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Music Ministry at First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia

A Dynamic, Multicultural Church Music Program

Led by Music Director John B Hedges, our vibrant music program includes a 35-member adult choir, a multi-generational gospel choir, a wind ensemble and a bell choir for all ages that performs for occasional services throughout the year.  The Music Ministry is also supported by the diverse talents of our volunteer members, who offer their gifts in services throughout the year.  In addition, First Unitarian Church hosts a concert series  which features Philadelphia's premiere cooperative chamber chorus, The Chestnut Street Singers, and other guest artist and ensembles.  Visit us on Facebook to see what we've been up to: First U of Philadelphia Music! To join any of the ensembles described below, please email us

Do you like to sing? Consider joining one of our choirs!

First Unitarian Choir:

From September through June, the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia Choir meets every Thursday evening from 7:30- 9 PM, and on Sunday mornings at 9:45 AM, prior to our 11 AM service.  Each Thursday night rehearsal is preceded by a social half-hour with light snacks and is a great time to come get to know us.  The choir sings a vast repertoire, spanning Renaissance motets, spirituals, and a variety of contemporary world music. If you're curious, come and check us out! Ability to read music is a plus.

The choir is a very active group within the church, performing at most Sunday services. In addition the choir performs annually at the beautiful candlelit Christmas Eve service, the Music Sunday service each Spring, and has performed on the holiday week calendar for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Recent repertoire includes Vaughan Williams' "Serenade to Music", Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," Paul Winter's "Missa Gaia," Eric Whitacre's "Animal Crackers", and works by Holst, Peter Gabriel, Mozart, Maxwell Davies, music director John B Hedges, and choir member David Kurkowski.  

Click  here to listen to the church choir live in-concert

First Church Voices:

The newly founded 25-member First Church Voices is a multi-generational choir devoted to performing inspirational music both traditional and contemporary.  The gospel choir is open to singers of all ages and no experience is required to participate.  Rehearsals are on the third Sunday of each month after service from 12:30-1:30 P.M and the ensemble performs in service once every other month and at Christmas Eve and Music Sunday services.

Do you play an instrument or have other musical talents?

First Unitarian Universalist Wind Ensemble (FUUWE)

FUUWE (pronounced 'phooey') is a wind ensemble founded by members of the music ministry who share a love of instrumental music.  The group meets weekly and rehearses works for varying instrumental combinations.  FUUWE members perform, as an ensemble or as soloists, about once a month in services and occasionally collaborate with the First Unitarian Choir for special performances.  Any instrumentalists are welcome to join the fun! Contact Dave Kurkowski for more information.

Music Associates to play in service!

If you play an instrument, sing, compose, dance, we would love to incorporate your gifts into our music ministry. There are many music associates who accompany the choir, and often play solos, duets, and chamber works as part of the worship service. Our volunteers are pianists, organists, string players, wind players, guitarists, singers, percussionists, etc. The more volunteers we have, the more diverse and successful our programming can be.  Performers of all ages, styles and experience level are welcome.  Don't be shy!! If you are interested in being a music associate and sharing your talents, reach out to John B Hedges and we'll find the right opportunity for you!

Meet Our Music Director, John B Hedges

Born in Delaware in 1974, composer and conductor John B Hedges spent his youth with rock and r&b music, performing musical theater and playing baseball.  The son of a rock musician and an educator, John B began studying classical music in earnest at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his B.A. in Music in 1994 and his M.M. from Westminster Choir College in 1997. He then completed post-graduate studies at the Curtis Institute of Music.  He spent several summers at the Aspen Music Festival studying with John Harbison and George Tsontakis and at the Britten-Pears School with Oliver Knussen and Magnus Lindberg.  From 2001-2004, John B apprenticed with composer/conductor Oliver Knussen, working with the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cleveland Orchestras, the London Sinfonietta and Amsterdam’s Schoenberg and Asko Ensembles.  He also served as assistant to composer Tan Dun on the Metropolitan Opera premiere of The First Emperor.  During this time John B traveled to China and Japan, preparing performances, participating in workshops and orchestrating on the Feng Xiaogang film, The Banquet.     

John B has conducted concerts at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Academie Musicale de Villecroze and the Aldeburgh Festival and his compositions have been performed throughout North America and Europe.  His most recent compositions show a remarkable range: ‘Snikt, bub!’, a portrait of Marvel Comics’ Wolverine for piano quartet; A Shipwreck Opera in One Act in collaboration with fiction writer Aimee Bender; Exeter Riddles, a set of Anglo-Saxon choral works; On the Good Foot, a tribute to the late James Brown for large chamber ensemble; and Fantasía sobre Yma Sumac, a concerto for clarinet & orchestra inspired by the eclectic music of Peruvian songstress Yma Sumac.  The latter was premiered by clarinetist Victoria Luperi and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra where John B served as composer-in-residence for the 2011-2012 season.  John B also received a 2013 residency with the Richmond Symphony funded by New Music USA for performances of Prayers of Rain and Wind, a concerto written for and performed by Philly Orchestra Assistant Principal Bassist, Joseph Conyers.  In addition, John B has produced orchestral arrangements for the Minnesota Orchestra as well as the eclectic string trio Time for Three.     

Recipient of a Theodore Presser Career Grant and Independence Foundation Fellowship, John B has also been awarded grants and fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and Meet the Composer, and multiple residencies at the artists’ community Yaddo.  He currently lives in Havertown, PA with his wife, visual artist Lynn Palewicz, and their son, Bran.

To contact John B, you can call 215-563-3980, ext. 315, or email him.

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