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Choral piece to honor longtime St. Olaf organist

FDSH Choir will present song written for Wing

December 8, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

The Fort Dodge Senior High choir will debut a new song on Sunday in honor of local organist LaVon Wing.

The St. Olaf Lutheran Church Foundation commissioned the song last year in recognition of Wing's long service at the church. She began playing there in 1950.

"She was my predecessor and she still continues to play, and is going strong after over 60 years, which I just find to be phenomenal," said Jason Swedlund, the current organist.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
LaVon Wing, of Fort Dodge, practices on the church organ at St. Olaf Lutheran Church before a recent Advent service. The song she is playing was commissioned in her honor.

The church had Swedlund contact composer Z. Randall Stroope, director of choral activates at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

"I have been very specific on what our idea was, on what course to go, but also giving him a tremendous amount of latitude to write wherever it took him," Swedlund said.

The song is called "Verbum Caro Foctum Est," meaning "and the word became flesh" in Latin. It is an advent and Christmas-themed a cappella piece. The text will be based on Bible verses Isaiah 9:2 and John 1:14, which state "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light," and " ... the word became flesh and dwelled among us," respectively.

Fact Box

If you go:

What: Concert features performances by all the Senior High vocal ensembles, band and orchestra and a student art showcase.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Fort Dodge Senior High gym

Cost: Admission is $5 per adult or high school student, $3 for kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

Swedlund determined the text's focus.

"Those texts come from the canon of readings for Christmas eve and Christmas day. They cross multi-denominationally," he said. "Those two are my favorite scriptural passages, and with an advent themed piece you can't lose with either one of them."

The church went with a choral piece rather than an organ piece to make it more widely available, he said.

"It will be more easily accessible to more people and organizations than an organ piece. You have more high school, church and professional choirs than you do professional organists."

Even now, Wing doesn't quite know what to say about the honor.

"It's pretty awesome. I just don't deserve it," she said. "You don't know how to accept something like that. It's just pretty overwhelming. I'm very humbled."

Wing found out about the song last year shortly before Christmas. The Rev. Dave Grindberg and Swedlund came to her house to tell her the glad news, she said.

"They were so secretive about it," she said. "A couple weeks before Christmas I came to church and everybody around here knew about it. They were congratulating me and everything."

Wing still hasn't gotten to hear it. She will experience it the first time at the concert Sunday.

"I saw it in Jason's hand. That's all I have seen so far," she said. "I know Jason was really enthralled with it."

Swedlund said, "I find it very expressive. I've been hearing bits and pieces of them rehearsing it."

The song is in English and written for six-part harmony, said FDSH Choir Director Joseph Svendsen. It's a great honor for his choir to get to debut it.

"We're very excited. The song is beautiful," Svendsen said. "The kids are very excited to be the first people to perform a piece of music. It's an opportunity that maybe a dozen high schools in the country get to do every year."

The song will be published in the Luther College Music series, and should be available for purchase by other organizations by Christmas 2013.

Wing said she got started at St. Olaf after the last organist retired.

"I had played for a church on an organ in Callender where I grew up, from the time I was 11 years old, but that was a pump organ, where you had to pedal to keep air in it. When I got older, I just decided I'd like to take organ lessons," she said.

"It has been a very rewarding career."



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