My Fellow Guild Members,
I am still alive, although you may have had your doubts, based upon how long it has been since the last Dean’s Column.
Since the construction of our own chapter website, through the efforts of board member John Kopp, you may have noticed that a monthly Präludium publication is really no longer necessary, due to the capabilities of our site and the ability to immediately publish any news or updates in a more timely fashion. Our website is where you can access any changes or additions to calendar event listings, churches posting open positions, and other items of interest to members. This also means that the dean doesn’t have to attempt a column that is meaningful or inspirational every month.
Please bookmark the website for easy access, and refer to it often for the latest up-to-date information about events in our chapter and on the national level.
newago.org --- Northeastern Wisconsin American Guild of Organists
The Annual Banquet scheduled for May 19th has been cancelled, since the total number who responded with an affirmative for attendance was very low. The board will be discussing the future of the banquet at our next meeting, and we will likely be requesting your further input about the banquet going forward.
We encourage you to attend the recital featuring performances by recipients of our OROCO Scholarship on Sunday, May 7th, 2:00pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 311 Division Street, Oshkosh. I remind you of Jeff Verkuilen’s recent requests for member participation in the program. After the recital, we will have the opportunity for an informal get-together at a nearby restaurant for dinner. Stay tuned for details about that.
I have been thinking lately about the importance of our role in the worship life of the congregations that we serve. At Faith Lutheran in Appleton we (lion’s share of that “we” work done by Steve Moore) have recently done a great deal of work on assessing the need for improving the acoustics of our sanctuary, and what that would mean for our members’ worship experience.
As you know, acoustical properties of a room have a major impact on the experience of the worship that takes place in that space. The average member in the pew, however, finds the concept a difficult one to comprehend. Indeed, even those who normally sit in the chancel area during the service have difficulty with the concept. The fact that a tenth of a second in reverberation time can be detected by the average listener, still doesn’t really mean much to them, sense they are most often unaware of why they hear a difference from one setting to another.
I could continue on this topic for some time, but turn now to the need or reason for those good acoustics in our worship spaces. Lutherans have a fantastic reminder of this reason as they celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which essentially marks the beginning of what we recognize today as corporate worship. Yes, I know, it actually began in the early part of Old Testament times, continuing with additional emphasis throughout the New Testament.
We gather to hear the Word, pray and confess our faith, and sing hymns that either contain the Word or emphasize its teachings. It is that spoken word and the singing that we do together, that makes our worship meaningful, and strengthens or renews our faith.
That brings me back to my thoughts of late. We truly have an awesome responsibility as we lead that singing. It is the most important thing that we do/play during the service; more important than preludes and postludes and voluntaries. I know that sometimes, I forget about that in my hymn preparations, especially when it is a hymn that I have played forever (or for 50 years anyway, which is how long I have been a church organist, beginning at age 14).
To that end I am sharing with you this text of a lecture given at Oberlin College in 1992 by Miriam Clapp Duncan, Professor Emerita of Lawrence University at a gathering of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. I am sure that Frank has shared this in the past, but it is worthy of a repeat. It explains clearly why, when I began studying with her in 1974, even though I had already been playing worship services for 8 years, she began not with Bach, or Langlais, or Reger---but with hymns.
Jon M. Peterson
Dean – Northeastern Wisconsin American Guild of Organists