"When I think of Christmas and church, Pastor Benson's voice is an essential part of the holiday experience for me," Kari Bergeson '07 said.
With his resounding, reverent voice and inspirational writings, Benson's involvement is a significant component of the annual holiday celebration. Thus, when Benson announced his plans to travel abroad on Global Semester this fall, St. Olaf Choir director Anton Armstrong asked that Benson return to campus specifically for Christmas Festival.
Benson flew to Minneapolis, Minn., from Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday - - just in time for Wednesday's dress rehearsal.
"Benson's voice and role in Christmas Festival is reflective of his depth as a theological scholar and writer," Associate Campus Pastor Jennifer Anderson Koenig said. Koenig, along with Benson and Pastoral Intern Erik Haaland, will narrate the various Bible readings that combine to make the concert's Gospel.
Koenig described Christmas Festival with glowing appreciation. "[The Festival is] ... not a liturgy, or a concert," she said. "Instead it is music as prayer, a mix of song and biblical readings."
In describing Benson, Koenig said: "He is good leader, a strong voice who is a faithful leader of the St. Olaf community. Pastor Bruce's presence will help expand the role of the pastor in the Christmas Festival activities."
Koenig believes that Christmas Festival is "music that expresses our need for God, praises God and explores our yearning and hopes and fears for God's world."
Koenig and others associated with the Christmas Festival, which is titled "Child of Light ... Be Born in Us," call 2004 a "marker year" in the Festival scheme. This year will be Chapel Choir and Viking Chorus director Bob Scholz's last year of participation in the Festival.
Scholz and Benson have been collaborating on the writing of "Child of Light." Thus, it was imperative that Benson be present at this Christmas Festival.
Koenig, along with praising Benson's participation in Christmas Festival, also lauded Scholz's contributions. "Scholz has been an important creative voice in the history of the Christmas [Festival]," she said. "He has helped in the planning and the arranging of the Festivals."
Many student participants in the Christmas Festival are grateful and excited that Benson has chosen to take the long flight from China to Minnesota for the sake of continuing his role in Christmas Festival.
As the curtain rises on the 2004 Christmas Festival, everyone will be able to experience the inspirational power of "Child of Light ... Be Born in Us" through Benson's stately, elegant and well-traveled voice.