Music and the singing of hymns praising God are an important part of weekly worship at Central Christian Church. The Chancel Choir sings for all Worship Services, provides a special anthem each Sunday and performs special music at Christmas and Easter. The choir rehearses each Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM in the George R. Gregory Music Room, 112.
George R. Gregory, the organist and carillonneur, has served Central for 50+ years. Following Worship Services every week, Mr. Gregory performs a carillon concert. We invite everyone to enjoy listening to the carillon from the church patio or front porch.
The Handbell Choir performs in the worship service at various times throughout the year, and rehearses Wednesday evenings at 6:30 PM in Room 102.
At various times, special performances by string ensembles, a mariachi band, trumpets, violins, flutes, bagpipes and drums provide additional opportunities to praise God through music.
Central Christian Church is home to the only belled (not electronic) carillon in San Antonio. The carillon was crafted in 1953 by the bell-founder firm Petit & Fritsen of Aarle-Rixtel, The Netherlands. Wendell Westcott, carillonneur at Michigan State College, played the dedicatory recital on Christmas Eve, 1953.
The original carillon of 47 bells was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Lester A. Nordan and family. It has a four-octave range and sounds in D, one whole step higher than concert pitch. The bells vary in weight from 3,850 pounds to 19 pounds, totaling nearly ten tons. In memory of her husband, who died in 1969 at the age of 73, Mrs. Nordan added a 48th bell (low E flat) to the carillon. In 1983, Richard Strauss designed and built for Central Christian Church new playing and practice keyboards, which have become the North American standard. During the 100th anniversary of the founding of Central Christian Church, the keyboards were used at the Annual Congress of The Guild of Carillonneurs of North America meeting in San Antonio. As a result of Mrs. Nordan’s continuing interest, the San Antonio Carillon Book of Christmas Music from Central Christian Church was published and distributed to Guild Members who attended the Congress. The book, compiled and edited by Ronald Barnes, was dedicated to Mrs. Nordan. In the introduction of the book, Barnes explains, “Since the carillon at Central Christian Church was first heard on Christmas Eve, and since bells and Christmas are as inseparable here as elsewhere around the world, the idea for this Christmas Carillon Book came naturally.” The music is now available from American Carillon Music Editions. Mrs. Nordan died in 1994 at age 98.
During the 50th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Nordan Memorial Carillon in 2003, a carillon recital series began on November 23. George R. Gregory, Central Christian Church carillonneur, played Alborada by Ronald Barnes. This composition, completed in 1987, the year following the installation of the new 48th bell, was written in honor of, and dedicated to Mrs. Lester Nordan. The new bell was used many times in the composition. Five carillonneurs from throughout the United States came to San Antonio to play each Sunday during Advent and on Christmas Eve. New carillon compositions by Alice Gomez and John Courter were commissioned for the concerts. The concerts and commissioned music were made possible by the support of Anita Nordan Lindsay, daughter of the carillon donors, Mr. and Mrs. Lester Nordan. Unfortunately Mrs. Lindsay died November 11, 2003, at age 82, just 12 days before the start of the recital series.
The carillon is located in the tower of the church. The bells do not move, but are struck by clappers connected by cables to a keyboard located just below the belfry. The keyboard is struck with half closed, gloved hands. In addition to the keys for the hands there are also foot pedals.
For more information on carillons, visit The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.
In the Carillon dedication service on December 24, 1953, these words were read:
We dedicate this Carillon that we might
praise Him for His mighty deeds;
That the heavens may sing forth the honor
of His name and make His praise glorious;
That all may proclaim His mercy and judgment;
To the glory of God and for the use of
the congregation and the city of San Antonio;
To the proclaiming of the praise of God,
to the summoning of the congregation to
the house of God, to the inviting
of the passer-by to prayer