By Shelley Scarano

The celebration continues in May for Emmanuel’s year of events planned to commemorate the Bicentennial of Emmanuel church. The congregation was the first in Little Falls to be incorporated in February of 1823. We have had two special events to date; the special service in February and the Ukrainian Easter egg decorating class taught by Father Jack and Carol Whritenour in March. April was reserved for observing Holy Week and celebrating Easter. Our May event is a very special concert to be held on Sunday, May 21, 2023, at 3:00 P.M.

Emmanuel Church has quite a musical history. The “King of Instruments,” the organ, originated in 1835 when the loft was in its original and present location. The organ console was moved many times, a grand total of six times! In 1860 it was removed from the loft, and the loft was also removed. The organ and choir then took up residence in the altar area. At that time, a water power” Tracker organ was installed in the present location of the pipes, and the console was placed at the side of the altar area, where an organ donated by Father Steven Scarcia, obtained when the Episcopal Church in Middleville closed its doors, is now located. While that organ is used for some services, Emmanuel’s pipe organ in the loft was used most often until our organist Ann Kocuba retired.

In my lifetime, the organ console has been moved three times. As a very young child, I remember it being on the altar, near the door that leads to the Sacristy. My father often took me with him on Saturdays when he went to fix something. Since he was an electrician and good at fixing things, we were there often enough for me to remember being lifted to sit on the organ bench and make “music.” Although I do not remember when it was moved from there, it was next placed in a loft that was built to the left of the Altar. At some point, I began to sing in the choir, perhaps around the age of 12. It was very difficult to follow the service, as we only had a small mirror hung on the other side of the altar, tipped to view Father Bice, then Father Steve. You could not see the congregation at all unless you stood and leaned out, which we did not do during the service. I was not living in Little Falls when the loft was rebuilt in its original location, and the console once again took up residence there.

Emmanuel has quite a history of singing and having a choir. Although the choir’s size has changed as people have passed, grown older and retired, or moved away, the music has remained a welcome addition to worship. In my tenure in the choir, I remember three organists: Nellie Snell, Jack Ovitt, and Ann Kocuba. Nellie was both organist and choir director. When she retired, Bob Christensen became the first director of the choir (that I remember), also of the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts, and the originator of the Mohawk Valley Choral Society. When Bob moved away, Jane Malin, who had been singing in the choir, stepped up as director, where she remained until her retirement in the fall of 2022. Under Jane’s direction, the Emmanuel Choir participated in the Habitat for Humanity concerts for nine years.

The choir also performed at local events, including a special Christmas concert at the Art Center. Jane worked with organist Jack Ovitt, and then when Jack left, Ann Kocuba began, who was a music teacher at the Ilion School at the time. Ann is an amazingly talented musician, and accompanied our choir, Homeward Bound vocal ensemble, the Mohawk Valley Ballet, Mohawk Valley Choral Society, and many others. She was an adjudicator for all-state music conferences and accompanied many musicals throughout the Valley. Ann was self-taught on the organ, and the pinnacle of her organ career was performing at two concerts in New Bedford, MA, with over a thousand people in attendance, where she wowed the audiences! Ann retired from Emmanuel in December 2022. Helen Maksymicz, the organist for Christ Lutheran Church in Little Falls, has occasionally played at Emmanuel for services, weddings, and funerals. Upon Ann’s retirement, Martha Regelmann, a retired organist and music teacher, played the organ, accompanied the choir on the Clavanova, and directed the choir for some special services. Father Jack Whritenour now plays and/or records all the music for the services on a beautiful new Clavanova, donated by Homeward Bound and the Carlton McKenney memorial fund, in honor of Jane Malin and Ann Kocuba’s music ministries. Father Jack has an extensive musical background, and he also has rehearsed the choir and accepted when asked to accompany Homeward Bound and the Choir for the upcoming concert. We are grateful to have a Rector that is also a talented musician!

The concert on May 21st at 3:00 P.M. is a time to celebrate Emmanuel’s history with music and the joy it continues to bless us all with. Homeward Bound vocal ensemble will be performing special selections in honor of past members Jane Malin, Linda Helterline, and retired member Ann Kocuba. The Emmanuel Choir will be singing a few favorites. In addition to our parish musicians, we will be treated to wonderful performances by guest artists: Helen Maksymicz, Joe and Christian Famulare, Ellen Scarano, a vocal soloist from Berklee School of Music, and The Little Falls Children’s Select Chorus. The audience will also be able to hear the pipe organ played and perhaps the smaller organ. There will be a short reception to follow in the Parish Hall. There are no tickets for this concert. Free will donations will be accepted and used toward the music ministry of Emmanuel and for other 200th events.

Join us on Sunday, May 21, 2023, at 3:00 P.M.