When F. Melius Christiansen founded the St. Olaf Choir 100 years ago at St. Olaf College, he was a musical pioneer who introduced a cappella singing to America.
He created an ensemble that set a gold standard for unaccompanied choral singing, and transformed the Midwest into a hotbed of choral activity.
During this past century, the St. Olaf Choir has sung for millions around the world, including presidents, kings and queens, and it has collaborated with ensembles including VocalEssence, the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
These young singers and their conductor, Anton Armstrong, represent all that is good about Minnesota, including a commitment to artistic growth and their own personal development through mind, body and spirit.
In the 1920s the St. Olaf Choir put Minnesota on the map when it became one of the first choral ensembles to tour the nation regularly. Also during this time it started making recordings, as well as performing on the air when radio was in its infancy.
Today it is internationally renowned, thanks to tours, recordings and broadcasts
. After hearing the St. Olaf Choir in Atlanta in 1983, Robert Shaw, one of America's greatest choral luminaries of the 20th Century, wrote: "From all the standpoints - intonation, enunciation, tonal beauty and balance, rhythmic vitality and musical style - it was absolutely first-rate ... I do not know of any college or university in the United States where choral singing of this quality goes on day-in and year-out."
Robert Shaw's words remain relevant to this day. The influence of the St. Olaf Choir is immeasurable, and this centennial affords us the opportunity to celebrate its role in creating the dynamic Minnesota choral scene we enjoy today.
PHILIP BRUNELLE; ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, VOCALESSENCE
The St. Olaf Choir and conductor Anton Armstrong perform the final concert of their centennial season tour at 3 p.m. Sunday at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.