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. We hope to restart many of our musical activities after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
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 protected]), 708-386-5215 (ext 108). For the time being, rehearsals will be virtual, but Bill plans on having the choir participate in the online Sunday worship.
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 ([email protected]), 630-209-0149.
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 ([email protected]), 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 protected]), 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 [email protected] or leave us a message at 708-386-5215 (ext. 108).
Sing We Joyous 2020 at Home
Sing We Joyous, the annual holiday spectacular, is back in a special 2020 online edition! Join all the regulars — the Oriana Singers, City Voices, Pro Musica Youth Chorus, and the Sing We Joyous Orchestra, all directed by Bill Chin — in your own home via YouTube. There were traditional features including “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Variations on Deck the Hall,” as well as new music including a gorgeous rendition of “The Gift of the Magi” and a hilarious silent film version of “The Night Before Christmas.” And of course, it wouldn’t be Sing We Joyous without a special version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Plus sing-along carols and fruitcake … how did we fit all that into one show?
The concert had its premiere on Saturday, Dec. 12, on YouTube, and is available for repeat viewing at this link. Normally we rely on ticket income to make Sing We Joyous happen, but this year we hope you’ll make a donation to help us meet our costs and to ensure the return of the live show next year. You can make an online donation to Music At First at this link.