Revised 7 July 2008

Music at First Church

Music has always been an important part of the worship experience at First Church.  Music weaves the service together and softens the quiet times, fills our moments of praise and exalts our praises to the God, whom we adore.

Others have said it more eloquently than could I.  For hundreds of years, our forefathers have lifted their voices in song, praying for guidance, expressing their joy, declaring their faith, consecrating their lives to their God.  The words of Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant movement, perhaps says it best.

"Music is the art of the Prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul.  It is one of the most delightful and magnificent presents God has given us.

This is a current photo of the 2007/2008 Cathedral Choir of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Talberg.  Note:  This is not the entire choir.  Some of us, myself included, had to leave before the photo to attend meetings.  (Photo courtesy of Mr. Tom McCage, member, Cathdral choir)

Many of our choir members are active throughout the church's Boards and Committees.

We are a close-knit group.  We share in each other's laughter, our sorrows and our cares.  We end each rehearsal in a prayer circle where we share each others joys and concerns and are blessed for the time we must be separated.

Our officers for 2008/2009 are:

  • Morris Wise, Choir President
  • Katie Pegelow, Vice President, Secretary and choir representative to the Church Council.
  • Charity Tran, Treasurer and alternate to the Church Council.
  • Michelle Delaquardi and Martha Hunley, historians
  • Kay Murakami, Choir Chaplain.
  • Thomas McCage, photographer.  The photographs on this page were taken by him.

Our Musical Staff:

  • Our choral Director is Dr. Jonathan Talberg
  • Our Organist-in-Residence is S. Wayne Foster
  • Our Music Administrator is Curtis Rhodes
  • Our Assistant Organist is Thomas Hunter Russell

We are blessed at this time with the most congenial and pleasant group of staff members in years.  It shows in how we relate to one another as individuals and as a group.

Although  at the present time we are small in number, we are large in heart.  We meet each Thursday night during the church season, taking the months of July and August off so that many can take a well-deserved vacation or can spend time with their friends and family.  During those months, a professional quartet takes over the special singing in our services.  We sing not because we must, or because it is demanded of us, but because through music, we share with you our love of God and express our gratitude back to God for the gift of song.  To be an instrument through which God speaks is a joy.  If you have been given the gift of singing and would like to share in our joy, there is a choir robe with your name on it waiting in the music room.  We are a joint group of professional singers and volunteer singers.  Membership in our church is not a requirement.  If you can sight read music, it is helpful.  If not, you can learn.  It is this small, but faithful group that is the core of the Los Angeles Bach Festival.  You will learn a repertoire of music that will place you in good standing in any other music group you choose to later join.  

If you can't join us in song, then join us in heart and come to our concerts and church services.  Donations to  to help support our work are always welcome and gratefully received.  God loveth a cheerful giver.  

Dr. Jonathan Talberg

As a musician, I have found Jonathan to be one of the most influential conductors in my many years of singing.  He has a way of producing results from his singers that brings out the best of us on our worst of days.  A good choral conductor, and indeed, Jonathan is this, creates a unified line of thought from his hands to our lips, that consolidates the voices, ears and hearts of the many into an instrument, fully orchestrated and richly colored, into an instrument of one.

In the words of Dr. Talberg, "Never sing louder than the beauty of the note and never sing less than lovely."

In addition to directing the choir of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles and acting as the creative director and conductor of the Los Angeles Bach Festival, Dr. Talberg directs the University and Chamber choirs at Cal State University at Long Beach, teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting classes, manages the largest undergraduate voice program in the state of California, handles their fundraising efforts and tours both nationally and internationally.  His groups have given invited concerts at Carnegie hall, St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, the Karlskirche in Vienna and were privileged to sing at both St. Peters Basilica and in the Sistine Chapel.  He has served as Music Director and Conductor of the Long Beach Bach Festival and is a sought after speaker, clinician and adjudicator for many of the top ranking choral groups of the United States.

Jonathan has a unique capability of musically reaching into our souls to discover that which was hidden, to bring those thoughts into fruition as a musical sound, which music soars to the heavens and rings the listener with our peace and joy.  

Dr. Talberg invites singers to call for an audition to join him and us.  Please call the music office to schedule your audition.  He also invites any who wish to volunteer with our programs to contact Curtis Rhodes, our Music Coordinator for volunteer opportunities, such as serving at our receptions, stuffing envelopes, ushering, assisting in the office or with the choir.  On our wish list of volunteers is someone who can be the master or mistress of our robes to keep them in good repair and to help keep them clean. 

S. Wayne Foster - Organist-in-Residence

Wayne was born into a musical family.  His parents were both active in church music, his sister studied piano and his brother also took lessons on the organ.  Wayne started taking organ lessons at the age of 5 and played his first organ solo at the age of 9.  

Wayne played in the jazz band and accompanied the chorus during his Junior High and High School years.  At the age of 15, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Interlochen School of the arts in Michigan.  He played his debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C.  He received his undergraduate degree from Stetson University at Florida.  After graduating from college, Wayne studied in Paris for the next five years, also working in an organ-building company.  He was named organ Scholar and Associate Organist of the American Cathedral in Paris during those years.  

Wayne is a consummate concert master of the pipe organ and a pedal dancer extraordinaire.  He is sought after by audiences all over the world for his rich orchestrations, his sensitivity to musical interpretation and his ability to make the keyboards sit up and dance. 

Curtis Rhodes, our Music Coordinator

Curtis runs the business end of all of our concerts and keeps the cogs and wheels running.  He is a wonderful composer in his own right and in that capacity, has written a number of entertaining and delightful songs.

Each of us is given a gift in life.  For some it is to paint pictures easily seen, for some is it the gift of silent enjoyment, for some it is the ability to spread the love of God through sound. The gift that Curtis brings to us is his kindness, his organizational skills and his ability to work with people.    For every gift lovingly given, is returned in kind. 

Thomas Hunter Russell, our Assistant Organist.  Tom has been a faithful and long-time member of the First Church music family.  In addition to his many years of acting as our assistant organist, he has been a member of the choir and is our foremost authority on the Organs of First Church. When he is not busy selling he virtues of our music program, he is busy working with the Trustees, which organization he has chaired many times, in keeping our church financially sound.  Tom's gift is his keen intellect, his knowledge of finance and law and his deep understanding of the inner workings of the corporation.   


Great Organs of First Church Cathedral Choir - rehearsals are on Thursday nights through May, 7:30pm to 9:30pm.  Auditions are required.  Church membership is not required.  The choir is on vacation for the summer.  We will begin rehearsing again in September.  
2008 - 2009 Organ Concert Series (pending) Los Angeles Bach Festival rehearsal schedule and concert series 2008-2009
Additional Special Concerts (pending) Bell Choir - This group is currently inactive but we hope to begin rehearsing again after the fall schedule gets under way.  Schedule is somewhat irregular at present.  Please call for rehearsal schedule

Our new Choral Director, Dr. Jonathan Talberg, is holding auditions for both soloist positions (paid) and volunteer positions (unpaid).  Please contact the music office to schedule an audition.  (please note, when you call the church, the answering machine still has the former director's response.  If Dr. Talberg does not answer, please leave him a message and he will get back to you.)  (213) 385-1341.  When the recording comes on, type TALBERG into the directory and it will take you to the proper extension.  Or type RHODES to speak with his assistant, Curtis Rhodes.

Come and bring a friend.  Please be prompt to rehearsals and notify the director if you will be absent.  

Our choir wears long red robes with a white surplus.  Ladies, you must wear black stockings and black shoes.  High heels are not recommended due to the unevenness of our flooring.  Jewelery, if worn, should be be unobtrusive so as not to detract from the uniform look.  Gentlemen are requested to wear black slacks, black shoes and socks, white shirts and a tie.  

You do not have to be a member of First Church to sing in our choir nor are you required to join in Communion when it is offered.  We do, however, welcome all to our Communion table regardless of faith or creed.