John Ferguson retired June 2012 after serving 29 years as Elliot and Klara Stockdal Johnson Professor of Organ and Church Music and Cantor to the Student Congregation at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. His responsibilities included directing the church music-organ program, teaching organ and conducting the St. Olaf Cantorei. During his tenure at St. Olaf he oversaw three major capital projects: the renovation of space adjacent to the music building into an organ recital hall housing a new Dobson organ(3/42); the complete renovation, acoustical upgrade and installation of a new Holtkamp organ (3/89) for Boe Memorial Chapel; and a new suite of rooms housing the school’s seven practice organs. During his tenure the organ department at the college defied national trends by growing in enrollment and in quality.
In retirement he continues his travels to design and lead hymn festivals for which he is internationally known as well as composing and arranging, adding to the many publications already in print. Drawing upon his 59 years experience as a church musician, especially his work at the Kent, Ohio United Church of Christ (15 years while on the faculty of Kent State University) and Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota (5 years full time), he is at work on his fourth book exploring his philosophy of the vocation of the church musician.
2017 Breakout Sessions
Leading Congregational Song from the Organ Bench
Ferguson will explore concepts relevant to hymn playing including: leading from the organ, tempo choice, registrational possibilities, "transcribing" typical 4-part vocal harmonizations into organ settings, free accompaniments and more.
Ferg on Ferguson
We will listen to and explore performance parameters in this annotated reading session of some of Ferguson's published organ music.
The Art of Practicing
Ferguson will explore concepts and techniques for efficient and productive practice drawing upon over 40 years of teaching organ.
Improvisation in Hymn Playing
An exploration of simple improvisational techniques useful in providing variety while responding to themes in the text, all to inspire and animate congregational song.
Improvisation in Hymn Playing, Part II
A continuation of session 3, with specific empohasis on the improvisation of creative introductions.
What Every Choir Director (and organist) Should KNow About the Organ
Ferguson will explore the "nature" of the organ, especially considerations relevant to accompanying anthems and performing orchestral reductions. One goal for the session will be to assist in developing a useful "language" about the organ to facilitate dialogue between conductors and organists.
The Organ Anthem
Some anthems have a significant, independent organ part. We will have an annotated reading session of some of Ferguson's favorites and discuss what is NOT on the score that would be helpful to know, especially issues of creative registration.
The St. Olaf Choral Tradition - What is Relevent for the Typical Church Choir
College choirs enjoy a different "life style" from church choirs. Ferguson will share concepts useful for church choir directors drawn from is 29 years conducting the St. Olaf Cantorei including seating the choir, vocal techniques, and selecting repertoire.