Grow Inwardly in faith

Music at Calvary

speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,

Ephesian 5:19

Calvary is blessed with an outstanding music program, including an excellent choir, an organist/choirmaster who is also an acclaimed composer, and a number of musicians who offer their gifts at Sunday services, Coffee House evenings, the parish picnics, and other special events. Calvary also offers a choral scholar program.

Additionally, Calvary hosts several annual concerts featuring internationally-known organists and/or conductors, and also presents programs featuring the Cincinnati Fusion Ensemble (a professional chamber choir), with its co-founder and director (and our organist and choirmaster) Howard Helvey. 

The Calvary Choir

Comprised of skilled volunteers and several Choral Scholars, the Calvary Choir primarily assists in liturgical leadership during the weekly Sunday 11:00 AM services. The choir season runs September through May; rehearsals are on Thursday evenings at 7:30 in Hannaford Hall (the parish hall directly behind—and connected to—the church), and a brief rehearsal is held in the Chancel at 10:15 AM each Sunday prior to the 11:00 AM service.

The Choir also participates periodically in other services and programs, including the Annual Festival of Lessons and Carols, and in collaboration with guest conductors, composers, organists, and choirs. Collaborative highlights in recent years have included working on several occasions with organist Gerre Hancock (former Organist and Master of the Choristers, St. Thomas Church, New York City), and performing under the guest direction of Stephen Cleobury (former Director of Music, King’s College, Cambridge, England) and Mack Wilberg (Music Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir).

The repertoire of the Calvary Choir is diverse, based largely on the classical choral/organ tradition, but with an eye and ear to contemporary-classical expression as well. In any given period of a few months at Calvary, one might chorally experience: Gregorian chant; motets and anthems by Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, Eric Thiman, Herbert Howells, Lena McLin, John Rutter, K. Lee Scott, Craig Courtney, Dan Forrest, and Elaine Hagenberg; and spirituals and folk-hymn settings by William Dawson and Alice Parker. Anthems, hymns and service music by organist/choirmaster Howard Helvey are frequently presented as well.

Congregational singing enjoys a fervent, special tradition at Calvary Church. Led primarily by the magnificent 3,240-pipe E.M. Skinner organ, Calvary’s hymnody and service music is expressed primarily from two books: the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 and Lift Every Voice and Sing II. 21st-century hymn texts and tunes are incorporated as well, drawing from poets and authors such as Mary Louise Bringle, Thomas Troeger, and Brian Wren, and composers David Hurd, William Rowan, and Jane Marshall. The psalms are sung weekly using Anglican chant, hymn paraphrases, or, most frequently, incorporating Howard Helvey’s Clifton Antiphons.

The Choral Scholar Program

Several Choral Scholars provide and supplement section leadership within the Calvary Choir, and a scholarship/stipend, based on attendance, is awarded to each Scholar. The Scholar positions are open to university/college students and non-students.

Interested potential Choral Scholars should arrange an audition/interview with the organist/choirmaster. For the audition, the individual should prepare a brief solo to sing (a short aria, hymn or carol is fine); in addition, vocal range and sight-reading ability will be assessed. Excellent reading skills, along with an ability to lead, listen and adapt within a chamber choir, are particularly essential.

With any questions regarding the Choir and/or the Choral Scholar program, please contact the organist/choirmaster, Howard Helvey at or 513-476-3261.

The Calvary Organ

Calvary Church has been grateful for several generations to have one of the finest pipe organs in the region. Especially for a parish church, the organ’s scope and tonal palette is unusually large. But, despite its size, it has been carefully voiced for the room so that it can sing and sound in a balanced, appropriate way. The visible copper pipes in the chancel represent a tiny fraction of the 3,260 total pipes, most of which are hiding in the chamber behind the casework.

The organ was built in 1927 as Opus 671 by the legendary Skinner Organ Company of Boston, and it was a little less than half the size of the current instrument. Much of the Skinner pipework was retained over the decades, and additional ranks (or sets of pipes) were added in order to make the instrument incredibly versatile. The Quimby Organ Company of Warrensburg, Missouri executed the major rebuilding of the organ in 1995, and has supervised ongoing principal work since then.

The organ’s primary role has always been to lead vibrant congregational singing, but it also effectively interprets a wide variety of solo organ literature, and is an excellent collaborative partner with the Choir. Over the years, many of the finest organists in the world have performed on and admired Calvary’s organ, including: Gerre Hancock, Todd Wilson, Paul Jacobs, Diane Belcher, Cameron Carpenter, Yun Kim, Stephen Cleobury, Benjamin Straley, Isabelle Demers, Michael Unger, Ken Cowan, Yoon-Mi Lim, Ray Nagem, and, as was recently discovered, the eminent French composer/organist Marcel Dupré in 1970, the year before his death.