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usic has been an integral part of the rich history of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles going back to its very beginnings. Today, this dedication to music is a continued source of pride, not only for our congregation, but for the city of Los Angeles as well. We are home to the Los Angeles Bach Festival, the oldest cultural festival in Los Angeles, which began in 1934 under the direction of John Smallman and continues to be a cultural highlight each October. Our Cathedral Choir is made up of both professional and volunteer singers under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Jonathan Talberg. The choir performs a wide selection of sacred music and often offers special musical presentations as part of our morning worship.
First Church also houses the Great Organs of First Church, which comprise what is considered to be the largest church pipe organ in the world. Visitors have many opportunities to hear this magnificent instrument throughout the year; our Organ Concert Series is now in its 44th season and features artists of world renown. Also, each week our Organist in Residence presents half-hour preludes on Sundays at 10:30 am.
We look forward to having you join us to share in our tradition of wonderful music. For more information on the Music Department, call 213.355.5231
First Church is also proud to be home-base for two nationally recognized choruses; Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, and Vox Femina of Los Angeles. Each of these organizations utilizes our space for rehearsals, and performs at least one concert per year in our venue. Members of these groups also participate in our Sunday morning worship from time to time.
To learn more about each of these organizations, visit their websites:
he Cathedral Choir of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles plays an integral part of our worship service each week. Comprised of both professional and volunteer singers, this group, under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Talberg, is part of the rich musical tradition of First Church that continues to this day. The choir performs a wide range of music — from contemporary to early music — in a season that runs from September through May, with special services for Christmas Eve and Holy Thursday, as well as other special services or concerts. Members of the Cathedral Choir also sing each year in the Los Angeles Bach Festival. Rehearsals are generally scheduled once per week.
he Great Organs of First Church, situated in the enormous vaulted Sanctuary of Los Angeles' oldest Protestant Church, together constitute perhaps the largest musical instrument existing in any church in the world today. Now, with approximately 346 ranks, 265 stops, 233 voices, 18 divisions and more than 20,000 pipes, the Great Organs speak down the Nave and Chancel and from the South and North Transept Galleries with the music of the ages.
The Seeley Wintersmith Mudd Memorial Organ (Chancel)
Since its founding in 1867, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles has played an important role in the musical and cultural life our city. So it was appropriate that, when First Church constructed its new soaring Gothic Cathedral on West 6th Street in 1931, a new organ would be built. In chambers high on both sides of the Chancel, the Seeley Wintersmith Mudd Memorial Organ was constructed and installed by the noted American organ builder, Ernest M. Skinner. Voiced in the style of what came to be known as the "American Classic" school of organ building, the five divisions of that organ — controlled by a four-manual draw-knob-console — served as the church's principal instrument until 1969, when it was greatly enlarged from its original 58 ranks. Unaltered in the 1969 expansion were the sturdy diapasons, lush strings, and the Skinner hallmarks: the romantic flute and reed stops of the Solo division.
The Frank C. Noon Memorial Organ (West Gallery)
The nationally known James W. Fifield, Jr., Senior Minister of First Church for 32 years, and Lloyd Holzgraf, the brilliant Organist in Residence at First Church from 1959 until 1998, envisioned a grand new instrument in the West Gallery of First Church, more than 200 feet from the Main Altar in the Chancel. Thus, the Frank C. Noon Memorial Organ, named for the distinguished banker and devout churchman who guided the project to completion, was built by Herman Schlicker, with Clarence Mader and Mr. Holzgraf as consultants. Set in a free-standing case with towering copper pedal pipes on either side of the rose window, the Gallery Organ, with its clean voicing, brilliant ensembles and grand basses in its five divisions, enables the organist to capture the spirit and inspiration of the North German tradition of the 17th century.
The Italian Division (Chancel)
The 11th division consists of a small Italian-style Continuo Organ, situated above the Peace Shrine (adjacent to the South Choir of the Chancel). Build by Schlicker, the crisp tones of the Continuo Organ are heard frequently in the accompaniments and in large ensembles.
The Holzgraf Trumpet Royale (Chancel)
In 1984, in honor of Mr. Holzgraf's 25th anniversary as Organist in Residence at First Church, a splendid state trumpet — known as the Holzgraf Trumpet Royale — was added. Extending into the Chancel high above on both sides, at the foot of the Mudd Memorial Organ, the pipes of this rank find frequent use in the rich liturgy of great festival services. This brought the Great Organs to a total of approximately 218 ranks. But that is far from the end of the story.
Renewal and Upgrades
In 1990, First church embarked on a program of renewal and upgrading of the Great Organs designed to meet three separate challenges:
The Moller Consoles (Chancel and West Gallery)
The duplicate consoles that grace the Chancel and the West Gallery of First Church are the largest draw-knob consoles ever built in the Western Hemisphere. The Chancel console, which can be moved out into the Chancel for performances, was installed in November, 1992, and was the last masterpiece designed by the venerable Moller firm, which soon closed its doors as a result of financial problems. (Moller knowingly underbid the actual cost of these gigantic consoles so as to have the prestige of designing/building them).
The twin Gallery console, completed by former Moller craftsmen at the Hagerstown Organ Company, was installed a few months later.
Gospel and Epistle Divisions (North and South Transepts)
Under the direction of the famed Frederick Swann, Organist in Residence from 1998 to 2001, William Zeiler completed the installation of Divisions in the North Transept Gallery (Gospel) and the South Transept Gallery (Epistle), so that those attending services and concerts at First Church are now surrounded by music on four sides. Organists of note from around the world, including E. Power Biggs, Virgil Fox, Alexander Schreiner and Pierre Cochereau, to name only a few, have played the Great Organs of First Church during the last 40 years.
Hearing the Great Organs of First Church
The Great Organs are heard each Sunday in a half-hour organ prelude at 10:30 am. Then, they are played for our morning worship service at 11:00 am and at the great Festival Services of the year. Additionally, they are always played in the Organ Concert Series, which features artists of world renown each season.
Stop List of The Great Organs
(Click on the Stop List pictures in order to download a .pdf version of the list)
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Dr. Christoph Bull
Improvisation on Gregorian Chant “Kyrie, eleison”
Trio in G minor Josef Rheinberger
Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele Johannes Brahms
Voluntary in Eb major Thomas Loud
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639 Johann Sebastian Bach
(I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ)
Improvisation on Gregorian Chant “Adoro te”
Allegro in A minor Antonio Vivaldi, transcribed by J.S. Bach
Click here or on the image above in order to watch many excellent performances on The Great Organs of First Church!
First Church hosts world-class organists in its annual Organ Concert Series. In its 45 year history, OCS has hosted such luminaries as Marie Claire Alain, E. Powers Biggs, Flor Peters, Hector Olivera and Dame Gillian Weir.
The Organ Concert Series always has a special Christmas program in December.
rganist in Residence, Stewart W. Foster, and special guests perform these weekly free concerts on the Great Organs of First Church each Thursday at 12:10 pm. Set in the Gothic splendor of the Sanctuary, these weekly concerts are a respite for the many who attend. Runs each Thursday throughout the year, except holidays.
Los Angeles Magazine has chosen the free Thursday organ recitals at First Church as one of their '152 Favorite Things About LA!' They recognize Steward W. Foster and say, of The Great Organs, "This instrument makes all other organs seem anemic."
Wilshire Center | 540 South Commonwealth Avenue | Los Angeles CA. 90020 | T. 213.385.1341