First Church’s services are marked by beautiful and diverse music selections overseen by our music director and organist Ellen McGuire. Church members sing hymns, the choir performs a wide range of of selections, and Ellen plays a wide range of instrumental works on organ and piano.
Our Sunday services usually include three hymns, generally taken from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal Singing The Living Tradition (1993), the “gray” hymnal, and Singing the Journey (2005), the "teal" hymnal. Copies of these hymnals are available in the pews. Care is taken to avoid hymns that employ militaristic language and/or exclusively masculine descriptions of God.
The First Church Choir is made up entirely of volunteer singers under the direction of our music director and organist Ellen McGuire. The Choir is dedicated to deepening and enriching Sunday morning worship through song. Special music is prepared at Christmas and Easter. The Choir meets twice a month for rehearsal, on Thursdays at 7:30pm and usually sings every other week at church on the Sunday following rehearsal. Please speak to our Music Director for more information about joining our Choir; new members are always welcome.
Our organ, built in 1854 for this building by E. & G.G. Hook of Boston, Opus 171, is a “tracker”, or mechanical action, instrument. The only electricity is used for the wind supply, so that no one has to sit in the tower and hand-pump (although the lever is still there, and was used for six weeks after the 1938 hurricane). Key action is all done by sticks and wires, not electricity.
The organ has three manuals and a pedalboard, 32 ranks (sets) of pipes, and about 1800 pipes. It has been recognized by the Organ Historical Society, which visited in the summer of 2000 during its North American convention, and the American Guild of Organists, which visited during its 2014 national convention.
The Music Director occasionally offers “tours” or demonstrations of the organ in the loft, which are announced in the order of service.
Music Director Ellen McGuire plays "Love Divine" on the E. & G.G. Hook, Op. 171, 1854/1860 church organ here at First Church in Jamaica Plain.