Greenfield’s ‘Pipes of Christmas’ to be held Dec. 11

By John Mitchell - For the Record-Herald

An inaugural Christmastime event on the afternoon of Dec. 11 will feature virtuosic performances on all three of Greenfield’s historic pipe organs, at the First Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church and McClain High School.

Ticketholders will be divided in half; each half will begin the tour in one of the churches promptly at 3 p.m., then switch. In addition to the organ performances, Moon Chimes of the Presbyterian Church and the Cockerill Bells of the Methodist Church will appear at their respective venues. After the church recitals, the audience halves will join in the high school auditorium for a finale, to include a performance by the new Community Choir and a spirited Christmas sing-along for all, accompanied by the organ.

In 1903, a Lyon and Healy organ was installed in the First Presbyterian Church during its construction, followed in 1912 by an Estey organ in the First Methodist Church and, in 1915, a Skinner organ in E.L. McClain High School’s auditorium. It has been estimated that it would take close to a million dollars to duplicate the impressive Lyon and Healy organ. The McClain organ is one of only five concert organs remaining in a high school in the United States. During the installation of the Estey organ, Andrew Carnagie donated $1,000 to the cause. All performances will be by E.L. McClain alumni and one current student.

The performances at First Presbyterian Church will commence in prelude with that church’s pastor Mike Anderson playing “Mary Did You Know” and “O Holy Night.” Next, resident organist J. Daniel McCray (McCHS 1974) will play “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates.” He will be followed by Isaac Leaverton (McCHS 2007) offering J.S. Bach’s “In Dulce Jubilo,” “Silent Night” and a Brahms arrangement of “Es ist ein Ros’entsprungene.” The Moon Chimes, under the direction of Mindy Hunter (McCHS 1968), will perform next. John C. Huffman (McCHS 1974) will conclude this portion of the Organ Tour with “In The Bleak Midwinter,” “Lo, He Comes in Clouds Descending” and “Allein zu dir, Jesu Christ.” A postlude of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” will encourage the audience to join in.

Dan McCray began piano at age 5 under the tutelage of Mrs. Ann Sulcebarger, and began studying organ as a high school sophomore. He continued his studies at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, then Edgecliff College/Xavier University and is currently studying under Dr. Richard Fitzgerald, the director of music and organist at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Columbus, Ohio.

Isaac Leaverton (McCHS 2007), a student of Helen Czerpak, Charlotte Phillips and Jan Linker, graduated from Capitol University in 2011 and holds a 2016 MA in vocal pedagogy from the Guilford School of Acting in England. Specializing in choral music, he has worked extensively as director, accompanist, accent coach and sung with various choirs, including the London Symphony Chorus at Lincoln Center in New York.

John C. Huffman began his study of piano with Ethel Wallis of Washington Court House and then Wallace Fisher of Greenfield. He holds a BA in music from The Ohio State University School of Music and has held organist positions at St. Colman Church of Washington Court House and St. Agnes Church of Columbus Diocese, Ohio. Currently he plays at two other Diocese churches, St. John the Baptist and Sacred Heart, besides acting as substitute organist for other venues within the Diocese. He also enjoys giving organ demonstrations at St. John’s during the annual Columbus Italian Festival.

At the First Methodist Church, the program will open by a performance by Susan Long (McCHS 1970) of “Adestes Fideles,” joined by the Cockerill Bells, under the direction of Jo Ellen Gossett , as well as the audience itself singing this favorite. Carol Watts Welk (McCHS 1968) will follow with “Noel Basque,” which she dedicates to her former teacher, Anne Sulcebarger, longtime organist/music director at First Methodist. Next, the Cockerill Bells will perform a striking rendition of “Ding Dong” or “The Carol of the Bells.” Finally, organist David Pettit (McCHS 1971) will play the stirring “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” as well as a postlude.

Susan Long studied piano under Violet Linton of Leesburg and Wallace Fisher of Greenfield. After receiving her BA degree from Morehead State University, she concluded her academic career teaching English at McClain High School. She has played at area churches for over 50 years and is currently piano/organist and choir director at the First Methodist Church.

Carol Watts Welk studied with Ann Sulcebarger and Wallace Fisher for many years. A holder of a BA in music education from University of Cincinnati and a MA in music/special education from Ohio State, Ms. Welk pursued an elementary music career in London and Columbus City Schools. She received the first Elementary Music Educator Award from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Having played organ and piano at various churches for over 40 years, she is currently at the First Presbyterian Church in London as well as being a member of Grove City Chamber Singers.

David Pettit’s career of over 35 years began with his studies under McCHS music director Robert Anderson in 1967 and Wallace Fisher. He graduated from Cincinnati College’s Conservatory of Music in Organ Performance and Music Education and has performed worldwide from Beijing to Paris, as many as 30 concerts a year. A composer and arranger, he has more than 85 works to his credit, from piano solos to symphonies. From 2005 to 2016, Mr. Pettit was resident organist and composer at the First Presbyterian Church in Bartlesville, Okla.

Both church audiences then move to the E.L.McClain High School auditorium. Carol Watts Welk will commence in prelude “In Dulce Jubilo,” her performance in honor of Robert Anderson, followed by John Huffman’s prelude rendition of J.S. Bach’s “In dich hab ich gehoffer, Herr.” After welcoming remarks, E.L.McClain freshman and musical prodigy Griffin Foltz will offer “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “We Three Kings” and “What Child Is This?” At this point, the inaugural Greenfield Community Choir, under the direction of Heather Goddard, and accompanied by David Pettit, will take the stage to sing “The First Noel/Pachebel” and “Tell It.”

In conclusion, David Pettit will accompany and encourage all present in an inspiring sing-a-long of a medley of favorite, traditional Christmas songs, then the E.L.McClain Alma Mater in a new and special arrangement by David Pettit.

Tickets may be purchased at the First Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church as well as Greenfield’s Community Bank. Tickets are $5 and may be reserved by calling Kelly at the bank (937/981-3123). Children under 6 are free. For those who may need it, transportation will be available between the venues. Attendees should arrive at their first stop 10 to 15 minutes early.

This first time event offers the unique opportunity to hear all three of Greenfield’s historic instruments, the Chimes and Bells and the Greenfield Community Chorus, as well as join in the convivial joys and exaltations of the Christmas season and its special music.

By John Mitchell

For the Record-Herald