Choir News

The choir is on break for the summer! If you are interested in joining the group in the fall, or would be interested in participating in summer music-making at the church, please email Director of Music Adam O’Dell at

Music at 1st Unitarian

Music is life itself – Louis Armstrong

Central to the music programming at First Unitarian is the belief that religious pluralism is inseparable from musical pluralism. Celebrating the diverse history of our church and our community means celebrating the cultures, musical or otherwise, that shape who we are as a congregation. Whether we’re experiencing folk, popular, classical, jazz, spiritual, or gospel traditions (to name a few), the music at First Unitarian celebrates the beauty of our unique experiences and our shared ones.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent  ­– Victor Hugo

Come Sing with Us!

Music as Spiritual Practice

Whether you are a longtime singer or a newcomer to choral singing, we would love to have you join us! Choir rehearses Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. No auditions are required, though some experience in part singing and reading music is helpful.

We gather not just to make a beautiful sound, but to experience music as a channel for our shared growth as people. Choir is community: individuals joining together to make something bigger than any one person could on their own.

Making music and experiencing music are aesthetic and spiritual practices. Singing together unites us, comforts, strengthens, renews, and transforms. For us, it’s not a decoration, or a break, or even a performance—it’s an integral part of the Sunday service. Whether singing or soaking it in, the experience of music changes how we are in the world.

For more information about joining the music program, contact Director of Music Adam O’Dell at

When we sing together in harmony, our hearts start beating together – Tania De Jong

Music Programs

The main musical offering at First Unitarian Church of Chicago is the Adult Choir, made up of volunteer members and friends of the congregation, and four professional section leaders (one per voice part). The group sings for our Sunday services 2 – 3 times per month from September to June. We sing a variety of genres, from classical to spirituals, jazz to pop, and everywhere in between! The Adult Choir serves not only as an opportunity for spiritual growth, but also as an educational opportunity for our participating members. We learn fundamentals of choral singing, deep breathing, kinesthetics, and choral music history. If you’ve always wanted to sing, but haven’t had the opportunity to learn, this is the perfect place to get started!

In addition to their participation in the Adult Choir, the section leaders also form the Chamber Choir. This small group of professional singers enriches the musical offerings during Sunday services where the Adult Choir does not sing, focusing on more virtuosic repertoire, and further enriching the range of genres offered in the musical elements of our worship. 

Outside of Sunday services, we offer further musical enrichment through our Visiting Artist Concert Series, a multiple day musical residency offered 2-3 times per year. For each residency, First Unitarian invites a world class musician or ensemble to rehearse and perform with the Adult Choir, offer workshops and masterclasses to local music students, and present a free concert open to the public. The program is funded by free will donations from members of the congregation and the public. 

French hornist Brian KM was 1st U’s Visiting Artist for November, 2022. His residency included a collaboration with the Adult Choir on Paul Basler’s “Alleluia,” several workshops with local music students, and a solo concert of original multimedia works. 

As part of our educational outreach, the music department of First Unitarian collaborates with composition students from the University of Chicago annually to present world premiere performances of organ solos written for our 2208 pipe, 33 rank E.M. Skinner organ. This program is offered to provide novel musical experiences for our congregation, help emerging composers gain meaningful experience in collaborative music-making, and strengthen our connections within the Hyde Park community. 

In December, 2022, 1st U hosted the Orbert Davis Jazz Septet in honor of longtime member Dr. Timuel Black. Davis is the co-founder, conductor, and artistic director of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.

He is a performer, arranger, and composer widely respected not only for his work related to all things jazz, but also for his commitment to using arts education and advocacy to enact positive change in society.

Uniting Voices Chicago

Uniting Voices Chicago Birthday Celebration, 2022

First Unitarian is the original home and founding institution of the internationally renowned Uniting Voices Chicago  (formerly the Chicago Children’s Choir). We occasionally invite neighborhood chapters of Uniting Voices Chicago to perform for our worship services, including in October for the organization’s annual birthday celebration. For more information about this choir and to connect to First U’s UVC Boosters, contact Laura Stern at

Upcoming Uniting Voices Chicago events here! 

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart – Pablo Casals