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.

November 2018 Newsletter (Year B)
The Music of Visual Arts, by Pastor Bruce Benson

I am about to use the word “Christmas.” Yes, I do know what month this is, and no, I am not generally in favor of rushing the season. But what I am about to say isn’t actually about Christmas, but rather about the psalms, music and art that accompany it.

This past month I was invited to interview an artist, and good friend, for a Sunday morning adult forum at church. Judy, the artist, has provided beautiful artwork for Sing For Joy over the years, including the logo itself. She has also been responsible, for 23 consecutive years, for the large (60-feet-wide and 15-feet-high) work of art behind the singers at the St. Olaf College Christmas Festival concerts; in theater terms, “the set.” Judy did set design and oversaw set construction. Her work, which focused on each year’s new concert theme, was always a memorable part of the Christmas Festival experience for singers and audience alike. In the course of my interview I asked Judy three questions. 1) How do you and the musicians decide on the year’s theme? 2) How do you get from the words of the theme and the words of anthems and carols to visual images? 3) How do you get from mental visual images to the final set?

Her answers to those questions were interesting, but in the course of her replies to my questions, Judy described an aspect of her design that probably surprised listeners a bit. She said that she always had a mental checklist of musical elements that she looked for in her own artwork. She mentioned dynamics: does my art have both piano and forte, crescendo and decrescendo? Rhythm: is there a sense of rhythm across the 60 feet of color and design? Repetition: have I repeated some design elements? How about harmony, phrasing, accent, etc? Indeed, visual art can be musical.

So can literary and oral art. Consider the Psalm of the Day for the last Sunday of the current liturgical year, also the last Sunday of November this year. It is Psalm 93. Here are two verses from that psalm: 

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.
 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
    more majestic than the waves of the sea,
    majestic on high is the Lord!

Look at the repetition, the crescendo, the rhythm. It’s all there. When you imagine speaking or singing those lines, you feel those musical elements. The psalm seems determined to turn the reader into a singer; it wants to be sung. In the same way that Judy’s art aimed each year to transform a mundane gymnasium into an artful auditorium, or better yet, into a colorful musical sanctuary, so written words of the psalm aim to transform reading into singing, and life into a song.

In the climate where I live, turning November into a song isn’t easy! It is a rather colorless month. The psalms, however, can do for November what Judy’s art could do for an ordinary grey gymnasium. So, sing. Sing for joy!

Peace be with you,




Pastor Bruce Benson

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November Playlists and Programs

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

November 4, 2018: All Saints Day (Year B)

November 11, 2018: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 32 (Year B)

November 18, 2018: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 33 (Year B)

November 25, 2018: Christ the King, Last Sunday After Pentecost — Lectionary 34 (Year B)

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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.


My husband Russell Couch

Mrs. Rita Edingfield-Evans

Eugene Sukup


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Sing For Joy is sponsored by:

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