Grace Church is blessed with many parishioners who value and participate in music ministry as an important and regular part of their life in this faith community. There is a particularly strong heritage of choral music at Grace Church, starting with choirs of men and boys all the way back to the beginnings of the congregation, and now continuing with both mixed-gender and treble groups. Instrumentalists of all ages continue to be encouraged in offering their gifts as best edifies the community, coordinated by the Minister of Music, Andrew Fredel.
The church has had a pipe organ since its early days, an instrument gracing the new church sometime soon after 1913. A modest, two-manual organ of nine ranks, Opus 2014, by the Austin Organ Company, Hartford, Connecticut, was installed and dedicated in 1938 as a memorial by many of the parish. Changing tonal trends and a developing music program brought a new, larger instrument in 1970, Opus 3059 from the firm of Casavant Frères Ltée, Sainte-Hyacinthe, Québec. While a new console was planned at that time, for unknown reasons, the Austin console shell was gutted and retrofitted to control the new organ; this work was done by Leonard Berghaus. A solid-state combination action was added in the early 2000s; various cleaning and corrective voicing projects have also occurred. A link to specifications of the instrument is here.
Grace is also home to three beautiful Steinway pianos, two “B” concert instruments, almost seven feet in length, as well as an ”M”, a studio grand piano.
Lastly, the music ministry program includes approximately 49 hand bells, from the Dutch company, Petit and Fritsen. Long before the vast majority of churches and schools in the U. S. had hand bells, benefactors at Grace Church saw the potential use and beauty of such, and began a process of building its collection, starting around 1961. The collection grew several times over the years, was used extensively, and has been recently refurbished.
The adult and junior vocal choirs of Grace serve by providing musical support and leadership for worship services throughout the year. The adult choir sings every Sunday, from September through late May or early June, depending on the church calendar. Rehearsals are Wednesday evenings, from 7:30-9:30, usually starting on the Wednesday just before or just after Labor Day. No audition is necessary to sing in the adult choir, though prior experience is helpful. Similarly, one doesn’t need formal music training to participate, though the ability to read music helps a great deal. The adult choir is open to singers from high school on up. Meeting with the director in advance of participation is requested. The Junior Choir is open to students Grades 5-8, and is directed by Mrs. Julie Pierce.
The adult choir is supported by the congregation with stipend section leaders, who bring the strength of formal music education and vocal development. These individuals participate principally to strengthen the unity of the ensemble, serving as cantors, or taking solo lines when needed.
The Festival Choir of Grace gathers for the times of Advent-Christmas, and then Lent-Holy Week-Easter. The Festival Choir has as its core the Grace adult choir, and is then supplemented by those participating for one or both periods. This is a great way to be involved with choral singing, but for a limited commitment during the year.
The music sung by the choir covers a wide spread of styles and eras, ranging from 10th century chant to music by living (and local!) composers: Renaissance motets from England and the Continent; Baroque era masterpieces of Bach, Handel, and Schütz; anthems from Romantic era (Brahms, Mendelssohn, S. S. Wesley). Arrangements of African-American Spirituals by David Blackwell, William Dawson, Moses Hogan, and John Work figure prominently into the annual array. There is a special place for composers who have written for smaller, liturgically-oriented choirs, like Hugo Distler, Jane Marshall, Healey Willan, Everett Titcomb, Alice Parker, Richard Hillert, K. Lee Scott, Mark Sirett. There is a particularly deep love for composers of the English cathedral tradition: Edward Bairstow, Herbert Howells, Charles Stanford, and William Mathias.
In addition to regular Sunday morning services of Holy Communion (Eucharist), the choir looks forward to singing Evening Prayer (Vespers), or Evensong, three to four times per year. A highlight for the choirs, Grace parishioners, and the wider community is the annual Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols, a candlelit service of scripture and song, in which we meditate on Christ’s coming (“Advent”) into the world.
For more information about music at Grace, please email Andrew Fredel or call the church office (630.323.4900).