Music at Second Congregational UCC
Second Congregational United Church of Christ has a long standing tradition
of valuing music in worship, of providing many opportunities for members
of the congregation to participate in music ministry, and of priding itself
on doing music well, to the glory of God.
Music at Second Congregational is primarily done "in service to the
liturgy"—that is, music's role in worship is to support the
work of the whole congregation in worshipping God, and not to be an end
in itself as a performance. Music ministries' first and foremost function
is to enable and support the congregation's own voice and song in its worship
and praise. In addition to this primary function, music also serves as
a vehicle of proclamation, reflecting texts of scripture, and themes
for any given day, and the overall message of the gospel.
Vocal Music Ensembles
- Sanctuary Choir
The largest and most active of our vocal ensembles is the Sanctuary
Choir. They sing at Sunday morning worship throughout the program
year, September through May.
One of their primary roles is to support the congregation's singing
of hymns and other songs. In addition, they often join in proclamation
and prayer by singing one or more "anthems" (short to moderate
length pieces for choir alone). Their repretoire spans a wide spectrum
of musical styles, from classical choral works (Vivaldi, Mozart,
Vaughan Williams), to folk, to African-American spirituals and Gospel,
to world music from Africa and Latin America.
They traditionally present a "major work", a proclamation sung
in place of a sermon, during Advent (December) and in late spring. This
past year, these included Vivaldi's Magnificat and Vivaldi's Gloria.
The Sanctuary Choir rehearses on Thursdays at 7:00 pm and on Sunday mornings
at 8:30 am. Paul Laprade, our minister of music, directs them.
- Children's Choir
The Children's Choir provides an opportunity for the children of the
congregation to join in a vocal music ensemble experience. They rehearse as
part of our Wednesday Youth Night programming and they sing in worship every 6 to 8 weeks during the
program year. Paul Laprade, our minister of music, directs them.
- Woodwork Choir
A few Sundays each year, a choir comes "out of the woodwork"
to sing in our worship service. The Woodwork Choir is an opportunity for
people to sing in the choir who do not want or are not able to make
an ongoing commitment to a group like the Sanctuary Choir. Each time
the Woodwork Choir sings, it is simply a same-day commitment: rehearse
for worship at 8:30 am, then sing at the 10:30 am service the same
day. Paul Laprade, our minister of music, directs them.
- Folk Choir
A couple Sundays during each summer season, while the Sanctuary Choir
is on break, the Folk Choir provides musical support for our worship
service. Led by Marge Maynard, the group concentrates on folk-style music.
Rehearsals and singing dates are announced on an as-needed basis.
Instrumental Music Ensembles
- Martin Ringers
The Martin Ringers is a handbell ensemble for adults and our most experienced
youth ringers. As with most of our handbell groups, they provide music
during worship approximately 4 times each year and performing in Second
Congregational's annual "Ring In Spring" concert typically
held in April. This group is directed by Jim Fry.
- Belles of Second Cong.
The Belles of Second Cong. is a handbell ensemble for adults. They perform in Second Congregational's annual "Ring In Spring" concert typically held in April and several times throughout the year during worship. They also occasionally perform in the community. This group rehearses on Friday mornings at 10:00 and is directed by Julie Cook Ramirez.
- Tower Ringers
The Tower Ringers are our next most experienced group of handbell ringers,
consisting primarily of middle school aged youth. As with most of our
handbell groups, they provide music during worship approximately 4 times
each year and perform in Second Congregational's annual
"Ring In Spring" concert typically held in April. This group
rehearses as part of Wednesday Youth Night and is
directed by Jim Fry.
- Angelus Ringers
The Angelus Ringers is our handbell ensemble for elementary aged children.
As with most of our handbell groups, they provide music during worship
approximately 4 times each year and perform in Second Congregational's
annual "Ring In Spring" concert typically held in April. This
group rehearses as part of Wednesday Youth Night is directed
by Jim Fry.
- Cherubim Bells
The Cherubim Bells is a ringing group for pre-school and kindergarten aged
children, to give them an early childhood experience in providing music
during worship. The Cherubim Bells actually ring instruments known as
"choir chimes" or "hand chimes". They typically
provide music during worship on the same Sundays as the other bell
ensembles, and also on a couple additional Sundays. This group rehearses
as part of Wednesday Youth Night and is
directed by Valerie Blair and Sarah Hallberg.
Other instrumental groups
- Folk Brass
The Folk Brass are a group of amateur wind instrumentalists from within
the congregation that come together a few times each year to play in
worship. Many of the members of this group played in band or orchestra
in high school and then gave up playing for much of their adult life
—all together, they have over 100 years experience not playing their instruments.
Other opportunities to participate
Our ensembles are certainly not the only way to participate in the musical
ministries of our congregation. We welcome a wide variety of musical gifts
in our worship. If you would be interested in offering music during
worship, perhaps as a soloist/cantor, a solo instrumentalist, or in some
other way, by all means, our minister of music Paul Laprade would love to
hear from you! Email him or call
the church office: 815-963-8431.
Music Resources (The Organ, the Handbells, Hymnals, and more)
- The Organ
The pipe organ at Second Congregational United Church of Christ is a
4-manual instrument of 68 ranks, built in the E.M. Skinner
style by Pipe Organ Specialties of Laurel, Mississippi, in 1984-85.
The bulk of the organ's pipework is a restoration of the 4-manual E.M.
Skinner organ (Opus 274) built in 1917 for First Congregational Church of Oak Park,
Illinois (now First United Church of Oak Park),
with additional pipes coming from other sources.
There are a number of pianos in use around Second Congregational, including
the Elsie C. Nelson Memorial Steinway grand piano in our Sanctuary,
a Baldwin grand piano in our choir room, a Steinway grand piano in Emerson Hall, and a
new Yamaha digital piano that is used in various locations
around the building, including our Gordon Chapel.
Second Congregational has a history of a very strong handbell program,
dating back to the 1960s under then-music director Richard Litterst.
Our various handbell ensembles play on the largest known single set
of Whitechapel handbells in the United States.
- Other instruments
A wide variety of other instruments find their way into our music
program: cello, flute, percussion, trumpet, and more. Many of these
instruments are played on an as-needed basis by members of the congregation.
Typically, the Sanctuary Choir's major work includes a small orchestra
of instumentalists, often from outside the congregation, and Christmas
Eve and Easter services often find a professional brass ensemble aiding
in the congregation's praise.
- Hymnals and other song sources
Most music that our congregation sings is drawn from the Chalice Hymnal. Published in 1995 by our denominational partners,
the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Chalice Hymnal contains a wide variety of hymns and congregational song of different
styles and ages, from traditional church hymns like "A Mighty
Fortress is Our God" and "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee",
to old gospel hymns like "Amazing Grace" and
"Blessed Assurance", to African and Latin American songs like
"Alabaré" and "Thuma Mina", to contemporary
folk-liturgical pieces like "Gather Us In" and "Healer of
Our Every Ill", to music from the Taize community like "Eat
This Bread" and "Jesus, Remember Me". In creating the Chalice Hymnal, the editors included many songs that highlight
concerns of social justice and peace, and made efforts to use
In addition to the Chalice Hymnal, we draw upon hymns and songs
from other resources, including The New Century Hymnal from our
own United Church of Christ, the newly-released Evangelical Lutheran
Worship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Voices United from the United Church of Canada. Pieces from
these and other resources are printed for the congregation in the worship
order (a.k.a. bulletin).