West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, established in 1946, is a welcoming congregation that seeks to be a spiritual home for people of free faith regardless of race, color, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age or national origin. The church’s motto is “One church, many paths.” Since 1952 its home has been the beautiful Mid-Century Modern building at the corner of Hilliard and Northview in Rocky River, Ohio. West Shore is a home for both church activities and a variety of community activities and organizations—including the Rocky River Chamber Music Society.
The dramatic, visual, and musical arts have been important to West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church throughout its history. When the church built a new sanctuary in 1961-1962, special attention was paid to the acoustics of this space thanks to the architect, Wallace G. Teare, who happened to be not only a member of the church but also an avid music lover. This fit in well with the church’s desire to extend its outreach to the community in the form of lectures, meetings, and concerts. Thus Teare made it a priority to balance the needs of the speaking voice and the requirements of music in the acoustical design of the sanctuary.
Teare’s efforts were successful and soon after the completion of the sanctuary he invited the Rocky River Chamber Music Society–founded in 1958 and still searching for a permanent home–to consider the new sanctuary’s remarkable acoustics. The Society’s first concert at West Shore took place in October 1964, and it has been there ever since. Artists who have performed in the Society’s series over the years have consistently praised the excellent acoustics of the hall.
Since the completion of the modern sanctuary, the church has made important instrumental acquisitions, including a Holtkamp pipe organ in 1963 and a Steinway piano in 1983, both made possible by generous members of the congregation. In 2014 the church was fortunate to acquire a Zuckermann “Z Box” harpsichord, made in the 1950s and no longer needed by its previous owner. To date, mostly the Steinway has been used in RRCMS concerts, but the others are available for use. The flexibility of the sanctuary was demonstrated well at a concert in January 2015, which featured nine bassoons, two vocalists, and one harpsichord! Even the organ loft was used by three of the bassoons who provided an antiphonal echo to the bassoons on stage in a work by Gabrieli.