Ray Cornils Retiring – Celebrations and Blessings


June 19, 2017

On Sunday, June 18 we held a service of worship to celebrate Ray Cornils’s 30-year ministry with us as Minister of Music, and to release him from that ministry into his retirement with our thanks and love. (You can listen to Mary’s sermon from that service, “Garments of Grace.”) Following the service there was a reception for Ray at Moulton Union on the Bowdoin College campus. In the months to come, Ray will offer resources and support to our new minister of music, Jane Hagness, completing his work in the congregation on August 27th at our 300th anniversary worship.

As Minister of Music at First Parish Church for over 30 years, Ray built an extensive multi-generational music ministry of five vocal choirs and two handbell choirs, with members from ages 4 through adults. In addition to leading the music for the church’s worship services, each year the Adult Choir presented a major choral work with full orchestra and professional soloists, including Brahms Requiem, Dvorak Stabat Mater, Mendelssohn Elijah and St. Paul, Ann Wilson’s Song of Hope, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, Stephen Paulus The Shoemaker¸ Bach’s Mass in b minor and St. Matthew Passion (performed on Good Friday to a standing room only congregation). He lead the church’s choir on regular concert tours including England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Portugal, Ecuador and the Canadian Maritimes. For the past 24 years, he has directed the Annual Ecumenical Festival of Lessons and Carols held at St. John’s Church in Brunswick. The handbell choir performed with the Portland Symphony Orchestra and was a featured ensemble in the AGO Region I convention in 2001 and the AGEHR Handbell Festival in 2001.

As Portland’s 10th Municipal Organist Ray oversaw with the assistance of the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, the recovering health of the 1912 Austin Organ which culminated in a total renovation of America’s oldest municipal organ on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. In addition to extensive concertizing on this instrument, he also developed an extensive educational program which includes curricula that promotes the organ in in-classroom programs exploring in an inter-disciplinary fashion the life and works of J S Bach, the life of and works of Olivier Messiaen or Sound Wave Energy and the pipe organ. For the past 13 years he has partnered with many school districts in southern Maine and New Hampshire in these classroom presentations.

He performed extensively with the Portland Symphony Orchestra as both harpsichordist and organist, including Samuel Barber’s Toccata Festiva, all six of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, Poulenc’s Concerto Champetre, Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, String and Tympani, Saint Saens’ Organ Symphony, Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Known for his teaching skills with all age groups, he taught high school students through the Young Organist Collaborative, and is a member of the music faculties of Bowdoin College, the University of Southern Maine and the Portland Conservatory of Music. Among his students have been first place winners of the AGO National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance and the American Theatre Organ Society National Young Artist Competition.

As an active member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), he has served as Dean and Sub-dean of several chapters, was a member of the National Committee for Professional Concerns and the Committee for Conventions. He has served on three steering committees for regional and national conventions and was the Convention Coordinator of the 2014 AGO National Convention in Boston.

We wish Ray and David all the best in their retirement, and treasure the gifts that they have shared in our community.



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