F. Melius Christiansen

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Fredrik Melius Christiansen ca. 1926

F. Melius Christiansen (April 1, 1871 – June 1, 1955) was a Norwegian-born violinist and choral conductor in the Lutheran choral tradition.


Fredrik Melius Christiansen, the son of a Norwegian factory worker, was born in Eidsvold, municipality in Akershus county, Norway and emigrated to the United States at the age of 17. He settled in Washburn, Wisconsin. He studied at Augsburg College. In 1897, he returned to Europe to study for three years at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, Germany.[1]


In 1901, Christiansen was recruited by St. Olaf College president John N. Kildahl. The St. Olaf Choir was founded as an outgrowth of the St. John's Lutheran Church Choir in Northfield. For the next 30 years, Christiansen led the St. Olaf Choir, striving for perfect intonation, blend, diction and phrasing. He was a skilled conductor, directing bands and choirs alike. He assumed direction of the St. Olaf Band in 1903, and took the ensemble on tour to Norway in 1906 to play for King Haakon VII, making it the first college music ensemble to conduct a tour abroad. Though his first love was the violin, he received international fame as founding director of the St. Olaf Choir of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, USA from 1912 to 1944. Christiansen was considered a pioneer in the art of a cappella (unaccompanied) choral music. Christiansen composed and arranged over 250 musical selections and his choral techniques were spread throughout the U.S. by St. Olaf graduates. The Christiansen choral tradition is a recognized feature of American choral music. [2][3]


  • Christiansen was made a Commander of the Order of St. Olaf by the King of Norway in 1928.[4]
  • St. Olaf College established the F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award in 1973.[5]
  • American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota created the F. Melius Christiansen Endowment Fund in 1996 . [6]


Four of Christiansen's children survived to adulthood, two of them adding their own legacy to the Christiansen tradition of choral music in America.[7]

  • Jake Christiansen; coach and athletic director at Concordia College, Moorhead. Jake Christiansen Stadium, "the Jake," was built in his honor.
  • Olaf Christiansen; succeeded his father as head of the music department at St. Olaf College and conductor of the St. Olaf Choir. His accomplishments include maintaining the tradition and high standards of his father while introducing many choral arrangements, and more than twenty years of conducting the St. Olaf Choir.
  • Paul J. Christiansen; conducted The Concordia Choir from 1937 to 1986, developing the choir into what is now one of the world's finest and most accomplished undergraduate a cappella choirs. Paul, like his father, composed and arranged hundreds of hymns and countless choral compositions. Paul helped to spread his father's music and tradition (as well as developing his own reputation of excellence) to generations.
  • Elsa Christiansen Wycisk; married Kurt Wycisk, manager of the Concordia Choir.


  1. ^ F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1955) (ACDA of Minnesota)
  2. ^ Heather MacLaughlin. "F. Melius Christiansen and the St. Olaf Choir" (PDF). Christiansenprint. Retrieved March 20, 2016. 
  3. ^ Christina Marie Armendarez. "The Influence of Fredrik Melius Christiansen on Six Minnesota Conductor-Composers". University of North Texas. Retrieved March 20, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Dr. F. Melius Christiansen A Brief Biography". St. Olaf College. Retrieved March 20, 2016. 
  5. ^ "F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award". American Choral Directors Association. Retrieved March 20, 2016. 
  6. ^ "F. Melius Christiansen Endowment Fund". American Choral Directors Association. Retrieved March 20, 2016. 
  7. ^ The Christiansen Tradition in Sacred Choral Music Anton Armstrong. St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota)

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