A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 18, 2015
“Church is never out until they stop singing”

"Church is never out until they stop singing” is another way of saying “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” “As long as the organ is playing church is not out” was cited in a newspaper in 1872.

The expression became widely known in the 1890s. “Church is never out till the people get through singing” was cited in 1894. “Church is not out until the last hymn is sung” was used in 1895 to mean that a baseball team still had a chance to come from behind and win a baseball game. “Church is never out till they stop singing” was said by New York politician Chauncey Depew about someone’s chances to be president.

“The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings” is a modern variation of this saying.

[This entry includes research from the Quote Investigator and quotations expert Fred R. Shapiro.]


17 October 1872, The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “The Political Outlook” (From Cincinnati Volksblatt), pg. 2, col. 2:
As long as the organ is playing church is not out.

17 August 1894, Fort Worth (TX) Daily Gazette, pg. 7:
The impression is still strong among railroad passenger agents that there will be further reductions in the rate to the Washington encampment of the Knights of Pythias.  “Church is never out till the people get through singing,” said one of them this morning, and all of them talk as if they understood the language of this parable.

5 May 1895, Philadelphia (PA) Times, pg. 8:
Church is not out until the last hymn is sung.
(Describing a come-from-behind baseball game.—ed.)

2 May 1896, New-York (NY) Tribune, “McKinley a Sure Winner,” pg. 1, col. 6:
“Do you think the Governor still has a chance?”

“While there is life there is hope. It doesn’t do to count on anything as a certainty until all is over. Church is never out until they stop singing. I admit that Major McKinley looks like the winner, but I am with Morton as long as he is to be considered as a candidate.”
(Spoken by Chauncey Depew.—ed.)

4 May 1896, New Haven (CT) Register, “Political,” pg. 6, col. 4:
Dr. Depew observed, when he was asked if it meant to withdraw the name of Gov. Morton at St. Louis, that he was “just writing his nominating speech.” As for the chances—well, “church is never out till they stop singing,” said the learned doctor, recalling his youthful memories.

11 July 1898, The Evening Post (Charleston, SC), “C. P. Barrett Goes to Penitentiary,” pg. 5, col. 4:
He received the reporter pleasantly and said he had not yet given up the fight. “You know,” said he, “church is never out until the singing is over.”
(Spoken by “C. P. Barrett, the noted postoffice defraudeer.”—ed.)

Google Books
12 July 1913, The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer, “Washington,” pg. 46, col. 1:
There is an old saying that “church is not out ’till the singing’s done,” and with the narrow margin which the Democrats have in the Senate, it is believed that at least the wool and sugar schedules are still in the balance.

Google Books
11 October 1913, , “Washington,” pg. 255, col. 1:
Whether he can secure the return of enough Democrats to block the plan of the Republicans is problematical, but in any event the political pot will be boiling for the next few days, and the old saying that “church is never out ’till the singing’s all done” is very apropos in this instance.

HathiTrust Digital Library
The History of United States Army Base Hospital No. 22,
Compiled After Twenty Years from Actual Records and the Vivid Memories of Many of the Personnel

By Bern V. Miller
Milwuakee, WI: Published by Direct Press
1940
Pg. 75:
‘Cholly’ McMahon—”Losers push!” “Church ain’t over till they quit singing.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Wednesday, November 18, 2015 • Permalink