This year’s ATLA conference included a special recognition of our long-time choir director Seth Kasten. Seth has recently retired from Union Theological Seminary/ Columbia University in New York City and for the past twenty-five years has faithfully planned worship music for our conferences. I had the joy of singing with the ATLA choir in various years since 1996 and as such, was invited to prepare an essay for the festschrift* prepared in his honor.
Never Enough Singing: Essays in Honor of Seth Kasten is the resulting volume, edited by Melody Layton McMahon. The volume includes essays on favorite hymns by 23 current and former ATLA choir members and words of blessing from these hymns for Seth. While I do not know Seth especially well, I wanted to participate in the project because I am thankful for his faithfulness in bringing beautiful music to our gatherings and I have so enjoyed the years when I have been able to participate in singing (and have always enjoyed the listening part).
My essay is on the Irish hymn “Be Thou, My Vision”, one of my very favorite hymns. I discovered to my surprise, that very little was written on it and found some surprising stories related to its origin (such as the monk who is credited by some as penning the original Gaelic lyrics in the 6th century was beheaded by pirates…now that was definitely a surprise!). My research resources were found in both the Stamps library collections (theology and hymnology) and the Marshburn Library collections (Irish literary history), our databases and some good online resources.
I am a little more than half-way finished reading the essays and have found each one to be a delight. I am giving a copy of the book to our library so it should be available for borrowing shortly…you don’t need to be a musician to appreciate the richness of these wonderful hymns. I am including below left, a photo of Seth Kasten and below right, of a recent ATLA choir rehearsal.
*Although quite popular in theological publishing, I have discovered over time that not every profession uses the term “festschrift”. A Festschrift is a German term for a celebratory volume of essays, usually prepared to honor an individual scholar at a special milestone in their life – such as a birthday or at their retirement. The Stamps Theological Library has many volumes of festschriften and these often serve as wonderful theme volumes on topics of interest to the honoree.