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The Culworth Composer

His name was Wallace Arthur Sabin. Not exactly world famous but in his time he was well known in America as a composer, teacher, organist and designer of organs. He merits quite a lot of information on Wikipedia so he must be quite famous!

Wallace was born in Culworth in 1869, the son of James and Annie Eliza (nee Parsons) Sabin. The Sabins were described as ‘Gentlemen Farmers’ and had lived in the Culworth area for many generations. John Sabin, who may have been his grandfather or uncle, was a churchwarden when the organ was built. Above the organ is this inscription; ‘This organ was erected AD1859. The funds raised by a bazaar at Culworth 1858. Charles Hill MA Rector, John Sabin, Church Warden.’ The organ at Culworth obviously influenced the young Wallace.

Wallace trained with a Dr. Monk at Banbury Parish Church and from the age of 13 was organist at Magdalen College School Brackley and in 1890 at the age of 21 was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.

About 1894 he went to America to the San Francisco area and here made his name. He was in constant demand as a soloist and the huge organs he designed are still played. His compositions are not remembered but do include music for the Jewish Liturgy, several works for the organ and two light operetta-type plays.

He died in 1938. By then there were no longer any Sabins living in Culworth. One of the Culworth House lodges (all of which are named after Culworth House residents) is called John Sabin House. I discovered that James Sabin was living in Culworth House (the Care Home) in 1880, but by 1901 was living in Portsmouth and by 1910 the Rt. Hon.  Walter Hume MP owned Culworth House.

James Sabin was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard in 1928 aged 83. There are still Sabins who live locally. Perhaps they could add to the story.

Recent (2021) further research using Ancestry has revealed a few more facts about Wallace Sabin.  He was born on 15th December 1869.  After his emigration to the USA in 1894 he married Kathryn Wells Rader, and although they later divorced they did have a daughter Patricia, born in 1919, who died in 2014 in Washington.  For many years he was a member of an organisation called the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, which was a members' club for people from a performing arts background; he appears to have joined on his birthday in 1897, and was one of the directors for at least a couple of years and served on various committees.  He died on 8th December 1937 at 3142 Lewiston Avenue, Berkeley and was buried at Colma, San Mateo County, California.