History

“Throughout his life Bach felt that his music, which was all for the church, was written for the glory of God. He used his music as a means of worshipping his Creator… Church musicians must forget themselves as Bach did. Only the finest and best music is worthy of use in the church… we cannot be satisfied with less.” 

-Marshall Pierson, RPC Organist and Choirmaster (program notes from Sunday, June 11, 1950)

Since its inception, RPC has expressed our love of God through music and has played a significant role in music and the arts in Jacksonville. This commitment to a high quality of worship began with the installation of a 48 rank Möller pipe organ (Opus 5002) in 1928, shortly after the construction of our present sanctuary was completed.

In 1943, Marshall Pierson was called to be the Organist and Choirmaster. He created a program of organ recitals (including a recital by Marcel Dupré in 1946) and choir performances that made Riverside a musical star, a reputation that still endures. This often involved cooperation and collaboration with other local congregations, creating a musical impact throughout the Jacksonville community, which included Jacksonville’s first performance of Bach’s “The Passion According to St. Matthew” in 1949. Pierson’s commitment to musical education was also evident in his introduction of an organ scholar program and the implementation of a graded choir program, which at its height included seven ensembles for children and youth.

Andy Clarke continued this tradition of excellence when he joined Riverside as Organist and Choirmaster in 1980. During his almost 33-year tenure, he instituted Wednesday Happenings, an annual Patriotic Concert, and an annual Lessons and Carols worship service.  Andy also blessed Riverside with his compositional skills, composing descants for weekly hymns, as well liturgical tunes that are used regularly in worship to this day. Ever the servant leader, the proceeds from Andy’s recordings completed while at Riverside were donated to various charities.

Following Andy’s retirement in 2013, Riverside called Dr. Lois Gurney to be our Director of Music. Lois was a true pastoral shepherd to the choirs of Riverside and nurtured the development of the love of music for many in our congregation. Lois was also an instrumental contributor to the installation of our new Colby-Walker organ in 2018.


Click to view additional details about RPC’s Music History