Rev. Alfa Radford
Minister of Music Emerita
Rev. Alfa Radford grew up in Acton Massachusetts, a small town 26 miles west of Boston. Her first piano lessons, at age five, were with her mother who was a church organist. During Junior and High School years she obtained valuable experience as a performing musician, both as a piano soloist and as a accompanist, playing for the school choruses, instrumental ensembles, community dance classes, stage shows, recitals, and the like.
Hers was a musical family: Alfa and her mother often appeared as piano duo; she and her sister, Marguerite (now a church organist and a composer) had a sister act – trumpet and piano – which provided entertainment for various organizations and meetings. Later Alfa’s younger brother joined the family acts and he too became a church organist at age 12!.
Alfa launched her career as a church musician at age 11, playing every week for Sunday School worship services at the local Baptist Church. This led quite naturally to her first official position as a church organist when she was only 14 years old. After serving several churches of various denominations, Alfa assumed the position of Organist-Music Director at the First Church in Belmont in 1960. At that time, the Senior Choir was comprised of 12 to 14 enthusiastic singers, and there were 15 in the Junior Choir. The ranks have swelled significantly during during Alfa’s long tenure: there are now four children’s choirs numbering more than 143 choristers; the Senior Choir has a roster of 36 and a second adult choir, the Nova, formed in 1996, averages about 22 singers — the rafters really DO ring every Sunday morning!
In June 1974, Alfa married Harrison Radford, who was a bass singer in the Senior Choir, and in 1976 Alfa and Harry became members of The First Church in Belmont. In 1979 Harry built a beautiful double-manual French-style harpsichord which still graces the sanctuary of the church and can be heard several times a year during services and concerts.
On March 3, 1996, Alfa was ordained by The First Church in Belmont, as the Minister of Music during a beautiful ceremony. On May 31, 2015, Alfa was named Minister of Music Emerita as she stepped down from her day to day responsibilities for health reasons. She passed “the baton” to Director of Music, Ian Garvie, who had served with her as Assistant Music Director.
In addition to private study, Alfa received musical training at the Longy School of Music, Boston University and Northeastern University. During Harry’s sabbatical year in England 1977-78 Alfa studied harpsichord with Mary Potts, and organ with David Rowland at Cambridge University. She also played at services at the Cambridge Unitarian Universalist church as well as at the some of the college chapels. In 1983 Alfa did much of the same during a seven-month sojourn in Bonn, Germany.
Alfa’s professional activities outside of The First Church include being on the organ faculty at the Powers Music School, teaching piano at her home studio in Arlington, private vocal coaching, being the Accompanist and Assistant Director of the Arlington-Belmont Chamber chorus, directing the Brookhaven chorus, and serving as a choir consultant to churches and various fledgling singing groups. Alfa also perform frequently in the Boston area, accompanying vocal recitals and playing chamber music for piano and harpsichord.
Alfa has also participated in a number of volunteer activities including teaching at the HeadStart and serving on the editorial boards of various UU musical publications. Her non-professional interests include working for peace, social justice, walking, reading and quilting.