St. Olaf: A Musical and Spiritual High

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

St. Olaf: A Musical and Spiritual High
After my last blog post, I am compelled to redeem myself with all Lutherans, Norwegians and Minnesotans---especially when my husband is all three!

In this case redemption is easy because in spite of the ninety degree weather and non-air-conditioned buildings, our visit to St. Olaf College was a musical and spiritual high. I am not a stranger to good choral music and have been a singer all of my life so I’m not prone to over-exuberance about choirs. In other words, I have high standards for what pleases me.

My expectations were met and exceeded when Anton Armstrong lifted his hands and the sound for which St. Olaf has become famous made a packed house forget they were hot and sweaty. For this 100th Anniversary concert, Dr. Armstrong chose music from across the rich history of the choir. Alums were invited to join with the current choir. Music was mailed in advance and then three relatively short rehearsals occurred after everyone arrived on campus. To exercise the kind of control that Dr. Armstrong exerted on 900 voices takes a rich history of attention to detail and loyalty to excellence. These alums from decades past remembered crisp consonants, specific pronunciation of vowels and the demand for pianissimo when the score and conductor ask for it. You don’t get that kind of response from 900 voices in three short rehearsals. You get it because of an unprecedented 100 years of dedication to a choral music program.

On my left during the concert were two elderly ladies; on my right was an alum from New Orleans and his friend who was the parent of a current choir member. There was not a dry eye on the entire row of people at the end of the concert. If you could listen to those 900 voices sing Beautiful Savior (known to us southern folk as Fairest Lord Jesus) and not tear up, I think you should send out a search party for your soul. The music transcended theology or lack thereof and lifted us all to a place of spiritual beauty.

Thank you, St. Olaf, for your persistent devotion to excellence in choral music.  

updated: 6 years ago

TAGS: st. olaf college : choir : reunion : alumni : minnesota : norwegian : lutheran : beautiful savior : fairest lord jesus :


bpetersonThursday, June 9th 2011 5:47PM

Trace, you have no idea how much I wish I had packed a "yellow towel." I can think of at least 10 uses for it in that dorm room! And you are so right that the music nourished my soul.

Tracy Thursday, June 9th 2011 10:29AM

Bren, I know this must have been hard. I hope you packed the 'yellow towel'. :) But really, kudos to you for taking in all the discomfort. You were rewarded with that which feeds your soul--great music. I hope you both enjoyed every minute!

Ask JohnWednesday, June 8th 2011 8:06AM

Ask him to tell you about the family that really got things started, the Christianson's. F. Melius and the three sons. My Dad told about kids going to St. Olaf in the 30's with one thing in mind, getting in the choir!

Yeah, they are great, and so are a bunch of other Lutheran college choirs!

Charles, thanks for stopping by with a comment. They told the story of the Christiansens beautifully in a video that also had a congratulations segment from Garrison Keillor. There was also a dedicated room for choir memorabilia. It was all so well done and quite a wonderful weekend---even for a non-Ole!