Making Music at Murray Church

Murray-Unitarian-Universalist Church
-North Main St, Attleboro, MA 02703
 Phone: 508-222-0505
Email:   map/directions



Page Directory


Music Committee

ChurChurch Choir

Chaminade Concerts

Murray Church Organ

Organ Concerts

Medieval Revelry


Music Committee
 The Music Committee serves as advisor on all musical activities of the church and originates musical programs to enrich church life.

They are responsible for development of music for the Sunday worship programs and for other special music programs; development of special music programs, including encouraging the development of musical appreciation in the church through special Sunday services and concerts; maintenance of musical instruments; development of long-term plans for the music program; support and supervision of the Director of Music and publicity for church music events.

Click on the links here for more information about or wonderful Hook & Hastings organ, and Murray Church Organ and musical concerts videotaped by local cable groups.

The Music Committee has sponsored some rich and diverse musical events recently. Here are some of them:

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Murray UU Church Choir


The Murray Choir provides anthems and support the music program  for Sunday Service, Christmas Eve and other special services. Members of the Choir are required to attend choir rehersals twice a week, present choral selections to the congregation as part of the worship services and attend church services as requested by the Director of Music. Please refer to the Universalist newsletter for the latest Choir news.  Current Director of Music: Dennis Ferguson


Music Director
Dennis Ferguson (foreground) and the choir

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The Chaminade Music Club Concert
The Chaminade Music Club held a concert at Murray to continue the celebration of the International Year of the Organ, 2009-2010.  The program featured:

Robert Johnson, organ and Maxine Johnson, flute;
Gerald Kates, baritone;
Mary Whelan, organ;
Linda Westgate, soprano;
Dennis Ferguson, organ

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The History of the Hook & Hastings Organ

How We Obtained the Organ

The Organ Project - The magnificent 1882 Hook & Hastings Organ, Opus 1111 build, currently graces our sanctuary. Its dedication at Murray Unitarian Universalist Church in 1992 was the culmination of an extraordinary project. In 1977, the Music Committee began to investigate repair or replacement of the 1957 Estey tubular-pneumatic pipe organ. After securing estimates of costs, the Music Committee recommended the purchase of a new organ. In 1987 the organ project was incorporated in a comprehensive capital funds campaign, and the newly-formed Organ Committee continued the investigation. In 1989, after considering different kinds of organs and the financial resources of Murray Church, the Organ Committee recommended purchasing a rebuilt tracker organ, which would be affordable, long-lasting, and musically satisfying. We selected the Andover Organ Company and Robert C. Newton to rebuild an organ, and we registered our search with the Organ Clearing House (Harrisville, NH, Alan Laufman, Director).

We are grateful to our former minister, Harold Babcock, for his leadership, support and encouragement of the organ project. We thank the Reverend Frederick Gillis, Barbara Owen, and Carlton Russell, Professor of Music at Wheaton College, for their valuable advice.

Through the good services of the Organ Clearing House, we located the 1882 Hook & Hastings organ at St. James the Just Episcopal Church in Franklin Square, L.I., N.Y. In October 1990, under the supervision of Bob Newton, six Organ Committee members dismantled and moved the organ to the  Andover Organ Company storage facility (Martha Auerbach, Harold Babcock, John Hourigan, Gail and Norman Rainey, Mary Whelan). The Reverend John P. Nyhan and members of the congregation of St.James the Just were our gracious hosts.

During 1991 the Organ Committee worked with the Property Committee and other Murray Church members to plan for installation of the organ, while fund-raising continued. Bob and Sandy Wilson constructed a beautiful model of the chancel  to help us to visualize renovations and placement of the new organ.

Preparation of the chancel was carried out during the summer of 1992, when more than sixty Murray Church members and friends contributed their time and talents (see the Universalist, March 1, 1993). Major credit for the success of the preparation project is due to Greg Cauldwell, who supervised the renovations. Special thanks also are given to Gus Pearson, Molly O'Donnell, John Hourigan, Roy Belcher, Frank Blackbird and Pret Stevenson, who took responsibility for particular areas. Martha Auerbach and Mary Whelan coordinated the project.

The organ was rebuilt and expanded by Bob Newton and staff at the Andover Organ Company shop, and then it was brought to Murray Church in August 1992. We appreciate the artistry and excellent craftsmanship of Mr. Newton, who has taken great care in providing a fine instrument for our church.

Many people have contributed time, talent, and money to the organ project. It has been a wonderful cooperative experience. We are rewarded by the sound of the Hook & Hastings organ when it is played by our Director of Music Dennis Ferguson and other organists. The inspiration and beauty of the music continues to enrich our services and the musical life of Murray Unitarian Universalist Church now and for future generations.

Hook & Hastings 1882 Opus 1111 Organ - The Specifics

Our organ has tracker action in which there is mechanical linkage between the keys or pedals when pressed by the organist and the valve that allows air to flow into pipe(s) of the corresponding note. This is in contrast to electrical or electro-pneumatic actions, which connect the key to the valve through an electrical link or an electrically assisted pneumatic system, respectively1. Per the Organ Historical Society Database2, we are able to provide you with the following information about our organ:
  • 2 manuals. 14 speaking stops. 17 ranks.
  • Slider chests. Mechanical key action.
  • Additional notes.
    • The original builder was Hook & Hastings (1882, Opus 1111). (OHS PC Database. 2004-10-30)
    • Status Note: There 1996. (OHS PC Database. 2004-10-30)
    • Relocated from St. James Episcopal, Franklin Square, L. I., NY c. 1992. Rebuild.

Click here for the present specifications of our Hook & Hastings Organ after being rebuilt and
enlarged by the Andover Organ Company.

Our Caretakers

The Andover Organ Company and Mary Whelan

The Andover Organ Company was founded in 1948 as a direct result of the Andover Organ Institute, a summer school located on the campus of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. The Institute served to reintroduce the mechanical or tracker action organ into the United States. Since 1959, Andover has dealt almost exclusively with the tracker organ, building new instruments and rebuilding and restoring older instruments.

We are fortunate to have Bob Newton of the Andover Organ Company taking care of our organ. One reason for our purchase of a tracker, or mechanical organ instead of an electronic organ, was the possibility of making minor repairs ourselves. Recently a note was not playing and we called Bob who oversaw the purchase and installation of the 1882 Hook & Hastings organ in our chancel in 1992. Over the cell phone, Bob instructed us how to find the clogged pipe inside the organ, take it out  and run a dollar bill between the pipe and the piece of metal which vibrates to produce sound (U.S. currency paper is the most free of lint). The operation was successful and we had no cost for the repair. Here is some information about Bob:

Robert C. Newton
Bob, a Vermont native, was a mathematics major at the University of Vermont. He is presently a part owner of the company, and as director of the old organ department has been in charge of the restoration of several large and important organs, including the 1866 E. & G. G. Hook at Old South Church in Newburyport, MA, and the 1852 E. & G. G. Hook at the Unitarian Church in Bridgewater, MA. He is a nationally-recognized authority on E. & G. G. Hook and Hook and Hastings organs. He has served as a member of the National Council of the Organ Historical Society and has served the OHS on several convention committees. His home is a renovated church in Methuen, MA, where he has collected many antiques and musical instruments.

Thank you to Mary Whelan - In 2007, Mary Whelan established an Organ Fund at Murray Church which will not only pay for the annual maintenance of our magnificent pipe organ but also provide scholarship money to train potential organists.  All of us at Murray appreciate her generosity and giving spirit.


 Links of Interest



International Year of the Organ & Concert

Photo courtesy of DoubleACS,
Attleboro Cable Systems, Channnel 15

The American Guild of Organists (AGO) designated 2008-2009 as The International Year of the Organ.  Murray Unitarian Universalist Church took part in the celebration with an organ concert that was presented in September, 2008 in collaboration with the Southeastern Massachusetts Chapter of the AGO.   Three organists played the historic tracker organ made by the E. & G. G. Hook & Hasting Organ Company in 1882 for a church in Ohio.  A fine, classic instrument, the pipe organ was saved, renovated, and relocated at Murray U. U. Church by the Andover Organ Company in 1992. Click here to listen to the concert: International Year of the Organ Concert.

Concert Participants:

    Mary Whelan
    Richard W Hill
    Robert W Johnson


    Poem Readers:
    Isabel Samuel
    Nicholas Samuel

Prolatio Singers & Players Musical Performance

Our Music Director, Dennis Ferguson (at right) leads the  Prolatio Singers & Players in a musical performance that was held in the Murray Church sanctuary on May 18, 2008.  


Click on the link below to listen to the concert:
Polychoral Music of Tomas Luis de Victoria and Plainchant

Photo courtesy of DoubleACS,
Attleboro Cable Systems, Channnel 15 

Concert Participants:

    Soprano: Allison Allen, Patti Beard, Arva Ferguson, Colette Ferguson, Sandra Manchester, Ann Natalizia, Kathleen Perri, Susan Piccione, Erin Sparrow, Patti Sparrow, Gay Zervos.
    Alto: Renee Hake, Connie Lawson, Janet Norman, Laura Piccione, Elizabeth Platt, Anne Umbarger, Shiau-Yun Wang.
    Tenor: Christopher Breton, Sue Cass, John Hake, Leo Larson, Russ Parker, David Ritterbusch.
    Bass: Kent Jones, Kent Rohrbach, John Simpson, Eddie Sparrow.
    Violincello: Genevieve Shapiro
    Organ: Robert Johnson
    Conductor: Dennis E. Ferguson

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Medieval Revelry

For a few hours on a Saturday night in February, the Unity Room was transformed into a medieval hall in Ireland, with music by River Heart and stories by their shenachie, or Celtic storyteller.  Ed Merck, a former member of Murray Church, and the recorder player in River Heart, told our Rev. Sandra Fitz-Henry of the group last year and offered a performance.  The Music Committee undertook the planning of the project with the blessing of the Finance Committee, and the people of Murray made it happen.

 To begin spinning the web of enchantment that evening, Sarah McGinnis (wife of Ron Bernier, pictured at right), plucked out beautiful filaments of music on her harp.  She was the embodiment of medieval loveliness in the authentic costume she designed and sewed.

 Many thanks to River Heart, the “lyric ensemble of medieval music and mystical tales” whose music and tales transported us to long-ago Ireland:  Peter Hughes, concert violinist; Steven Liebman, lutenist; Ed Merck, historical wind player; Alan O’Hare, the shenachie, who wandered in from the moors to tell us tales of village life in Ireland.  We are deeply grateful to them for their gift of a magical evening.

 A small group of Murray people began planning the evening in November of 2008 by defining the event.  We decided to offer food as well as entertainment, and the master chefs, led by Janet Richardi, provided delicious soups, breads and cookies, accompanied by mulled cider.  Amy Craig, a professional events planner, drew up a seating plan with tables arranged in a large U facing the fire in the hearth and a portable stage, generously loaned to us by the Norton Singers (thanks to Stephanie and Jeremy Paquette for hauling the stage in their truck, from and back to Peter Molitor’s barn). 

 Stephanie Paquette created an eye-catching poster, made tickets, and managed the pre-sale of tickets.  Monica Staaf and Mary Whelan distributed publicity widely.  Due to these efforts, we attracted a good audience of seventy people (we even had a response from California – due to the speed of electronic transmission – they declined the invitation). An energetic crew came in Friday and Saturday to set up and decorate the Unity Room.  Laurie Lawes recruited a super efficient staff who served the food, and she was cashier.  Jessie Hill arranged for babysitters so that families with young children could attend.  The kids were entertained by sitter Hunter Parent-Wetmore dressed as a medieval jester.  Some members of the audience and Murray presenters also wore costumes inspired by the Middle Ages.  Jim Richardi supervised the clean-up (and also fed logs to the fire to keep it lively and warm during the entertainment).  Thanks to Jim and the wonderful people who stepped up after the performance to put everything back in place.  At the end of the evening, Stephanie submitted a financial accounting, and we were able to contribute a net of $574 to the general funds of Murray Church.

 The collaboration, creativity, and energy shown by Murray people in preparing and presenting Medieval Revelry were amazing!  It shouldn’t be a surprise, since we have lots of practice from the annualholiday fair, but this new kind of event required a real stretch of abilities.   The coordination called to mind a flock of birds which suddenly take off from their huddled perching and fly as a group, swirling and swooping at great speed, then just as quickly and efficiently land altogether back on the tree or rooftop.  At Murray, for Medieval Revelry, each person took responsibility for a certain area, and just did the job.  Everyone deserves a huge “thanks!”  Yet each one contributes willingly and generously without expectation of any reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done and benefit for the church.  It makes sense of the old saying, “virtue is its own reward.”  The word “virtue,” or “vertu,” originally meant “strength;” indeed, the good works of Murray people are what make the Church so strong!

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Please refer to the Universalist newsletter (click here) for the latest Musical Happenings.