special interactions that they had had with their Uncle Jim. We learned that Uncle Jim was a man of many talents, loved and respected by those closest to him. At the start of this project I was assisted by speaking to Pat McCaffrey, a lifelong resident of St. Frances of Rome parish who passed away in 2019. He brought a wider perspective of the parish and its history to my much more limited view of its ups and downs. He knew Prof. Moore well and respected his contributions.

Others who helped during the process of putting things together included Annamaria Verde Stefani who described her experience working on a number of the Prof.’s productions while she was a student at St. Barnabas; Sister Mary Gregory, PBVM, (recently deceased), surveyed some of the Presentation nuns with whom she lived to elicit  memories of the Prof.

Dr. Donald Anderson of Marist College read the essay and made helpful suggestions to eliminate some of the editorial deficiencies in the paper. Jean Talbot of Marist launched the first attack on grammatical distractions. Neither is responsible for the shortcomings in the essay; I claim them all for myself.

My son, Michael, was my guide and helper in navigating the process of producing the finished project on the WordPress system. If this essay appears anywhere, it will be due to his technical expertise and his experience using WP for his own publications.

For 57 years, my wife, Barbara, has always been an inspiration for me. Her encouragement and help have made things possible for me that I could never have done without her. THANK  YOU

Other links to music:

O Holy Night
Pange Lingua

9 thoughts on “Memories of the Prof. James T. Moore, a Person of Many Talents”

  1. As wonderful Synopsis of and Tribute to such a talented and gifted man. Thank you for all your research and work in putting this to paper.


    1. Thank You for this story which brought me closer to my Memories of my days in St. Barnabas Grammer School. Started when I joined as an Alter Boy , Soprano in the Choir , Played a Fife in the Band and a member of the Sodality. It all started in my 3rd year ” the year we had split sessions ” I think 1960 . I Remember a list of the Performances , like Christmas Midnight Mass and Holiday Shows. I do wish to know of anyone who may have any pictures of those days . Especially of Prof. Moore…..I learned more from him than any other teacher .


    2. I was a member of the St. Francis of Rome choir from 1966 until 1972 and can attest to what a great man Professor Moore was. I remember all those Monday night practices and the pageantry of Christmas Midnight mass. Wanted to ask you if you have a copy of the article from his 50th Golden Anniversary celebration?
      I attended that event and was even photographed with Professor Moore by the press. That picture was in some newspapers the next day but I don’t have any copies. Thanks for honoring him. Really enjoyed learning more about his life.


      1. And for most of those years, John, I sat next to you in the Soprano section. I named my son after Prof.
        Warmest regards – Charlie Di Maggio


  2. Like my younger brother Ed, I too was a member of the St Barnabas Band under the direction of Prof. Moore. I was assigned to play the fife along with classmate Billy Mitchell. Billy mastered the fife and played in the St. Patrick’s Day Parades, while I was assigned to carry the Flag! Prof said I did that well. (I still have the fife!). This is a great tribute to a good and generous man. Thank You for doing it. Mike McEneney, St Barnabas Class of 1945.


    1. Hi Mike. What a nice memory of Prof. Moore. He was a legend and I’m glad both you and I were touched by his generosity.


  3. Thank you so much for writing this heartfelt remembrance of my great uncle. I was young when he died, but he made a lasting impression on me. I recall our family visits to the farm and the house on Bantam Lake. How sad he died so young, but what a wonderful thing that he helped shape your life and surely the lives of many others.


  4. Thank you for this amazing memory. My oldest son is named after Prof. He meant so much to many of us particularly those that had the opportunity to participate in the SFR choir.


  5. I was searching the internet yesterday looking for stories on Wakefield and came across your blog.
    It was such a great surprise to find your article about Professor Moore. I was a young soprano in the St Francis of Rome choir from 1966-1972 and have warm memories of Professor Moore and his devotion to the school and church. He was a truly a good man. You mentioned a newspaper article about his Golden Anniversary celebration. I attended that event and as a matter of fact I had my picture taken with Prof Moore that was included in newspaper articles about the event.. Do you happen to know where I might access that article?


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