Leland Sateren, 94, choral music composer

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 13, 2007 - 8:24 PM

The retired chairman of Augsburg College's music department wrote music sung by choirs across the nation; honors include Norway's St. Olaf Medal.

Choral music conductor and composer Leland Sateren wrote music that is sung in church choirs all over the nation.

Sateren, of Edina, a former chairman of the music department at Minneapolis' Augsburg College, died Saturday in Minneapolis. The longtime Minneapolis resident was 94.

He was the son of Norwegian immigrants and his father was a Lutheran minister.

As a high school student in Argyle, Wis., Sateren directed church choirs. In 1935, he earned a bachelor's degree in biology and music from Augsburg College.

During the 1930s, he taught in Moose Lake, Minn., for three years, and attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota. By the early 1940s, he was the music director of the university's radio station, KUOM.

He joined the faculty of Augsburg in 1946.

"His influence has impacted the choral music field all over the world, both as a conductor and as a composer," said Dale Warland of the Dale Warland Singers.

Sateren introduced Scandinavian composers to American choral groups, and composed nontraditional choral music, which reminds listeners of modern classical music, as well as traditional compositions and hymns.

"He was adventuresome," said Warland, who added that he is grateful for Sateren's support of his music when he was new to the Twin Cities.

Sateren composed more than 400 choral works.

Some of the honors he received were the St. Olaf Medal, awarded to him by King Olav V of Norway in 1971, the Weston Noble Choral Directors Award in 2002 and two honorary doctorates.

At Augsburg, he taught conducting, choral arranging and the music of the Western church. One of his students, Peter Hendrickson, now directs choral activities at the college.

"He brought integrity, quality and musicality to the Augsburg Choir," Hendrickson said. "He had very strong musical convictions," but "he would not reject my opinion."

Sateren's son Mark, of Minneapolis, said his father had strong opinions and spoke his mind. Once a college administrator received a strong letter from Sateren and "asked if his typewriter had an asbestos ribbon in it," said his son.

Sateren wrote two books, "Cantate Domino" and "The New Song Book."

He served as the choral director at Norway's Bergen Music Conservatory in 1975-76.

Sateren retired from Augsburg in 1979. In retirement, he enjoyed composing music in a studio next to his cabin on Sand Lake and leading the Sand Lake Choir, made up of folks with cabins on the lake.

His first wife, Eldora, died in 1968. He is survived by his second wife, Pauline of Edina; three sons, Terry of Seattle, Mark of Minneapolis and Roald of St. Paul; a daughter, Kirsten Bergherr of Eagan; three sisters, Margaret Trautwein of Brooklyn Center, Norma Anderson of Bloomington and Sylvia Elness of Turlock, Calif.; a brother, Donald of Indio, Calif.; six grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

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