A Noble Endeavor Gretchen Burbach conducts and Jack Noble provides organ music as the United Church of Christ-Congregational Choir rehearses for its 60th annual Christmas carol service, scheduled Sunday, Dec. 14. Noble's musical expertise has helped make each performance possible. by David Lias Come December, there are a few things you can always count on in Vermillion.
The wind will be cold. There likely will be snow on the ground.
And in the days leading to Christmas, the United Church of Christ-Congregational, located on Main Street, is filled with a joyful noise, thanks, in a large part, to Jack Noble.
This Sunday, Dec. 14 at 10:30 a.m., the church's various choirs will offer their 60th annual Christmas carol service.
Noble, as he has in all of the 59 previous services, will play an instrumental role in making this year's musical offering a success.
This tradition of harmony at the church began in 1944. Noble was 21 years old at the time, and had just been hired as UCC-C's minister of music.
"He was mistaken as a student often," said Jeanne Dahlin, one of the choir directors at the church. "He was also hired as the instructor of organ at USD." He retired from that role in 1988.
Dahlin said Noble modeled the carol service after a similar musical offering he experienced at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
"It (the UCC-C service) typically, as did that service, combine scripture and choir anthems and congregational singing," Dahlin said. "That's been the format on the traditional nativity story ever since."
In 1944, only the church's senior choir was involved. In the 1950s, the service expanded to include children's voices.
Until the early 1980s, Noble filled a dual role, simultaneously providing organ music and directing the choirs, mainly by nodding his head.
Another feature added to the service in the
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1970s was bells. "Charlyn Sill was the impetus for that," Dahlin said. "She was the one who got us to buy the bells, and added that to our music program."
Music services like the one planned Dec. 14 are becoming more and more difficult for many churches to offer, she said.
"There aren't that many organ players, and there's less interest by some people to go to choir practice every Wednesday night," Dahlin said. "The fact that it's been going on that long is something that indeed is becoming rare."
The organ that Noble has played for six decades now was built at the same time the church was constructed in 1928. Improvements were made to the instrument in 1984.
"Jack has been responsible for all of that," Dahlin said. "There have been different directors, but he's been the minister of music and he's planned this every year."
To tell the prophecy of Isaiah, the senior choir will sing Mendelsohn's There Shall A Star From Jacob which includes the famous Nicolai Chorale How Brightly Shines the Morning Star.
Michael Jaworsky, a tenor music major at USD, will sing the Handel Messiah aria Every Valley Shall Be Exalted.
A string quartet comprised of John Thomson, Owen DeJong, violins; Karen Lipp, viola; and Richard Rognstad, cello; will accompany the choir on Lo How A Rose E're Blooming arranged by Praetorius-Schultz. The quartet will also play Mozart's Divertimento No. 1 � Adante during the offertory.
The Women's Choir will sing a traditional English carol The Wexford Carol. The Scottish carol by Purvis What Strangers Are These? will feature soloists Virginia Monroe, alto and Charles Thatcher, bass.
Other carols to be heard are The Manger Carol arranged by Purvis; Breath of Heaven by Eaton and Marsh; and The Candlelight Carol by John Rutter.
The congregation will sing well-loved carols.
Dahlin has been a member of the UCC-C choir since 1966, when she and her husband moved to Vermillion. In 1983, when Noble felt uncomfortable trying to play organ and lead the senior choir at the same time, Dahlin took over as senior choir director.
"I think a lot of us value, especially those of us who have had musical training of some kind � be it studying music or taking piano lessons � among all of us there's a real thankfulness that we can still experience the traditional organ and choir music," she said. "And Jack is very responsible. In his own, quiet way, we're going to do some stuff that he loves, and many other people love, too.
"There's never any question about where he stands on that," Dahlin said. "We're going to sing every Sunday, come weather, come people being gone � we're still going to do that. In his quiet way, he yields quite a bit of power."
But most of all, Noble is known at UCC-C as the person to count on to continue the church's tradition of musical excellence.
"It's a wonderful thing, and the organ always sounds wonderful when he plays," Dahlin said. "It always has power, and he still works hard at bringing us things that are difficult for him to play�and new for us to listen to."
She said Noble's gifts have been a positive influence on her life, and she's sure other people have had been uplifted by his musical contributions.
"He's just a gem," Dahlin said. "It's just added so much for my life being here in town just having this chance to do music with Jack."