Our Music Director and Organist, Marcia Hempel, was trained at New England Conservatory, Longy School, Hart School of Music, and Westminster Choir College, She also participated in a variety of programs in jazz, improvisation and children’s music.
She arranges and composes music for choir, organ and voice. In addition, she directs her own community chorus, the Harwich Women’s Chorus, and teaches children’s music at the Children’s Center in Harwich.
First Church has an adult choir that ranges in size from 9 to 17, depending on the season of the year. Some members have been singing with the choir for many years; others are newer. The choir holds special events during the year including a Christmas Concert, Music Sunday, and special services for Christmas Eve and Easter. They generally sing two anthems every Sunday, and are much beloved by the congregation.
A few singers in the choir stand out as soloists. Tom Jahnke, trained in musical theater and conductor of both the Harwich Town Band and Chatham Band, presents a Gospel Concert each year. Jeep Mashoke plays guitar and writes music that has been sung by the choir, and often appears on the church’s Facebook page, reading scripture and singing. Emily Kosoff sings with the Harwich Women’s Chorus. Edie Ruggles and Gail Johns often sing harmonize in duets at First Church Coffeehouse programs.
The Bell Choir is directed by Lynn Carver, who also arranges music for the bells. They number 6 to 9 music-readers. They play for church services about once a month, and sometimes perform for Christmas events in town and nursing homes in the area.
Twice a year, in the spring and fall, the church holds Coffeehouses in the Parish Hall. This event includes members and friends of the church, who sing, play keyboard and guitar. A variety of pieces display their versatility with jazz, folk, show tunes and non-classical music. The local Cape Cod Ukulele Band and other musical groups sometimes join in.
Great refreshments and food, provided by church members, accompany the Coffeehouses. Generally, all of the seats in the house are full so plan to come early.
Our Music Director, Marcia Hempel, offers two organ concerts each year, generally in July and September. The concerts are about ¾-hour each, and include a variety of styles of organ music. Marcia has written her own ragtime music as well as other organ music. She likes to include jazz organ as well as other contemporary music by composers like Aberg and Cooman. The standard fare of Bach, Pachelbel and Buxtehude can also be heard.
The concerts are always free to the public, sponsored by the Stevens Fund, unless visitors wish to make donations.
The Young Singers program, for 9-16-year olds, is a summer program. It features private voice lessons and group rehearsals for Harwich residents. The program culminates in a concert at the end of the six-week session. The program is free of charge, sponsored by the Stevens Fund. Contact Marcia Hempel if you or your young singer are interested.
Community Vocal Concert
In the winter, the church congregation and the wider community come together to present a concert called the Community Vocal Concert. People of all ages, young and old, perform music of their choice, accompanying themselves on guitar or accompanied on piano or electric piano by Marcia Hempel. It’s a fun and happy time, and showcases a wide variety of musical talents and styles.
Some singers are professionals and some are amateurs. They come from the church, the Harwich Women’s Chorus, the Young Singers, and Marcia’s private music students, and others from the wider community.
In a special arrangement with the Children’s Center, a preschool in Harwich, Marcia Hempel teaches music there once a week. She works with two age groups– one of 3-4-year-olds and one of 4-5-year-olds. Marcia has studied Dalcroze Eurhythmics, singing games and other children’s music. She has taught young children for about 20 years, in daycares, community school settings, and summer camps. This program is sponsored by the Stevens Fund.
Each year, the church choir combines with instrumentalists and a narrator to present our Christmas Concert with its Christmas Story. The story of Jesus birth is accompanied by choral music, instrumental pieces, organ music, and carols – even an occasional secular Christmas song for fun. The historic New England church draws individuals and families, and always looks especially beautiful with simple seasonal decorations.
A new annual event is our Gospel Concert. In 2019, Tom Jahnke, the First Church Choir, soloists, and Marcia Hempel introduced the music of longtime parishioner, Al Gausz, to the church community through solos and choral music. Al Gausz has written about 30 songs, some of which Marcia Hempel has arranged. Tom Jahnke sings a series of spirituals at the close of the concert that are alternately sensitive, rousing, and inspiring. We plan to continue this tradition each year.
We have instruments accompany us for Christmas Eve and Easter services, arranged by Marcia Hempel. Also, members of the church community perform on their instruments as soloists and in duets throughout the year.
Lynn Carver, our Bell Choir Director and a member of the Harwich Town Band, plays bassoon along with Tom Jahnke, our soloist, performs on the trombone. Jo Ann Caputo and Peggy Gerber play violin and flute, respectively.
In July and August, many different people fill-in for the choir and sing solos and duets, or play instruments while the choir has a much deserved summer vacation.