First Presbyterian is alive with sound of music
The First Presbyterian Church is alive with the sound of music. The central philosophy of the church's music ministry is that music allows one to express faith in many different ways.
There are a number of opportunities for family members of all ages to participate, from the youngest to the oldest, starting with the Cherub Choir for children in pre-kindergarten through grade two. They are given the opportunity to discover their singing voice and explore basics such as pitch and rhythm. Older children in grades three to seven can participate in the Carol and Chime and Handbell choirs, both under the direction of the church's minister of music, Dr. Sean McCarthy. The Carol Choir is the primary children's choir, providing music for services and fully-staged and costumed children's musical theater productions. In the Chime and Handbell Choir, children in grades three and four begin with easy-to-learn choir chimes to help develop rhythm and music reading skills.
Kids in grades five to eight move to handbells, which utilize more advanced ringing techniques.
For a number of years, the congregation has watched the Cherub Choir, under the direction of Sherry Tate, grow up. They see the children of the congregation grow into young adults and then adults, still enjoying music and singing in the choir. College students are welcomed back to the fold during school vacations, taking part in the Chrysalis Choir and performing the occasional solo.
Adults at the church also have the opportunity to participate in several areas: The English Handbell Choir, the Flute Choir, under the direction of Jane Shelly, and the First Presbyterian Church Choir. The FPC Choir is an established leader in both the church and community, presenting exceptional choral anthems for services and large-scale master works at concerts. The choir's repertoire is extensive and stylistically diverse. No audition is necessary for the choir; all are welcome to just come and give it a try.
The church also provides an outlet for musically inclined members and friends to perform in a concert or service setting. Guitarist Edgar Kniffin was recently able to express himself by performing at Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday services, playing several of his own compositions for classical guitar. Kniffin's Spanish-inspired music was an unexpected blessing for the worshipping congregation.
In another case, the church offered a coffee concert by flutist Cathy Newman. After taking a break from the flute to raise her children, Newman resumed her studies on the instrument. In June, she passed the examination for the diploma in flute performance, awarded by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. The audience at the concert had little prior knowledge that one of the church's members had achieved such professional distinction, and was overwhelmed with her virtuosity.
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Throughout the winter and spring, the church hosts coffee concerts, 30-minute-long, informal programs exploring a range of vocal and instrumental musical forms. They are presented about once a month on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. The concerts are free, with donations appreciated, and are preceded by a light snack.
On April 28 at 11 a.m., the First Presbyterian Church will offer its final coffee concert of the year, featuring organ favorites performed by Stephen Rapp in memory of FPC's founding minister of music, Marilyn Ballantine. Ballantine was with the church for 40 years before retiring in 1998. She died Dec. 27.