Sydney Brummel – Staff Writer
At ten in the morning on October 17, the B.J. Haan burst with the powerful ring of the Casavant organ. With the late morning sun filtering into the auditorium, the audience, strewn throughout the pews, enjoyed an organ prelude performed by Dr. Carrie Groenewold and five organ students. These six organ pieces preceded the second annual hymn festival of Dordt University. The event, named “Praise with us the God of Grace,” brought together a small crowd who came to do just that.
“Hymn singing is really important, and I don’t think we do enough of it,” Dr. Groenewold, university organist and associate professor of music, said. “The opportunity to gather and sing hymns is something a community like Sioux Center should be doing on a regular basis.”
“I love working with different types of instrumentation.“
During Defender Days weekend last year, the first hymn festival was organized primarily by Dr. Martin Tel, a Dordt graduate and current director of music at Princeton Theological Seminary. In part, the musical celebration commemorated of the fortieth anniversary of Dordt’s Casavant organ. This year, Dr. Groenewold organized the hymn festival with the intent of making such an event an annual occurrence.
“[Organizing the hymn festival] was a great pleasure, and I’m establishing this as a new tradition for Defender Days weekend,” Groenewold said.
Although Defender Days was canceled this year, students and other community members could enjoy the tunes of both familiar and unfamiliar hymns accompanied by the organ, Dordt’s Bella Voce choir, and other instrumentalists.
“I love working with different types of instrumentation. Brass and organ go together sort of like a hand in a glove,” Groenewold said.
The festival featured a brass quintet, a harpist, a flutist, a cellist, and pianists to play alongside the audience, and several numbers were joined by vocal soloists. Overall, the voices and instruments complemented each other, combining to create a beautiful harmony directed toward the same goal of creating music to worship.
After the organ prelude, a student led the audience in a welcoming Litany of Praise. Then, everyone inside the auditorium sang the first hymn of the morning, “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
Lasting about an hour, the hymn festival showcased several prayers, a responsive reading, and a repertoire of songs varying in levels of familiarity.
“I chose mostly well-known, sort of tried and true hymn tunes that most people would know,” Groenewold said. “But I also wanted to stretch the congregation just a bit by including some songs that were perhaps less familiar to widen our perspective.”
“That’s a healthy thing for Christians to think in broader terms than their own community”
– Dr. Carrie Groenewold
One distinct hymn that was likely unfamiliar to much of the audience was “Heleluyan,” a traditional hallelujah chorus of the Muscogee Creek Native American tribe.
The song began with a male soloist, Instructor of Music Ryan Smit, who was later joined by a small male ensemble and the Bella Voce choir. Once the audience joined, the song transformed into an entrancing canon that repeated several times.
Indeed, this year’s hymn festival recalled songs as recognizable as “Abide with Me” but also introduced to the crowd valuable songs of different backgrounds.
“That’s a healthy thing for Christians to think in broader terms than their own community,” Groenewold said. “Music can help us do that.”
With the organ leading, every individual in the space concluded the hour of worship with the Doxology. Upon the end of the song, the spacious auditorium hummed with the reverberation of the majestic tune. The audience exited the building, filled by the morning of worship and already looking forward to next year’s hymn festival.