Music at First provides an opportunity for individuals to worship God through the wonder and mystery of music, using one’s God-given talent in joyful and reverent praise, while enjoying fellowship with other choir members in serving the greater congregation of The First Church.
The music ministry’s purpose is to inspire, teach, challenge and further the cause of quality music across a wide array of genres and styles. Through the different facets of the music ministry, the program encourages the church’s congregants and the ministry’s participants to explore and find the right place for them, where they can enhance their own worship experience and that of others, through the joy of music. All choirs are open to both members of The First Church and the wider Nashua Community.
In addition to this active “inreach” ministry, The First Church also hosts music “outreach” through its ambitious First Music Concert Series. (Both recognized by New Hampshire Magazine, as “Best of NH 2012 for free classical music”)
Please see our calendar for the First Music Concert Series!
– Learn About Music At First –
FIRST MUSIC celebrates the musical diversity of the Gate City, and the rich musical heritage found at The First Church of Nashua. Artists from across the United States and Europe bring their musical talents to FIRST MUSIC in a wide variety of literature.
Our 12th season offers four concerts, six mini-recitals, and one collaborative musical offering within Sunday morning worship services. Eleven programs in all, through expanding our music outreach offerings with 6 exciting free Friday noontime recitals in our new “Fridays at First” Series.
For the FIRST time in FIRST MUSIC history, ALL 11 programs are free admission through the philanthropy of the new FRIENDS OF FIRST MUSIC. Our Series is now open to ALL, without ticket or free-will offerings! We hope this will inspire you even more to come and see what FIRST MUSIC is all about!
APRIL 2020 APRIL 5 3pm VIVE l’OPERA! Olga Lisovskaya, soprano Giovanni Formisano, tenor Junhan Choi, baritone TBA, piano Works by Donizetti, J. Strauss, Verdi and others Award-winning classical voices grace First Music with their talents in a powerhouse program of operatic literature. We are excited to offer our first program of this […]Find out more »
Click below to learn more about the different adult ensembles.
Bellissimo (Bell Choir)
Open to 9th grade to adult handbell enthusiasts playing at an intermediate-level; please see this ensemble’s description under Ensembles: Youth and Children.
This is the anchor choir of the music ministry, and the longest serving music ensemble in the history of the church. It is open to all that enjoy music-reading and singing quality SATB literature from the 18th through 20th century. Chancel Choir participates regularly in Sunday Worship, and presents a full oratorio/choral work each Christmas season (3rd Sunday in Advent), changing its repertory each year.
Chancel Choir meets regularly on Wednesdays (Sept. through beginning of June) at 6:45 – 8:30 PM for rehearsal. The 2019-2020
Worship and Rehearsal schedule is available by clicking on the links.
Decibells (Bell Choir)
This advanced-level bell choir (10th grade to adult) is dedicated to quality handbell literature and the advancement of bell techniques in the art of English handbell ringing. Interest in bell ringing, note reading in treble and/or bass clef, and a certain proficiency maintained through regular rehearsals is key to the bell-ringing experience. The ensemble participates regularly in worship.
Decibells meets regularly on Thursdays (Sept. through May) at 7:00 PM for rehearsal. The 2019-2020 Worship and Rehearsal schedule is available by clicking on the links.
This select chamber choir pursues the learning of fine repertoire from the Renaissance through 21st century classical literature. A low-key vocal screening is a prerequisite for this ensemble, as is reading music and having previous choral experience. Select challenging works with organ accompaniment have also been included on the worship roster. The ensemble participates in worship in a 5-6 week rotation.
First Chamber meets regularly on Thursdays (Sept. through May) at 6:30 PM for rehearsal. The 2019-2020 Worship and Rehearsal schedule is available by clicking on the links.
This choir provides an additional facet of Music at First, concentrating its repertoire choices on mid 20th to early 21st century contemporary Christian SATB choral repertoire. Its membership is a cross-section of the church community that enjoys singing, and is the perfect ensemble for those looking for fellowship in music without the heavier worship commitment of other choirs; First Folk participates in worship regularly.
First Folk meets on a flexible rehearsal schedule, on Tuesdays (Sept. through May) at 7:00 PM. The 2019-2020 Worship and Rehearsal schedule is available by clicking on the links.
Click below to learn more about the different seasonal ensembles.
First Church Choral Union
The First Church Choral Union began in 2009, as an opportunity to unify the vocal resources of all youth and adult choirs in the church community. Since 2010, this project has supported the liturgy on Confirmation Sunday. It is fitting to have a multi-generational choral ensemble lead music in worship on such a Sunday, and offer an exciting chance for all youth and adult vocal choirs to unite into one voice, on an annual basis.
This choir has been the traditional choral ensemble for the Sunday worship service on Father’s Day. Generally first coming into session several weeks before participating in worship. Concentrating on classical 4-part (TTBB) choral literature, it draws its members from all parts of the First Church congregation.
For more information or to sign up, contact the Music office at 882-4861, x15.
Open to anyone in Grade 7 through adult, this project offers a meaningful chance to work within the music ministry without the long-term commitment of a regular choir.
Youth & Children Ensembles
Click below to learn more about the different youth & children ensembles.
Open to all children from preschool through Grade 1, this ensemble offers choir chimes– which are hand-held rectangular “bells.” The Chapel Chimers enjoy accompanying themselves while singing various songs from Christian vocal repertoire. There is no music-reading involved, as they play (and sing) on cue from the ensemble’s director, Denise Buck. In addition to being a lot of fun, the children develop other skills such as rhythm, basic vocal techniques, and working together.
Chapel Chimers meets regularly on Sundays (October through May) at 9:15 AM in the library, prior to Sunday School and 10 AM Worship. Registration for this ensemble begins on Rally Day in September. The 2019-2020 Worship and Rehearsal schedule is available by clicking on the links.
This ensemble for female youth in Grades 7 through 12, offers development of solid vocal techniques and quality choral repertoire drawn from Sacred music literature. The choir is trained as an advanced youth vocal ensemble: the word Schola coming from Latin, literally meaning “school.” Experience in other choirs or other music education sources will certainly enhance the experience. All youth are welcome, whether continuing on from Joyful Noise or joining the music ministry first at this level.
First Schola is the “anchor choir” for the 7:00 PM Christmas Eve Worship Service and participates in Sunday Worship several times a year. A strong youth (and parental) commitment to this ensemble is key to its success.
First Schola meets regularly on Tuesdays (Late Sept through Mid May) at 6:00 PM for rehearsal. The 2019-2020 Worship and Rehearsal schedule is available by clicking on the links.
Open to all children from Grades 2 through 6, this ensemble offers a quality choral experience through the leadership of Cynthia Bliss. This ensemble is the perfect setting to learn singing in a supportive group setting, and develop music and performance skills which enhance overall general education. The choir participates in worship at regular intervals, often in cooperation with the Christian Education ministry.
Joyful Noise meets regularly on Tuesdays (October through May) at 5:00 PM. Registration for this ensemble is by calling the church office at (603)882-4861. The 2019-2020 Worship and Rehearsal schedule is available by clicking on the links.
Jubellation (Bell Choir)
Whether as a continuation from Chapel Chimers, or joining the music ministry at a later date, this bell choir is open to all children in Grades 4 through 8. Music-reading and rhythmic skills are developed and techniques in handbell ringing round out the musical experience in this beginning-levelbell choir. Under the direction of Dale Neth, this bell choir offers those who are interested in instrumental music, the chance to be part of Music at First.
Jubellation meets regularly on Sundays (October through May) at 11:30 AM in the Balcom Room after 10 AM Worship.
Bellissimo (Bell Choir)
Following handbell training from Jubellation, this bell choir is open to continuing or new handbell enthusiasts from high school through adult ages. This bell choir offers the chance to hone one’s skills from Jubellationbefore advancing onto more challenging repertoire. The ensemble performs intermediate-level handbell literature for youth coming up through the handbell program, or adults new to the handbell experience.
Bellissimo will return to the Music at First roster in 2016-2017, on a trial basis and will meet on a flexible rehearsal schedule, to be determined. We need the minimum of 6 ringers to have the choir resume its ministry. Contact the Music Office for more information.
An Expression of Christian Faith in Song
Hymnody– the practice of singing hymns- is the foundation for all music at The First Church. Whether accompanied by the Anderson Memorial Organ, or sung a cappella (unaccompanied) in smaller worship services: hymnody is integral to the long-standing tradition of strong congregational participation in our worship experience.
The body of hymns produced for the modern Congregational tradition date as far back as chant-tunes from the early Christian church, through post-Reformation hymn influences from Germany, France and England; to more contemporary American contributions in the 19th through early 21st century.
The First Church music ministry and its congregation are proud to continue use of The Pilgrim Hymnal, as the primary source for its hymnody in the 21st century. The hymnal’s rich Christian tradition in both melody and lyric continues to inspire. Based on church season and in coordination with weekly scripture passages found in The Revised Common Lectionary, our hymn planning weaves the fabric of word and song together, allowing music and scripture to be unified within the weekly liturgy.
The First Church’s rich tradition of hymnody was further enhanced starting in June 2008. From that period, the hymns used in worship- whether known for many years or new to the congregation- were chosen in a sequence that did not repeat titles until nearly all possible resources in The Pilgrim Hymnal had first been exhausted. Furthering this project in recent years with inclusion of many cherished hymns “not” in the Pilgrim, our congregation has experienced 425 different hymns within its worship services, with 325 of these hymns coming from the Pilgrim Hymnal. This expansion of hymn repertoire, and its rich theology through song, has enriched the worship service and encouraged bolder singing in both well-known and first-time hymns. The varied resources found in The Pilgrim Hymnal– with some vibrant, yet less common hymn tunes untouched for generations- have both surprised and inspired.
Consequently, as The Pilgrim Hymnal in its inception did not embrace much cross-denominational music outside of some particular influences from the Lutheran and Episcopal communion, the CCLI license (Christian Copyright License International) allows the occasional reproduction of standard hymns not found in The Pilgrim Hymnal, for congregational use. These hymns are drawn from sources such as The United Methodist Hymnal, Hymns for the Family of God, The Harvard Hymnal, and The New Century Hymnal (a more recent publication of the United Church of Christ).
As much as the music ministry has many ensembles that grace our worship services, the congregation remains at the center of hymnody at The First Church, and its hymnody remains a key element, worshipping in both word and song.
Our worship services enjoy a wide array of music interwoven into the fabric of the liturgy. From congregational song, to choral anthems and instrumental voluntary offerings: vibrant music supports our worship services, with the finest musical gifts our choirs and congregation can offer unto the Lord. Found in the links below, are listings of service music in worship, from previous seasons.
Anderson Memorial Pipe Organ
The first pipe organ in the current church building was a Jesse Woodberry three manual tubular-pneumatic instrument with a magnificent façade, whose pipes swooped under the north rose window; the side-playing console finding close proximity to the central pulpit in the grand Auditorium/Akron-style sanctuary.
It was common for many American churches from the mid-19th century through early 20th century to often replace an entire pipe organ, every generation or so. By the mid-1920’s, the late 19th century (then prototype) “modern” 1894 playing system and its patented register action (controlling the movement of the stops) began to fail and the need for a new pipe organ was met by the commission of a new instrument from the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut.
The Anderson Memorial Pipe Organ-Austin’s Opus 1406- was dedicated in 1926 and is the second pipe organ to be housed in the Sanctuary. The chancel was reconfigured at this time and the new console moved to the center of the north side of the Sanctuary. Its austere non-speaking pipe façade is concentrated in the center of the instrument, in front of the north rose window.
The three manual electro-pneumatic instrument’s enclosed divisions (speaking through wood grilles), are found to the left (Swell), right (enclosed Great and Choir), and far right (Solo) of the rose window. The unenclosed Great is found under the rose window, and the Pedal division splitting remaining space inside the wide expanse of the central organ case.
Under the guidance of Minister of Music Dr. Robin Dinda, FAGO (1989-99), a new Austin console was designed and installed for future expansion of the instrument with a new Solo division, additional prepared stops on other divisions, and a multi-level memory system. This state-of-the art console was dedicated in 1996 to the memory of Claudia Rae Young and serves the playing needs of the instrument well into the 21st century.
Under Dr. John Pagett, AAGO (1999-2006), a new 8′ Bourdon, 4′ Octave, 2′ Fifteenth, and IV Mixture was added to the Great division – replacing non-original upper-work additions to the Great from the 1970’s.
In late 2014, under Joseph R. Olefirowicz, CAGO (2008-present), and as a pillar of the “Ministry-Music-Mission” Capital Campaign, the Anderson Memorial Organ was removed from The First Church for a substantial restoration and tonal expansion. Austin Organs, Inc. of Hartford, CT (the organ’s original builder) returned the organ to its original 1926 specification using existing and vintage pipework, while judiciously adding upper-work to each division in the style and voicing of the instrument’s original era.
This magnificent instrument- donated through the generosity of the Anderson family in 1926, and carried on in vibrant stewardship of our 21st century congregation, provides a powerful music presence in worship services: leading hymns, accompanying choirs, and allowing ample color resources for organ literature of all periods. In addition to its fiery harmonic reeds, specialty color stops like the Swell Vox Humana, Choir Harp, Great Grand Diapason, and Solo Cor Anglais are signature voices on this Austin instrument. The restored three-manual instrument over six divisions includes a new floating Solo division, bringing the tonal resources of the organ to 60 ranks, and ca. 4,085 pipes.
|8′||Violoncello*||(enclosed) – Skinner 1922|
|8′||Gemshorn*||(enclosed) – Austin 1925|
|8′||Echo Salicional*||Midmer-Losh 1930|
|2-2/3′||Nasard||(original 8′ Echo Salicional)|
|1-3/5′||Tierce+||Austin 1965; revoiced|
|8′||Vox Humana||(separate tremulant)|
|All Swells to Swell|
|16′||Quintade+||(ext.) – Austin 1924|
|1-1/3′||Larigot+||Orgues du Canadienne 1918|
|SOLO||(floating; 10″ wind pressure)|
|8′||Doppel Flute+||Austin 1925|
|4′||Flute Ouverte+||Austin 1942; revoiced|
|III||Vox Serapqhiue+||(15-17-19) – Austin 1924|
|IV||Mounted Cornet+||(TC) – Austin ’26/Casavant ’29|
|8′||Cor Anglais+||Austin 1925|
Standard 8-4 pedal couplers
12 General, 10 Swell, 8 Great, 8 Choir, 3 Solo pistons
Gt/Enc Gt/Sw/Ch to Pedal in separate toe studs as well; 4 Ped divisional studs
Tutti controls (piston & stud)
Ventil controls (Reeds or Mixtures)
999 levels of memory
Transposer, Clock, Playback System
Chime dynamic controls
Bridal (HCTB) Indicator
Solo – nave shades on/off
Solo – chancel shades on/off
Previous / Next controls for sequential registrations
Enclosed Great/Choir – Swell – Solo expression pedals
Register Crescendo (programmable)
Digital General display & LED displays for expression pedals and select controls
Service Music for 2019-2020
Found in the link above, is the wide array of repertory offered in praise to God in our worship services, during our program year. Nineteen centuries of music from the Christian tradition enhances our weekly worship, and allows our choirs to offer their finest gifts unto God.
The work of the ministries of the Chancel Choir, Decibells, First Chamber, First Folk, and First Schola is listed here. Not included in these listings is the repertory of the children’s and youth choirs: Chapel Chimers, Joyful Noise and Jubellation, and some services where professional and resident soloists offer their talents in our worship services.
Combined with listing our offerings of anthems and voluntaries, is the list of congregational song for worship, reflecting the rich hymnody found in our Christian tradition. You may choose to write down any week’s selections of hymns and reflect on the text of the prayers lifted in song we sing each week. The rich use of language and melody strengthen our faith and our worship together.
Music is one aspect of the worship service where our congregation and choirs offer praise to God. Perhaps there is room in your schedule to join us. Further information about choirs is found on this website. Soli Deo Gloria!
Choir Schedules 2019 – 2020
Chancel Choir meets regularly on Wednesdays (Sept. through beginning of June) at 6:45 – 8:30 PM for rehearsal.
Chapel Chimers meets regularly on Sundays (October through May) at 9:15 AM in the library, prior to Sunday School and 10 AM Worship.
Decibells meets regularly on Thursdays (Sept. through May) at 7:00 PM for rehearsal.
First Chamber meets regularly on Thursdays (Sept. through May) at 6:30 PM for rehearsal.
First Folk meets on a flexible rehearsal schedule, on Tuesdays (Sept. through May) at 7:00 PM
First Schola is the “anchor choir” for the 7:00 PM Christmas Eve Worship Service and participates in Sunday Worship several times a year.
Mary Park Nutt Memorial Tower Chime
A unique part of the rich music heritage of First Church is its Vanduzen & Tift Company memorial Tower Chime; calling the faithful to worship with its melodic voice for over 114 years. A generous $5000 donation in 1893 to First Church made the inclusion of this magnificent instrument possible in the “new building’s” majestic 118-foot high bell tower. The Tower Chime was dedicated on June 28, 1894 to Mary Park Nutt; just 5 weeks after the inauguration of the magnificent Victorian church building, the 10th in First Church’s history.
The 15 bells of the chime are manually played from a mahogany and brass “plow handle” Clavier (keyboard) located one story above the main front entrance to the church. The smallest bell (high g) weighs a modest 300 pounds, and the largest (low C) weighs an imposing 5,600 pounds (2.8 tons). 10 of the tower’s 15 bells have a slightly longer history: the Vanduzen Company of Cincinnati had crafted 10 bells (in a C major scale – from C to e) for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Housed in the tower of Machinery Hall at the Fair, the award-winning bells needed a new home after the Fair was to close in October.
Vanduzen agreed to sell the bells to First Church in July of 1893. After the Fair closed, they returned to Cincinnati where the Tift Company cast 5 additional bells in 1894, (3 chromatic pitches and two upper bells) to extend the range to 1-1/2 octaves. Shortly after the Chime’s centennial, a thorough restoration of the bell playing system and further reinforcement of the bells’ oak support frame (through steel I-beams in the tower) was executed. The rededication of the restored chime took place in September 1998. Each Sunday before the 10 AM (or in the summer 9 AM) service and other special services- the Tower Chime is played live by a dedicated group of volunteer solo ringers, who can only hear the bells at the mechanical playing console through a small microphone amplifying the bells into the playing space.
Although a substantial amount of tower chimes were once found in bell towers across the United States, few extant (and functional) chimes are still playable solely from their original playing mechanism, not having their original grandeur diminished to either a small electronic keyboard to play the bells- or a completely automated system without the human touch.
A detailed description of the chime at the Columbian Exposition and the subsequent sale to First Church is recounted in the book: “Musical Instruments at the World’s Columbian Exposition”.
Music at First Team
Music at First Team
The Music Ministry of The First Church is served by a dedicated professional and volunteer team, keeping one of the largest church music programs north of Boston making a joyful noise, and bringing the finest in sacred music to weekly worship, and music outreach to the region.
Cynthia Bliss Joyful Noise, director
First Folk, accompanist Substitute Organist-Choir Director
Denise Buck Chapel Chimers, director
Larry Ballard Chancel Choir, Staff Singer Bass
Nick DeFrancesco Chancel Choir, Staff Singer Tenor
Brett Greene Guest organist
Chris Guild IT & programming of choir and music library databases
Ken Heider Choral arranger
Peter Labombarde Substitute Organist-Choir Director
Floice Lund Composer-in-residence
Kathie McIntyre Music Librarian
William Ness Guest Director of Music
Gregory Newton Orchestra Contractor
Muddy Brook Music
Joseph R. Olefirowicz Minister of Music, The First Church
Artistic Director, First Music Concert Series
Janet Poisson Chancel Choir, Staff Singer Soprano
Elena DeStasio Stabile Chancel Choir, Staff Singer Alto
Cynthia Whitney Liturgical Apparel Coordinator