First+Congregational+Church+Welcomes+Community


Photo by Leland Francisco
Article by Nicholas E. Schmelter

First Congregational Church welcomes the community to its historic facility during the ninth annual celebration Jazz on Jefferson, a one-night festival hosted by the vibrant institutions of Saginaw’s historic South Jefferson Avenue between Federal and Hoyt, which will take place on the evening of Wednesday, June 6, 2012. Jazz on Jefferson brings together arts organizations, performers, vendors, and the public to create Saginaw’s premiere summer street festival. Events begin at 5:00 p.m. and end at 8:00 p.m. with a free concert at First Congregational Church by Zarin-taj—Jazz Singer / Entertainer, and her team of jazz musicians from the Midwest including Arlene McDaniel (piano), Eugene Reveck (bass), Jim Cooper (vibraphone), Steve Rodriguez (saxophone), and Ian LeVine (percussion).

Members of First Congregational Church will direct walking tours of the church campus including the sanctuary, which dates to the 1860s and boasts windows by Tiffany & Co. and A. J. Timler and a pipe organ by Ernest M. Skinner of Boston. Children are invited to take part in crafts in the remodeled upstairs education wing of Suttner Hall.

The Dow House, built by Midland architect Alden B. Dow in 1936, serves as parsonage for the congregation’s minister. Built of concrete blocks, it is a modern design. It, too, will be included in the tour of the church facility.

The annual Spring Into Art show that has occurred each May and June for the last three decades is centered in the John Iliff Chapel, designed by Peter Frantz in the 1950s. Spring Into Art is a month-long celebration of art highlighting the work of regional artists, who are invited to submit exhibit entries. Original works of media including paintings, drawings, collages, fibres, and ceramics are accepted.

Members of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists will perform pipe organ demonstrations on the chapel’s pipe organ, built by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. of Boston in 1956. Dr. Steven Egler, Artist in Residence of First Congregational Church, and Patti Bowen, one of the congregation’s Friends of Music, will join Nicholas Schmelter in performing jazz-inspired organ music every half hour.

Theatre on the lawn will be offered in sets and facilitated by the congregation’s Director of Christian Education and Youth, Angie Noah, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre (Goshen College). “Scenes from the Streets” is the title of the collection of pieces including the following shorts: “I Am Not Batman” by Marco Ramirez is about a street kid with a stomach full of store brand macaroni and cheese who fulfills the ultimate Batman fantasy; “Through the Eyes of a Child” is a drama devised by Annie Kidder, Travis Coughran, and Lauren Fischer; “Altered Perceptions: A ‘Wicked’ Stepsister’s Tale” by Angie Noah is an original comedy sketch featuring text from Michigan native, author James Finn Garner. The Farley Family Mime including the Rev. Dr. Todd Farley, an understudy of Marcel Marceau, will also take part.

The street festival culminates with an 8:00 p.m. concert that is free to the public by Shirlene (Zarin-taj) Brown, who began her career as a radio announcer for Public Radio WLGI (90.97 FM) in Hemingway, South Carolina, and has received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music (Saginaw Valley State University). A professional, touring vocal artist, Zarin-taj (“Crown of Gold”) has collaborated with ensembles and pianists in varied musical styles in Europe, Asia, and the United States of America. Brown has performed with renowned jazz cellist Karen Patterson of New York City, the Motor City Samba of Detroit, and the Michigan Arts International Ensemble directed by Dr. Michael Naylor of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Brown’s participation with regional jazz combos includes the following collaborations: Jazz Nova Ensemble directed by Tony Rongo of Bay City, Michigan; Mainstreet of Midland, Michigan; Level 5 of Flint, Michigan; and also the Jazz combo Swing Shift under the direction of Kenneth Duquaine, Flint, Michigan. Brown is featured on several CD releases including John Ebata & Friends (1997), Opus #3 (2001), and her latest release, Simple Treasures (2007). She presently serves as the jazz singer / entertainer at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where she performs regularly at the Water Lily Lounge.

First held in 2004, Jazz on Jefferson is a collaborative event sponsored by the members of the South Jefferson Avenue Events and Marketing Committee. Member organizations include the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, Public Libraries of Saginaw (Hoyt Branch), Saginaw Choral Society, First Congregational Church, Team One Credit Union, Kingdom Life Ministries, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, and South Jefferson Avenue residents. The evening marks the diversity, heritage, and vibrancy of these organizations and displays the architectural treasures of South Jefferson Avenue. June 5, 2013, is tentatively marked as the tenth anniversary celebration of Jazz on Jefferson.

© Nicholas E. Schmelter, 2012