Music Notes

Music Notes

Ian Garvie, Director of Music

Music Notes, by Ian Garvie (2/2/2017)

The Christmas season is now well and truly behind us, and it’s time for the music program to start looking ahead at the spring. The Children’s Choirs are already hard at work learning the music for the next Multi-Generational service, which will be on March 19. There will be many fun songs at the service, accompanied at times by organ, flute, percussion, and piano!

     On March 12th we will have the annual Gospel Sunday — a service full of rousing music led by community member Roger Brown and his gospel band. The spring Major Music service is scheduled for April 9th, and this year we will be featuring a piece that was composed in 1997 — Lux Aeterna, by Morten Lauridsen.

     This season also look for a little bit of variety in the music program, as we welcome community members to take part in providing some of the music for the services. This weekend Mariko Findell will play a beautiful Arabesque by Debussy as the postlude for both services. We would love to see even more of the community involved in the music here at the church! If you are interested in providing some music for the services yourself, please reach out to me at

Music Notes (1/26/2017)

This past weekend we celebrated Alfa Radford’s 55 years of service to this community with a wonderful concert, and the plaque that was commissioned now hangs at the back of the Sanctuary for all to see. Thank you to the many people who made the evening such a success.
     To the audience that packed the Sanctuary, thank you for taking the time to share the evening with all of us.
     To Alfa, Kira, Chuck, Davron, Irina, Livia, Nina, Robin, and Simon, thank you for contributing your time and talent to the concert.
     To Pamela and Darrell, thank you for all of the phone calls and emails that made the fundraising possible.
     To each and every donor who gave to the Alfa Radford Legacy Fund, thank you for ensuring that the impact she will have on the music program at the church will never end.
     And finally to Alfa, thank you for being such a dedicated, wonderful part of the community for so long.

Music Notes, by Ian Garvie (12/12/2016)

My heartfelt thanks go out to all the musicians who made the Major Music service this past weekend such a success. The joyful strains of Bach were uplifting for everyone present! Special thanks go out to our many soloists – our singers, Chuck Claus, Davron Monroe, Irina Kareva, Melanie Bacaling, Livia Racz, and Melanie Salisbury; and from the orchestra, Ken Stalberg on violin, Veronica Kenney on oboe, and Amy Dinsmore on English Horn. 
     Next week, we welcome our children’s choirs into the service for a multi-generational service. The 9 a.m. service will feature the Junior Choir singing alongside the Nova Choir, and the 11 a.m. service will feature both the Chancel and the Youth Choirs.
     In other news, the Music Committee is proud to announce the completion of the first stage of a technology upgrade to the Parish Hall. The upgrade, funded by the Alfa Radford Legacy Fund, features brand new wireless microphones and a DVD player, as well as streamlined connections for laptops, audio devices, and online media. This means that any committee or renter has easy access to the sound system and projector, making movies, parties, receptions, and other events easier for all. Special thanks to Stefan and Valentin Frank for the installation.

Music Notes, by Ian Garvie (11/28/2016)

As Advent gets underway, and the days get still shorter, it’s time to look at the musical offerings in the church for the Christmas season. As always, the second Sunday in December will be our Major Music Service. This year we will be performing Bach’s famous Cantata BWV 140, “Wachet Auf,” as well as a few movements from other Bach works.

     We will be joined by an orchestra anchored by concertmaster Ken Stalberg, and many other talented professional musicians. If you are interested in knowing more about this wonderful piece of music, I will be providing a lecture/pre-concert talk on Wednesday evening, November 30th, at 7:30 in the Parish Hall.
     This Christmas Eve we will continue the tradition of having the music at each service provided by our Children’s Choirs. The 2:00 p.m. service will be sung by the Junior Choir (K-4th Grade), the 4:00 p.m. service by the Chancel Choir (5th and 6th Grade), and the 6:00 p.m. service by the Youth Choir (7th and above). These three services will also feature a Christmas Pageant provided by the youth in the community.
     At the 11:00 p.m. service, we will welcome back young people who have participated in our choir program in previous years, and hear an Alumni Choir of young adults from our community. Please join us in celebrating this joyful season!

Music Notes (11/8/2016)

Magic-FluteDon’t forget! The First Church Children’s Choirs will be presenting Mozart’s Magic Flute on:

  • Thursday, 11/17 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Friday, 11/18 and Saturday, 11/19 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, 11/20 at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets are still available, but are going fast! You can purchase tickets in advance online, through the link at, or at coffee hour this coming Sunday. Tickets will also be available at the door, though some of the nights may sell out.

Looking ahead
There is still time to join the choir for the December Major Music service. Bach’s Cantata #140 “Wachet Auf” is an incredible piece of music, and we have the opportunity to perform it with a professional orchestra. Please contact if you are interested in singing.

Music Notes (10/28/2016)

Thank you to Louise Brownsberger for a wonderful offertory on October 23rd, and to Melanie Bacaling for the beautiful song on the 30th. I’m so grateful to have such talented musicians in the church community!
     Mark your calendars! The First Church Children’s Choirs will be presenting Mozart’s Magic Flute on Thursday, November 17 at 5:30 p.m., Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19 at 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, November 20 at 3:00 p.m.
     The Magic Flute is the 38th annual children’s musical, and is guaranteed to be a great time for all! Tickets will be available at Coffee Hour Sunday November 6 and November 13, as well as online (
     On Sunday, December 11th at 10:30 a.m., the First Church will continue its annual Major Music tradition with the incredible Bach Cantata BWV140, “Wachet Auf.” This incredible work hasn’t been performed here in 20 years, and I’m excited to be able to program it. The Senior Choir will be joined by a professional orchestra led by Ken Stalberg. If you would like to join the choir for this wonderful opportunity, please contact me at
     The Senior Choir Anthem on November 6 will be “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal,” a traditional hymn arranged by Alice Parker.

Music Notes (10/21/2016)

Thank you doesn’t even begin to express my gratitude for the work that all of the parents and volunteers have put in to this year’s musical. There are beautiful dresses, magnificent set pieces, countless costumes, and thousands of other details that are coming together wonderfully. The show promises to be amazing! My gratitude also extends to the players, who are putting in lots of work memorizing lines, songs, and staging.
     The shows will be Thursday, November 17 at 5:30 p.m., Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19 at 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, November 20 at 3:00 p.m. Please stay tuned for more details about purchasing tickets for the musical.
     This Sunday, soprano Melanie Bacaling will be singing an offertory in honor of All Soul’s Day. Allerseelen, by Strauss, is beautiful song about a lover who uses the mood of All Soul’s day to try to revive an old love affair, the spark of which has long since gone out. The song was composed in 1885, and was published in 1887 as the last song in a set entitled “Eight Songs from Last Leaves.”

Place on the table the fragrant mignonettes,
Carry the last red asters here,
and let us speak again of love,
as once we did in May.

Give me your hand, so that I can press it secretly;
and if someone sees us, it’s all the same to me.
Just give me one of your sweet gazes,
as once you did in May.

Flowers adorn today each grave, sending off their fragrances;
one day in the year is free for the dead.

Come close to my heart, so that I can have you again,
as once I did in May.

     The Senior Choir anthem will be a French setting of the Our Father, by Maurice Durufle (1902-1986).

Music Notes (10/14/2016)

The offertory for October 23rd’s service is programmed to recognize the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. According to Amnesty International, more than half of Syria’s population is currently displaced due to the war. More than 4.5 million people are currently seeking refuge in just five neighboring countries — Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Unfortunately, lack of funding for the ongoing humanitarian crisis means that most of these people are forced to subsist on just $0.70 per day — less than half of the global poverty line set by the United Nations.
     The First Church will be hosting some programming related to the refugee crisis in the coming weeks. In recognition, the offertory will be O wüßt ich doch den Weg zurück by Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897), sung by community member Louise Brownsberger. The text is a poem by Klaus Groth, entitled “Homesickness II,” and is translated as follows:

Oh, if I only knew the road back,
The dear road to childhood’s land!
Oh, why did I search for happiness
And leave my mother’s hand?

Oh, how I long to be at rest,
Not to be awakened by anything,
To shut my weary eyes,
With love gently surrounding!

And nothing to search for, nothing to beware of,
Only dreams, sweet and mild;
Not to notice the changes of time,
To be once more a child!

Oh, do show me the road back,
The dear road to childhood’s land!
In vain I search for happiness,
Around me naught but deserted beach and sand!

     The Senior Choir anthem will be Bogoroditse Devo by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943). The piece comes from his Vespers, a musical setting of the night-time prayers of Slavonic monks. The text is in Old Church Slavonic, and is a hymn to the Virgin Mary.

Music Notes (9/19/2016)

As rehearsals continue for The Magic Flute, I find myself thinking about music, and the impact it can have on both participants and listeners. Music can give people chills, it can make people laugh, cry, and dance. There has been a lot of research done about the effect music has on listeners.
     The now-debunked idea of the “Mozart Effect,” the idea that listening to classical music makes you smarter, has led to the release of numerous albums of music that will supposedly make your baby smarter, help your children get better grades, and help you succeed. However the question that interests me the most is what happens to the people participating in music, especially when we make music together?
     Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of This is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs, suggests that making music together has a profound impact on people and may have even shaped the course of human history and evolution. Research indicates that when people play and sing music together, their neurons start firing in time to the beat. The like-mindedness that this creates could aid in the creation of friendships and social bonds, allowing people to live and work together more harmoniously and productively. Music can also be a collective expression of joy, or sometimes sorrow, that we share with those around us. When we sing a joyful song our bodies respond to the music, and when we sing it as a group that experience is shared.
     Dr. Levitin gave a TED talk summarizing his research at a conference in 2012, and you can watch the 15 minute video here.
     It’s a fascinating look at the many emotional and physiological effects that music can have on participants, and their wider implications. After watching it I, for one, am grateful to have music in my life.

Music Notes (9/1/2016)

As the beginning of the church year quickly approaches, I would like to call your attention to a few important announcements from the music program. The many choirs at the church are open to all members of the community, and are always welcoming new singers.

  • The Senior Choir sings every Sunday at the 11:00 a.m. service and rehearses Sundays at 9:30 a.m.
  • The Nova Choir, an un-auditioned adult choir, sings twice a month at the 9:00 am service and rehearses Thursdays at 6:45 p.m.
  • The three children’s choirs accept students from Kindergarten through high school and do not require auditions to join.
  • If you are interested in singing with us, please contact me at
Simon Andrews

Simon Andrews

I am thrilled to announce that Simon Andrews has joined the church as the new Organist and Assistant Music Director. Simon brings a wealth of experience to the position and will be a wonderful addition to the program. Simon was born in England and educated at Christ Church, Oxford, the Royal Academy of Music, and the University of California at Berkeley. In addition to many years of work as a pianist, organist, and director, Simon is also a composer. Winner of the 1985 Benjamin Britten International Composition Prize, his music has been featured at the Aldeburgh and St. Alban’s Festivals, broadcast on BBC radio, and widely performed in many cities throughout the world. Simon’s wife, Anne Mason, is Minister at First Parish Unitarian Church in Lexington.

The first Nova Choir rehearsal will be Thursday, September 8, in the Sanctuary. The first children’s choir rehearsal will be held on Monday, September 12, in the Parish Hall. Junior Choir (K-4th grade) will rehearse from 6:30-7:00 p.m., and Chancel and Youth Choirs (5th grade and above) will rehearse from 7:00-8:30 p.m. Auditions for lead roles in the musical will be on Wednesday, September 14, and Thursday, September 15, from 4-6 p.m. Children will only have to attend auditions for one hour.

I am excited about the new season at First Church and am looking forward to exploring the many aspects of music making within the church community.