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

403 South Jefferson Ave.
Saginaw, MI 48607



Thursday, August 30, 2012

Symphonic Stars & Stripes, Skinner, and Saginaw

Nicholas Schmelter will offer a lecture “Symphonic Stars & Stripes, Skinner, and Saginaw (American Pipe Organs Arrive in Saginaw)” at Saginaw's Castle Museum on September 25.  He will share the story of when significant American pipe organs first arrived in Saginaw. The program begins at noon and is free with museum admission; dessert and beverage will be provided.

FCC's Organists Perform at Central Michigan University

The organists of Saginaw’s First Congregational Church will be presenting recitals at Central Michigan University on September 11 and September 16.

 Dr. Steven Egler, Professor of Music at Central Michigan University and Artist in Residence at First Congregational Church, Saginaw, will perform in Staples Hall in the School of Music on Tuesday, September 11, at 8:00 p.m. Titled “Mostly Franck,” in honor of the great composer’s 190th birthday on December 10, 1822, the program will feature some of Franck’s better-known organ compositions. Perhaps equally well known for his great Symphony in D Minor and the Sonata forViolin and Piano, his organ music is some of the best in the entire repertoire.

The Andantino in G Minor, Franck’s first organ work, and the great Chorale in E Major, one of his last works composed right before his death, will be featured. Additional works will include the Cantabile and Pièce Héroïque from 1878 and the very famous “Panis Angelus” from the Mass in A Major, performed with collaborating musicians, Mary Stewart Kiesgen, soprano, and James Fiste, cello, both  of whom are colleagues of Egler. The non-Franck work will be Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Chorale-Improvisation on “Nearer, My God, To Thee,” composed in 1912 as a tribute to the tragic sinking of the Titanic in April of that year. Tickets are available at the door ($5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors).

Nicholas Schmelter, Minister of Music at First Congregational Church, will perform an alumnus recital September 16 on the School of Music’s Estey organ. The 3:00 p.m. recital will take place in the Chamichian Lobby. Schmelter is a C.M.U. alumnus, having received the Bachelor of Music (2004) and Master of Music (2006) degrees as a student of Steven Egler. The School of Music harmonium consists of 2 manuals or keyboards plus a pedalboard and looks just like a typical pipe organ console. It is an example of the type of instrument that Estey built that either could be electrified and/or outfitted with a rotary blower handle. It did not require the typical pump pedals to supply the wind to the internal bellows. This harmonium was donated to the School of Music several years ago by Jeri Jones, and more recently was outfitted with a new blower and a platform by Scott Smith Organ Co., of East Lansing.  Schmelter will be assisted by Beverly Westervelt, oboist of Saginaw. His program will consist of compositions by Andre Fleury, Cesar Franck, Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, and Albert Alain.

Please take part in these special events.

Releathering Continues

The process of releathering Op. 751's Choir division continues. 

Photos below include a pouchboard that has been cleaned and releathered, Dulciana primary valves that have been given new leather faces, and a stop action primary and pillow gasket. 

The photos are courtesy of technician Stephen Warner.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bell Ringers Needed

The Chancel Bells has vacancies for three (or more) ringers due to member retirement and resignation.  This drastically limits the ensemble's repertoire potential.  Please consider taking part.  Interested members are encouraged to contact Nicholas E. Schmelter, Minister of Music.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012-2013 Friends of Music Series of Events Announced

The Friends of Music of Saginaw’s historic First Congregational Church announce their 2012-2013 series of recitals and musical events. 
This photo is from the archives of First Congregational Church.

The main four-event series commences October 13 with a visit by composer Robert J. Powell, and it concludes in late April 2013. To supplement, Brown Bag Lunch Organ Recitals begin at 12:15 p.m. during the Fridays of Lent and as advertised.  In addition, a Social Issues Film Series will take place at 7:00 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month beginning in December.  Films will be presented in First Congregational Church’s Bradley House followed by a brief panel discussion and reception.

What follows is a summary of the 2012-2013 events.  A Musical Birthday Party for Composer Robert J. Powell.  Saturday, October 13, 5:00 p.m.  Join distinguished American composer Robert Powell, who will visit from North Carolina, in an eightieth birthday celebration including select works for organ, piano, voice, and flute.  Soprano Rayechel Neiman will be joined by Toronto flutist Katie Welnetz in the varied musical menu.  A Classical Christmas Tea – Midland Guitar Ensemble. Sunday, December 9, 4:00 p.m.  Angelo Cassar and the Midland Guitar Ensemble return to First Congregational Church in an offering of Christmas music scored for acoustic classical guitar.  A tea reception will be served immediately following the program.  Celtic Music Expanded – Equinox.  Sunday, March 3, 4:00 p.m.  The six musicians of the Celtic ensemble Equinox perform a high-energy program of melodies made contemporary weeks prior to Saint Patrick’s Day and the Vernal Equinox.  Aeolian-Skinner Anniversary Organ Tour.  Saturday, April 27, 10:00 a.m.  Organist Susan Reim welcomes Friends of Music to First Presbyterian Church in Caro to celebrate the anniversary of Aeolian-Skinner’s Opus 1166.  Contact Nicholas Schmelter to reserve a place in the carpool and to take part in the reception luncheon

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 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.”

First Congregational Church’s sanctuary boasts an organ built by the Ernest M. Skinner Company of Boston (1928) that is presently undergoing a major restoration, which will be completed in September 2013. 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.

The congregation’s comprehensive music programs have attracted for decades professional and amateur musicians, music educators, and enthusiasts.  More than fifty choir members and Friends of Music serve as the program’s on-site technical base that is almost entirely volunteer.  In 2011, the congregation welcomed Dr. Steven L. Egler, Professor of Organ at Central Michigan University, as its first Artist in Residence. 

Dozens of Friends of Music initiatives take place annually and are self-sustaining.  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/.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reeding and Writing - Alumni Artist at CMU

The following is taken from the website of Central Michigan University's School of Music.

“Alumni Artist Nicholas Schmelter presents a recital on the [Central Mighigan University] School of Music’s Estey organ in the School of Music Lobby on Sunday, September 16 at 3:00 p.m.”

“He will be assisted by Beverly Westervelt, oboist [and member of First Congregational Church] of Saginaw.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Choirs Resume Rehearsals September 6

Join with First Congregational Church’s music ministers, who resume regular rehearsals September 6.  Interested singers, ringers, or recorder players are welcome to take part.  Church music draws its strength in the collaboration of choirs’ members.  Weekly rehearsal schedules are listed below.

Chancel Choir (mixed, SATB)
Thursdays (as scheduled), 7:15-8:45 p.m.; Sundays (as scheduled), 10:00 a.m.

Chancel Bells (3-6 octaves)
Thursdays (as scheduled), 6:00-7:00 p.m.; Sundays (as scheduled), 9:30 a.m.

Recorder Consort (mixed, SATB)
Tuesdays (as scheduled), 4:45-5:45 p.m.; Sundays (as scheduled), 9:30 a.m.

Following are September meeting times:

Thursday         9/6                   Chancel Bells; Chancel Choir
Sunday            9/9                   Chancel Choir
Tuesday           9/11                 Recorder Consort
Thursday         9/13                 Chancel Bells; Chancel Choir
Sunday            9/16                 Chancel Choir
Tuesday           9/18                 Recorder Consort
Thursday         9/20                 Chancel Bells; Chancel Choir
Sunday            9/23                 Chancel Bells; Chancel Choir
Tuesday           9/25                 Recorder Consort
Thursday         9/27                 Chancel Choir
Sunday            9/30                 Recorder Consort; Chancel Choir

Questions about the ensembles can be directed to Nicholas Schmelter (n.schmelter.fccsaginaw@gmail.com, 989.754.6565), who is pleased to receive inquiries from new musicians.

Mostly Franck - Faculty Recital

Dr. Steven Egler, Artist in Residence of  First Congregational Church, will perform his faculty recital on September 11, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. at Central Michigan University’s Staples Family Concert Hall. This marvelous hall is acoustic home to Casavant Op. 3756 (3m/61r).

With the exception of one composition, this recital will feature the music of Cesar Franck in commemoration of the composer’s 190th birthday, December 10, 1822.  The only non-Franck composition is a Fantasy-Improvisation on “Nearer My God to Thee” by Sigfrid Karg-Elert that was composed in 1912 after the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, and will mark the 100th anniversary of this tragic event.

Other organ compositions include the Cantabile and Pièce Héroïque from the Trois Pieces, composed in 1878 for the Paris Exposition and the grand pipe organ by Cavaille-Coll at the Trocadero.

Additional works include the Andantino in G Minor from L’Organiste originally composed for the harmonium plus the Chorale No. 1 in E Major composed just weeks before Franck’s death.

 A special feature is the Panis Angelicus from the Mass, Op. 12, which will beperformed by Mary Stewart Kiesgen, soprano, and Jamie Fiste, cello, both CMU School of Music faculty colleagues of Steven Egler.

This photo is courtesy of Robert L. Barker.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Martineau Comments on Congregation's Phoenix Initiatives

Janet Martineau, arts commentator, highlights new ministry opportunities in an introduction to the First Congregational Church's Phoenix Project, which includes the Skinner restoration.  Janet's Journals covers - in an informed way - cultural happenings in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chamber Cleared of Casavant Op. 2809

Pipes and mechanisms from Casavant Opus 2809 are removed from the church’s large organ chamber by Brad Colby and team, of R. A. Colby, Inc., of Johnson City, Tennessee.  R. A. Colby will build a new four-manual console in Skinner style from which the organist will perform.

The now partially empty organ chamber reveals the enclosed Choir division (upper right) and pipes of the 16’ Trombone (Op. 751). Photos are courtesy of technician Joe Granger and Kenneth Wuepper.

French Horn Awaits Refurbishment

An 8’ French Horn rank salvaged from a later Skinner instrument, Op. 784, is prepared for refurbishment and inclusion in the specification.  Photos are courtesy of technician Joe Granger of Scott Smith Pipe Organs, LLC.

Organ Project Receives $75,000 Gift from Frances Goll Mills Fund

Restorative work on the Skinner organ has begun following the signing of the contract in July.

The project’s initial payment was made possible by a generous financial gift from the Frances Goll Mills Fund. Fund trustees judged the Skinner’s revitalization meritorious of a $75,000 gift. This leading contribution marks the benevolence and loving memory of Frances Goll Mills, whose generosity throughout the years has allowed First Congregational Church to rightly serve Saginaw and the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Console Specification Finalized with Divine Assistance

David Wigton and Dr. Steven Egler (Artist in Residence) observe as Nicholas Schmelter, Minister of Music, invokes Divine assistance in finalizing specifications for the new four-manual console to be built for First Congregational Church of Saginaw.

In the photo below, clockwise from left, are David Wigton, Dr. Steven Egler, Nicholas Schmelter, Joe Granger, and Scott Smith.

The photos are courtesy of Kenneth Wuepper.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Ouch," said the Pouch

Pouches and diaphragms from the Skinner organ’s choir division begin a process of repair.  Photos are courtesy of technician Stephen Warner.

A pouchboard proper is photographed above.  Skinner-style valves, which do not have huge felt pads, will be used in the repair.  Note the top, where missing pouches represent the (once playable) upper twelve notes.

This is a photo of the pitman rail.  Once again, the super octave was taken out of commission; it was filled with dowels.  The paper packing of the pouchboard was also left unpunched. 

The primary pouches for the Dulciana borrow action are still original. 

The final photo is of two pouches off a pouchboard.  The dowel on the back is meant to hold the spring secure.  Though the springs are correct, Skinner pouches have a second disk with a hole in the center inside which the spring fits.