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First Christian launches free concert series

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Lucinda Breeding

Mark Graham has wanted to start a concert series at First Christian Church in Denton for years. 

"A lot of people don't know this, but this church, this O'Neil Ford sanctuary, is acoustically wonderful," said Graham, the minister of music at the small Denton church. O'Neil Ford is a celebrated architect who lived in Denton and designed a number of buildings in the city. 

While a lot of Denton residents might not know First Christ Church worships and conducts its ministries in the distinct building, they probably recognize the parabolic roof when they drive past it on Fulton Street. 

Graham, a classically trained pianist who spent part of his career in the orchestra pits for Broadway musicals, said he'd like more people to hear music — all kinds of music — in the sanctuary. He's finally started the First Christian Church Concert Series after leading music for about 10 years. 

He said he hopes the free concerts will get more people into the space where they'll discover the venue. 

"We're kind of a well-kept secret," Graham said. "I think it's time that secret got out. That's what I've been telling people." 

Mark Graham and Alissa Taylor, who teach music courses out of First Christian Church of Denton. The church, where Graham heads up the music ministry, has launched a free concert series. DRC
Mark Graham and Alissa Taylor, who teach music courses out of First Christian Church of Denton. The church, where Graham heads up the music ministry, has launched a free concert series. 
DRC

The concert series officially started in September, with a recital by pianist and composer Nat Yontararak of Thailand. On Sunday, the Texas Woman's University Concert Choir will perform a concert at 6 p.m. 

"This has been a goal of mine forever. Since college, actually," Graham said of a concert series that stages sacred and secular music for free. "And who doesn't think about that in college? It's a youthful thing, wanted to bring your favorite bands and musicians and share them with everyone else. Now I'm finally doing it."

Graham joked that he "strong-armed" the TWU Concert Choir into a full program on Sunday night. But the concert really began as a gift after the 50-voice, all female choir used the church to rehearse. 

"They rehearsed in here and they fell in love with the space. They wanted to do something for First Christian Church in return for the rehearsal," he said. 

The final concert of the year will be a program by the Dallas-based handbell choir Cast of Bronze at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15. 

Graham is booking concerts for spring of 2018, too: an evening of jazz, and an evening of Schubert featuring guest artists from the faculty and student body of both universities. 

"The church has a real footprint in this community," Graham said. "So many wonderful people have been through here. It's a wonderful small church with so many great choir members and directors, a lot of them music faculty at TWU or [University of North Texas]." 

Graham said the small congregation is supportive of the concert series. 

"This congregation is so passionate about music, and our choir is very passionate about what they offer on Sundays," Graham said. "And we do all kinds of music on Sundays. Sure, we do classical music, but we just did a New Orleans jazz worship for All Saints Sunday. Music is a huge part of the ministry here."

The church is at 1203 Fulton St. For more information, call 940566-4990.