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 to subscribe.

September 2019 Newsletter (Year C)

Pastor Bruce Benson

Music and Landscape

"Landscapes move us in a manner more analogous to the action of music than to anything else. Gradually and silently the charm comes over us; the beauty has entered our souls; we know not exactly when and how." -Frederick Law Olmsted, 1822-1903, quoted in Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2018

Often, when doing two things at the same time — not multitasking, but spending a number of hours or days with two different sorts of activities or thoughts — the two tend to enter a kind of silent, mental conversation. They talk to each other. They sometimes strike up a friendship.

I have been reading about the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted while also preparing Sing For Joy episodes for recording. In my head, music and landscape have been in mental conversation. Olmsted was the landscape architect often given credit for creating the whole idea of landscape architecture. He was the inspirational designer of Central Park in New York City, as well as numerous other city parks and natural areas all across the country. He believed parks should be designed not merely to be attractive to people, but to make them feel welcome and at ease when they use them. My mind has returned again and again to Olmsted's observations and goals while I've been listening to upcoming Sing For Joy episodes.

Olmsted himself saw connections between landscape and music long before I did, as you can see by the quotation at the top of this column. In fact, I can't say I had ever compared music and landscape until reading about Olmsted. Now I see what he means, and while listening to Sing For Joy programs I've been turning his comparison around, and running it in the opposite direction. If landscape can be understood better, as Olmsted argues, when one thinks of it as music, doesn't that also work the other way around? Can't music be thought of as creating inner landscapes of the sort Olmsted admired, and inviting the listener to linger there?

Here are some of his descriptions for landscape that "enters our souls," as he put it:

  • It should be "hospitable landscape." (Providing a hospitable, welcoming musical landscape is a goal of Sing For Joy too.)
  • Olmsted admired the quality of landscape that "invites, encourages and facilitates movement." (Sing For Joy hopes to invite, encourage and facilitate movement of the soul — and perhaps the toes too!)
  • To be truly hospitable, landscape also needs "occasional shelter and shade," Olmsted said, along with "opportunities for agreeable rest." Un-relieved excitement or stress in life, landscape or music, leaves one worn out. Then "agreeable rest" is restorative for the body as well as the soul. (Nearly every Sing For Joy program offers musical "opportunities for agreeable rest.")

Having listened to several upcoming programs with Olmsted's vision in mind, I hope that what you hear on those programs will "enter your soul," even if "we know not exactly when and how."

Peace be with you,

Bruce Benson

Pastor Bruce Benson

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Lanterns in Boe Chapel

Memorials and Honorariums

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


Mrs. Julie Ann Crenshaw

William "Bill" Hayes

Kathryn Moen

Oscar and Beverly Omundson


Rev. Nelson Boone

The Rev. Roger Bruns, on the 40th anniversary of his ordination as pastor in the Lutheran Church (ELCA)

Carol and Sharon Miller 

Janice Wyche

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