Even though the church building itself is closed, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Pekin is prepared to do its part to lend an air of festivity to the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.
In a normal year, the Pekin Park Concert Band would be playing patriotic music in Mineral Springs Park. But, according to Connie Moser, who is a member of both the Pekin Park Concert Band and St. Paul UCC, the Pekin Park District has had to cancel its entire summer concert schedule due to state of Illinois park restrictions. In an effort to fill the void, St. Paul’s will program its carillon to periodically chime patriotic selections from the church steeple throughout the Fourth of July weekend.
"I am grateful that our church can step up and fill in," said Moser.
According to St. Paul UCC organist Gayle Cooper, area residents will be invited to pull into the city parking lot next to the church for brief musical interludes. Each program will last approximately 10 minutes.
"We’re calling it Drive in to the Fourth," said Cooper. "People can just drive in, relax, and move on. We feel that our carillon is such a beautiful part of our cityscape. You can hear the carillon from the bike path or from James Field. Or if someone is having lunch downtown, they’ll be able to hear it. "
The carillon that will regale local listeners throughout the weekend was donated in 2017 by church member Jim McMillan in honor of his parents, Ira and Dorothy McMillan, according to Moser. While traditional carillons were bells hanging from a church steeple, technology had trumped tradition with computer-programmed carillons. The St. Paul’s carillon has a large library of music that can be seasonally programmed.
"(The interludes are) going to be all the patriotic songs that you want to hear, especially ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ John Phillip Sousa’s very famous march that’s always played at the end (of a Fourth of July celebration)," Moser said. "Celebrating the Fourth of July is a tradition we’ve brought up on and it’s a tradition we should continue to embrace."
The programmed bells of St. Paul UCC’s carillon will peal out patriotic pieces on July 3 and 4 at 10:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and on July 5 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. St Paul UCC is located at 101 N. Eighth St., Pekin.