601 N. Vermont St. Arlington, VA 22203


"Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!" (Psalm 95:2)

The Music Ministry at First Presbyterian Church provides opportunities for all to enrich their faith through music. The choirs lead the congregation in worship each Sunday and enjoy the Christian fellowship of rehearsing together and increasing their musical knowledge and skill. Should you wish to join one of the music groups, please see the contact information below for each.


Chancel Choir

Chancel Choir PhotoThe Chancel Choir sings at the 11:00 a.m. worship service and rehearses the first Thursday evening of the each month from 7:30 - 9:00 p.m. In addition, the choir rehearses on Sunday mornings from 9:45-10:45 a.m. Most Sundays, the choir sings one or two anthems.

The Chancel Choir sings at both the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. worship services on Palm Sunday, Easter and Christmas. It also sings on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, and for occasional weddings or funerals. At the Good Friday service, Choir Director Hemphill usually presents the Solemn Reproaches of the Cross at both a noon and an evening service. Easter Sunday music is enhanced by the Howard University Brass Quintet.

Occasionally, individual choir members sing solo works during services and during the summer months when the Chancel Choir is on hiatus.

Director: The Chancel Choir has been led by Choir Director Barry Hemphill since 1983. Contact Barry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Organist and Assistant Director: Carol Sikkelee has been with us since 2000.

Piano PlayerChoir DirectorChoir Practice

Mixed Ensemble and Women's Ensemble

At the 8:30 a.m. worship service, either the Mixed Ensemble or the Women's Ensemble enhances the worship experience with anthems and other special works approximately once a month.

Director: Both ensembles are directed by our Organist and Assistant Director Carol Sikkelee. Contact Carol at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Children's Choir

In our Sunday School program God Ventures (pre-K through grade 5), we offer a Children's Choir for boys and girls that rehearses from 9:00 - 9:45 a.m. every Sunday from September to May. Starting at 9:00 a.m., we sing, play musical games and rhythm instruments, and move to the music! Parents can bring younger children to the 9:00 a.m. Children's Choir rehearsal, especially if an older child wants to come; the younger sibling is always welcome, as long as the parents remain in the class. At 9:45 a.m. the children attend regular Sunday School in our rotational God Ventures program which also includes singing and music.

Several times a year, the children sing during the 11:00 a.m. service. Each year, they sing during the Christmas Eve Children's services at 5:00 p.m., and in some years, the children present a special Christmas program in December after a regular 11:00 a.m. worship service.

Director: Janis McCollim has been the volunteer Children's Choir Director since 2004. Contact Janis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Very Cool Bell Choir (VCBC)

Our church has a four octave set of hand bells, and the Very Cool Bell Choir provides the opportunity for children from second grade and above to ring bells.


More Bells!

In addition to the VCBC, families and quartets or small groups are encouraged to rehearse and play for a church service during the year. You are welcome to assemble your own small group to rehearse and present bell music at a special or regular service. Occasionally there is a choir anthem that requires the accompaniment of the hand bells, and both adults and children display their passion for music by playing the bells.

Director: Janet Pence is the volunteer Director of Very Cool Bell Choir. Janis McCollim is her volunteer assistant. The Choir Director, Barry Hemphill also provides leadership with the hand bells for the choir members.


Instrumental Music

Instrumental Music

Many of our church members and friends who play various musical instruments volunteer their talents during Sunday worship. From time to time, the choirs will be accompanied by various instruments, and Sunday worship may also include special works for the flute, clarinet, oboe, violin or piano, or other instruments. Recent guest instrumental groups include La Unica (a band playing a fusion of Irish and salsa music) and the Howard University Brass Quintet.




Barry Hemphill, Music Director

Since 1983 the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington has benefitted from his direction where a strong music program contributes to a growing congregation with significant community involvement. A native New Yorker, Mr. Hemphill graduated from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City where his specialties were conducting, theory, and voice. Mr. Hemphill has a wide variety of music experience to his credit including conducting, singing, composing and arranging for voice and instrumentation. He retired from the United States Army (U.S. Army Band & Chorus) in 1991, ending his career as Sergeant Major of the chorus after nearly 23 years of service as a baritone soloist and conductor.  Upon retirement he was presented with the Legion of Merit – awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

Mr. Hemphill has conducted the popular annual Messiah Sing Along at the Kennedy Center (always on December 23rd) since 1994. This yearly Washington event attracts more than 3,000 amateur and professional singers from around the world. He also serves as an adjudicator and clinician throughout the United States. Barry Hemphill has been the Music Director at First Presbyterian since 1983 and has built an extensive music library over his time with the church.


Carol Sikkelee, Organist and Assistant Director

Carol has been Organist and Assistant Director since 2000.  Carol has served as organist/choirmaster in churches in North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, with long tenures at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, DC. Carol has led efforts here at First Church to produce benefit concerts to aid New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Katrina; Haiti after the earthquake; and most recently, Japan and the USA after the earthquake, tsunami, tornadoes and floods. Many of the finest musicians in the metropolitan area have participated in these concerts.  Carol studied with Harold Andrews at Greensboro College in North Carolina and has coached with Jock Darling, Bruton Parish, Williamsburg, VA and Donald Sutherland of Peabody Conservatory. She maintains a piano studio in Alexandria, VA. Carol also works as an accompanist in the metropolitan area. Her professional affiliations include the American Guild of Organists, Music Teachers Association (certified teacher), National Guild of Piano Teachers, and the Friday Morning Music Club (performing member).


Janet Pence, Very Cool Bell Choir

Janet grew up enthusiastically ringing hand bells at the West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey. During High School, she performed in the church High School bell choir and served as the hand bell conductor for the Middle School hand bell choir. When Janet joined First Church years ago, one of the first things she did was form a hand bell choir for children and youth. Janet loves sharing her passion for hand bells with the children and youth of the church. Contact Janet at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Janis McCollim, Children's Choir

Janis majored in music (flute) at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, and taught elementary vocal music classes in Ohio for ten years prior to moving to the DC area where she now works for the federal government. When Janis came to First Church, she came for the music. In 1989 she joined The Metropolitan Chorus where Barry Hemphill is the Artistic Director; and within three years Janis was singing in the First Church Chancel Choir. In 2004, First Presbyterian needed a Children's Choir Director and as a volunteer, Janis stepped in to lead this important music ministry.





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Children's and Youth Ministry

Take a few moments to check out a PHOTO SLIDESHOW of the Summer 2014 Youth and Middle School Mission Trip. Five middle and high school girls were ready for a mission adventure. The experience depended their faith, broadened their perspective as compared to their own lives, opened their hearts and the girls were inspired by volunteers that were committed to making a difference.

At First Church, we partner with families to guide and nurture children and youth, providing plenty of ways to encourage kids to know and follow Jesus Christ and be faithful members of his church. Learn how we approach spiritual development of children and youth at Children's Ministry and Youth Ministry.