New Album from the Bethel Choir Features Favorites from Legacy Conductor Dennis Port

Dennis Port ’66, S’70, professor of music emeritus, conducted Bethel Choir from 1996-2015. A new album from the choir titled Hymns and Spirituals: A Choral Legacy features favorites from Port’s tenure and is now available on major streaming services.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, GS'21, marketing manager

August 11, 2023 | 9 a.m.

Dr. Dennis Port

Dennis Port ’66, S’70, professor of music emeritus, at Classics in the Great Hall in 2010.

For nearly 70 years, the Bethel Choir has been a fixture of the music department at Bethel; Professor Emeritus Dennis Port ’66, S’70 served as director of choral activities and conductor for 20 of them. This summer, a new album by the Bethel Choir titled Hymns and Spirituals: A Choral Legacy was released and is now available on major streaming services.

For the album, Port selected 20 of his favorite hymn and spiritual arrangements from those recorded over his two decades with the choir. While most were recorded live at performances in Benson Great Hall, two were recorded during the choir’s 2013 tour of Poland. This is the first release for most selections on the album.

“More than all the motets and classical music, it was often the hymns and American spirituals that our audiences loved most, even in Europe,” Port says. “I often return to the music on this album for my own inspiration, in part because the arrangements are so powerfully moving and the texts are timeless.”


Album art from "Hymns and Spirituals: A Choral Legacy"

Album cover of "Hymns and Spirituals: A Choral Legacy"

Four selections on the album were arranged by Port’s predecessor and mentor, Robert Berglund, who served as Bethel’s choral conductor from 1959 to 1995. Four others were arranged by Bethel alumna and Port’s sister, Lynnette Port Peffley ’71, a Berglund protégé; and one arrangement is by Jonathan Veenker, associate professor of music emeritus. Many of the spirituals are popular arrangements by Moses Hogan.

“The Bethel Choir tradition was maintained and flourished under the direction of Dennis Port,” says current Bethel Choir conductor, Merrin Guise Gill. “As the lucky recipient of such a powerful ministry and legacy, I encourage lovers of choral music and Bethel University to hear these works. This recording represents the inspiration of hundreds of students and audiences, and is an important part of Bethel University music history.”

The album is now available on all major streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and others.

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