by Kelly Merritt and Kathleen Farrell
If it seems like angels are peering over at you from the rafters, hanging on every note sung and played, you’re probably not imagining things. If any place can deliver arias good enough to attract angels in Naples, it is the grand sanctuary of Moorings Presbyterian Church. But here the soaring ceiling is just one of the stars of the show: the pipe organ, soloists, parishioners led by the church’s Minister of Music, Richard Crofts.
Each year the concert series, which was established in 1983 and is known as the Hyacinth Series, gets better and better. It’s open to musicians and artists from all over the world. Named in the spirit of the following quote by John Greenleaf Whittier, the series feeds souls from all walks of life.
The concerts take place from October through April annually. Crofts, who has a Master of Sacred Music from Boston University School of Theology, has been director of the Hyacinth Series for 32 seasons.
“I have been able to make a career out of something I love to do,” says Crofts, who began taking organ lessons when he was twelve years old. “They would take me to Rollins College and sometimes to the Presbyterian Church and I got these visions of being a church music director. And now here I am.”
“If thou of fortune be bereft, and in thy store there be but left two loaves, sell one, and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”
“We are under the church’s umbrella so thankfully we have the perfect venue and that original $25,000 has gone a long way, because the community has continued to support it,” says Crofts. “There seems to be a tremendous amount of respect for the Hyacinth Series.”
The concerts are free to the public but they do accept gifts in the form of an offering. People often come forward and say they’d like to sponsor a concert and those sponsorships can range in the thousands. With programs ranging from college ensembles on spring tour such as FGCU’s Chamber Choir, an Organ and Piano Extravaganza to a Monster Piano Concert featuring eight different pianists, the series takes advantage of the church’s resonant space and stellar acoustics.
The centerpiece of most of the concerts is the Nichols & Simpson pipe organ, which the church acquired in 2008. Made by the small firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, it was delivered in individual pieces and then assembled at the church to ensure that each pipe was perfectly pitched. The process took four months. The pipe organ has been called the “king of instruments” and has hundreds of years of tradition to back it up.
“We are blessed with more retired church musicians than I would have ever dreamed of and this past February we had a concert called Many Moorings Organists because we have at least ten professional organists associated with the congregation,” says Crofts. “They contribute so much to the music program here; we offer them practice time and it is a blessing to hear them playing the organ.”
Crofts explains that there are less expensive routes to go rather than a pipe organ, such as praise bands, and that is why there are not as many pipe organs in churches anymore.
“There is great appreciation in the congregation for this instrument,” he says. “Both music and worship attract people to this place.”
In addition to the music, Moorings Presbyterian Church is famed for the stained glass windows and the ethereal reflections they splash onto the walls. They infuse spirituality and art into the sanctuary which is already blessed with the Holy Spirit. For worshipers, the combination of all of these attributes lends to the concert experience. Whether a member of the faithful or just a lover of music, all are welcome at the Hyacinth Series.
The Moorings Presbyterian Church is located at 791 Harbour Drive in Naples
Hyacinth Series At-A-Glance
2014-2015 season opens
Sunday, October 12 | 4:00 p.m.
Raleigh Ringer | A phenomenal group of
Tuesday, February 3 | 7:30 p.m.
St. Olaf College Orchestra