born in Northfield, MN, composed during the Modern period
St. Olaf Choir is a popular amateur singing ensemble made up of 75 members, all undergraduate students at the Northfield, MN-based St. Olaf College. It is a mixed-voice choir that performs a vast repertory of religious as well as secular music, from Renaissance-era to contemporary. While concerts are usually performed a cappella, the SOC has appeared with symphony orchestras, including the Minnesota Orchestra, and with sibling ensembles, the St. Olaf Band and St. Olaf Orchestra. Besides giving regular concerts in its own locale, the SOC regularly goes on tour, having made notable appearances at Carnegie Hall and major concert venues in Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and across Europe and Asia. The ensemble also appears annually at the St. Olaf Christmas Festival, which has received television coverage from PBS and is regularly broadcast over Minnesota Public Radio. The SOC has made numerous recordings over the years, mostly on its own label, St. Olaf Records. A few collaborative efforts are available from Avie, Linn, and Vox.
St. Olaf Lutheran Choir was founded in Northfield, MN, in 1912 by F. Melius Christiansen. Its original membership was only partially made up of St. Olaf students. The ensemble would later drop "Lutheran" from its name and accept only students as members. Christiansen served as director of the SOC until 1943, when his son Olaf Christiansen succeeded him. The younger Christiansen's tenure was also lengthy, ending in 1968 with the appointment of Kenneth Jennings as conductor. By that time the St. Olaf Choir was well-known internationally, and under Jennings the ensemble gained even greater renown with its participation in major recordings like the Ravel Daphnis and Chloe, for Vox (1974), and with a 1975 appearance in Rome, on invitation from the Vatican, for ceremonies opening Holy Week.
In 1986 Jennings broke further ground, leading the SOC on its first far-Eastern tour, with concerts in China, Japan, and Taiwan. Jennings served until 1990, when Anton Armstrong was appointed conductor. Armstrong has turned out numerous popular recordings during his tenure, with such as efforts as Advance Australia Fair, taken from the SOC's 1997 concert tour of Australia and New Zealand. In 2005 Armstrong led the SOC in concert at the White House to mark ceremonies for the National Day of Prayer. Armstrong still serves as conductor of the SOC. Among his and the SOC's later recordings is the 2008 Mozart Requiem on the Avie label. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi