First Presbyterian ChoirGlorious the song, when God’s the theme.
– Christopher Smart, Song to David (1763)

Music is an integral part of the life and worship of our congregation. Our goal is to praise God through song and to deepen the spiritual life of our community through music, the gift of God.

Choirs at First Presbyterian Church

The Chancel Choir

The Chancel Choir is comprised of volunteers and sings at the 11:00 a.m. worship service throughout the year and at special services as well. The choir complements the congregation’s musical offerings and sings sacred music that represents a variety of styles and traditions throughout the centuries. The Chancel Choir rehearses at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays during the academic year and as called during the summer. Childcare is available for choir parents. We welcome all enthusiastic singers!

The Children’s Choir

The Children’s Choir is for children K-5 and provides basic singing skills and an opportunity for the children to learn anthems. The choir sings from memory about once every six weeks at the 11:00 service. Children’s Choir rehearses immediately following the main Sunday service during the academic year.

The Handbell Choir

The Handbell Choir enables people of various ages to make music together. Handbells are not as difficult to play as most musical instruments, but an ability to read music and count rhythm is necessary. The choir rehearses on Mondays at 5 p.m. during the academic year, and plays at the convenience of its members.

Instruments at First Presbyterian Church

The organ at First Presbyterian was built by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, CT. (opus 581) in 1916 with tonal upgrades and additional ranks of pipes added in 1964. There are three manual keyboards, pedal keyboard and 40 stops, 36 of which are located at the front of the church and 4 of which are located in the antiphonal organ case in the rear gallery of the church. The Austin Organ Company was established in 1899 by an Englishman, John Turnell Austin in Hartford, CT. and it remains in the same location today. Largely because of the innovative designs of Austin (particularly the invention of the Universal Chest), Austin organs are noted for their reliability among organs built at this time in America. For further information:

The handbells used at First Presbyterian consist of three octaves of English bells cast by the English bell foundry, Whitechapel. This is the premiere bell foundry in the world. Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London has been casting the highest quality bells for more than five and a half centuries. In America, the original Liberty Bell as well as the Bicentennial Bell were both crafted by Whitechapel.
For more information:

The sanctuary piano purchased in 1998 is a Yamaha C5, 6’7” conservatory grand piano. The piano is used to accompany hymns and anthems occasionally and for concerts.

The harpsichord was commissioned in 1998 and delivered in the fall of 2005. Willard Martin is building a Franco-Flemish double manual harpsichord in the French tradition, patterned after an antique prototype made in Paris circa 1720 signed “Nicolas Blanchet.” There are 61 notes, chromatic from FF to f3, and there is a disposition of 2×8′ and 1×4′, and buff stop. The keyboards transpose in three positions (A=392, 415, and 440). Willard Martin apprenticed with William Dowd in Boston and worked in the Dowd Paris shop for three years. He established Martin Harpsichords in Bethlehem, PA in 1975 and since then has made over 500 harpsichords. Martin harpsichords can be heard on many beautiful recordings. For more information, email: Wmartin997[at]

Special Services and Events

Special Services during Advent and Lent

Advent / Lenten Worship and Communion:
Each Wednesday in Advent and Lent.
Worship is at 6:00 PM.
Light supper is served at 6:30 PM prior to the worship.
A Service of Lessons and Carols is observed on the third Sunday of Advent at 11am. This service is based upon the famous Lessons and Carols service held at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. The choir sings a variety of anthems between traditional readings from the Bible.

Christmas Eve Family worship with Communion followed by a candle lighting service 5:00pm

Special Musical Events

The Music on Main series welcomes guest performers and groups from time to time to our sanctuary and enhances the cultural life of downtown Durham. In the past such groups as the Norwich Cathedral Girls’ Choir and the Women’s Chorus of Chapel Hill have sung and concerts have included the performances of artists Elaine Funaro, harpsichord; Thomas Warburton, piano; Nicolas Kitchen, violin; Shayne Doty, organ; and Nnenna Freelon, jazz vocalist.