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Northern Ohio Hymn Festival Goes Green

OBERLIN, OHIO — Earth’s Rhythms Restored is the theme of the fourth biennial Northern Ohio Hymn Festival to be held in Oberlin Friday through Sunday, September 19-21 under the auspices of The Dictionary of American Hymnology and the Oberlin College Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

More than 700 students, teachers, organists, ministers, choirs, and laity from more than 50 choirs and 30 communities throughout Northern Ohio will come together for a weekend of excellent teaching and inspiring song,” says Festival Coordinator Mary Louise Van Dyke.

Area residents are invited to the free Sunday event, which will begin at 4 p.m. in Oberlin College’s Finney Chapel. Individuals who are not members of a choir are not only welcome, but also desired as participants and members of the general audience. Doors will open to the public at 3:40 p.m.

Finney Chapel is located at the intersection of N. Professor and W. Lorain streets; free parking is available. A free will offering is suggested. For complete information, contact The.Hymn.Society@oberlin.edu.

The September 21 program will include a series of reflections on the interconnectedness of human life and earth's rhythms by David Orr, one of the country’s leading experts on environmental literacy in higher education. He is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin.

“Our hymns are our national heritage, and a study of social history,” says Van Dyke. “Gaining an awareness of humanity’s responsibility to the earth helps us understand the interdependence of all things, our role in existence, and our responsibility in sustaining it. Congregational song has the power to identify common experiences, unite people in common cause, and inspire them to change their ways.”

The festival will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Finney Chapel’s dedication as part of the 175th anniversary of the founding of Oberlin. The Sunday program will open with the first hymn sung in the first assembly in Finney Chapel September 23, 1908, O God our help in ages past. The Sevenfold Amen, sung at that first assembly and a long-standing Finney Chapel tradition, also will be sung.

The festival is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Manfred J. Lassen, who served as Protestant Chaplain at Oberlin College from 1987 until his death in December 2007.

The three-day festival will be led by Anton Armstrong as the choir director and John Ferguson as organist. Armstrong is director of the St. Olaf Choir at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Ferguson a professor of church and organ music at St. Olaf College, and a 1963 graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

The Lorain County Community Collegiate and Civic Chorales and the Oberlin College Choir will perform separately and will join in singing an anthem. The festival will be recorded by Best Classical Recording, and an order form for a CD will be available.

Van Dyke is director of the Dictionary of American Hymnology project housed in Oberlin College’s central library (DAH), a division of The Hymn Society in the U.S. and Canada (HSUSC). Other participants are David Stull, Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music; Reverend Greg McGonigle, director of the Oberlin College Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; and Rabbi Shimon Brand, Oberlin College Jewish Chaplain.

The festival will include an organ improvisation master class on hymn tunes with John Ferguson on Friday and a lecture on choral techniques with a demonstration by the Oberlin College Choir by Armstrong on Saturday. Both classes will take place at 4 p.m. in First Church in Oberlin, located at the intersection of Routes 58 and 511.

First Church also will welcome out of town festival guests during the closed choir rehearsal, which will be held in Finney from 2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Sunday. Refreshments will be provided, plus 2 p.m. Oberlin history and Allen Memorial Art Museum tours.

Festival organizers are The Dictionary of American Hymnology, The Oberlin College Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and the Oberlin Conservatory Organ Division.  Sponsors include the College’s Mead-Swing Lectureship Committee and The Nord Family Foundation.  Other contributors are the Ohio Choral Directors Association, Sacred Landmarks Initiative, Lorain County Community College, Oberlin Area Chamber of Commerce, The Bill Long Foundation, Oberlin College Alumni Association, and private donors.

Anton Armstrong has been director of the St. Olaf Choir since 1990. He is an editor for Augsburg Fortress Press and edits the multicultural choral series for Earthsongs Publications. He has been a guest conductor and lecturer throughout North America, Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand and collaborated in concert with Bobby McFerrin, Garrison Keillor and many noted ensembles.  In January 2006, Baylor University awarded him the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

John Ferguson was appointed in 1986 to an endowed professorship of Organ and Church Music at St. Olaf College, where he is director of St. Olaf Cantorei and minister of music to the student congregation. He has authored three books and numerous articles in professional journals. He was music editor of The Hymnal, United Church of Christ, 1975 and has over 100 organ and choral compositions in print.  He has served as general chair of the national convention of American Guild of Organists (AGO) and chaired the AGO National Improvisation Competition Committee. He received Kent State University’s Distinguished Alum Award in 1989.

David Orr is Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, where he envisioned the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, teaches and advises students. Recently, Global Green USA and Green Cross International honored him in its Millennium Awards ceremony.  The Millennium Awards honor individuals and organizations that “recognize the important connection between humankind and nature ....” Orr was consultant and commentator for Leonardo DeCaprio’s film The 11th Hour, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. The author of five books and more than 120 articles, Orr is a frequent speaker at environmental conferences and symposia and has lectured at innumerable college and universities in the U.S. and Britain.

Media Contact:
Scott Wargo, 440-775-5197 / Scott.Wargo@oberlin.edu
Betty Gabrielli, 440-775-5423 / Betty.Gabrielli@oberlin.edu

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