As part of our 150th Anniversary celebration, the choir shared music during the June 28, 2015 worship service that our present and former choir members have sung from 1865 to the present.  This post has the text and images from the bulletin for that commemorative service.  You may also download/view a PDF version of this bulletin.

A Commemoration of Music History at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ

June 28, 2015

Choir in old church

Choir in old church

Music, in some way or another, is part of our daily lives and culture, and has always been an integral part of our church’s history through preludes, introits, hymns, anthems, offertory, postludes, special music, and in special services such as Christmas, Easter, weddings, and funerals.  It provides joy, uplifts the spirit, and can comfort us in times of sorrow, loneliness, and need.

“Sing to Him” by Leland B. Sateren

“Come, Christians, Join to Sing”  arr. by Jay Althouse congregation joins in verses 1 and 3; see insert.

As part of our 150th Anniversary celebration, the choir is sharing music today that our present and former choir members have sung from 1865 to the present.

 “I Am Alpha and Omega” by John Stainer

Over the years, there have been many talented organists, choir directors, hand chime and hand bell directors that have passed through the halls of St. Peter’s. These were either employed, volunteered, or filled the positions during an absence, family emergency, retirement, or during a transition period due to a resignation.  In August 1965, Fern and Wesley Reeder, two special talented employees, were hired as organist and choir director, respectively. In 1969 and 1970, Wesley started a “Hymn of the Month” series in the Midweek (newsletter) giving background and history of several hymns as a way to introduce and learn some new hymns, the origin of the hymn, and the message it contains.  Each month a hymn was selected and sung by the choir, and other times by the congregation. Wes resigned in October 1978.  Fern was a talented and cheery organist, who played the organ sock-footed, played almost anything and everything, and moved the service right along–you never learned to sing the songs slowly–you learned to sing the songs at her speed. Fern retired after 29 years of service on August 29, 1993. We appreciated their talents, and they played and directed out of love glorifying God and His church through their music.

Wes Reeder

Wes Reeder

Fern Reeder

Fern Reeder

“With A Voice of Singing” by Martin Shaw

From 1991 to 2012, several of our organists and choir directors were undergrad or grad students who showed us their talented gifts while pursuing a degree at the University of Illinois before moving on to pursue their own future dreams.

In 1997, a “singship” scholarship fund was established from the Carol Benn Memorial Fund for University of Illinois students to sing with the choir until its funds were depleted. Carol loved music and sang many solos during her lifetime at St. Peter’s.  Her family established this fund in her memory as a way to help build the choir at a time when the choir was small in numbers and to help out with special music and as section leaders.

Musical numbers over the years have ranged from all genres of music from Contemporary to Traditional, some sung in German and Latin, and from Mozart, Bach, and Handel.

“Jesus, My Treasure” by George Frideric Handel

 Mark Muller will speak The Lord’s Prayer in German

Back in the 1970s – 1980s, the “Messiah” was performed at Christmas or Easter time.  This was a time when the north choir loft was completely full. Back in September 1968, as quoted by Rev. Noffke, “the choir was the largest number we have ever had, almost filling both sides of the chancel; 30 voices, I say, praised the Lord in the jubilant anthem, “Make A Joyful Noise Unto God.”  It was quite an experience singing with all those voices – the support, the volume, the exhilaration of numbers.”  On February 10, 1985, as part of the 120th Anniversary Celebration, a musical group reunion was held during worship services.  During the service some of the history of the various musical groups active during our 120 years was shared. On Sunday, May 1, 1988, the Music Committee invited back past choir members to join them for a Choir Alumni Sunday–all former choir singers were invited to join the choir for the 10:00 am worship service.  The anthem was “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  The goal was to fill the choir lofts for this one Sunday.

St. Peter’s has had several choirs over the years:  Cherub Choir (Kindergarten – 3rd Grade), Friendship Choir (4th – 8th Grade), Junior Choir (8th – Adult), and in later years a Men’s Chorus.  In March 1962, a St. Cecelia chorus for girls (9th grade – college) began.  St. Cecelia was the patron saint of music. Choir practice was mainly held on Wednesday nights. In later years, a Hand Chimes Choir (1st – 12th Grade & WINN Youth) and a Hand Bell Choir (8th – Adult) was established.  The Hand Chimes met on Wednesday nights during the WINN Program and the Hand Bell Choir met after worship services on Sunday mornings.

Youth choir

Youth Choir

As with any organization, the Music Committee relies on its annual budget to purchase music or music-related items.  These items range from music, folders, and other supples, to music groups such as brass or string quartets during Christmas or Easter services, or special services.  However, when funds were low or unavailable, the Music Committee and/or choir reinvented ways to come up with the funds.  Throughout the years, the choir held fundraisers to purchase items such as new choir robes for not only the Chancel Choir but also for the Friendship and Junior/Senior High choirs; garage and rummage sales, and a Cabaret to purchase Christmas and Easter Cantata music, or to benefit the Boiler Fund.  Some Memorial Funds or donations by church members were used to purchase music, music stands, choir robes and music books.  In the 1990s, the WINN Program took over the Cabaret as a fundraiser to raise funds for their budget and to fund their activities, as this program was basically self-supporting by registration fees and donations from members. In October 1997, our current blue and white choir robes were purchased and were dedicated on Sunday, January 18, 1998. The previous gold and red choir robes were donated to the Presbyterian Church in Shelbyville, who had a fire and lost everything in October 2001.

Choir 1998

Choir 1998

Other items purchased or donated from the congregation throughout the years:

  • Collected green stamp books to purchase a Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet Piano and a piano lamp for the Lounge.
  • Fern Reeder and Clara Leach purchased robes for the Youth Choir.
  • Frauen Verein purchased new hymnals (maroon) for the choir’s use.
  • A Celeste Organ was purchased and attached to the previous organ.
  • In March 1986, an Organ Fund was established to replace the current organ.
  • The Tuesday Evening Circle, Memorial Committee, and Quilters purchased robes and collars for the Children’s Choir, respectively.
  • In June 1994, a Piano Fund was started for a new piano for the sanctuary.
  • October 26, 1997, a new Yamaha Clavinova keyboard donated by Ed Wascher was dedicated.  Special music was Robert Goulet, baritone, and Kristin Perks, soprano, both from the University of Illinois, singing a joyful Bach duet “Mein Freund ist mein”, accompanied by Dorothy Martirano, violin, Barbara Hedlund, vionencello, and Dewitt Tipton, keyboard.

Members of the congregation and staff donated their time and talent throughout the years by doing the following:

  • Several members and mothers made white bows for the Cherub Choir robes.
  • Our former custodian, John McCarty, built a music holder cabinet.
  • June Berbaum, Doris Drake, Bernadine Helbling, Doris Hershbarger, Bernice Mueller, and Bernice Weipert  repaired choir robes as needed.
  • Dorothy and Charles Zahnd for the gift of new Bell Choir tables.
  • Ed Kobel built the Hand Bell tables that were used in the upper sanctuary.

Throughout St Peter’s musical history there have been outstanding soloists who have provided us with their amazing talents, such as Carol Benn, Walter Claussen, Charles Luer, Nancy Madsen, JoAnn Malloch, Katie Malone, Chris Noffke, Matt Noffke,  Rev. Walter Noffke, Mike O’Neill, and Allison Smith.  And of course, there are those memorable moments, such as the time when Rev. Walter Noffke sang “O Holy Night” at our Christmas Eve services, and later recorded the song with four other Christmas songs on an LP.  Another memorable moment, was when the choir went Christmas caroling and visited Walter Claussen in the nursing home.  Even though it had been years since he sang with us in the choir, the minute we started singing the Lord’s Prayer, he started singing just like he was in front of the sanctuary and hadn’t forgotten the words.  It brought tears to our eyes.  It’s amazing how such miracles happen through the sharing of music, and can bring joy and comfort to both the listeners and the musicians themselves.

“Take Now My Voice” by Douglas Nolan

 Over the years, the Music Committee and choir sponsored several concerts:

  • February 1965: The combined choirs of St. Peter’s and Grace Lutheran presented the Cantata The Childhood of Christ written by Johann Christoph Bach at the first service, then  presented it again at Grace Lutheran.
  • May 19, 1987: Spring Concert of Evening Etude/Mozart Music Club in Fellowship Hall.
  • The Chancel Choir Carolers, a small group of the choir in 1997, performed around the Champaign-Urbana area during the holidays singing at stores, nursing homes, and at church.  This tradition still continues today with choir members and other members of the congregation.
  • May 10, 1998: Mother’s Day Concert–a free-will donation was collected to support the music program.
  • April 8, 2000: An organ recital featuring Michael Fisher, organist for Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in Champaign.  A free-will donation to benefit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Fund was collected during the recital.
  • July 21, 2011: A summer concert series with Good and Brave Productions presented The Civil War in concert – A Sesquicentennial Event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the start of the civil war, which was held to benefit the music ministries and children’s programming at St. Peter’s.

On August 21, 1978, Rev. and Mrs. Wallace Reifsteck gave a two-octave set of 25 Schulmerich hand bells in memory of his father, Mr. Fred Reifsteck.  The bells arrived in September and Wesley Reeder started up the Hand Bell choir.  From 1978 to 2015, the members of the Hand Bell choir changed, passing from generation to generation.  Songs have ranged from hymns and carols to patriotic music to the Illini Loyalty. These instruments provide sounds of peace, hope, comfort, and joy for generations past, present, and future.

Bell Choir

Our Hand Chime choir was established during the WINN Program starting in 1996, and a 3-octave set of hand chimes, gloves, music, and music books were purchased with Memorial Funds. The youth of St. Peter’s have played during many worship services and WINN activities with the chimes.



“At choir rehearsal when I look into that sea of sparkling eyes and toothless smiles, I know why heaven is a happy place.”  Evelyne Noffke

In the Summer of 2011, Jodi Prosser-Muller, our current choir director, established the Summer Music and Theatre Camps. This program was a self-supporting program through registration fees and donations.  Anywhere from 1-7 summer camps were held  June 1 through August 31.  Refreshments and snacks were donated by church members. In these camps, children learned songs, lines, and choreography, and built and painted scenery for the last big summer camp production held in August, which includes past productions such as:

2011: Pirates! The Musical

            2012: Godspell, Jr

            2013: Schoolhouse Rock, Jr.

            2014: Mulan, Jr.

 Our upcoming summer production will be:

            2015: The Nifty Fifties

Music has played an important role in the history of St. Peter’s.  The musical gifts and talents of those involved strengthen the faith and uplift the spirits of all who are touched by the beautiful sounds of the various choirs and musicians, who share their love of music in the name of the Lord. We thank all of our past and present music staff, choir members, and donors who have dedicated their passion for music, and their endless time, talent, and resources throughout the years. May we keep this musical legacy going for many years to come as we continue to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, singing songs from our past, as well as ones newly introduced to the choir and congregation, which are sure to join the list of favorites in our historical musical repertoire!

“Worthy To Be Praised”

Indeed, I believe that has already become a new favorite! And, speaking of favorites, we would like to close our service today with a definite crowd-pleaser.  We would ask that the congregation lend their voices as we all share in this celebration of 150 years of music at St Peter’s. There is no better or more wonderful and uplifting way to worship God! The bible tells us to “serve the Lord with gladness” and to “come before him singing for joy”. This is the mission of the choir and music staff at St Peter’s. Please join us as we sing “This Little Light of Mine”.

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