A friend of music at First Congregational Church is someone like you!

FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
403 South Jefferson Ave.
Saginaw, MI 48607

989.754.6565

www.fccsaginaw.org

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Music List - December 24

Lessons and carols have been part of the candlelight service at First Congregational Church for several decades.  The Chancel Choir, directed by Nicholas Schmelter, will lead the singing of hymns and carols.  First Congregational Church warmly welcomes guest flutist Robert Hart, who will collaborate with the choir and perform music of the Baroque.

Music Played Before the Service:

Sonata in E Minor, BWV 1034 (Bach)                                              
Magnificat – Doppelfuge (Pachelbel)
Sonata in C Major (Händel)
Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar (Buttstedt)                                 
Sonata in G Major (Telemann)           

Hymns:

                        Once in Royal David’s City
Angels We Have Heard on High (#116)       
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (#122)
O Little Town of Bethlehem (#134)
The First Nowell (#141)
Silent Night, Holy Night (#138)
O Come, All Ye Faithful (#132)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (#120)

Carols:            

Ding-dong Ding! [Woodward]
                        Lullaby [Ness Beck]
                        On Christmas Night [Vaughan Williams]
                        What is this Lovely Fragrance [Near]
                        Sleeps Judea Fair [MacKinnon]
                        Ding Dong! Merrily on High [Near]

Voluntaries:    

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, Op. 122, No. 8 [Brahms]
                        In Dulci Jubilo [Dupré]
In Dulci Jubilo, BWV 729 [Bach]     
Carillon de Westminster, Op. 54 [Vierne]      

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Noonday Recital - Friday, December 16 - Nicholas Schmelter

A second 12:15 p.m. organ recitals is scheduled to take place Friday, December 16, at First Congregational Church in downtown Saginaw, Michigan.

Nicholas Schmelter, Director of Music Ministries, will present the second Advent recital on Friday, December 16.  He will perform arrangements of beloved French noëls by 20th-century composers Marcel Courtonne and Henri Busser. The program will also include a work by Marcel Dupré seldom heard in its entirety, Six Antiennes Pour le Temps de Noël, Opus 48.

This performance is sponsored by the Friends of Music, who support the musical happenings of First Congregational Church.  Free-will contributions of guests will assist with the costly maintenance of the sanctuary’s historic organ.


Monday, December 5, 2011

First Congregational Church Announces Choral Scholar

The Chancel Choir of First Congregational Church announces its 2011 Choral Scholar, Rachel DeShone.

The scholarship program was initiated earlier in 2011 to offer male and female students, who obtain admission to one of the colleges or universities in the Saginaw vicinity and for whom it would otherwise be a hardship to acquire a higher education, the opportunity to achieve financial assistance and to take part in the choral services and Chancel Choir rehearsals at First Congregational Church.  Thus, choral scholars are provided the opportunity to develop technically and share in a positive experience of fellowship and community service.  

Rachel DeShone is a vocal major studying Music Education at Saginaw Valley State University.  She has studied privately for two years with Dr. Rachel Andrews.  DeShone has been active in choirs for many years including the women’s choir at Dr. Martin Luther College (New Ulm, MN), where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education.  She was a part of the recent opera production Dido and Aeneas at SVSU and participated in musicals while in high school.  Rachel is a proud mother of three children, Samantha (9), Seth (7), and Solomon (3).

The church’s music department anticipates offering four $750 Choral Scholarships in September 2012. Preference will be given to those qualified applicants who pursue music; it is emphasized that funds enable a student to commence an education. Scholarships only remain secured on the condition that the holder retains his or her academic place for the duration of the scholarship. Candidates are advised to check in advance with the Director of Music Ministries for possible vacancies in their particular vocal range.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chancel Choir Mourns Loss - Dr. George Harris


The Chancel Choir of First Congregational Church mourns the loss of George P. Harris, M.D., who passed away on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, at Covenant HealthCare – Cooper. He was 79 years old. 
George P. Harris was born on September 16, 1932, in Bay City, to the late George and Catherine (Phillips) Harris. He married Marion E. McGuire in 1956; she preceded him in death in 1973. Dr. Harris married Laurelynne Daniels later, on August 23, 1973; she survives him. George was a 1950 graduate of Bay City Central. Following high school, he attended Northwestern University, where he graduated in 1954 with a Bachelor’s Degree. He then attended medical school at the University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1958. Dr. Harris proudly served his country by enlisting in the U.S. Air Force; he served as a flight surgeon from 1959-1961. He then attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison from 1961-1964 completing his residency in radiology. Dr. Harris was a fellow of the American College of Radiology.
Surviving are his wife, Laurelynne; three sons: Geoffrey (Lisa) Harris of Traverse City, Christopher Harris of Bay City, Timothy Harris of Saginaw; a daughter-in-law, Sandy Harris; ten grandchildren; one great grandchild; three sisters and one brother: Susan Harris, Sally Suomela, Katie (John) Ogden and Don (Jane) Harris.
Dr. Harris’ funeral service will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 3, 2011, at First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson Ave. Rev. Dr. Todd S. Farley will officiate. Military honors will follow under the auspices of VFW Post # 1859. Private burial will take place on Monday at Elm Lawn Cemetery, Bay City.
Friends are welcome to visit with Dr. Harris’ family at the Deisler Funeral Home, 2233 Hemmeter Rd. (off State) on Friday, December 2, 2011, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Saturday at the church, from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the service.
In lieu of flowers, those planning an expression of sympathy may wish to consider memorials to the Organ Fund - First Congregational Church or the Luke Reed IDAA Scholarship Fund. 
George sung in the Chancel Choir since 1972

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Noonday Recital - Friday, December 2 - Dr. Steven Egler

Two 12:15 p.m. organ recitals are scheduled to take place at First Congregational Church in downtown Saginaw, Michigan, during the season of Advent.  Cookies and coffee will be provided at a reception in the narthex following the recital.

The first program will be performed this Friday, December 2.  Dr. Steven Egler, Artist in Residence at First Congregational Church, will present a thirty-minute musical celebration of Advent including “Carillon on a Ukranian Bell Carol,” which was written in his honor in 2006 by awarded American composer Gerald Near.  Additional recent compositions by Philip Rice and Nicholas Schmelter will frame the program.  Rice, who currently studies and teaches as a graduate assistant at Westminster College of the Arts in Princeton, New Jersey, has been commissioned to compose a sacred choral work for Pentecost.

Nicholas Schmelter, Director of Music Ministries, will present the second recital on Friday, December 16. 

This performance is sponsored by the Friends of Music, who support the musical happenings of First Congregational Church.  Free-will contributions of guests will assist with the costly maintenance of the sanctuary’s historic organ.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friends of Music Involved in the Community

Friend of Music Ken Wuepper, curator of the Barton Organ at Saginaw's historic Temple Theatre, and member of First Congregational Church, explains some details of console restoration to The Morning Team (WSGW-AM).

Enjoy hearing clips of the Barton Organ, including a fanfare for local radio personality Art Lewis, by clicking the link above. Donna Parker will perform on the Barton Organ this Sunday, November 20, at 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Kent S. Dennis Memorial Organ Recital - November 13 - Memorial Presbyterian Church

On Sunday, November 13, 2011, at 7:00 p.m., Dr. Steven Egler and Nicholas Schmelter will join with members of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the American Guild in performing the Dr. Kent S. Dennis Memorial Organ Recital.  Music for chamber organ and small ensemble will take place at the Bertha E. R. Strosacker Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland, Michigan.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Brown Bag Recitals Continue - Mark Your Calendar for Advent

Two 12:15 p.m. organ recitals are scheduled to take place at First Congregational Church in downtown Saginaw, Michigan, during the season of Advent. 

The first program will be performed on Friday, December 2.  Dr. Steven Egler, Artist in Residence at First Congregational Church, will present a thirty-minute musical celebration of Advent including “Carillon on a Ukranian Bell Carol,” which was written in his honor in 2006 by awarded American composer Gerald Near.   Additional recent compositions by Philip Rice and Nicholas Schmelter will frame the program.  Rice, who currently studies and teaches as a graduate assistant at Westminster College of the Arts in Princeton, New Jersey, has been commissioned to compose a sacred choral work for Pentecost.

Nicholas Schmelter, Director of Music Ministries, will present the second recital on Friday, December 16.  He will perform arrangements of beloved French noëls by 20th-century composers Marcel Courtonne and Henri Busser. The program will also include a work by Marcel Dupré seldom heard in its entirety, Six Antiennes Pour le Temps de Noël, Opus 48.

This performance is sponsored by the Friends of Music, who support the musical happenings of First Congregational Church.  Free-will contributions of guests will assist with the costly maintenance of the sanctuary’s historic organ.

The congregation is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and has recognized excellence in musical outreach and community service since the 1800’s. The Rev. Dr. Todd S. Farley, PhD, is the congregation’s Senior Minister.  If you would like more information, please contact Nicholas Schmelter, Director of Music Ministries, at the church office center, (989) 754-6565.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Midland's Men of Music Will Perform at First Congregational Church – December 11

The Men of Music will present their annual Christmas concert “Christmas Time Is Here!” at First Congregational Church on December 11, at 3:00 p.m. 

There is no admission charge, but a free will offering will be collected at intermission to help a charitable organization in Saginaw.  Proceeds totaling $92,000 have supported local groups over the years.  Last year, for example, the East Side Soup Kitchen received a donation from concert proceeds.

Grace Marra, director of the chorus, has developed a family friendly concert with a diversity of selections including White Christmas, Silent Night, and Christmas Time is Here.  She has arranged five of the seventeen songs.  Arrangements of familiar melodies by Tchaikovsky, Pachelbel, and others, are also included on the program.

In addition, the program will include selections by the ever-popular Dirty Dozen ensemble, a small group of singers from within The Men of Music.  Jantz Black, organist of Midland’s First United Methodist Church, will accompany the program.

The Men of Music will perform in the Midland Center for the Arts “Christmas Extravaganza” along with other MCFTA choruses on December 17th at 8:00 PM.  Tickets are available for this concert at the MCFTA and cost $15.  Tickets may be obtained directly from the MCFTA box office and http://www.mcfta.org/  The MOM site is www.menofmusic.org.

Beginning String Instrument Music Program - November 12

The Beginning String Instrument Music Program will host its fifth concert this year at 12:00 p.m. (noon), Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, at historic First Congregational Church in Saginaw. The 100-piece beginner’s ensemble will perform in concert with guest artists Dr. Jamie Fiste, professor of Cello at CMU, and accompanied by Dr. Adrienne Wiley, professor of piano at CMU, both from the Great Lakes Bay Region.

The goal of the String Instrumental Music program is to develop a new generation of String players, ages 7-16, in the Region. Students are taught string instrument skills and encouraged to give back to their communities by performing a concert every eight weeks. The community supports the students with donations, attendance at concerts, and extending invitations for the students to perform.

“Less than a year ago, most of these students had never held a string instrument before,” says Lois Bright Wilkins, local cellist and program coordinator.

The program experienced a 40% growth in September 2011 from January 2011. The program recently expanded with a community outreach effort by bringing stringed instruments to Houghton Elementary School 21st century after school program. The enrollment in that string introductory program is 90. Although the program teaches string instruments to students inside the City of Saginaw, volunteers from the SBYO and neighboring High Schools in the region come to Saginaw to help students learn.

“The excitement that these students have shown us with this opportunity is amazing,” says Ruth Ann Robinson, music instructor at Bridgeport Baptist Academy and assistant Saginaw Bay Youth Orchestra (SBYO) director.

The Pulling Strings concert is open to the public. All donations will help support student need-based scholarships. Contributions designated for “A String Instrumental Program” can be made in care of Saginaw Community Foundation.

For more information about the program, its impact in our community, or registration please visit www.bwiainvestments.com or contact Deb Fields at (989)488-3425.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Month of Remembrance

The Friends of Music at First Congregational Church in downtown Saginaw, Michigan, acknowledge November, the month of remembrance, with a performance of Gabriel Fauré’s masterwork Requiem.  The seven-movement work, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Sunday, November 6, at 7:30 p.m., in the congregation’s historic sanctuary.

Exultate Deo, a chamber choir comprised of singers from the Saginaw Valley, and baritone Adam Romulo Ignacio, will present Gabriel Fauré’s masterwork Requiem. Robert Sabourin will conduct the choir. Dr. Steven Egler will accompany the choir on the sanctuary organ. 

Gabriel Fauré, who lived from 1845-1924, was a foremost French composer of the early 20th century.  In an oft-quoted interview from 1902, Fauré indicated that Requiem “does not express the fear of death” as do some compositions; rather, it is a musical depiction of “a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness.”

This choral masterwork is performed in loving memory of the members and friends of First Congregational Church who died since November 2010, especially the following persons: Leta Bloomfield, Gretchen Smith, Betty Reid, Lucille Mahan, Jeanne Draper, Robert E. Wendland, Jessie Iliff, William Nickle, Bob Chandler, Peggy Parker, Chrystal Toft, Dr. John Manning, Tom Fry, Bernie Darvill, Gary Egler, and Betty Ostler.

Friends of Music support the musical happenings of First Congregational Church; the support of Friends of Music patrons and free-will contributions of guests assists in underwriting the cost of all series events. Members are music enthusiasts from the congregation and/or community at large -- members are aficionados of the pipe organ, choral music, chamber music, and the like. The church, which dates to 1868, is acoustically superb. The congregation is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and has recognized excellence and eclecticism in its musical offerings since the 1800’s.

The congregation is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and has recognized excellence in musical outreach and community service since the 1800’s. The Rev. Dr. Todd S. Farley, PhD, is the congregation’s Senior Minister.  If you would like more information, please contact Nicholas Schmelter, Director of Music Ministries, at the church office center, (989) 754-6565.

A Requiem Mass – Gabriel Fauré - November 6

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Join Friends of Music and Organ Committee on Tour

First Congregational Church’s Friends of Music and Organ Committee will visit historic Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bay City, Michigan, on Saturday, October 29, 11:00 a.m.  Built by lumber barons, Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church contains rare glass windows and ornate woodwork salvaged from ancient European ruins.  Its pipe organ, built by Ernest M. Skinner, was originally built for Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church (Flint, Michigan) in 1916.  That congregation sold the instrument to St. Alban’s in 1939 for $500.00.  This purchase did not include the Echo division, pedal bass trombone stop, or the casework, which is in use even today in Flint.  The Aeolian-Skinner Company moved the organ and constructed new casework.  Though some pipe ranks have been modified over the years, the organ is used every week for worship services.  Members of the congregation and Friends of Music are invited to attend.  Reservations are required. If you would like to reserve a place in the tour or have any questions about the Bay City visit, please contact Nicholas Schmelter at the church office center, (989) 754-6565, or Jon Best, (989) 799-9425.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Faculty Recital - Dr. Steven Egler


Dr. Steven Egler, Professor of Organ at CMU and Artist in Residence at First Congregational Church, Saginaw, will present his faculty recital on Sunday, September 18, at 4 p.m., in the Staples Recital Hall in the School of Music Building on the CMU campus. Featured will be the choral and organ music of Moonyeen Albrecht, Professor Emerita of Theory and Composition in the CMU School of Music, in celebration of her 75th birthday anniversary year. The choral music will be performed by the ensemble Exultate Deo, which is conducted by Robert Sabourin. Chelsea Hart, soprano and a member of the First Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir (Mount Pleasant), will a featured soloist. A faculty/student brass ensemble will also assist on several of the choral compositions.  Additional music for organ solo and flute and organ will be performed.  Admission is $5 for adults, and $3 for students and senior.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Three Choirs Festival - September 24

Three area church choirs will join for a Three Choirs Festival on Saturday, September 24, 2011. The choirs are from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Midland, First Congregational Church in Saginaw, and Trinity Episcopal Church in Bay City, and will present a Hymn Festival featuring the music of David Hurd. The festival will begin at 5:00 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, Bay City. David Hurd, born in 1950, is Professor of Sacred Music and Director of Chapel Music at General Theological Seminary in New York City, and Music Director of the Church of the Holy Apostles in New York. Hurd has over 150 choral and organ works in print. His compositions have appeared in numerous hymnals and recordings in both the United States and England. Dr. Hurd attended Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art, the Julliard School, and Oberlin College. He is also widely recognized as one of the foremost church musicians and concert organists in the country with a long list of awards, prizes, honors, and achievements to his credit. Hurd embraces his African-American heritage in his compositions and career as a classical organist. The three choirs will prepare all of the hymns by Dr. Hurd that appear in The Hymnal 1982, the primary hymnal of The Episcopal Church. Members of the audience will be invited to sing with the choirs. The program will also include several psalm settings for cantor and congregation as well as hymn harmonizations and organ solo repertoire by Dr. Hurd. Choir directors Dennis Van Koevering from Midland, Nicholas Schmelter from Saginaw, and Robert Sabourin from Bay City, are looking forward to combining their individual ensembles for this event. Schmelter will be the organist for the festival and Sabourin will conduct the choirs. The program is open to the public free of charge. Trinity is located at 815 N. Grant Street in downtown Bay City. Barrier free access is available off of the parking lot on the west side of the building. The church is also air conditioned.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Music Handbook Published



Is the spirit prepared to move through the voices and talents of congregation’s musicians? A variety of music including Taizé with classical guitar and treble instruments, excerpts from Haydn’s Missa Brevis - St Joannis de Deo with string ensemble, festive hymn settings and other music by The Saginaw Brass Quintet, and dozens of favorites will be among the repertoire this choir term, which begins September 8.  Members of all ages are invited to take part in the Chancel Bells, Chancel Choir, Choristers, and Recorder Consort. In addition, volunteers are needed to serve in roles of librarian, choir guardian, and the like.  Other information about the Choral Scholar and Organ Assistant initiatives is available in the department handbook available in hard copy or electronic format.

Perhaps you are interested in setting musical goals this year.  First Congregational Church might be the place for you to do so.  Do you want to improve your music reading abilities?  Six people are taking part in a sight singing course making use of Ottman's Music for Sight Singing [Eighth Edition].  You and your friends are welcome to join the weekly lessons at any time; though, it may be necessary to have a few catch-up tutorials. 

MUSIC HANDBOOK
2011-2012

Attendance

Weekly or biweekly rehearsals are required for members of the congregation’s ensembles because a choir is a group that functions like an athletic team. Each and every member of the team is important. If a choir member misses one or more rehearsals or sectionals during even a two-month period, he or she is not properly learning the music that the choir is scheduled to sing or play at worship. Of course, it is understood there will be times when a choir member needs to be absent due to an illness, a mandatory school function, a family emergency, and the like. Temporary leaves of absence from the ensemble are understandable during school examinations, work-related travel time, a period of mourning, or comparable times. However, tardiness and routine absence shows disrespect for the ensemble as a whole and will not be permitted; members unable to make the regular commitment are encouraged to (1) take a temporary hiatus from ensemble membership in order to evaluate their level of participation and (2) return to the ensemble only after regular attendance can be assured. Any attendance-related questions should be directed to the Director of Music.

Rehearsal Etiquette

It is understood that how a choir rehearses directly relates to how it performs. Following the simple rules of choral etiquette will result in a fruitful, respectful singing-ringing experience. Firstly, it is essential to be on time. Arriving late is distracting to the director and other choir members. Tardy singers miss vocalization, which is essential to rehearsals. Secondly, avoid wearing or carrying strong scents. Many people are physically sensitive or allergic to perfumes and other strong scents – this is an objective matter.  Avoid eating onions or garlic before rehearsal. Thirdly, bring pencils to rehearsal in order to mark directions and notes on your scores. Failing to mark what the conductor requests shows a lack of choral solidarity and results in poor performance. Do not use colored pens or highlighters, for directions may be changed upon a piece’s future use. Fourthly, sing the musical part assigned you by the conductor; sing in the appropriate range. Do not sing an octave lower than what is written; do what is assigned in order to improve tuning and make best use of your vocal quality. Sing with sensitivity to your fellow choir members.  Fifthly, avoid talking, chatter, and excess movement during rehearsal and worship. While choral rehearsal and singing is a sociable pastime – and while it is realized that camaraderie in a choir is one of its strongest benefits – neighborly conversation and chatter during rehearsal stalls the forward progress of the entire ensemble. Talking during service, which includes any music sung or played before the first hymn and even during the postlude, is downright unacceptable; those persons who do so will be asked to prayerfully join the congregation and take a temporary leave of absence from the ensemble.

Teamwork

The yearly schedule may seem challenging at first; however, regular rehearsals provide a wonderful system for musical growth and are necessary for the regular output of sacred repertoire. After a number of weeks, a new choral novice falls naturally into the flow. Success in the program not only depends on the commitment of each choir member, but of parents and family members as well. Choir parents, spouses, and children are encouraged to be wonderfully supportive of one another. Carpools to rehearsals and services should be arranged. Music staff and Friends of Music should be contacted to help and encourage choir members in their progress in lively partnership with families. Times for fellowship following rehearsals are strongly encouraged.  Choir members are encouraged to share prayer concerns with the ensemble in order that pastoral needs are met.

Choral Scholars

Members of the congregation’s music ministries are encouraged to sponsor (or partially fund) a choral scholar. Beginning in September 2011, a maximum of four Choral Scholarships as determined by the availability of funds will be offered by First Congregational Church to male and female students who obtain admission to one of the colleges or universities in the Saginaw vicinity and for whom it would otherwise be a hardship to acquire a higher education. Preference is given to those qualified applicants who pursue music; it is emphasized that funds enable a student to commence an education. Choral Scholarships only remain secured on the condition that the holder retains his or her academic place for the duration of the Scholarship. Auditions will be held in early September 2011. Candidates are advised to check in advance with the Director of Music Ministries possible vacancies in their particular vocal range or ensemble. The following details are provided for your information: the Choral Scholarship is currently (from September 2011) $750 in the first year, and may be renewed. Choral Scholars keep the following choir terms: (a) first rehearsal (29 September) until and including Christmas Eve (24 December); (b) 19 January until and including Easter Sunday (8 April); (c) 19 April until and including 6 May. A free week (Wednesday-Sunday) is arranged with the conductor in the course of each term.

Organ Assistants

Musicians interested in learning about the pipe organ are asked to consider serving as organ assistants.  Console assistants help the staff organist by turning pages, drawing stops, and even playing melodies at Sunday service.  The time commitment is determined on a week by week basis – on a given service week, the assistant will have a short rehearsal with the staff organist (as scheduled on a day Monday through Thursday) and take part in 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship.  The student will receive two thirty-minute organ lessons in exchange for his or her stewardship of time.  This is a perfect opportunity for an aspiring organist, a pianist interested in expanding on his or her skills, or a young musician.  Persons of all ages are encouraged to take part.

Voice Lessons and Music Theory Workshops

Vocalization and sight reading takes place at each choir rehearsal, but training on an individual basis can address matters of vocal health, range, breath control, and overall confidence that cannot be covered in an ensemble setting.   Singers are invited to contact the choirmaster to arrange lessons.  Music theory lessons will take place in a group format determined by interest.
 
Choir Guardians

The choristers will be provided a safe and secure environment during rehearsal and performance.  While all parents and guardians are encouraged to observe rehearsals-workshops, one adult other than the choirmaster is required to be present at each gathering.  Families are encouraged to take part in a snack schedule to encourage the fellowship of choristers.  Lists of allergies and emergency contact information must be received by the music office so a healthy atmosphere can be maintained.

Staff and Volunteers

Nicholas Schmelter                                         989.754.6565             n.schmelter.fccsaginaw@gmail.com
Director of Music Ministries                 
           
Dr. Steven L. Egler                                        
Artist in Residence

Beverly Westervelt                                                  
Director, Recorder Consort                            

Jim Hargett                                                    
Men’s Section Leader, Chancel Choir           

Weekly Rehearsal Schedules

Chancel Choir – Thursdays (as scheduled), 7:15-8:45 p.m.; Sectionals Alternating Thursdays (as scheduled), 7:15-8:00 p.m.

Chancel Bells – Alternating Thursdays (as scheduled), 6:00-7:00 p.m.
           
Recorder Consort – Tuesdays (as scheduled), 4:45-5:45 p.m.
           
Choristers – Wednesdays (as scheduled), 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Calendar

Contact the Director of Music Ministries for a copy of the schedule that indicates the rehearsals, sung services, concerts, and other events for which the choirs will be active during the 2011-12 season. This schedule is subject to minor changes. As much advance notice as possible will be given in such cases.


Friends of Music Series Announced



Monday, July 18, 2011

First Congregational Church Announces Purchase of Historic Pipe Organ

The Organ Committee of First Congregational Church, with support of the church’s Board of Trustees, has purchased an historic pipe organ, Ernest M. Skinner’s Op. 372, which became available from a church in Dearborn, Michigan. This instrument will temporarily occupy the narthex coat room until it can be integrated with First Congregational Church’s own historic pipes to achieve a tonal and artistic unity embracing the highest standards of craftsmanship.

Helderop Pipe Organs of Detroit will remove the organ from Dearborn Christian Fellowship, where it was transplanted over twenty years ago from the location of its construction, First Presbyterian Church, Bowling Green, Ohio.  Built in 1922, Opus 372 represents a rare instrument built at Skinner’s Westfield factory by craftsman of the Skinner-acquired Steere Organ Company. 

Recently, First Congregational Church formally announced its pipe organ revitalization project.  Board members reactivated the church’s Organ Committee earlier in 2011 after realizing that the sanctuary’s pipe organ was and is badly in need of repair.  Necessary maintenance includes replacing the console along with control system, and rewiring and releathering as needed, so the instrument is fully functioning and mechanically reliable.  The church’s project embraces the aesthetic goal set in the 1920s by the church’s Music Committee when they selected the Skinner Organ Company to build a three-manual organ, Opus 751.

If you would like more information about the organ project or would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the project, please contact Nicholas E. Schmelter, Director of Music Ministries, at the church office center, (989) 754-6565, who will be pleased to answer any of your questions.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Organ Tour – Installment No. 4

Ernest Skinner’s reputation for mechanical ingenuity and attention to detail was outstanding.  His organs were designed to be played with ease: they included reliable combination actions, melody couplers, solid ivory drawstops, and a recognizable consistent touch.



“The exterior of Skinner consoles was usually made of oak, although at least one console was constructed of solid mahogany, stained light to complement its high-gloss, dark, wine-colored mahogany interior. These exceedingly attractive Skinner consoles were designed with more in mind than mere beauty.  E. M. Skinner maintained that ‘the convenience of the organist should be made the first consideration of the organ builder, regardless of fads, hobbies, or economics.’ The distance between keyboards, the position of the pedal board, the placement of the drawknohs, and the location of all mechanical devises (expression pedals, combination pistons, etc.) on the Skinner console were designed for maximum convenience, and the manual keys of most of these consoles were now equipped with ‘tracker touch.’” (Holden, The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner 45)

Such was the case with the design of the original console built for First Congregational Church in the 1920s. 


Following the disastrous fire of the 1970s that destroyed the church’s roof and much of the sanctuary, it was necessary for the congregation to purchase a new organ console.  What replaced the original Skinner console (modified by John Shawhan in the 1960s) was crafted of hardwoods in the French-terrace style.  Drawstops were made of plastic. 


A number of minor additions made over the years have compromised the console’s aesthetic integrity.  Many organists find it difficult to achieve proper balance on the mini-bench. Some stops have been disconnected or have broken entirely.


In addition, malfunction and problems with the “revised” combination action date to 1975 when some stops set regardless of what piston was used, when others would not cancel on any manual piston, and when others would not set on any piston.


How might the organist or guest to First Congregational Church find mechanical reliability and convenience in the console?  Ernest Skinner certainly knew the answers!

Orpha Ochse praises the craftsmanship of Skinner in her 1975 text The History of the Organ in the United States (when doing so was perhaps against certain academic trends): “From about 1910 to about 1930 Ernest Skinner was at the peak of his popularity, and his position as one of the leading American builders was well deserved.  He was a master craftsman, and his organs were refined expressions of his concept of tonal beauty.  Skinner could achieve a remarkable degree of unity and cohesion in his organs, and attempts to ‘modernize’ them seldom leave one in doubt about where Skinner left off and the revisions began.” (328)

Dr. Steven Egler Appointed Artist in Residence at First Congregational Church

Historic First Congregational Church in Saginaw, Michigan, has announced the appointment of organist Dr. Steven L. Egler as Artist in Residence. His one-year term will begin September 1, 2011. As the congregation’s first resident musician, Dr. Egler will make use of the church’s facilities for practice, teaching, and recording purposes, take part in the congregation’s Friends of Music series of recitals, be allowed an office area, be active in the commissioning and premiering of new music for organ and choir, serve as a consultative resource to the church’s music program and organ committee, and take part in Sunday worship and special services as determined by his professional schedule. This titular designation and relationship praises Dr. Egler’s excellence as a professional musician, performer, music educator, scholar, and church musician.

Dr. Steven L. Egler, professor of organ, Central Michigan University, holds the bachelor of music, master of music, and doctor of musical arts degrees in organ performance from The University of Michigan, where he studied organ with Robert Glasgow and harpsichord with Edward Parmentier. Additional study has been with Lillian McCord, Catharine Crozier, Charles W. Ore, Quentin Faulkner, and George Ritchie. He has appeared as a soloist, collaborative musician, and clinician throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Norway, and France, and he has performed as a member of the Shelly-Egler Flute and Organ Duo for over thirty-five years. His performances have been featured several times on Pipedreams, and he has performed and given workshops for eight regional and national conventions of The American Guild of Organists and the National Flute Association. He has also taught in six Pipe Organ Encounters sponsored by the A.G.O., and he has adjudicated various organ competitions, including the prestigious National Organ Competition in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Many of his current and former students hold major church and college teaching positions throughout the U.S., and Egler has been honored by his colleagues five times with the Professor Merit Award for his teaching, creative endeavors, and scholarly work. He has been involved with the A.G.O. in many official capacities, including the National Council on which he served as Councillor for Region V and the National Nominating Committee on which he is currently serving as Director. The Shelly-Egler Duo’s CD, The Dove Descending, is available from Summit Records, and Dr. Egler’s first solo CD, When In Our Music God is Glorified, was recorded in 1999 by Prestant Records on the 1997 Casavant organ, Opus 3756, at Central Michigan University. This CD is available from The Organ Historical Society. Dr. Egler’s collaboration with the late Dr. Paul Willwerth, professor of trumpet emeritus at Central Michigan University, resulted in two CD’s: Music for Trumpet and Organ (a remastering of an earlier LP recording) and Ecclesiastical Music for Trumpet and Organ (compositions by Dr. Willwerth). His most recent CD, The Organ Works of Gerald Near, was recorded by White Pine Music and is available from MorningStar Music. An active church musician, Egler has served several churches in Illinois and Michigan for over forty-five years.

First Congregational Church is an acoustically superb building, which dates to 1868, and is located on the corner of Jefferson and Hayden in downtown Saginaw. The congregation is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and has recognized excellence and eclecticism in its musical offerings since the 1800’s. The church’s first quartet, formed in 1882, effectively improved the quality of singing in the church. Over the years, musicians including Duke Ellington and Virgil Fox have performed in the sacred space.  The church is one of the finest facilities for music and musical outreach in the region. Its sanctuary boasts a three-manual, seventy rank organ containing historic pipes from Skinner Op. 751 that is presently under renovation.  The chapel houses an unaltered two-manual, nine rank pipe organ, built by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, Inc. (Opus 1327). Among other instruments First Congregational Church houses two Steinway pianos, two harpsichords, six octaves of handbells, and dozens of recorders, percussion instruments, and Orff instruments.  Music programs for adults and children are a key congregational ministry and take place during the normal academic term.

The Rev. Dr. Todd S. Farley, PhD, is the congregation’s Senior Minister.  Nicholas E. Schmelter, MM, a former student of Dr. Egler, is Director of Music Ministries at First Congregational Church, and was appointed to that position in February 2011. 


This photo is courtesty of Robert L. Barker.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Organ Tour – Installment No. 3

Historians and scholars record how Ernest Skinner developed his own treatment of chorus reeds from the observation of Willis’ instruments in Britain. Skinner’s reeds were usually voiced on high pressure and harmonic to guarantee full-compass balance. Scaling was ample.


By the late 1920s, G. Donald Harrison – a son of the Willis firm – had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and had taken a position of leadership with the Skinner shop.  Oversight of Princeton University’s organ installation became a main-initial project for Harrison. What took place at Princeton University in the late 1920s likely relates to the installation of First Congregational Church’s Skinner.  “At the time the Princeton University Skinner was finished and opened, ‘[…] it was generally understood […] that Mr. Harrison was largely responsible for decisions as to scaling and voicing, and also took part in the final regulation of the instrument […].’  According to Ralph Downes, who presided at the Princeton University Skinner for seven years, that organ ‘was the first large Skinner instrument to bear the imprint of Mr. Harrison’s personality, evident in the very English-sounding diapason choruses, and reed choruses, which were a compromise between American and English practice.” (Holden, The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner 130)  Shop notes for Opus 751 bear the initials “G.D.H” that suggest Harrison was involved with the Saginaw installation. 


Little have the reeds been altered since their installation. Per the contract with John Shawhan (1963), “the old reeds are not to be ‘re-voiced’ in the sense of altering their character with new tongues.”  Sadly, however, notes 33-73 of the 16’ Waldhorn were removed and the stop was relocated to the pedal division. 

It is also disappointing that one of the instrument's two Vox Humana stops was removed over time and that the unique Corno di Bassetto (voiced on 6” of pressure) was relocated to the swell division to assume the role of chorus reed. Notes 1-12 are new pipes from the renovation of the 1960s of different characted; 13-73 are the original Skinner pipes. 


Dorothy Holden discusses Skinner’s Corno di Bassetto in The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner: “It is described in the Skinner Company brochure as being ‘in effect a powerful Clarinet,’ with a tone that is ‘cool, authoritative and of great richness and purity.’ The Corno di Bassettto generally was included only in the Solo divisions of larger instruments, although there is one example of the author’s acquaintance, taking place of the customary Clarinet, in the Choir division of a medium-sized three manual Skinner of fewer than forty ranks.” (44)

The pedal trombone has been untouched and is voiced on 10” of pressure – it was modeled after what Willis developed in Britain. 


The quality of the reeds remains unique and “ENG” as notes distinguish.  What gems!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Organ Tour – Installment No. 2

The first installment of the tour explained how First Congregational Church’s present sanctuary instrument has evolved and grown larger since its birth in the late 1920s as a three-manual, thirty-six rank pipe organ that spoke warmly into the sanctuary at mostly 6 and 7 ½ inches of wind pressure.


Some successful elements have remained unchanged from the initial Ernest M. Skinner Company design.  Consider for example the instrument’s location: all but four ranks – or, said another way, “rows” or pipes of a similar tonal quality and manner of construction (usually) – are located behind the front, center grillwork.  The sound’s egress is not hampered by the screen.


The antiphonal horizontal trumpet, built by Casavant Frères Ltée, was installed by John Shawhan in that late 1960s.  Three additional ranks of pipes were added by Wheeler following the fire – the rationale for these final pipe additions is uncertain.  Wind supply for these ranks is sadly leeched from the trumpet’s supply.


The original Skinner patented “whiffle-tree” swell engine (1913) is still in use and mechanically reliable.  Coupled with the thick shutters of the two enclosed divisions, portions of the instrument have a great deal of dynamic-expressive flexibility.

On the other hand, Orgelbewegung additions of the 1960s were conceived in no way to offer expressive flexibility, but [rather] to offer brightness, “transparent” sonorities, and supposed historically-informed tonal options.  A new low-pressure unenclosed great division replaced the eight ranks of Skinner pipes and chests that once formed the instrument’s (gt.) backbone.  Another similar unenclosed division, which speaks at 2 ¼ inches of wind pressure, was added at the same time.


Brittle bone (or tone) disease has in a way impacted an organ that once spoke with pronounced warmth, richness, mellowness, and fullness of tone.  Does this organ suffer from a kind of multiple personality disorder?  Was this simply a result of academic fads? 

Better yet, can anything be done now to encourage the tonal unity of an instrument that is used daily?

In coming weeks, expect to learn about the deterioration of the 1970s console and the uniqueness of Skinner reeds. 



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Organ Tour – Installment No. 1

The pipe organ is played throughout the week at First Congregational Church.  Its sounds are heard leading hymns, playing in recital, accompanying guest choirs, and inspiring music lovers in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region.

Even Virgil Fox performed on Saginaw’s mighty organ in the 1960s.

Members of the congregation and guests often ask questions about FCC’s sanctuary organ. From where does the sound come?  How big or small are the pipes?  How many pipes are in the organ?

The organ – containing almost four thousand pipes – is located in the large chamber behind the choir and in the real gallery, where four ranks of pipes are situated on a chest beneath the east window.  The sound travels optimally down the central axis of the nave. 

Some of the organ’s metal pipes are smaller than a child’s little finger.  Others are made of wood and look like giant crates flipped on end.  The organ’s largest pipes are greater in height than a regulation basketball hoop.





At times questions can be more difficult to answer.  “Why does the organ need to be maintained? It sounds so beautiful on Sunday morning.”  Does an organ need a singular tonal goal?  What is so unique about a Skinner organ?  How much will an organ project cost?

These are the twenty dollar – or, rather, the hundred thousand dollar plus – questions.

Some people know that FCC’s present sanctuary instrument began its life as a modest three-manual organ built by the Ernest M. Skinner Company of Boston in the late 1920s. Over the years – in keeping with the Orgelbewegung fad – it was determined to enlarge Op. 751.  John F. Shawhan oversaw this task in the 1960s, and installed nearly thirty additional ranks of pipes built by Casavant Frères Ltée (Op. 2809).  Following the tragic fire of the 1970s, a new console was built, pipes were cleaned, and three flue ranks were added in the rear loft.  Local builder Scott Wheeler completed this maintenance. Other than MIDI additions and minor console repair, a steady diet of “routine” maintenance has been the organ’s norm since the late 80s. 

Now, decades later, staff and guest organists face the challenge of an unreliable instrument pieced together over many decades: it is their task to cope with a combination action that does not operate consistently; it is their task to cope with a number of stops that do not work full-compass due to problems with wiring, magnets, or chests; it is their task to try to make music in a situation when music takes back burner to malfunction.  





The purpose of this online tour series is to allow Friends of Music to become acquainted with the pipe organ at First Congregational Church, to show off elements of superb craftsmanship and organ building, to point out areas where maintenance is needed, and to encourage support of the project.   Posing and answering questions along the way is necessary!

Might this organ once again speak with a beauty similar to what Ernest Skinner envisaged in the 1920s? Might this organ return to its former cultural, liturgical, and educational role in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region?