St. Olaf: A Musical and Spiritual High

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 :


Dorm Rooms are Not for Sixty Year Olds

Dorm Rooms are Not for Sixty Year Olds
Being the cooperative good spouse that I am, I agree to attend the 100th Anniversary of the St. Olaf Choir with my husband, John. He was president of this choir of all choirs while attending St. Olaf and it may have saved his life because it kept him in school instead of Vietnam.

St. Olaf is a lovely campus in Northfield, Minnesota in the eastern part of the state. John was born here and saw a t-shirt last night that he now must have---Northfield Townie. There are few townies among the alums so it would be a novelty for him and a big laugh for his mother who gave birth to him while she and his dad were students here also.

Minnesota weather can be capricious at this time of year. I debated about bringing my full length fur coat because I’m terrified of being cold every time we come north. The joke’s on me. The thermometer is supposed to top out at 90 degrees today and this ancient dorm we’re staying in has no air-conditioning!

When we picked up our registration packets yesterday, the lovely lady with a Minnesota Nice smile handed us the envelope and said, “You will be staying in Melby”---like it was an honor bestowed on few. “Your sheets, towels and blankets are provided along with a few toiletries.”

I’m thinking, “Way to go, Alumni Office. This sounds like the Westin.”

Then John asks, “Is Melby air-conditioned?”

Her smile (Minnesota Nice is not a myth.) never wavers as she replies, “Oh, no, sir. Did you bring a fan?”

Possessing more Southern Sass than Minnesota Nice, I wanted to reply, “Lady, we flew Delta. They barely permit luggage, never mind a fan.”

The now very irritating smile replies, “Have a nice weekend.” I finally understand after marrying in to this state that Minnesota Nice really means, “Sucks for you that you didn’t bring a fan.”

We find the ancient castle that is to be our home for the weekend and discover that our room is on the third floor. John quickly remembers that this dorm was here when he was and that there are no elevators. We never travel light for three reasons, #1 we bring as much technology as clothing, #2 the size of John’s shoes and #3 the number of shoes I find it necessary to bring. Fortunately, after the first load up the stairs two current Ole girls carry the heaviest bags and John’s ego manages to bear it.

It’s a dorm room. A dorm room is a dorm room. It looks astonishingly like my room at Georgetown College in the Sixties. Two twin beds, two desks, two closets. Seems doable for a weekend. I can bear to sleep without John for three nights.
To say that I’m idiosyncratic about my sleeping habits is like saying Charlie Sheen is a wee bit unstable. I’m deliriously quirky. What I can’t bare to sleep without is my 600 thread count sheets, my second pillow and my king-size Tempur-pedic bed. The sheets feel like medium grade sandpaper but very, very thin and loosely stretched over a plastic mattress. The pillows are also plastic covered so we can have the delightful experience of sleeping with the sounds of a rain coat. And just in case, we experience the “other” Minnesota---the one with freezing temperatures in July--- there is a wool blanket. I’m allergic to wool! I don’t want it near my bed or touching my sandpaper sheets.

Ok, Princess, you can do this for one weekend.

Then I grab the washcloth and towel and head to the bathroom down the hall. I now know why northern women have such beautiful skin. All these years I thought it was because they get so little sun damage. No, it’s the towels that feel like a cheese grater scraping across your face! Calling these linens a loofah would be far too generous a description of their exfoliating power. These towels could sand your deck, grate your cheese and then exfoliate your face. Is fabric softener against the law up North?

As we finally snuggle down in our plastic twin beds, I drape my spring coat over my legs, my cotton hoodie over my shoulders and take extra Benadryl in hopes I can make it through the night.

Dorm rooms are not for sixty year olds!  

updated: 6 years ago

TAGS: reunions : college : choir : dorm rooms : :