By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Grafton – “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing,” states Psalm 100 of the Bible. The Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton-Upton (UUSGU) practices this preaching and takes great pride in its eclectic music program. Longtime congregation member Barry Hall has recently been welcomed as one of the music directors for this church.
Hall explained that the original church was established in 1731 as a Congregational Church, and that building burned down in 1860. It was rebuilt and stands on the Grafton Common as an historic reminder of the rich tradition of religion in New England. Different congregations have used the building over the years with two churches merging in 1970 to become the current UUSGU. Today it is a growing, active, family-oriented church welcoming members from neighboring towns including Westborough, Millbury, Worcester and Shrewsbury.
“The sanctuary has excellent acoustics because there were no microphones in the old days,” added Hall.
Hall has been a member of the church for 14 years, joining when his family moved from California to Grafton in 2003. Music runs in his blood; both his parents worked as musicians; his four brothers and sisters are all active in the field. He and his wife, Beth, who plays many instruments, met when they were on a tour to Poland as members of the Connecticut String Orchestra. The thriving music program is what drew them to the church, and along with daughter, Avery, they have been engaged in “making joyful noise” ever since.
UUSGU has two music directors. Bob Nicoll, a piano and guitar teacher from Upton, has worked on the music program for three years. The church has an adult choir, a children’s choir and performance group, a brass group, a string quartet, a jazz ensemble, a Dixieland Combo, a regular ensemble and a hand bell choir.
“I can honestly say that our music program in this church is as diverse as any church in the country,” enthused Hall. “We have a group called Sacred Heart that performs Kirtan music from India and an African drumming circle. Our youth have their own bands and write original music and then perform it.
“Because our congregation is composed of so many musicians and artists and musically inclined creative people, we can support such a broad and diverse music program,” said Hall.
Every Sunday is something different. The music directors work with the minister, Reverend Daniel Gregoire, on a theme for the week’s service and design a music program around that in addition to more traditional hymns.
“We do all kinds of music from opera and classical to jazz, rock and pop,” explained Hall.
“The music program keeps people coming because it’s different every week. The challenge and the joy of our work is giving people opportunities to express themselves musically,” added Nicoll.
When asked about the music program, longtime church member and adult choir singer Alison Snyder said, “It’s a way to connect with other people because of the eclectic nature of the music, and it also deepens the spirituality of the worship service.”
The church is open to the public and anyone may attend the regular 10 a.m. Sunday service. To learn more about UUSGU, visit www.uusgu.org.