First United Methodist Church, Pasadena is located in the heart of the city, growing from its original one-room building on Orange Grove at Palmetto to its current location on Colorado Boulevard at Oakland Avenue.
Currently, UMC continues its almost 150-year tradition of community special events with the Third@First concert series. The acoustics, size, and location of the church’s sanctuary have long been recognized as ideal for concerts. “The Third@First concert series is our congregation’s own musical gift to Pasadena, free monthly concerts of high-quality,” says Rev. Gregory Norton.
The Third@First concert series was founded in 2014 by Dr. Junko Garrett of the Occidental College piano faculty and Sébastién Vallée, the church’s former music director. Performances are every third Saturday and feature world-class musical artists and church ensembles, offering everything from intimate piano and chamber recitals to jazz, and full-scale orchestral-choral presentations. “We are delighted to open our beautiful church to the community,” says Garrett. “I’m very grateful to see the growth in the audience, especially the repeaters.”
The concert series is now in its sixth season and free of charge thanks to generous supporters. No church funds are used. “Our annual budget has grown tremendously because of generous donors,” shares Garrett. “Without their generosity, the series does not function.”
According to Garret, the music has been a big part of the church. She says, “As a coordinator and a performer on this series, I’m happy to bring wonderful music to the community. My vision is to engage more educational projects and community engagement in the future.”
Rev. Norton shares a similar vision: “In the future, we hope to continue collaborating with other local musical organizations and to increase our reach into the larger Pasadena community.”
Story and Images by: Mario Boucher