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

403 South Jefferson Ave.
Saginaw, MI 48607



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Choirs Mourn the Passing of Mary Westervelt

Friends of Music mourn the passing of Mary Westervelt, a faithful and active member of First Congregational Church, where she was a member of the Chancel Bells, the Recorder Consort, and the Chancel Choir.

Mary Westervelt, of Saginaw, Michigan, formerly of Harrington Park, New Jersey, passed away on Monday, December 17, 2012, at the Cartwright Hospice Residence.

Mary L. Westervelt was born on August 11, 1954, in Englewood, New Jersey, to the late Benjamin C. and Grace B. (Hughes) Westervelt. She graduated from Northern Valley Regional High School, Old Tappan, NJ, in 1972. Before moving to Saginaw in 1994, Mary worked for Volvo. Later she held several administrative professional jobs. Mary appreciated her pet dogs and enjoyed cooking. Above all, Mary cherished the times she spent with her family.

Surviving are a sister, Beverly A. Westervelt of Saginaw, a brother, Richard A. (Sara) Westervelt of Winsted, CT, a twin sister, Nancy L. (Gerald) Maynes of Middletown, DE; also surviving are many nieces, nephews, cousins, extended family and friends.

A memorial service will take place in January 2013.  In lieu of flowers those planning an expression of sympathy may wish to consider memorials to the Saginaw County Humane Society or First Congregational Church of Saginaw Organ Fund.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Friends of Music Brave Wintry Weather for Classical Event

More than forty Friends of Music braved wintry weather to take part in an afternoon of music, spoken word, food, and fellowship.

The December 9 visit of the Midland Guitar Ensemble began with a program interspersing familiar Christmas melodies with poetry and prose written by Rainer Maria Rilke, T. S. Eliot, Boris Pasternak, Hilaire Belloc, and Violet Clifton. 

Members of the Midland Guitar Ensemble include Teri Warden Bickmore, who holds an M. Ed. degree from Vanderbilt University, Angelo Cassar, a retired Chemist from Dow Corning, who has degrees in Math and Physics from Wayne State University, Chemistry from Saginaw Valley State University, and a MA in Quantum Chemistry from Central Michigan University, Paul Teed, Professor of History at Saginaw Valley State University, and David G. Wilkins, an Associate General Counsel for the Dow Chemical Company.

John Stark and Nicholas Schmelter served as narrators.

Season’s eatings were celebrated at the tea reception hosted by coordinator Barbara Noyes-Stark, coordinator. 

Photos of the 12/9 Friends of Music event are courtesy of Kenneth Wuepper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chancel Choir Mourns Death of Long-time Member - Lois Watson

Lois Watson passed away on November 24, 2012, at Pine River Healthcare Center in St Louis.

Lois was born in Clear Lake, Iowa, on May 25, 1918, to Fred and Vera Petersen. She was raised in a loving home among her extended family. Lois moved to Saginaw with her parents and three sisters in 1936. She worked for Bell Telephone Company as a supervisor in the business office. While singing in First Congregational Church’s Chancel Choir, she met her dear, David Watson. They married on April 10, 1948, and continued singing in the choir together for more than forty years.

Lois was an active member of First Congregational Church and the Bridget Fuller Circle. She was a member of chapter AS, PEO (a national women's philanthropic organization), for fifty-three years and twice served as its president. She was dearly loved by her PEO sisters and will be greatly missed.

Lois and Dave had two daughters, Leslie and Terry, raised with an abundance of love and patience. Lois was a devoted grandmother and developed a special relationship with each of her five grandchildren.

Lois moved from Saginaw to her daughter's home in Mount Pleasant in 2008.

Lois loved music of all kinds and found beauty in nature. She had a zest for life and enjoyed new experiences. Lois enjoyed people; she had a warm heart, a fun sense of humor, and a bright smile. Lois lived her life with courage, optimism, joy, and love.

Lois was preceded in death by her husband (David M. Watson) in 1990, sister (Gretchen Smith) in 2010, and sister (Lucille Hirlinger) in 2012.

Lois is survived by her daughter and son-in-law: Leslie and Mike DeSmyter; grandchildren: Michael and Erin DeSmyter, Abby DeSmyter, DJ DeSmyter; great-grandchildren: Maddy and Ethan DeSmyter (all of Grand Rapids); and, her daughter and son-in-law: Terry and Ray Horrocks; grandchildren: Ryan Horrocks and Jason Horrocks (all of Mt Pleasant); and, her sister: Pat Lathrop (of Grand Rapids); and, many special nieces and nephews and their families.

A memorial service will be held for Lois at First Congregational Church, 403 South Jefferson Avenue, on Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. Visitation will be one hour before the service.

Memorial contributions may be made to First Congregational Church or to ELF (educational loan fund) at PEO Executive Offices, 3700 Grand Ave., Des Moines, Iowa, 50312.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Challenge Gift to the Organ Fund Announced

Reach a new giving tier! New or increased contributions to the Organ Fund are especially encouraged in the coming weeks stimulated by a challenge. Anonymous music patrons of First Congregational Church have agreed to match dollar for dollar these new or increased gifts not to exceed a total of $5,000. Let us be motivated by this generosity at the year’s end and attain our $500,000 goal.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Classical Christmas Tea

Midland Guitar Ensemble - December 9 - Tea

Christmas is near!

First Congregational Church’s Friends of Music welcomes the public to their second event of 2012-2013 that takes place on Sunday, December 9, at 4:00 p.m. 

Join the four-member Midland Guitar Ensemble in an afternoon of beloved Christmas melodies from England, France, Canada, Germany, and the Ukraine.  Familiar music will be interspersed with poetry and prose written by Rainer Maria Rilke, T. S. Eliot, Boris Pasternak, Hilaire Belloc, and Violet Clifton.  John Stark and Nicholas Schmelter will serve as narrators.

A tea reception will be served immediately following the program courtesy of the Friends of Music and hosted by Barbara Noyes-Stark, coordinator.  The cost of the event is free, but the suggested donation of $10 will help defray event expenses. 

The Midland Guitar Ensemble has actively performed in the region for two years.  This is their second visit to First Congregational Church following a 2011 visit for the congregation’s Bravo! fellowship.  Members of the Midland Guitar Ensemble include Teri Warden Bickmore, who holds an M. Ed. degree from Vanderbilt University, Angelo Cassar, a retired Chemist from Dow Corning, who has degrees in Math and Physics from Wayne State University, Chemistry from Saginaw Valley State University, and a MA in Quantum Chemistry from Central Michigan University, Paul Teed, Professor of History at Saginaw Valley State University, and David G. Wilkins, an Associate General Counsel for the Dow Chemical Company.

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.

Music and the performing arts have been a key part of the congregation’s demonstration and outreach for over one hundred years.  The church has offered concerts for the general public welcoming Duke Ellington and Virgil Fox, high school and college choirs, the Saginaw Choral Society, the city’s Jazz on Jefferson street festival, the Friends of Music Series of recitals, and several other events.  It is also the birthplace of The New Reformation Band.  Recently, Michigan’s Ninetieth Legislature recognized the key role of the congregation in the preservation of Saginaw’s Cathedral District and in the outreach to the community as a whole: “The example that the members of this church has provided has touched and influenced all the people of Saginaw, and is a tangible demonstration that First Congregational is a church that has not abandoned Saginaw, but rather, keeps working to improve it.”

Dozens of Friends of Music initiatives take place annually and are self-sustaining courtesy of the underwriting of series patrons.  These events bring together regional artists of all ages and skill.  If you would like more information about the Friends of Music or if you would like to support the series of events, please contact Nicholas Schmelter, Director of Music Ministries, at the church office center, (989) 754-6565, or visit the group’s blog, http://fcc-musicfriends.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Memories of FCC's Music Ministry and Organ (Part I) - Sally Ferriby

Sally Ferriby, Friend of Music and longtime Chancel Choir member, shares memories of her involvement in sacred music ministries.  Recollections of choral processionals, her son’s organ studies, and Virgil Fox highlight the eleven-minute video kindly filmed and edited courtesy of Jim Hargett.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Photo Summary, Nov. 14 - Organ Project

A summary of organ project benchmarks is documented photographically with captions provided courtesy of technician Joe Granger of Scott Smith Pipe Organs.

1. The Chamade in the process of being removed for shipment to Maryland for revoicing, including new tongues and shallots for transformation into Solo Tuba. These pipes will be the only pipework from the 1965 rebuild to be incorporated into the finished instrument. The surprisingly large scale of the pipes allows for successful revoicing into a true solo stop of Skinner tone that will be heard over the top of the full organ.
2. The Choir regulator removed from chamber. Regulators allow the air pressure to remain constant and steady, essentially a lung that never runs out of air. There will be a total of nine regulators when the organ is completed.

3. Choir regulator in process of teardown, removing old leather and rubbercloth.

4. Choir regulator with new spring arm to replace the one removed in the 1965 rebuild to lower the pressure. New spring arms of maple to original specifications will bring pressure of Choir back to factory spec and allow the pipework to speak and sound as they did in 1928.

5. Releathered Choir regulator, completed and ready for reinstallation.

6. The original cone valve gasket inside the choir regulator keeps the pressure constant; note the coal dust accumulation from the past 80 years, from the coal fired power plants.

7. Underneath the cone valve gasket shows molded felt, which forms a tight seal around the cone valve.

8. New leather, which has been skivved (a process of shaving down the edges of leather using a beveled razor blade to form air tight seal when glued), formed around the felt donut, and reapplied with hide glue. Creating a cone valve gasket is one of the more labor-intensive and difficult processes when restoring a Skinner regulator, for the leather has to be cut very precisely, skivved on all four sides, stretched, glued, heated and tacked to ensure a proper seal around the cone valve.

9. New blow strips of leather are applied over the glued and doweled joints in the bed of the regulator to assure air tightness and no leaks.

10. The completed cone valve gasket and blow strips.

11. The French Horn from Skinner Op. 748, 1927. These imitative pipes, when restored, will be added to the Choir division; these are some of the most desirable Skinner pipes ever created

12. Removing the Choir mechanism, including stop action, pouch boards, and primary pneumatics from underneath the chests.

13. A pouchboard. The valve style here isn't actually the Skinner style and was done by the regional Casavant representative in 1965. These valves will be replaced with Skinner-style valves that do not have huge felt pads (so the diaphragm, itself, tents a little higher). Note: the top is missing pouches where the super-octave was, which will also be replaced. The white leather top actually seals off the air from the bottom of the pipe and when activated, these pouches deflate and allow the air in the chest to flow into the toe of the pipe causing the pipe to sound.

14. The pitman rail. Note that the super octave is filled in with dowels. The paper packing of the pouchboard was also left unpunched. These will be drilled out to accommodate upperwork.

15. The primary pouches for the Dulciana borrow action. These are still original and not in too bad shape either. Even at over eighty years old, this leather was in far better condition than the leather used in the 1965 rebuild due to a key chemical process used in tanning of leather (Chromium) that was taken out of process in the late 50s. The new leather that will replace this will be tanned using the same process as the original leather, extending its life to up to eighty years. The leather from the 50s-70s has a life of about thirty-five years.

16. Two pouches off a pouchboard. The dowel on the back is meant to hold the spring secure. The springs are correct, but Skinner pouches have a second disk with a hole in the center for the spring to fit inside which will be recreated to Skinner specifications.

17. The Choir pouchboards cleaned off and ready for new leather pouches.

18. Choir pouchboards with springs in place for new pouches. These springs counteract the air pressure.  When deactivated, the pouches spring back to a closed position extremely quickly and cut off the air supply to the pipe above.

19. A completed pouchboard. There are over forty-eight of these boards in this organ, an extremely labor intensive process that takes steady hands and patience.

20. The Choir stop action torn down and ready for new gaskets and pouches. This device activates the nine ranks of pipes within the Choir division. Each division has its own stop action.

21. Replacing the old pouches on the stop action of the Choir division.

22. Replacing the old pillow gasket on the stop action – one of the more difficult and skillful processes of restoring a Skinner action.

23. The newly completed pillow gasket will ensure an air tight seal.

24. The high-pressure Tuba and French Horn regulator under the Choir division. As in the Choir regulator, the spring arms and some of the springs have been removed in the 1965 rebuild to lower the pressure.

25. Newly fabricated spring arm of maple. Luckily, during the 1965 rebuild, one of these arms was left in place, allowing technicians to create an identical arm.

26. New leather blow strips for the tuba regulator will ensure air cannot seep through the joints in the wood.

27. Completed cone valve gasket for the Tuba regulator.

28. The completed Tuba regulator will create 10” of pressure and will not only supply air for the existing Tuba, but also power the soon-to-be-installed French Horn, also on 10” of pressure, helped by the new spring arms visible in the middle of the regulator.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Friends of Music Remember Kent S. Dennis

Friends of Music traveled to the Memorial Presbyterian Church (Midland, Michigan) on Sunday, November 11, to hear Dr. Steven Egler, professor of organ at Central Michigan University and Artist in Residence at the First Congregational Church in Saginaw, perform the annual Kent S. Dennis Memorial Organ Recital. 

Two hundred people attended the eclectic program that concluded with music by Franck.   Donations exceeding $2,100 were received at the event to benefit the Kent S. Dennis Memorial Scholarship Fund, which encourages and enriches the musical education of present and future church or synagogue organists in the region.

The 2012 Kent S. Dennis Memorial Organ Recital was sponsored by the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, First Congregational Church of Saginaw, and the Memorial Presbyterian Church of Midland.  Photos of Egler and several of the congregation’s Friends are courtesy of Robert Barker.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Egler to Perform Kent S. Dennis Memorial Organ Recital - November 11

Dr. Steven Egler, professor of organ at Central Michigan University and Artist in Residence at the First Congregational Church in Saginaw, will perform the annual Kent S. Dennis Memorial Organ Recital at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 11, 2012, at the Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1310 Ashman Street, Midland, Michigan. This special event is free and open to public.

Egler will present works by Franck, Locklair, Near, and Ore among others in this recital offered in memory of Dr. Kent S. Dennis, who served for forty-seven years as MPC’s resident organist.  Music will be performed on the church’s recently installed Létourneau organ, built in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. 

Sponsored by the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, First Congregational Church of Saginaw, and the Memorial Presbyterian Church of Midland, this event is free and open to the public; however, guests are asked to make a free-will offering to benefit the Kent S. Dennis Memorial Scholarship, which encourages and enriches the musical education of present and future church or synagogue organists in the region.

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.  He is presently Artist in Residence at historic First Congregational Church in downtown Saginaw.

Kent S. Dennis was born June 25, 1928, to William and Mabel Dennis in Donora, Pennsylvania. A scientist, Dr. Dennis earned a BS degree in chemistry from Grove City College, where he graduated summa cum laude.  He received MS and PhD degrees from Cleveland's Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve). In 1954 he began a position at the Dow Chemical Co. in Midland before being drafted into the U.S. Army for two years. He retired from Dow in 1986 after 32 years as a senior research associate. Dr. Dennis was organist at The Bertha E. R. Strosacker Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland for 47 years, and was named organist emeritus in 2003. He played for more than 700 weddings and performed annual organ recitals for 46 years; he also taught many organ students. His community involvement included frequent leadership terms for the Saginaw Valley Chapter AGO, which he served three times as dean. He also served on the board of managers of the Midland Center for the Arts and as president of the Midland Symphony Orchestra. In 1987 the Music Society and Midland Symphony Orchestra honored him with the Musician of the Year award. In 1997 he received the Grove City College Alumni Achievement Award.

The purpose of the American Guild of Organists is to promote the organ in its historic and evolving roles, to encourage excellence in the performance of organ and choral music, and to provide a forum for mutual support, inspiration, education, and certification of Guild members.  In existence for several decades, the Saginaw Valley Chapter consists of members and chapter friends located several Michigan counties.  For more information about the Saginaw Valley Chapter or the Kent S. Dennis Memorial Scholarship, please Mr. Nicholas Schmelter [n.schmelter.fccsaginaw@gmail.com], Chair, Kent S. Dennis Memorial Scholarship Committee, c/o First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson Ave., Saginaw, Michigan 48607.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Alumnus Recital

Nicholas Schmelter performed an alumnus harmonium recital in the lobby of Central Michigan University’s School of Music on September 16 with the assistance of oboist Beverly Westervelt.  The photograph is courtesy of Kenneth Wuepper.

Powell Birthday Celebration Offers Musical Memories

During the weekend of October 13-14, the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists celebrated the 80th birthday of composer Robert J. Powell in two different concerts with the collaborative sponsorship of the Friends of Music of First Congregational Church, Saginaw, and the Friends of Music of Trinity Episcopal Church, Bay City. Chamber works were featured in the 10/13 program performed by soprano Rayechel Neiman and flautist Katie Welnetz. Nicholas Schmelter accompanied the soloists. Choral and organ music was showcased in the 10/14 program. The chamber choir Exultate Deo, conducted by Robert Sabourin, and organists Nicholas Schmelter and Steven Egler performed. They were joined by guest flute players Robert Hart and Lauren Rongo. Robert Powell was present for both performances and took part in a recorded interview, facilitated by Steven Egler and Kenneth Wuepper. Photos of the weekend’s events are courtesy of Robert Barker, Northern Imager Photography.