EPIC Center to host Christmas pipe organ concert

Rich Criss

FULTON, Ill. — The EPIC Center, formerly Trinity Reformed Church, 514 13th Ave., Fulton, invites area residents to a “Sounds of the Season” Christmas concert at 3 p.m. Dec. 9.

The concert will feature the 1958 Moeller Opus 9153 17-rank, two manual pipe organ that was used for many years when the congregation of Trinity Reformed Church worshiped at that location.

Rich Criss, of Morrison, Illinois, is known throughout Iowa and Illinois as a dynamic vocalist, organist and pianist. Growing up in Fulton, he began singing solos in area churches when he was 3 years old. He began being coached vocally by his mother, who would work with him on the solos he would sing for area churches, nursing homes and wherever invitations to sing would present themselves.

He then began taking piano lessons with Gloria Pessman when he was in second grade and continued for the next 10 years, also studying organ during that time. He became one of the organists at First Reformed Church, Fulton, in 1985, at the age of 15.

He attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois as a vocal music education major, studying privately under Dr. Lee Strawn and Dr. Edna Williams. Founding Celebration Chorale in 1994, Criss spent the next 13 years as director of music at First United Methodist Church in DeKalb, where his choirs consistently performed to overflow audiences at their holiday performances.

In February 2007, Criss began serving the Emmanuel Reformed Church in Morrison as the church’s ministry coordinator. In his nearly 12 years of ministry at Emmanuel, the church’s 80-voice outreach choir, “Voices of Praise,” presents Christmas and spring cantata concerts.

In 2010, he worked with Stephen Steely in the installation of a 4-manual, 78-stop Allen digital organ, which he plays each week during services. He has been the featured accompanist at many public school music festivals throughout the years and currently serves as accompanist for the Morrison School District’s Junior and Senior high school choirs.

Criss teaches piano and voice lessons to a studio of 14 students each week.

His program will be arrangements of familiar carols and Christmas music utilizing the talents of such arrangers as Diane Bish, Gordon Young and Gilbert Martin. Audience participation will be included, as Christmas carols are sung. Fellowship time with refreshments will follow the afternoon’s concert.

Admission is free, but a free-will offering will be received to benefit BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) ministries with building cost and supplies needed for its addiction support group and inner healing ministry. This concert is given as a gift by Criss as a fundraising opportunity for this ministry.