Welcome to First Parish Music Community!

First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington has a lively and enthusiastic music program at the heart of its ministry. Our services feature a variety of musical styles including classical, jazz, ethnic, popular and folk music.  Under the leadership of Music Director Jonathan Colby, over 85 staff, volunteer and guest musicians grace our services annually. We have two concert grand pianos and a historic 1870 Hook organ, which was installed in 1985.

Congregational singing at First Parish helps us bond together in fellowship each week. In addition to our traditional hymnal, First Parish has compiled our own Singing Towards Justice! Songbook, which champions racial and social justice equality.

Our Adult Choir sings most Sundays and presents one to four selections per service. In recent years, music-centered services have highlighted major choral works by Bach, Bernstein, Fauré,Handel and Rutter, and selections by contemporary composers Ysaye Barnwell, Dominick DiOrio, Mark Miller and Robert Cohen.  Local composers Jennifer Kobayashi, Kenneth Seitz and Diane Taraz frequently dedicate original songs and arrangements for special occasions.  A Family Choir option made its debut in 2018.

Vocalists and instrumentalists are an integral part of our Sunday and holiday services, and of annual events such as the Harvest Moon Cafe and Ferry Beach weekend, Community Sings, and lay ministry visits for those who cannot attend services.  Participating groups include a Handbell Choir, C Winds (flute ensemble), Grace Notes, UUlations, as well as soloists, song leaders, youth musicians and others. If you’re interested in joining a choir, instrumental ensemble and/or wish to perform for a service, please email us at music@ firstparish.info.

Music-Centered Services

Twice per year, we present a music-centered service at First Parish Arlington in which a larger work, or unified group of works, takes the place of some of the spoken elements of our service. These services include extra guest musicians such as professionals, college students, or a collaboration with another church or a youth orchestra.
First Parish offers a number of opportunities to participate in our music program, which is a core part of worship and community at First Parish. Contact Music Director, Jonathan Colby  (musicdirector@firstparish.info) with questions.

Adult Choir (grades 8-adult)
This is our most active musical ensemble, performing on most Sundays from September-June during the regular church year. We rehearse SATB, women’s and men’s choral music on Thursdays from 7:00pm-8:00pm.

Our recent repertoire has included large classical masterpieces ranging from Bach to Bernstein, contemporary selections by diverse and female composers Mark Miller, Gwyneth Walker, Diane Taraz and works on relevant topics of interest by Robert Cohen and Kenneth Seitz. World music sung in various languages highlighting a specific worship theme is featured where it is culturally appropriate.


Family Choir and other youth options 

Children are welcome to play handbells and specific intergenerational and youth services include youth performers and occasional appearances by a lay-led youth choir during selected holidays. The Family Choir performs for selected services and is open to family members, children and anyone who wishes to sing.


Handbell Choir (all ages)

This lay led group performs for occasional services throughout the church year using First Parish’s three octave hand chime set. Rehearsals are weekly. The handbell choir is open to all who are capable of sustained attention to rehearsal for an hour. Ability to read music is not required, but is helpful. Contact ringers@firstparish.info for more information.

C Winds (high school – adult)

This ensemble is primarily flutes, but may include other instruments such as bassoon or double bass.  This ensemble performs 4-5 flute choir music for 2-3 services during the fall, spring or summer; participants should be able to read music independently and have reasonably good intonation and tone. This is a lay-led ensemble; rehearsals are held on selected Sundays 11:45-1pm, by consensus prior to a scheduled service. Contact flutes@firstparish.info for more information.

Summer Service Musicians

Would you like to share your musical talents this summer?  Each summer, volunteers at First Parish community lead summer services in spoken words, prayer and music.  Summer services are Father’s Day to Labor Day and you’re welcome to create worship at First Parish with your fellow lay-leaders.  Responsibilities include musical interludes, hymns and selections that compliment the theme of the day. Music can take form in either piano, guitar, small instrumental ensembles and vocal groups.  Please contact music@firstparish.info if you’d like to volunteer and share your craft with the congregation.

Grace Notes (all ages) 

Grace Notes singers offer their gift of song to First Parish UU of Arlington parishioners within the framework of First Parish Lay Ministry. Grace Notes singers need to be able to read music with good fluency and to be comfortable with singing alone on a part with accuracy. It also helps to be familiar with a variety of musical styles and eras since Grace Notes tries to honor special requests for particular favorite hymns or songs when possible. Rehearsals are held once a month on the 4th Wednesday from 7:30-8:30pm. Contact gracenotes@firstparish.info

December Advent services generally take place during on the second and third weeks of Advent.

Fall Music Sundays in November generally focus on a Requiem or another large choral piece of a single composer.

Spring Music Sundays generally take place a month before Easter.

Previous Music Sunday Services under the direction of Music Director Jonathan Colby have featured:


  • Spring (3/31/19) A participatory service of spirituals taught and led by African-American composer Dr. Ysaye Barnwell.
  • Fall (11/10/18, 4pm concert at First Parish) Premiere of Dominick DiOrio’s “Be With Us Now” hymn; Faure Requiem with First Parish and First Unitarian Society, Newton choirs and the Worcester Youth Orchestra (WYO) and other works.
  • 11/11/18 (First Unitarian Society, Newton) Faure Requiem conducted by Anne Watson Born with First Parish and FUSN choirs, WYO and FUSN instrumentalists and organist.


  • Spring (3/11/18) Selections and congregational hymns by American composer Mark Andrew Miller (b. 1967)
  • Fall (11/12/17) Requiem by John Rutter (b. 1945).


  • Spring (3/12/17 First Parish, 3/19/17 Follen Church, Lexington) Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990.)
  • Fall (11/16/16) Alzheimer Stories (2012) by Robert Cohen (b.1943.)

Spring 2016

  • Spring (1/30/16 Worcester UU Church, 3/13/16 First Parish) Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750)


  • Spring (3/29/15) Song of the Open Road (2008), Mark Miller (b. 1967)
  • Fall (12/7/2014)  Magnificat, RV 610 by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)