St. Olaf Choir
The St. Olaf Choir, with 75 mixed voices, is a premier a cappella college choir in the United States. Since its founding in 1912, the choir has set a standard of choral excellence that has been influential to many other church and college choirs. Conducted since 1990 by Anton Armstrong, just the fourth conductor in the choir's history, the St. Olaf Choir continues to develop the tradition that originated with its founder, F. Melius Christiansen. The second conductor was Christiansen's son, Olaf Christiansen, while the third conductor was the noted composer/conductor Kenneth Jennings.
St. Olaf Choir members are full-time undergraduate students of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Their commitment to the choir involves rehearsing five days a week in addition to completing a full schedule of academic and musical studies.
The St. Olaf Choir is internationally renowned for a unique combination of superior choral singing and the presentation of challenging choral programming with a vast repertoire that encompasses the entire history of Western music, from Renaissance polyphony to new music. The St. Olaf Choir transcended America’s limited early 20th century choral tradition with the introduction of a cappella singing of the highest level, creating a new model for the widespread choral growth that followed.
Since its founding, the St. Olaf Choir has set a standard in the choral art, serving as a model for choirs of all levels. The ensemble’s annual tour brings its artistry and message to thousands of people across the nation and around the world. The St. Olaf Choir has taken 14 international tours and performed for capacity audiences in the major concert halls of Norway, France, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and the Twin Cities. In 2005 the St. Olaf Choir performed at the White House for President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and guests to commemorate The National Day of Prayer. Armstrong and the St. Olaf Choir performed in the final concerts of the 2005 National Conference of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) in Los Angeles, which included singing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, sharing the stage with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The next day the ensemble flew across the country and sang in an acclaimed performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, the 10th time in its history that the St. Olaf Choir has appeared at the hall. The St. Olaf Choir has also performed at prestigious festivals around the world, including the Seoul Olympic Arts Festival, the Strasbourg and Bergen Music Festivals, and the closing concert of the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music in Minneapolis. The ensemble has performed at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference and, together with the St. Olaf Band and St. Olaf Orchestra, presented the highly lauded opening gala concert of the 59th Music Educators National Conference (MENC).
The St. Olaf Choir is perhaps best known for its annual performances in the St. Olaf Christmas Festival, one of the oldest Christmas musical celebrations in the United States. Aired on national and international radio and television for more than 35 years, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival achieved another major milestone when Christmas at St. Olaf: Where Peace and Love and Hope Abide was simulcast to more than 180 movie theaters across the nation on December 2, 2007. The PBS premiere of the one-hour highlights program produced by Twin Cities Public Television aired on Wednesday, December 19, 2007, and reached 2.5 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 100th St. Olaf Christmas Festival Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing was simulcast to nearly 300 movie theaters across America on December 4, 2011, and included a new PBS highlights program that aired nationwide in December 2011.
In addition to being an artistic force, the St. Olaf Choir has a full calendar of events and a growing library of recordings. The choir’s mission is to provide music of the highest quality that lifts people's hearts and spirits, incorporating a diversity of voices and cultural traditions into the chorus of the Christian faith. Many people experience this message through the annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival. But perhaps nowhere is the essence more clearly proclaimed than in the work that has become the choir's signature piece, Beautiful Savior.
The St. Olaf Choir’s ever-expanding discography now features 27 discs following the 2011 release of Great Hymns of Faith Vol. III. Other recordings released in recent years include the first two volumes of Great Hymns of Faith, Charles Ives: The Celestial Country, My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord, The Spirituals of William L. Dawson, and Advance Australia Fair.
- "St. Olaf Choir: Setting a century-long gold standard for choral singing". minnpost.com. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
- "The St. Olaf Choir: A Narrative". St. Olaf College. Retrieved 2013-06-22.