Does one have to go to church or be religious to enjoy gospel music? Not necessarily, but it certainly makes discovering the genre a lot easier. For that reason, here’s a list of notable churches and their respective choirs, made by 303 Magazine, available for all to enjoy especially during the holiday season.
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
The original cathedral was dedicated and in full service by 1912 after one of the two spires was struck and damaged by lightning. It has since been an architectural staple in Denver. The establishment was later elevated as a minor Basilica in 1979. The cathedral holds mass every week with traditional choir music services led by professional cantors. In addition, the cathedral also holds seasonal concerts with their next show at the end of January.
Central Presbyterian Church
Central Presbyterian Church was founded in 1860. The church has a Chancel Choir from September to May and a summer choir from July to August — which consists of volunteers and singers of all levels. The church has two youth programs — the pop choir, which starts in September, and this Friday and Saturday, The Denver Philharmonic Orchestra will perform their, Holiday Cheer show. The Holiday Cheer show will include songs of celebration and joy to uplift anyone for their holidays. Tickets are on sale now and can be found here.
Episcopal Church of the Holy Redeemer
The Church of the Holy Redeemer was established in 1892 by Colorado National Bank Co-founder and President, Charles Kountze. The church is historically African-American, but it prides itself on its multicultural congregation and its long history in Denver.
“Our music selections incorporate a variety of musical traditions: in addition to the Hymnal 1982, Holy Redeemer honors our African-American Heritage by using the Lift Every Voice and Sing hymnal as well as other musical resources,” states the Holy Redeemer website.
On top of traditional values, the church welcomes visiting musicians and encourages their musical contributions service if they’re interested.
People’s Presbyterian Church
Established in 1906, People’s Presbyterian Church is another historical African-American congregation in Denver located at the southeast corner of York and 28th St. The church website states:
“Music is a vital part of our effort to glorify God and connect with Christ in faith, and it’s characterized by traditional organ hymns in one moment, and African-American spirituals in the next; a classic choir piece, followed by a jazz standard, contemporary gospel, rhythm and blues, or rock song.”
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Originally named, Trinity Memorial Chapel, the church was founded in 1873 and became the second Episcopal Church in Denver. The choir consists of 35 auditioned members that sing during mass. The church also serves as the rehearsal home of St. Martins Chamber Choir. The church will be performing their Christmas Eve Carols, sung by their choir 30 minutes before their Children’s Pageant and evening service.
St. John’s Cathedral
St. John’s was the first episcopal church in Denver, preceding St. Andrew’s in 1860. The church seen today was finished in 1911. The choir consists mainly of volunteers and 12 paid singers known as Vicars Coral who perform the morning services and other special events. The church also has a chorister comprised of youth singers who are coached in music theory called the Cathedral Choristers. The Cathedral Choristers is open to all children above the age of seven. They will hold The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols this Saturday and Sunday.
Saint Paul Lutheran and Catholic Community of Faith
Saint Paul’s was completed in 1926 and is another architectural beauty within the city. The gothic-style church also serves as a community center due to its central placement within the city. You can hear the St. Paul choir every Sunday for mass with occasional performances by the handbell choir. St. Paul’s Cantor, Mark Filbert, also runs their sister congregation, Iglesia Luterano Cristo Rey’s summer camp music program for kids. This Sunday, the church is hosting Advent Jazz Vespers with the music group, The Five Ambassadors.
Trinity United Methodist Church
You can’t be in Denver without noticing Trinity United Methodist’s towering steeple and stone structure in Downtown Denver. The church opened in 1888 and at the time was, “one of the finest examples of ‘modern Gothic’ architecture in the United States.” Aside from its overall colossal appearance, the church also houses one of the largest Roosevelt-built organs from the 19th century that’s still operational today. Along with its usual choir services on Sundays, the church also incorporates different instruments including a brass ensemble. The church welcomes all those interested in music to join alongside the adult, youth or children’s choir.
There’s no argument to the folk-based favor and music that Colorado produces. Neither is there a denial of Colorado’s history of hosting all kinds of music — yet it’s not everyday gospel or liturgical music is recognized in Colorado. The music, because of its religious ties, is often stigmatized and overlooked, but there’s beauty in the sung word, whether you’re religious or not.
“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves we are the same.” – John Denver.
Despite what’s practiced, gospel music isn’t limited to the faith the songs derive from. The thing is, music — even in a religious context — transcends language, borders and ideologies. All that really matters is that you enjoy the music that soothes you, no matter where it comes from.