BY Win Dolan
Highlights of Our Story First Baptist Church: 1867-2007
A year long series originally printed in the Tidings (article #8)
I’ve tried to avoid using names of current or recent people, but in writing about church music I have to break my rule.Very little appears in the existing records until about 1945, after which music is a major topic. The date also nearly coincides with my own memories, so here we go, names and all.
In 1945, Bill Jones, young and enthusiastic Linfield music professor, began his 13-year ministry as choir director. As organist, he ‘inherited’ Harold Elkinton, who had preparing and presenting classical choral numbers as well as weekly anthems. He attracted plenty of singers to a large choir, including many college students. Some of these are among our seniors in the congregation today.
Bill resigned upon leaving Linfield for another location. Warren Baker and perhaps others ably filled the gap until Marion van Dyke was engaged in 1965, beginning a kind of golden age of music at FBC. I think that Marion considered every anthem, every solo to be an act of worship, resulting in some deeply moving moments for his singers as well as the listeners.
The church pipe organ has had minimum maintenance until it was extensively renovated in 1987. Well before that date, Sally Geistweit became our church organist in 1970. She and Marion were the ideal musical team of mutual respect and confidence. Her preludes and offertories delighted and inspired us for more than 30 years, while Marion served even longer. Besides weekly worship music, they developed annual Christmas concerts and other special programs. Vocal and instrumental soloists appeared frequently. The Jubilee Ringers handbell choir became a regular feature. There is no place to stop if I were to start a list of talented singers and instrumentalists who have contributed to our ministry.
Skipping to the present, our current minister of music., JP Bierly, has the delicate task of reconciling two points of view: those who prefer praise songs led by a mixed-media worship team, and those who favor traditional hymns and organ. For most of the year the two are accommodated in two services, called traditional and celebrative. In the summer we meet together, and manage to blend the two without quarreling. Make your own prediction! Forgive me if, in breaking my own rules, I’ve neglected your favorite person or program.