First Church has a vibrant music program including:
- The Sanctuary Choir (adult) which sings standard choral repertoire, anthems and major works.
- Diversity Singers is a group singing music from the pop, rock and folk traditions that celebrates Unitarian principles.
- Chalice Lights: a choir for children, Kindergarten to 2nd grade.
- Harmonia: a choir for children, 3rd to 7th grade.
- Kolozsvar: an musical ensemble for youth.
- Round Singers: a small adult ensemble that sings rounds and other folk and ethnic music from around the world.
- The Augmented Sanctuary Choir: sings several times yearly on special occasions which require a larger ensemble of singers.
- First Church Chamber Ensemble is a guild of church members and friends who prepare and perform instrumental chamber music in worship services. Contact: James McGehee at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jason Oby at email@example.com
- Guest musicians and Soloists regularly appear before our congregation during services to bring special music throughout the year.
- To join one of our choirs, email Jason Oby at firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.The audition is very informal and singers are accepted with widely varying levels of expertise from the extreme novice to near professionals. All that is needed is a willingness to rehearse and a love of good music.
Special Music Services and Choir Concerts
The First Church choirs regularly present great masterworks of choral literature. In recent years these works have included masterworks of Schubert, Palestrina and many others. They also present concerts featuring a variety of short pieces centered around a theme. Such programs typically include the participation of the different constituents of the music program.
First Church enjoys a longstanding reputation as a center of fine music making. Located in the center of the Museum District, its sanctuary is sought after by Houston's premier musicians as a venue to present recitals and chamber music because of the superior acoustics.
The Sanctuary is graced with two fine keyboard instruments. The German Baroque specified organ, in its current configuration, has 38 ranks with great, swell, and pedal divisions. The present instrument was originally constructed by John Fort (Dallas) in the early 1960s and was dedicated by Robert Jones, Professor of Organ at UH for many years. It was built as a two-manual instrument and originally had no pedal. In the mid-1970s the pedal was added by Visser Rowland. In the early 1990s, when our present Channing Hall and the upper two stories were added to the building, an unfinished roof and a huge storm conspired to flood the organ. Visser Rowland was consulted and concluded that the instrument was a total loss. But a second consultation was sought from Roy Redman of the Redman Organ Company who, counter to the conventional wisdom, saved the organ. The last major renovation work done was by Roy in 2003.
The 7 foot 6 inch Yamaha grand piano was purchased in 1990 with money secured through a considerable fund raising effort organized for that purpose. It replaced a Kawai grand that had served the congregation well but was not adequate to meet the needs of the vital music-loving congregation which desired an instrument suitable to satisfy the finest pianists and collaborative musicians. With the purchase of the new piano, came the founding of The Channing Concerts, a series with the mission to bring the best in chamber music to Houston audiences free of charge.
- The Channing Concerts has the mission of bringing the best in chamber music to Houston audiences free of charge. The series was named in honor of William Ellery Channing. Dean Dalton, Paul Cooper (Rice University Professor and Composer-in-Residence), James Mathis (concert pianist, friend and colleague of Van Cliburn), and Bob Fazakerly organized the effort and located and purchased the piano with the funds that had been raised. The Channing Concerts first season was launched in 1991.
- The Greenbriar Consortium a group of Houston Symphony musicians and friends who bring a wide variety of music to our sanctuary each and every year.
Other Notable Activities
First Church emphasizes a connection with the Ima Hogg Young Artists' Competition, and has provided a solo recital venue for many of the prize winners throughout the years. It has provided a valuable concert venue to many of our best local musicians, and has also brought in artists from distant locations.