Newsletter Archives

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.

January 2018 Newsletter (Year B)
Works of Art and Service, by Pastor Bruce Benson

I had occasion some weeks ago to be present at a live interview with American composer and choral director, René Clausen. From time to time on Sing For Joy programs, you hear his compositions and his choir, the Concordia Choir of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. During the interview, we heard stories about his formative years in high school and college, and tales about concerts and commissions; but the story I want to report today has to do with a mentor’s influence on him. 

Dr. Clausen explained that one of his mentors described the kind of conductor one should strive to be, and warned against the kind of conductor one might turn out to be if ego trumps artistry. “A conductor,” said this mentor, “has to decide whether to be a mirror-conductor or a window-conductor.” As Dr. Clausen explained, a mirror-conductor performs in such a way that the audience sees the conductor reflected in the performance; a window-conductor seeks to let all the beauty of the music shine through. I don’t have to tell you which kind the mentor recommended. Just to be clear, this is not about how much a conductor does or does not move, but about the purpose and effect of those movements.

Performances that let the beauty of the music shine through are particularly suitable for Sing For Joy, although if you suggest that such performances are always the preferred kind, not just on Sing For Joy, you’d get no argument from me. But maybe Sing For Joy underlines or reinforces the importance of that kind of performance. If, instead of being a program of biblically inspired music, we were a program that demonstrated performance techniques, that would be different; but Sing For Joy hopes to open up biblical texts and stories — and open you too — in order for insight to take place. Musicians, therefore, are called upon to serve their art, not their egos. The point of the performance is to enable the listener to hear, in as honest and authentic a way as possible, what text and music together want to say. In other words, to let the light of the music shine through.

To be clear, I do hope that the singers whose performances we hear on Sing For Joy are proud of their work. Being proud of good work is a good thing. It’s just that doing the work of art (maybe of life itself?) is best done with an attitude of service. If that rings true, it is not just in the realm of morals and manners, as if genuine humility and helpfulness were marks only of courtesy. Jesus seemed to have more than “being nice” in mind when he advocated lives of service for his followers. He seemed to think, instead, that life worked better when lived that way, and the same is arguably true for the arts. When the actor/singer/cellist/poet gives him or herself to serving the art, truth and beauty are likely to happen.

As another new year begins, singing for joy instead of for glory doesn’t just make good music, it makes a good life too. Sing for joy!




Pastor Bruce Benson

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Sing For Joy is supported by listeners like you. When you give to Sing For Joy you are saying yes to great sacred choral music. Have questions or want to donate by phone? Call us at 507-786-2600.

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January Playlists and Programs

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

January 7, 2018: Baptism of Our Lord — Lectionary 1 (Year B)

January 14, 2018: Second Sunday after Epiphany — Lectionary 2 (Year B)

January 21, 2018: Third Sunday after Epiphany — Lectionary 3 (Year B)

January 28, 2018: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany — Lectionary 4 (Year B)

Connect with Sing For Joy!

We love hearing from listeners! Share with us how Sing For Joy plays a role in your life and we'll print responses in future newsletters. Join in the Sing For Joy conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Write to us.

Thank you for supporting Sing For Joy during our fall fund drive and throughout the year! Your gifts help sustain the program that brings music and Word to listeners around the world. Our fall drive ends December 31, so it's not too late to participate. When you give $120 or more you can choose to receive a copy of "Light Dawns, Hope Blooms," a recording of the 2016 St. Olaf Christmas Festival.


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.


Helene Anglin

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Haugan

Laurel Eden Hill

Virginia Kinzey

Jennifer Koenig

The Reverend Jennifer A. Koenig '87

Helen R. McGonegal

Keith and Betty Miller

our parents

Rev. Paul H. Pittman, III

Mrs. Thelma S. Price

Opal Randall, my piano teacher

Marlene Schoader, organist

Don and Inez Siefken

sisters, mothers and deceased families

Emil Symonik

Drennan Thompson

Ida Wilke, one of my adopted grandmothers


Bruce Benson

nurse Reba Brunk

Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Chaney

Carol R. Deal

John Ferguson

Lowell Gangsted, my choir director

Lyle & Alice Guenther

Sonia Hagestuen '60

Christine Holmer, organ teacher

Rebecca Iverson, organist

Kyria Madany-Klein

Our Savior's birth

Sarah Raessler

Zachary Rygiel '12, director of music at First Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, SD

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)