Making a Joyful Noise

Greg Chestnut conducting the First Congregational Bell Choir
Music Minister Greg Chestnut receiving endowment gift
The choir singing joyously and making beautiful music at First Congregational UCC
EnsemblenewSRQ performs at First Congregational UCC
Kent Tritle performs at the Jaeckel Organ
Choir Singing  at First Congregational
Kent Tritle conducts the choir at First Congregational
The First Congregational Choir singing during a Christmas service
Bell Choir
Greg Receiving Endowment Gift
Choir and Chancel
Ensemble New SRQ
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AT FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UCC, MUSIC IS AT THE HEART AND SOUL OF OUR SHARED LIFE.  Our amazing choir, handbells, youth, soloists, artist-in-residence program, and guest musicians all help to stir our souls.  We are blessed by Greg Chestnut who has served as Minister of Music for 30 years.  Greg’s faithfulness, creativity, thoughtfulness, and pastoral heart blesses us from the first note of the prelude each Sunday to the final notes of the postlude.  We offer opportunities to lift every voice and sing through a variety of sacred music, artists-in-residences, choirs, and special concerts.  We encourage you to be part of the vibrant and vital music ministry at First Congregational UCC.

“…as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts”  Ephesians 5:19

Our Minister of Music

Greg Chestnut, First Congregational’s Minister of Music for the past 33 years, has developed a comprehensive music program and is actively involved in creative worship planning.

Greg holds a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Organ from Indiana University. He is frequent recitalist on concert series throughout the state of Florida and has appeared as organist for the Sarasota Orchestra and the Florida Orchestra of Tampa Bay. He is a nationally recognized worship clinician for children’s and youth choirs. He is a member of AGO, American Guild of Organists. He also holds membership in ACDA, American Choral Director’s Association and the Chorister’s Guild of America. He is the president-elect of UCCMA, United Church of Christ Musicians Association.  Greg is a published hymn writer.

Gregory Chestnut Our Minister of Music, Leaning on the Organ

Our Choirs

Our comprehensive and varied choir program includes concerts, choirs for all ages, guest musicians, handbell and percussion ensembles and vibrant worship.

The First Congregational Choir with Sarah playing violin
Greg Chestnut, Minister of Music, conducting the Handbell Choir

The Sanctuary Organ

The sanctuary organ was built by the firm of Daniel Jaeckel of Duluth, MN in 1993 and dedicated on February 13, 1994.  Part of the dedication service was shared simultaneously with the St. Georges Church in Pontesbury, UK, making it possible to hear their six bells dating back to 1681.  The Jaeckel organ is a two manual mechanical action instrument of 23 stops and 28 ranks voiced in French Classic style.  The organ is central to the church’s vibrant worship and plays broad variety of styles.

Spirit-filled worship includes beautiful music from the Jaeckel organ in the sanctuary at First Congregational UCC
Chapel organ with pipework by Hook and Hastings

The Chapel Organ

The chapel organ was donated by the late member Ruth Upshall. The pipework is by Hook and Hastings.  Built in 1898 originally for the Unitarian Church of Brunswick, Maine, it was moved and installed in our chapel in 2001.

A beautiful glass window for the Reed Chapel was completed and installed before Easter 2002.

Chapel organ with pipework by Hook and Hastings

Guest Artists

Local artists frequently enhance First Congregational’s worship services

Keith Hampton, composer and music teacher, leading the congregation

Keith Hampton, Composer & Music Teacher

Concert Series

We offer a variety of performances each season, from internationally known organists to Grammy award winning artists.  Intimate chamber music concerts are offered in Reed Chapel with candlelight and the background of our stained glass window.

Deux Voix - Trumpet and Organ/Piano Duo
The Sorella Duo - cellist and pianist

Sorella Duo

Embracing their Italian heritage, Sorella (meaning sister), Natalie and Rebecca Helm have enjoyed performing together since they were young children. Both sisters are currently working as professional musicians. Natalie is the principal cellist for the Sarasota Orchestra and Founder of Upward Notes, Inc. Rebecca, pianist, is the Director and Founder of Go-Go Allegro Music School in Boston.

Artists in Residence

First Congregational UCC annually brings renowned artists and choral conductors to Sarasota including Kent Tritle and Doreen Rao, EnsemblenewSRQ, Dr. Kathy Bullock and most recently Eric Nelson.

EnsemblenewSRQ performs at First Congregational UCC


EnsemblenewSRQ strives to manifest the creativity of the current generation and inspire audiences to participate in musical culture in a profound way, through high-level curated concert experiences that sustain and transform the relevance of contemporary classical music. We are honored that they have selected our church to be in residence.

Dr. Kathy Bullock

Dr. Kathy Bullock is an educator, scholar, singer, accompanist, arranger and choral conductor who specializes in gospel music, spirituals and classical works by composers from the African diaspora.  A Professor Emerita of Music from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, she is currently teaching, performing, and conducting workshops and other programs on African American music throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa.  In January 2022, we were  blessed in so many ways by Dr. Bullock’s light and wisdom; by her music and testimony.

Eric Nelson, Conductor

Artist-in-Residence Eric Nelson is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at Emory University. He is also the conductor and Artistic Director of Atlanta Master Chorale. Dr. Nelson’s choirs have performed throughout the world, including London, Rome, Krakow, Berlin, Leipzig, Prague, Moscow, Seoul, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Sydney Opera House.

Kent Tritle performs at the Jaeckel Organ

Kent Tritle, Organist & Conductor

Grammy nominee Kent Tritle is one of America’s leading choral conductors and organists.  He is the director of cathedral music and organist at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. He is Musical Director of Musica Sacra, acclaimed by the New York Times as “the brightest star in New York’s choral music world.”  Kent is also the conductor of the Oratorio Society of New York, a 200 voice volunteer chorus. In addition, he is director of choral activities at the Manhattan School of Music and on the faculty of the Juilliard School. First Congregational UCC was proud to host Mr. Tritle as Artist in Residence in 2019.

Doreen Rao Conducting

Dr. Doreen Rao
Conductor and Teacher

Doreen Rao is celebrated internationally for her moving concerts and inspirational teaching. Linking the standards of performance and the goals of education with the values of diversity and social responsibility, Rao’s seminal work teaching children to sing inspired a generation of conductors and teachers to lead young choirs in schools and communities around the world. In a national tribute presented to her by the American Choral Directors Association, the eminent conductor Robert Shaw wrote: “The world of choral music owes her special thanks. She is preparing our future.”

Rao regularly conducts choral festivals, music conferences, and special events worldwide. She received the prestigious Harold A. Decker Award, presented by the Illinois-ACDA to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the field of choral music.