We have a rich tradition of music at First United where our choirs, musicians, and congregation join in worshiping and communicating the presence of God. Ensembles of church members, friends, and guest musicians often provide special music, from woodwind quintets to bluegrass bands to jazz trios.
Our volunteer choir provides musical leadership for most of the services throughout the church’s program year (September through early June). We sing a wide range of musical styles and have singers with a variety of abilities and backgrounds — new members are always welcome! Rehearsals are Wednesday evenings from 7-8:30 p.m. and Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. before worship. Contact Bill Chin (email@example.com), 708-386-5215 (ext 108).
Handbells date to the 1800s and earlier, when small bells were used to practice the “method” for the large bells in the church belfry. First United has a history of bell choirs going back more than 35 years, and we use the instruments several times a year during worship. We have five octaves of Malmark handbells and two octaves of Malmark handchimes. Sometimes children use the handchimes to accompany an anthem in Sunday worship, first practicing in Sunday school classes. Minimal musical experience is needed for handbells, just a basic knowledge of reading music, good rhythm, and counting skills! There are typically four or five rehearsals before a Sunday performance, usually 6-7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Contact Michael Surratt (firstname.lastname@example.org), 630-209-0149.
We hope to restart the children’s choir. It will be open to young singers from 3rd though 8th grades, and we’d like the choir to sing in worship four times during the church year. Rehearsals will be on Sundays immediately after worship and last half an hour, starting in October. This is a way for young people to make great music and great friends in a low-stress environment. Our church school children’s classes also occasionally sing in worship. Contact Bill Chin (email@example.com), 708-386-5215 (ext. 108).
We have lots of opportunities for you to share your musical talents. String players, brass players, woodwind players, guitarists, keyboard players, drummers and other percussionists — in fact, people who play pretty much any and all instruments — can find a place in our worship plans at some time or another during the church year. Whether you like to play in a large or a small group or have some solo material you can share, we would be glad to welcome you into our music family. Contact Bill Chin (firstname.lastname@example.org), 708-386-5215 (ext. 108).
First United’s sanctuary organ is a four-manual, 88-rank Casavant built in 1982, the company’s opus 3544. This organ replaced an E.M. Skinner four-manual instrument, opus 274, that was commissioned when the current sanctuary was built in 1917 and finished in 1918. It was the largest church organ in the Chicago area at the time of its installation. The chapel houses a two-manual, five-rank Reuter unit organ. A complete stop list and more photographs of First United’s Casavant organ may be found in the book Pipe Organs of Chicago, Vol. 1, by Stephen J. Schnurr Jr. and Dennis E. Northway (pipeorgansofchicago.com), or by contacting First United’s organist, Michael Surratt (email@example.com), 630-209-0149.
Music At First
Music At First presents concerts to open the doors of the church to the greater community. We offer a “Sing We Joyous” concert each December with choirs, small singing ensembles, and dancers, always including First United’s creative new take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” There are vocal and instrumental concerts throughout the year and three Summer Sings, when audience members are welcome to serve as the choir. We invite you to subscribe to our E-newsletter for concert event updates. You also may email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message at 708-386-5215 (ext. 108).
Music At First fall and winter concert schedule
King Solomon’s Singers with the Rookery and Artemisia: “Sunrise of the Soul,” 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23. King Solomon’s Singers, dedicated to the performance of Renaissance polyphony and chant, team up with the Rookery men’s ensemble and Artemisia women’s trio in a concert of works exploring the various representations of the Three Marys (the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, and “the other Mary”) in Western vocal music. The three very different ensembles, separately and in combination, present contrasting settings of familiar texts and stories ranging from intimate gems to opulent, rarely heard works for up to 12 voice parts, including Mouton’s masterpiece Nesciens mater and Gombert’s majestic Regina caeli a 12.
Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, “Imaginary Journeys,” 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. Gargoyle Brass, in their novel chamber ensemble configuration of brass quintet and pipe organ, return to perform new works and arrangements of classical favorites. The Gargoyles will launch listeners on an interstellar space journey, a fantastical adventure steeped in ancient Russian legends and fairy tales (courtesy of Igor Stravinsky), and a visit to the English Baroque musical world of Queen Mary II.
Terry Sullivan Jazz, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. Vocalist Terry Sullivan sang in early music ensembles before turning to jazz. Her stylish singing and top-notch musicianship have been enjoyed by Chicago music fans for decades. Sullivan specializes in jazz concerts in small venues. Now Sullivan, backed by her combo of superb players, is bringing another concert of jazz standards and more to Music At First audiences.
Sing We Joyous, with the Oriana Singers, City Voices, Pro Musica Youth Chorus, and the Sing We Joyous Orchestra. Saturday, Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m. rception and silent auction and 7:30 p.m. concert. Sunday, Dec. 9, 4 p.m. concert. It’s Oak Park’s favorite holiday concert for the whole family! Concerts from recent years have included Star Wars Christmas, Time Travel Christmas, Bollywood Christmas, and A Child’s Christmas in Wales. This year we celebrate our 12th anniversary, including a special “Twelve Days of Christmas” and selections from the very first Sing We Joyous concert. Audience sing-alongs of familiar carols, beautiful performances of old favorites, hilarious hi-jinks, and special effects make this the most beloved event of the Christmas season. From the wacky to the sublime, this show has something for everyone.