This Month's Newsletter

The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form for either the print newsletter or the electronic newsletter.

May 2018 Newsletter (Year B)
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The Church Organist, by Pastor Bruce Benson

In one way, it is odd for a program called Sing For Joy to call attention to a gathering of organists, but for reasons I am about to explain, it makes very good sense in the case of this spring’s gathering of the American Guild of Organists (AGO). The AGO is giving its prestigious Distinguished Artist Award this year to John Ferguson – organist, choir director, composer, arranger, teacher, and (we are proud to say) music advisor of Sing For Joy.

AGO expects its award recipients to perform a recital as part of the award ceremony, but John has asked to do something a little different. He will be exhibiting his skills in a forum nearer and dearer to his heart: a hymn festival that he has titled: "When in Our Music: A Celebration in Song." The hymn festival will be held in Boe Memorial Chapel on the campus of St. Olaf College, and is free and open to the public. A massed choir of singers from several area churches, as well as the St. Olaf Cantorei, and plenty of congregational singing will be featured along with John’s musical creativity. Knowing that many of you who receive this newsletter live at too great a distance to attend in person, I am happy to tell you that it will be live-streamed by St. Olaf College. On Friday, April 27, 2018, at 7:30 p.m., tell your internet browser to take you to stolaf.edu/multimedia. Singing along with your computer or tablet is welcome!

Now let me say just a bit more about why it is not odd for a program that features singing to recommend this particular AGO event. John Ferguson’s way of being an organist does not follow the tendencies of a virtuoso recitalist. Instead, he is thoroughly, utterly, and completely a church organist. After being his pastoral colleague for 28 years, I can say that he does not merely pay lip service to the idea that the organ is a servant in worship. He practices what he preaches, even though not all lovers of the “king of instruments” want the “king” to be regarded as a servant. If you backed John into a corner and asked him, “Which is more important in a good church organist: playing organ literature excellently or using the organ to support good congregational singing?” First he would say, “Both” and explain that one need not choose between the two. (Good answer, John!) But in the end he would argue that singing has priority over the organ (and other instruments). The congregation does not exist to admire the organ (or the praise band), the organ exists to serve the congregation. (The same point can be made about preaching, of course.)

John knows when to let the organ go silent so that the congregation can better hear itself sing. He knows when to provide only the gentlest accompaniment – just enough to give the congregation confidence but not overwhelm them with sound. He knows when to pick up the tempo to help a congregation feel the joy in the text they are singing, and when not to fight against a congregation that has its own tempo and is not about to be over-ruled by an organ. He knows when to play piano instead of organ; and he regularly makes the organ an ensemble instrument instead of a soloist by involving other instruments in hymn accompaniment.

I thank John Ferguson for his artistry and his pastoral sensitivity. I thank him for helping me sing!

Peace be with you,

 

 

 

Pastor Bruce Benson

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May Playlists and Programs

Playlists are ready now, and each show will become available to stream on the Friday before the week begins.

May 6, 2018: Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

May 13, 2018: Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year B)

May 20, 2018: Day of Pentecost (Year B)

May 27, 2018: The Holy Trinity — First Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Connect with Sing For Joy!

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Listener Letters

"Thank you for Sing For Joy. It brightens my Sunday morning and sets a good tone."
-Oshkosh,Wisconsin

"A sincere thank you from the Bahamas. This week's programme was truly a blessing." 
-Facebook

"Thank you so much for Sing For Joy! I listen each Sunday before church and often find something to use in my sermon. Gives me a chance to spread the word about the show in addition to inspiration for my parishioners!" 
-Buchanan, Michigan

"I love this newsletter and the pieces that are Pastor Benson's favorites I also sing in my heart."
-Excelsior, Minnesota

Lanterns and candle on altar of Boe Memorial Chapel at St. Olaf College
Memorials and Honorariums

Thank you for your gifts in memory and honor of those close to your heart.

IN MEMORY OF:

Clarence Louis Balz

Mrs. Julie Ann O’Brien Crenshaw

Jennifer Koenig

 

IN HONOR OF:

Pastor Bruce and Carol Benson — 50th wedding anniversary

Birthday of Mark Hall

James Ruch

Mr. John Shank

 

To include an honorarium or memorial when you give to Sing For Joy, simply include the name(s) and occasion(s) in the comment box, as well as who should receive an acknowledgement letter and a mailing address.

Donations can celebrate a personal milestone such as an anniversary or birthday, or honor a loved one who perhaps also enjoyed music, all while furthering the Sing For Joy mission to bring sacred choral music to listeners around the world.

Sing For Joy is sponsored by:

Sukup Manufacturing Co., St. Olaf College, and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA)