Sydney Brummel — Staff Writer
On the evening of October 1, the B.J. Haan Auditorium filled with the joyful voices of a large group of students gathered in the organ loft. With distributed Psalter Hymnals and the accompaniment of the organ, these students participated in Dordt University’s first ever hymn sing.
For the past several months, students across campus have expressed an interest and desire to sing hymns with the auditorium’s organ as a worship session.
“One of the organ students, Jake Thorsteinson, came up with the idea of a hymn sing, and I encouraged him to make it happen,” Dr. Carrie Groenewold, professor of music and university organist said. “Jake, along with several other students, organized and planned the hymn sing.”
Seniors Janneke deBoer and Allison Wordes along with sophomores Rachel Wordes and Thorsteinson collaborated to plan this event.
“We just thought it’s such a gift from God that we have this wonderful auditorium, this wonderful organ, and all these spare hymn books, and we just thought, hey, why not use all these gifts that we’ve been given to try and give them back to God in worship,” Thorsteinson said. “We wanted to start a hymn sing with some time-tested, theologically-sound, musically-worthy hymns.”
The four students put forth great effort in practicing for the evening. “We worked together during lessons to prepare them,” Groenewold said. “Some of the topics we discussed include phrasing, fingering, pedaling, attention to the text, and registration.”
The organists’ hard work paid off. Far more students than they had initially expected occupied the limited space of the loft, eager to sing some cherished tunes.
“I came here just because I really wanted a worship experience in more of a traditional style,” sophomore Chase Pheifer said. “It was so awesome to praise God in this way, knowing that He’s not only praised when the lights are dimmed and the guitars are playing….He can also be praised with an organ, and with parts, and with deep verses.”
“I feel like hymns are something that connects us with the Church of all ages and of all times and places, and that’s a super important aspect of our faith,” sophomore Annetta de Jong said. “There’s so many rich songs that are missed and flipped over in contemporary worship.”
Other students, such as senior Anna Blauw, were pleasantly surprised by the event that very night and seized the opportunity to join.
“I heard about it because I was in the building once [the singing] started,” Blauw said. “I saw the people, I came up, and I was like, ‘This is awesome!’”
The evening’s repertoire included ten hymns ranging from “Great is Thy Faithfulness” to “In Christ Alone” and ending with the Doxology. As Thorsteinson announced the hymns and the verses from the organ bench, faces lit up with smiles at the mention of favorite hymns.
“My favorite hymn that we sang had to be ‘Abide with Me,’” freshman Isaiah DeRegt said, “because it was the song that my late grandpa resounded in his last weeks, but more so because of the constant reminder of a cross-centered life and our Immanuel that we didn’t even have to ask for.”
“When I heard the first hymn [“God of All Ages”]…soaring from the organ loft and accompanied with great vigor by one of the organ students, I couldn’t help but be overjoyed for them: discovering and claiming these hymns that have stood the test of time for their own spiritual life,” Groenewold said.
After writing their names, emails, and favorite hymns on a sheet provided by the organ students, many students exited the loft by thanking the musicians and expressing their excitement for the next hymn sing. The crammed organ loft and the united, resounding voices were only a small testimony of the event’s unexpected but delightful turnout.
“Indeed, as the last line of “God of All Ages” reads, the students worshipped that evening with ‘our grateful songs before thy throne arise…’” Groenewold said.
When asked about future hymn sings, Thorsteinson stated that he and his fellow organ students hoped for them on at least “some of the major holidays…and then we’ll kind of go from there…The end goal is if we could do this twice a month.”
For now, if students are looking to worship with hymns before the next student-led event, they are encouraged to attend “A Joyous Hymn Festival,” a hymn-singing opportunity presented by Dordt alumni and led by Martin Tel and Dr. Groenewold. It will take place on Saturday, October 12, at 11 am in the B.J. Haan Auditorium.
If you are interested in receiving emails regarding future hymn sings, contact Jake Thorsteinson via email.