Music and Choirs

If you’ve ever experienced the glorious churches in Europe — an organ concert in Paris, a carillon in London, a choir in Stuttgart, a worship service in Rome — you know the tradition of the music ministry at Idlewild Presbyterian Church. 

The congregation shares in praise with hymns related to modern concerns in the new hymnal and the enduring hymns of Christian tradition.

Special programs of alternative music add variety and entice special interest groups to worship. Youth Sunday may bring drums and guitars; stewardship focus may feature a gospel choir or jazz combo; and music for holy days such as Easter and Christmas usually includes a brass ensemble, harp and violin, or chamber group.

Singers of every age have the bonus of music education added to the joy of singing. Rehearsals for every choir include ear training; music appreciation; music history; hymnology; liturgy; sight reading; responsibility for vestments, music, and attendance—and fun!

Add in our magnificent sanctuary pipe organ and the 48-bell carillon, and you have music at Idlewild.

Barry Oliver
Director of Music Ministry
901-726-4681 ext. 12


Special Musical - "A Mighty Fortress" cantata

"Ein fest Berg" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God") This cantata was presented by the Idlewild Choir, soloists and orchestra on October 29, 2017.




Idlewild Choir 

Idlewild Choir provides musical leadership each Sunday during the 11:00 service as well as for special services and concerts throughout the year. Rehearsals are Thursday evenings, 7:00-9:00. Section rehearsals precede the full rehearsal each week, 6:15–6:45.

The choir’s primary role is to inspire and encourage congregational participation through strong leadership and enhancement of hymns and service music.  The choir also engages the congregation in musical dialogue through the singing of psalms and litanies. 

The choir makes musical offerings each week in the form of anthems, motets and canticles. Repertoire is drawn from the broad spectrum of the Church’s musical heritage:  Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, spirituals and folk songs, as well as modern compositions. 

Singing in the choir are volunteers from the congregation and community, choral scholars from local colleges and professional section leaders. Please contact Barry Oliver, Director of Music, for more information regarding joining the choir.

Music for Children

Every Sunday morning from August through May, musical activities are part of the children’s education hour.  Singing and other musical experiences are designed to equip children to better participate in worship.  The experiences are age-appropriate and involve such activities as learning songs by rote, exploring the hymnal, preparing special music to be sung during worship, and the playing of musical instruments such as handbells and Orff instruments.  Musical activities take place during the first 20 minutes of class each Sunday.

In addition to these musical experiences, choirs of older children are sometimes formed to help lead worship.  These choir experiences rehearse at times other than Sunday morning and include more in-depth experiences of musical leadership through the singing of anthems from the choir loft and processing with the adult choir.



Handbell Choir

The Handbell Choir began last Fall, ringing during the Processionals in Advent.  Led by David Schnell, the handbell choir currently rings about once per month on psalms and hymns with the choir and also on its own, depending on the needs of the service.   Rehearsals are on Sundays in the Jones Bldg., Rm. 301W, from 1:15-2:45.  Those who are interested in participating should contact Barry Oliver.


The Sanctuary Pipe Organ

Idlewild Presbyterian Church houses two magnificent musical instruments: The Sanctuary pipe organ, built by the Bedient Pipe Organ Co. in 1989, and the 48-bell carillon.

The design of Idlewild's sanctuary pipe organ was inspired by instruments of 18th and 19th century France. It is composed of three keyboards and a pedalboard. The 69 sets of pipes in the organ are combined into 47 individual sounds or stops and total 3,459 individual pipes.

The key action system and stop action system allows the organist to create a large variety of combination of sounds and tonal colors. The console employs a memory system that permits the organist to store many different combinations of sounds.

The local chapter of American Guild of Organists schedules meetings and recitals at Idlewild, in addition to recitals by the church’s organists.

with Walter Hilse & Barry Oliver on WKNO (1/13/17)




The Idlewild Carillon

Idlewild's carillon of 48 bells was completed in 1999. The carillon is the only one in Memphis, and the largest musical instrument in the Mid-South.

The bells, housed in a stone tower which rises majestically 120 feet above the church’s sanctuary, were cast at the Paccard-Fonderie de Cloches of Annecy, France. They range in weight from 4,397 to 29 pounds, totaling more than 26,890 pounds.

Forty-four of the bells are stationary; the other four, the C, F, G and A in the bottom octave, swing in a peal or a random ringing. Due to the varying sizes of the bells, the smallest of the four bells rings first, the next largest follows, and so on. The cessation of the peal is in reverse order.

The church building itself was completed in the late 1920s, but, because of the volatile economic times, the magnificent bell tower remained empty for decades. In 1980 the first 23 bells were installed, and the remaining 25 were installed in the fall of 1999. The full carillon was initiated by carillonneur Paul Hicks on December 31, 1999 at 11:59 as a welcome to the third millennium.

Carillonneurs David Caudill and Peggy McClure give carillon concerts several times a year, in addition to playing for 20-30 minutes each weekday at 4:00 p.m.

Music Links

American Guild of Organists

Presbyterian Association of Musicians


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