Saint Augustine (396-430 A.D.)
“Those who sing pray twice.”
Music can be one of the most powerful and personal ways to connect with the spirit and word of God. With that foundational belief, First Parish Church is deeply committed to offering a rich array of inspiring and stylistically varied music that is central to the worship experience. Messages that touch multiple senses convey their meaning more effectively and the music ministry of the church works in concert with the minister to that end. Embracing the finest classical traditions as well as jazz, gospel, folk music, and beyond, First Parish incorporates congregational hymn singing, choral anthems, vocal solos, and instrumental pieces on organ and grand piano. Frequent guest musicians enhance worship further with guitar, trumpet, flute, tympani, hand percussion, bagpipes, and even full jazz ensembles.
The music worship team includes music director, Dr. Herman Weiss; soloists, Paul Knox and Rebecca Shrimpton; and the First Parish Choir, which wholeheartedly welcomes singers of all types and levels of experience from both the congregation and the greater community. In addition to weekly Sunday services, the church offers special music programs at major holidays, and hosts jazz worship services twice a year. You are warmly welcome to join us for any or all these services and to raise your voice in song and prayer.
The First Parish Choir not only sings together, but prays, plays and laughs together and supports each other with affection. We tackle musical pieces of diverse style and difficulty, from jazz and gospel to classic liturgical music from different periods in music history. The choir rehearses on Wednesday nights from 7:30 - 9:00 PM and before worship on Sunday mornings. If you would like to learn more about singing with the choir—whether for weekly services or seasonal programs—please email Herman Weiss, Music Director, at or the First Parish office at .
Come and join us!
First Parish Church is blessed with exceptional musical assets, both instrumental and human. A tracker-action pipe organ, built in 1861 by E. and G.G. Hook of Boston, was obtained from the Congregational Church in Woodstock, Vermont, and installed in 1889. It has swell and great keyboards with manual (still!) couplers, a concave fan-shaped pedal board (one of the first) and 14 ranks of pipes. In 1965 the historic organ was fully restored and a mixture stop that was originally planned for in 1861 was added, increasing it from 758 to 926 pipes. In 2020 we acquired a splendid Steinway “B” grand piano, built in 1913. Both instruments are complemented by the excellent acoustics delivered by the original 1809 high tin ceiling of the sanctuary.
Yet fine musical instruments are only able to bring great music to life in proportion to the skill of the instrumentalist and in that we have an even greater blessing. Dr. Herman Weiss joined our staff as Choir Director and Organist in 2019. Dr. Weiss is an internationally renowned composer, conductor, organist and, especially, pianist. He makes the Steinway sing! He is co-founder of two chamber music societies and created a Master of Music program in composition at the Longy School of Music at Bard College, where he chaired the department of composition for twelve years. Prior to joining us, he had served as organist-choir director for the Village Church of Nahant and also at Quincy Point Congregational Church in Quincy, MA. He served as Musical Director at Temple Beth Shalom, Peabody, MA, Organist, Choir Director and Composer at Temple Isaiah, Lexington, MA, Organist and Choir Director at First Baptist Church of Medford, MA, and Organist and Choir Director at First Congregational Church of West Medford, MA.
Besides extensive experience working with churches and temples, Dr. Weiss has a PhD in music composition from Brandeis University and studied composition and organ in Paris at Conservatoire National on a Fulbright Fellowship with Olivier Messaien. He also studied composition, piano and conducting at New England Conservatory. Dr. Weiss has a wide range of musical ability and has worked in Shakespearean theater, was involved with production of musicals including “Godspell” and “Guys and Dolls,” and, with his wife, soprano Marsha Johnson, is a part of the Dreamsong Duo.
In addition to the incomparable Dr. Weiss, our church choir of some 16 voices is graced by two gifted soloist section leaders, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Shrimpton and baritone Paul Knox.
Rebecca Shrimpton, acclaimed for her sumptuous and agile voice, is a full-time Associate Professor of voice at Berklee College of Music. She has taught voice for over 20 years, including at New England Conservatory Preparatory, Longy School of Music, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rebecca is a vocalist for Boston's 19-piece Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, with whom she has recorded eight CDs, and she has performed with numerous other ensembles. She received international praise for her solo CD, Madman's Moon as well as for her 2009 release, Requited. Rebecca has composed and arranged for a variety of jazz ensembles and a local theater company, as well as our First Parish Church Choir. She has performed at many jazz clubs in Boston and New York and the exquisite Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts.
Baritone Paul Knox has been involved in church music from an early age as his father was a minister. He attended an Episcopal Choir school from 4th through 8th grade and was a voice major at Temple University. He attended Temple on a choral scholarship and there his rich, powerful baritone voice was honed. Paul sang with The Temple University Concert Choir when they made a record with The Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra that won a Grammy for best classical choral recording. Paul is also an accomplished guitarist and in Vermont became the therapeutic music clinician at The Brattleboro Retreat, a large psychiatric hospital, before going to nursing school at Boston University and becoming a Clinical Specialist in Psychiatric Nursing. After moving to the North Shore with his family he sang in several church choirs before finding a 'home' at First Parish Church as section leader and soloist, occasionally accompanying himself on guitar.
During most months of the COVID years of 2020 and 2021, when our church was closed but worship services were live-streamed, Herman and Rebecca or Paul performed solos every Sunday, singing to an on-line audience in our empty church with heart and spirit that uplifted us when we needed it most.
We meet in person at 10 Central St. Sunday mornings at 10 AM (summer worship is July-Labor Day at 9 AM) and our on-line programming continues with a live-stream on Facebook. The recording is uploaded each week to YouTube.
Come see for yourself, we’d love to have you visit!