Music

Music Offerings at Old South Church

Our music ministry provides many ways to explore faith and connect more deeply to the life of the church. Whether you sing, ring, or simply have an appreciation for the arts, there is a place for you among Old South’s ensembles:

Choirs and Ensembles

Festival Choir

Rehearse: Thursdays, 7 to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 10 to 10:45 a.m.

For those able to commit to regular rehearsal attendance, Festival Choir offers unparalleled opportunities to explore and perform a dazzling array of choral literature at a high level. A dedicated group of volunteer singers supported by Old South’s professional Choral Fellows, we present music each week at Festival Worship from September through June. 

Contact Mitchell Crawford (mitchell@oldsouth.org) for more information.

First Singers

Rehearse: Sundays, 8:30 to 8:55 a.m.

This ensemble of First Worshippers (and those who appreciate great music but may be unable to commit to weekly rehearsals) presents music at First Worship each week. If singing makes your heart soar, you are warmly invited to join us — no experience necessary! 

Contact Mitchell Crawford (mitchell@oldsouth.org) for more information.

Children's Choir

Rehearse: Sundays, 9 a.m.

This group offers the perfect opportunity for your child to explore the variety of ways we praise God through music. The Children’s Choir sings in Worship several times a year, presenting a Christmas Pageant in December.

Contact Aislin Anderson (childrenschoir@OldSouth.org) for more information.

Gospel Choir

Rehearse: once monthly

Gospel Choir provides a joyful ministry, rehearsing once and participating in 1 to 2 worship services each month. The first opportunities to get involved will be on October 1 (rehearsal) and October 15 (Festival Worship). All are welcome — please join us!

For full details, contact Gospel Choir director Tim Harbold (tim@OldSouth.org).

2023-2024 Schedule:

Thu Sep 28 2023 5:15pm - 7pm Gospel Choir @ Jazz Sanctuary > Chapel
Sun Oct 1 2023 12:30pm - 1:30pm Gospel Choir reh. 2nd floor Mary Norton
Sun Oct 1 2023 2pm - 3pm Gospel Choir @ City Mission Celebration Chapel
Sun Oct 15 2023 12:30pm - 2pm Gospel Choir reh. 2nd floor Mary Norton
Thu Oct 19 2023 5:15pm - 7pm Gospel Choir @ Jazz Sanctuary > Chapel
Sun Oct 22 2023 10am - 12pm Gospel Choir @ Festival w CHILDREN Sanctuary
Sun Nov 12 2023 12:30pm - 2pm Gospel Choir reh. 4th floor Guild Room
Thu Nov 16 2023 5:15pm - 7pm Gospel Choir @ Jazz Sanctuary > Chapel
Sun Jan 7 2024 12:30pm - 2pm Gospel Choir reh. 4th floor Guild Room
Thu Jan 11 2024 5:15pm - 8pm Gospel Choir @ Jazz + 7pm reh with Festival Sanctuary > Chapel > 2nd floor Mary Norton
Sun Jan 14 2024 10am - 12pm Gospel Choir @ Festival MLK Sanctuary
Sun Feb 11 2024 12:30pm - 2pm Gospel Choir reh. 4th floor Guild Room
Thu Feb 15 2024 5:15pm - 7pm Gospel Choir @ Jazz Sanctuary > Chapel
Sun Mar 17 2024 12:30pm - 2pm Gospel Choir reh. 4th floor Guild Room
Sun Mar 24 2024 10am - 12pm Gospel Choir @ Festival PALM Sanctuary
Sun Apr 7 2024 12:30pm - 2pm Gospel Choir reh. 4th floor Guild Room
Thu Apr 11 2024 5:15pm - 7pm Gospel Choir @ Jazz Sanctuary > Chapel
Thu May 9 2024 7pm - 8:30pm Gospel Choir reh. w Festival Choir 2nd floor Mary Norton
Fri May 12 2024 10am - 12pm Gospel Choir @ Festival Worship WHEATLEY Sanctuary
Sun Jun 16 2024 10am - 12pm Gospel Choir @ Festival JUNETEEN Sanctuary
       

Old South Ringers

Rehearse: Tuesdays, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Under the direction of Peter Coulombe and utilizing Old South’s substantial collection of handbells and chimes, we perform during Festival Worship Service once a month from September through June, as well as for special events — including Christmas and Spring Concerts. All skill levels welcome! 

Contact Peter Coulombe (handbells@OldSouth.org) for more information.

Visiting Choirs

Each year, Old South welcomes a number of guest performers from around the world to participate in Festival Worship. Choirs and other ensembles interested in performing for a service at Old South should review the information contained in our Visiting Ensembles form.

Instruments

Skinner Organ Company, Op. 308, 1921

ORGAN SPECIFICATION STOP LIST

 The E. M. Skinner pipe organ that graces our sanctuary is one of the largest in the region, comprising some 115 ranks and over 7,000 pipes. The organ is at the center of Festival Worship’s music: on an average Sunday, at least a third of the service employs the organ. Whether accompanying hymns and anthems, or in voluntaries marking the beginning and end of worship, Old South wouldn’t feel the same without the soul-stirring, room-shaking sensation of the E.M. Skinner organ.

Originally built in Boston for the Municipal Auditorium of Saint Paul, Minnesota by some of the most skilled artisans of the era, the organ — Skinner Op. 308 — was inaugurated to great fanfare in 1921. Like many similar instruments, however, it was used less and less with the advent of radio and motion pictures, ultimately suffering decades of neglect and atrophy. Op. 308 ultimately made its way back to Boston and to Old South in what has been described as “a most daring and magnificent undertaking.”

Learning of the instrument’s availability mere weeks before the Municipal Auditorium was to be razed in 1982 (with the organ still inside it!), Old South resolved to undertake the enormous task of rescuing and relocating the organ. A salvage team quickly formed to remove and store the instrument, consisting of crews from the firms of Nelson Barden Associates of Boston, A. Thompson-Allen Co., and Foley-Baker Inc.

With the heroic removal effort completed, attention turned to how the organ might be installed in the church. Consideration was given to housing the instrument in the rear gallery, but Old South was ready to have music take pride of place in the chancel alongside the clergy. As the instrument was originally designed for a quite different space than our own, a variety of tonal and mechanical changes were necessary to fit the Skinner to its new home at Copley Square.

Such a job being beyond the capabilities of local restorers, the firm of Casavant Frères, Ltée. (Stainte-Hyacinth, Québec, Canada) was chosen to manage the reconfiguration and installation. Around the same time, Old South’s existing organ was sold back to the Reuter Organ Co., who reworked it for installation in St. John's Lutheran Church, Winter Park, Florida.

Even after Op. 308 safely was ensconced at Old South, additional rebuilding and restoration was necessary to return the organ to optimal condition. Nelson Barden Associates began the rebuilding program in 1986, made formal in 1987 under consultants Jack Bethards, Joseph Dzeda, and Jason McKown, with guidance from officers of Old South. This particular campaign of work saw completion in June 1990, in time for the American Guild of Organists National Convention in Boston. In 1993, the Antiphonal organ received all new pipework from Austin Organs, Inc. Nelson Barden Associates renovated the console in 1999, installing a new solid-state combination action.

The restoration of the organ, now stewarded by curator Jonathan Ambrosino, is ongoing.

Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, Op. 896, 1933

ORGAN SPECIFICATION STOP LIST

After the construction of Gordon Chapel was completed in 1932, the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company was contracted to build a new organ of special, compact design for the limited space available. Fourteen sets of pipes were ingeniously installed into inhospitably-shaped chambers. Despite the cramped conditions, the organ’s warm and engaging tone was always considered something of a triumph. Dr. Carl McKinley, Old South’s organist at the time, was so delighted with the results that he wrote an article praising the organ in the May 1933 issue of American Organist. Originally a three-manual instrument, the original console (gutted, but with its original ivory hardware) still lives in the parish house basement.
 
In 1983 this instrument was rebuilt by Casavant Frères, Ltée. and provided a new, two-manual console. Great, Choir and Pedal were made unenclosed at this time, with the stops of the Choir division transferred to the Great. A tonal renovation was undertaken in 2007, whose goal was to return all available pipes to their original locations and voicing. This project removed two mixtures added by Casavant, restored the Gemshorn and Great Twelfth (permitting the original Grave Mixture to be heard), and re-regulated all stops. The organ is now as it was tonally in 1933, with three exceptions: the Great, Choir and Pedal remain unenclosed; the Swell contains a Casavant III Plein Jeu, revoiced as a two-rank mixture; and the Choir Dulciana is absent.

Mason & Hamlin model BB (7'), 1905

One of four grand pianos used by the church's broad and varied music program, the Mason and Hamlin Model BB was located for decades in Mary Norton Hall, where it long accompanied sing-alongs, Christmas pageants, cabarets, and musical theater and operatic productions. Decades of frequent use had taken a considerable toll on the instrument; it was fully restored by artisans at the North Bennet Street School in 2011. Now located in Gordon Chapel, it regularly supports the rehearsal and performance needs of Old South's varied ensembles, as well as a whole host of outside groups and artists.
 
Work on the instrument was made possible by a bequest from the estate of Waldo "Mac" McClure Libbey, an emeritus professor of electrical engineering at the University of Maine, who sang for two years with the Old South Choir while doing graduate study at Harvard and MIT in the late 1930s or early ‘40s.

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