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Music for the Masses

by Sally Deneen

Just as spring brings new life and new growth, First Church Music Director Glenn Gregg is happy to see a growing congregation give rise to an ever-growing church choir. He used to direct, on average, 12 singers on any given Sunday. But as more new faces continue to file into the church’s light-filled Denny Way home, the number of choir singers has doubled.

“That is a nice increase,” says Dr. Gregg, a professional in the field of choral conducting for nearly 30 years. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Washington, and a Master of Music degree from California State University-Northridge. He also leads the 90-member Kirkland Choral Society community chorus on the Eastside.

“Church attendance has been steadily increasing, and that has a positive effect on choir growth. And the reverse is true as well. A growing choir attracts people to church,” he said.

In most churches, a well-organized, well-directed choir can expect about 10 percent of the average attendance to participate in the choir, he says.  “We are doing a bit better than 10 percent,” Dr. Gregg says, “so that feels pretty good!”

Even better, the sound of the church choir has improved.  “We have been able to tackle some pretty challenging music,” Dr. Gregg says, pointing to K. Lee Scott’s Gloria, which was performed with brass ensemble and members of Kirkland Choral Society last December, as a great example.

So, what does the future hold?  The choir continues to find new ways for congregants to enjoy music and branch out into the community. Example: On Saturday, May 12th at 3:00 PM, a fun choral concert at our church will be conducted by Dr. Gregg. The choir, along with the choirs of Lake Washington United Methodist Church and First UMC of Bellevue, will present this program featuring Franz Schubert’s Mass in G with orchestra. The choirs also will sing some favorite anthems. “It should be a lot of fun. I think we might try to make this an annual event each spring,” Dr. Gregg says. “It does raise the profile of our church, but it also allows our choir and congregation to get to know some other United Methodist people in our area.”

YouTube videos of such special choir performances may be in the offing. “I think it would be great if we can video our upcoming special events and post them on YouTube,” says Dr. Gregg.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gregg is staying busy, including composing music for a song for the church’s Seed to Branches capital campaign. Choir singer and longtime First Church member Claire Gebben is writing the lyrics.  But if there were one thing Dr. Gregg wished everyone knew about the choir, it’s this: “Our choir is a wonderful group of people. We enjoy working to make our anthems each Sunday the best they can be, and we have a lot of fun doing it.”