By Ann Weidman
Whether it's a flute, organ, piano, clarinet or organ, Lewis Kocher will play it - plus write the music for it.
Westfield's First Presbyterian Church organist, Lewis Kocher, takes a minute between hymns to talk about his extraordinary talent and experience as a musician and history enthusiast. The public is invited to attend the Sunday services, which begin at 11 a.m., to listen to exceptional music.
Kocher recently began his musical watch at Westfield First Presbyterian Church, and he already has captured the attention of all who listen to his melodious presentations.
"Every Sunday, you'll hear something I wrote," he promises, with a look on his face that tells you he's already thinking of the next Sunday.
Kocher, who is also choir director, has an interesting philosophy.
"I believe that the choir should be heard and not be overshadowed by the music," he said.
When the anthem of the day begins, organ or piano may be heard in the beginning, but softly. There are times when the keyboard stops so each word and note can be heard.
A music director and musician in our region for more than 20 years, Kocher directs the Celtic Morning prayer services at Hurlbut Community Church during its summer season and is pianist for the United Methodist House, both at Chautauqua Institution. He is also a published composer with ALRY Publications, Inc. and recently completed two commissions for new music. Those interested can see and hear a woodwind orchestra from Spain performing one of his works on YouTube.
Kocher is interested in musical history. For instance, he can tell you that the organ is much older than the piano, which was born in 1750. Turning to the grand piano originally called a pianoforte - he discusses what the name really means:
"It translates as Soft-Loud, so I'm really playing something called the Soft-Loud," he chuckles.
Once in awhile, he likes to accentuate a particular hymn he plays on piano by setting up an electric keyboard next to it. The Presbyterian congregation can look forward to more outstanding presentations because Kocher can play a hymn with the flute, clarinet or violin. The family of brass instruments is one group of instruments which he hasn't yet fully explored.
Kocher also presents concerts in England where he has some family. He has performed his original music for the pipe organ there for several years. Whether in England or America, he presents all his concerts under the name of "Michael Crowtower" which better suits his concert style of neoclassical/new age music.
Looking to the future, he plans something special for Advent and Christmas at First Presbyterian, which happens to be the first church to be founded in Chautauqua County.
"One little surprise is that the concerts I have been doing in England, I'll premier in the U.S. in this church, too," he said with a smile.
He would like to expand the choir, and invites people in Westfield and the surrounding communities to join and experience special enticing music, all arranged or written by Lewis Kocher, alias Michael Crowtower.
Kocher also encourages parents to become acquainted with music at church, not just for themselves, but also for their children who would like to join a choir of their own.
Should anyone like to contact Kocher, do so at his website, www.crowtower.com.
The congregation of Westfield's First Presbyterian Church cordially invites all to visit for their Sunday 11 a.m. service. Because of special work being done, visitors are asked to enter the side door on S. Portage Street, across from the library.