Probably not many church musicians can say they have served for 50 years, but the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church’s Director of Music Ministries has already done so. Doug Benton began his professional career as a Church Musician in October of 1963 while a sophomore at Camelback High School in Phoenix. That job was at his church, Bethel Methodist Church, on Seventh Street and Osborn, in Phoenix. Doug was paid a whopping $5 per week! He was given the opportunity to play the “Mighty Hammond” when the church’s organist was in a car accident and was not able to play any more. Two years later, Doug was fired from that job, by a new Pastor, for playing Bach on the organ, rather than “church music”! But, of course, this gave him another opportunity to grow as an organist and choir director at his next job, Capitol Methodist Church.
During these 50 years, Doug has served several Presbyterian, Lutheran and Methodist churches here in the valley and for a short time in the San Francisco Bay area. He has served the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church since June of 2003, where he directs the Chancel Choir, Canyon Carillon, Youth Handbell Team, GCUMC Orchestra, and accompanies Joyful Noise (kids choir). He also plays the organ for the 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. traditional services, produces the church’s performing arts series and works with the Gold Canyon Arts Council on their Canyon Sounds programs and their annual Gold Canyon Arts Festival, both of which are hosted by the church. In his spare time, Doug writes and/or arranges music for his various ensembles.
A special program celebrating Doug’s accomplishments will be held Sunday, Feb. 9, at 3 p.m. at the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church. This program will feature some special guests, including the incredible pianist, Chris Rice, who will play Franz Liszt’s famous Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. This work is important to Doug, as he decided to become a concert artist as a result of watching Bugs Bunny playing this work on a cartoon when he was in fourth grade! Also featured will be local pianist Linda Jones, who will play a piano/organ arrangement of Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze with Doug. The church’s Chancel Choir, Canyon Carillon (adult handbell choir) and the Agape Brass Quintet with timpanist Keith Kassner will also perform during the program. Doug will play music of Bach, Barnes, Benton, Beethoven, Franck, Vierne, and his concert transcription of Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park.
This event is open to the public at no charge as a free will offering will be received. All the proceeds from this program will go into the church’s “Pipes for the Organ Fund”. Everyone is asked to please bring at least one non-perishable food item per person for the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church Food Bank. The church is located at 6640 S. Kings Ranch Rd, one block north of Hwy 60 (Walgreens on the corner) in Gold Canyon, four miles east of Apache Junction. For more information, please call the church office at 480-982-3776.