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Archives George Shnob is honored by St. Peter’s Church in Plattsburgh
‘His music touched the heart’

Sept. 20, 2017

By Shan Moore
Staff writer

PLATTSBURGH — George Shnob isn’t one to blow his own horn.George Shnob

But there’s not a church, nor synagogue, in Clinton County that has not resounded with his music.

Over many years, dating back to a stint in the U.S. Army, the Mooers native has either accompanied or directed the voices of others and added his own baritone to the mix in many other locales, as well.

“His gift of music is just amazing,” said Phil Bernard of Plattsburgh.

Phil, her husband Lou and the late Jim and Joan Fleury worked together with George to form the Sweet Adelines Chorus in 1967, and there was no doubt that George would be director.

“He knows his craft; he’s a great musician,” Mrs. Bernard said. “He knew barbershop harmony, and he knew the structure of chords that would make that sound pop.”

And as it turned out, she said, “George would go along with anything he thought would please the chorus or please the audience.

“For our shows, we put him in crazy costumes.”

Picture George Shnob, typically quiet and humble, sporting a basket of fruit on his head a la Carmen Miranda.

“He was not shy in front of the chorus” with the baton in his hand, Mrs. Bernard said. “We had so much fun.”
And imagine the laughter when the Sweet Adelines, traveling for a regional contest, arrived at a hotel to find that Phil, with her name more typically given to a male, had been paired with George to share a room.

“It was really very hilarious,” she said.

By the way, George doesn’t have a horn to blow — he plays keyboard.

Public service award
Sunday, Sept. 10, the Sweet Adelines were among a number of groups that performed a special musical tribute to George at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, held in the wake of his retirement as longtime organist and music director there.

It’s the parish’s way, according to a press release from the pastor, Msgr. Dennis Duprey, to show “grateful appreciation for his contribution to church music and his contribution to the service of people and music in the greater community.”

In 2009, the parish created the Student Assistance Endowment Fund in George’s name at Clinton Community College to help students with financial emergencies stay in school.

At the recent event, he was presented the Sen. Ronald Stafford Award for Public Service, an honor created by the late senator’s family to recognize extraordinary public service of a St. Peter’s parishioner.

Past recipients include Brother Raymond Fortin, Dr. John Boule and the Rev. Roland St. Pierre.

Selfless devotion
Father John Yonkovig, now at St. Agnes Church in Lake Placid, was newly arrived at St. Peter’s in 1993 when he had the task of hiring a new music minister.

George Shnob was an easy pick.

“He had a great devotion to the Mass,” the priest recalled. “And the other thing that was so clear was his ease of dealing with people.”

Some musicians can be difficult in their reach for perfection, Father Yonkovig said, but not George.

“I think he could make people who couldn’t sing sound good in the choir,” he said, laughing.

A music minister shoulders many responsibilities beyond the Mass, the priest said, including music for funerals, special events ...

From George, he said, “I never once heard a protest.

“He really was selfless in his devotion to the music, St. Peter’s and the people of St. Peter’s.”

‘Amazing Grace’
Shnob lives at the Samuel F. Vilas Home in Plattsburgh now, following a stroke a few months ago.

A clock marks each hour with the strains of “Amazing Grace,” a hymn inmates loved to hear Shnob play when he was organist at Clinton Correctional Facility.Shnob hasn’t attempted to play one of the pianos at the Vilas Home since moving in — he doesn’t think his fingers have recovered enough dexterity.

“If I’d try it and not be able to do it, it would be more (disappointing),” he said.

Shnob’s first instrument, besides his voice, was an old pump organ in the home where he grew up, the youngest child of Leona and Edmond Shnob.

He taught himself to play but much later took lessons to sharpen his skills.

The young man graduated from Mooers Central School in 1954. He served three years in the Army and found a job as a meat cutter at the Grand Union in Champlain once home again.

He took the position of registrar at Clinton Community College as he completed his associate degree there in 1972. Then he moved on to earn a bachelor of arts in French and Canadian studies from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1973.

He retired as registrar in 2002.

Shnob also taught French at CCC and Clinton County Senior Center and tutored groups, among them officials who work at the U.S. border with Quebec and others.

“You find a way to fit things in,” he said of his busy life.

Touched hearts
And the whole time Shnob was making music. For many years, he was the organist at Plattsburgh Air Force Base. He directed the Madrigal Singing Chorus in Franklin Centre, Que., until sidelined by a heart attack.

Along with directing the Sweet Adelines, he sang with the Cumberland Bay Barbershop Chorus and Barbershop Quartet.

He was cantor and organist at many weddings and funerals, church and community socials and other events.
And then there was his work at St. Peter’s.

“I’ve had some wonderful choir members,” he said.

George, said Father Yonkovig, “encouraged a lot of young people to get involved with music.

“His music touched the heart in so many ways.”


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