Baylor University Launches Music in Missions Collection

Oct. 26, 2010

Oct. 28 event honors Joan Riffey Sutton, BM '51, for contribution to church music in Brazil

The Baylor University Libraries and the Center for Christian Music Studies will honor retired missionary and 1951 Baylor graduate Joan Riffey Sutton for her contribution to church music in Brazil and the gift of her personal archives at a dinner Oct. 28 at Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library.

The dinner, which begins at 6 p.m., will feature an ensemble performing music that Sutton composed, translated, arranged or collected.

Sutton's gift launches Baylor's Music in Missions Collection in the Crouch Fine Arts Library. A special Library exhibit to view her work will be on display in the Moody and Jones Libraries Oct. 28-29.

"Joan Sutton's Collection is the first. Her materials are the cornerstone of the Music in Missions Collection," said Kathy Hillman, director of special collections for Central Libraries at Baylor, who helped coordinate the event.

Having grown up as a missionary child in Brazil, Sutton dedicated her life to the South American country after studying music at Baylor. She and her husband Boyd served from 1959-1993, and were significant figures in Brazilian music missionary work and instrumental in collecting and organizing Brazilian hymnody. Mrs. Sutton's translations of major choral masterpieces such as Handel's Messiah, Brahm's German Requiem, Dubois' Seven Last Words of Christ and Mendelssohn's Elijah, to name a few, are standards of the vernacular performance across Portuguese-speaking denominations.

A recent graduate of the Baylor School of Music who is from Brazil said about the Suttons, "Much of my ministerial vision today was shaped after readings and performances of Mr. and Mrs. Sutton's work."

The Sutton archives include manuscripts, drafts, publications, accompanying documentation and notes, and materials from a course that Mrs. Sutton taught at the Baptist Seminary in Rio de Janeiro on translating and musical arranging, as well as many choral anthems and cantatas.

Music missionaries who served in Brazil are expected to attend the dinner in honor of Sutton. Hillman said she hopes the event will inspire them and missionaries from other parts of the world to donate their materials to Baylor in order to build the Music in Missions Collection.

The Collection reflects Sutton's life achievements, rather than merely things accrued over time. "She didn't collect it [the Collection], she created it. It's her life's work," Hillman said.

Baylor's connection to ministry in Brazil dates to 1880 when William Buck and Anne Luther Bagby first traveled there as missionaries. Many of their materials are housed in The Texas Collection at Baylor. "It's a logical extension of what we've already collected... it goes full circle," Hillman said.

Baylor's emphasis on mission work has been solidified by the lasting influence of families such as the Bagbys and prevails to this day. This event, which has been a collaborative effort among the University Libraries, School of Music, Truett Seminary and Department of Religion, will celebrate the missionary influence on campus through Sutton's work. She will speak to religion and music classes during her stay in Waco.

With the opening of the Collection, researchers, music students and Brazilian missionaries will benefit from the vast resources it provides.

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