On a summer evening in 2003, there was an extraordinary, uplifting occasion in downtown Minneapolis: Sunday, August 24th, the ecumenical hymn festival Home, Harvest & Healing at St. Olaf Catholic Church. A capacity crowd of some one thousand turned out, people of many faiths from all over the Twin Cities region, to raise their voices enthusiastically in song.
The event was a presentation of the weekly sacred music radio series Sing For Joy, which St. Olaf College produces and distributes across the country through its public radio service, Classical 89.3 WCAL, Minneapolis and St. Paul. The program's writer and host is St. Olaf College Pastor Bruce Benson; music director is John Ferguson, head of the church music program and minister of music to the student congregation at St. Olaf. Together they selected the works in Home, Harvest & Healing, with Bruce Benson providing commentary on the hymns during the festival and John Ferguson serving as organist and artistic director.
Home, Harvest & Healing involved not only those who turned out in person, but many thousands more who are hearing it through national radio programs and in this CD.
One of Sing For Joy's hallmarks is basing the music in each week's program on the scriptural lessons specified in the Revised Common Lectionary, the three-year cycle now in wide use by many church bodies. The sung and spoken texts in Home, Harvest & Healing were deliberately chosen for their references to the biblical themes in the season of autumn and Thanksgiving. We are delighted that Sing For Joy was able to make its own contribution to the body of sacred music by commissioning an affecting, new work for the occasion, a setting of Psalm 126 by young Minnesota composer Abbie Betinis.
Sing For Joy was founded in the 1950s by Alvin Rueter, who served as program host until his retirement in 2002. We are thankful that Pastor Rueter was able to join us as a participant in Home, Harvest & Healing, where he shared a spirited Gospel reading of a passage from St. Mark.
Just as the effective rendering of a hymn depends on a group of individuals willing to join their voices in chorus, successfully staging a multifaceted event such as this requires a notable collaboration of people and organizations. In putting together Home, Harvest & Healing we are indebted to a wider circle of colleagues -- at St. Olaf Catholic Church, among sacred music practitioners, at St. Olaf College, in the community at large. We are especially grateful for the important financial contribution Scott R. Riedel & Associates Ltd. provided to make Home, Harvest & Healing possible.
We encourage you to listen closely to this recording, returning to those portions that you find especially interesting or meaningful. We hope you find our effort as rewarding as many listeners already have; thanks.
Sing For Joy