Organ recitals at Luther Memorial Church

Stuart Benjamin, Staff Writer

As the holiday season approaches, the Luther Memorial Church marks its 41st year of weekly organ recitals.

For the last 37 years, Bruce Bengston has hosted organ recitals every Wednesday at noon during the school year.  His performances attract those interested in classical and religious organ works.

His most recent performance included works from Samuel Scheidt.  Heinrich Scheidemann, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bengston said he has been playing the organ since he was 11 years old, and that he has been directing music at Memorial Luthern for 37 years.

The organ that Bengston mainly uses for his performances has been at the church for 48 years.  This organ, built by Austin Organs (a Hartford, Connecticut based corporation), was built in 1966 to replace the costly and rather “musically meaningless” pipes previously in commission.  The whole of the organ is located inside the worship space, in the balcony above the entrance; this gives the sound “immediacy and directness.”

When asked about his favorite composer, Bengston mentions J. S. Bach.

“It’s intellectual, profound, musical, natural, emotional, colorful, and it sings.  Those would be qualities that I would look for in music of any century and country – and it is found in varying degrees among many composers,” he said.

Bach wrote a good bit of music for the church and was choir director at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig from 1723 to 1750.

At his recital on Dec. 3, he performed: Hymnus “Veni Redemptor Gentium” (Hymn #263) by Samuel Scheidt; Es ist gewißlich an der Zeit by Scheidemann; and Toccata and Fugue in D by Bach.

His last performance for the year will be on Dec. 17 and he will start up again at the beginning of the spring semester.

If you are interested in his upcoming performances, Luther Memorial will be holding a Christmas Eve Caroling at 10:30 p.m. and an 11 p.m. service including singing, choral music, brass, timpani, and organ. On Dec. 27, a Carol Sing and Organ Concert, a benefit for the Dane County Jail Ministry.

For information on upcoming events, or if you would like to perform at Luther Memorial Church, send an email to [email protected]