Music at First Church
Throughout the history of First Congregational Church, music has been an integral part of worship. While the two magnificent pipe organs and choirs significantly add their voices to worship, the most important voice of all is the congregational singing of hymns. Designed by John Russell Pope and dedicated in 1931, the soaring Gothic Revival architecture of First Church allows an acoustic that encourages congregational singing, promotes extraordinary choral singing, and renders the two world-class, independent pipe organs positively exciting.
For many years First Church has enjoyed sacred classical (traditional) music, promoted by outstanding church musicians. The quality of the music inspires those attending worship services and attracts many from the community.
First Church Arts, our series of Congregational Concerts and other special programs, extends an invitation to the greater Columbus community to be nourished by the gift of music in First Church’s majestic space.
A detailed history of music at First Church, compiled by Nancy Braverman, can be read here.
First Church Arts: Congregational Concerts
First Church Arts has been presenting concerts since the early 1970s, and has become a long-standing contributor to the performing arts in Central Ohio. Congregational Concerts have featured internationally renowned organists, choral ensembles and instrumentalists throughout its long history. Learn more about upcoming concerts and events here.
First Church Choir
The First Church Choir (adult, mixed) sings under the leadership of Joshua Stafford, Minister of Music. The Choir sings at the 11 a.m. service on Sundays and monthly Choral Evensong from September through June. Rehearsals are held in the Choir Room on Thursdays from 7:15-9:15 p.m. and on Sunday mornings before worship. The Choir alternates singing from the Gallery and the Chancel, depending on the music of the day. Professional section leaders assist the musicianship and sound as the Choir explores five centuries of great choral music. The Choir also participates in the Concerts at First Church series, Christmas Lessons & Carols, special music for Christmas, Holy Week, and Easter Day. The Choir was in residence at Gloucester Cathedral, UK in 2015, Norwich and Lincoln Cathedrals in 2018, Chichester and Winchester Cathedrals in 2022. Anyone interested in joining the choir should contact Joshua Stafford for more information.
The First Church Ringers
The First Church Ringers is an adult handbell choir that rings five octaves of Whitechapel bells (some of the first handbells in Ohio) and five octaves of Malmark choir chimes. Rehearsals are held on Thursday evenings in the Education Wing, Room J and the group participates in worship once a month. The bell ringers are led by Jennifer Fry, Handbell Director. Anyone interested in joining the ringers should contact Joshua Stafford for more information.
First Church is one of the few churches in North America with two world-class organs, totaling over 8100 pipes. The chancel houses the Martin-MacNevin organ, built in 1931 by W.W. Kimball of Chicago. It is a four-manual instrument with 74 stops, 66 ranks, 4,407 pipes, and electropneumatic key and stop action. The gallery organ was built by Rudolf von Beckerath, of Hamburg, Germany in 1972. It is a three-manual instrument with 47 stops, 73 ranks, 3,719 pipes, mechanical key action and electric stop action.
Learn more about these magnificent instruments by clicking here.
The Harpsichord & Pianos
In addition to the two outstanding pipe organs, First Church has a two-manual French-style harpsichord, modeled after one by Pascal Taskin in 1769). Built by member Ben Bechtel before his death in 2008, this instrument is used in concerts and frequently rented by the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, as well as other area groups.
First Church owns four grand pianos and several console and upright pianos. In addition, the church houses a Steinway Concert Grand, reputed to be one of the best pianos in Columbus; owned by the Columbus Chamber Music Society, it remains in the Nave for our use unless loaned out for other events.
Hymnals & Hymnal Supplement
The New Century Hymnal (1995) is used in the less formal worship service in the Parish Hall at 9 a.m. Hymns, Psalms, & Spiritual Songs (1990) is the main hymnal used in the more formal 11 a.m. service.
In One Voice (2021), a hymnal supplement, was created by a committee of First Church members, who sang through hundreds of hymns, studied texts and tunes, and chose hymns that would reflect our emphases on social justice, mission, openness, affirmation, and welcome for all. 152 hymns and 22 pieces of service music reflect today’s church in these changing times, the concerns of God’s children around the world, and the challenges of following Jesus today. In One Voice does not replace the other two hymnals in use at First Church. Instead, the supplement provides new texts by modern poets, more women, people of color and different cultures, all to give us more opportunities to sing our faith.