Two events were happening in Denver on the same day and at the same time: The St. Olaf Choir was performing at Augustana Lutheran Church and the Broncos were playing the Patriots for the AFC Championship and a shot at the Super Bowl. So you’ll understand my delight and surprise when we pulled up to the church to find a line of concert-goers on the sidewalk outside the entrance and a packed parking lot.
The St. Olaf Choir has a devoted fan base, and the fans are devoted for a reason: For 104 years, this choir has been the model for the choral arts. They are famed for a tone that is disciplined, controlled and vibrato-free. Their enunciation is clear and they are wondrously in tune, song after song. They are known for blending their many voices into a single voice of many parts.
But my devotion goes deeper. The St. Olaf Choir has kept a body of Christian hymnody alive, and Christians everywhere should be grateful for their care. On the current tour, concert-goers can hear these Catholic treasures: an eighteenth century setting of “Deo Dicamus Gratias,” and a contemporary setting of the Magnificat by David N. Childs. The choir makes sure that Lutheran hymns, such as “When the Morning Stars Together,” are part of the repertoire (and on this one, the audience is invited to sing along.) But conductor Anton Armstrong also cultivates young talent, often from within the choir. One of the performers, Philip Biedenbender, St. Olaf Class of 2016, not only sings and plays piano accompaniment on a couple of numbers, he has written a lovely Christmas carol, “And You Will Sleep,” that the choir sings on this tour.
Armstrong, an African-American, has done a good job of incorporating both African and African-American hymns in to the mix. This tour includes Andre J. Thomas’ setting of the Apostles’ Creed and concludes with a rousing rendition of the traditional spiritual, “Ride On, King Jesus.” As Armstrong says, “I want the power of music — that Spirit — to transform those who perform and those who will hear the message.”
Here’s where you can see and hear that transforming power. Go to stolaf.edu/tickets for tickets:
First Christian Church
Friday, January 29, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Des Moines, Iowa
Saturday, January 30, 2016, 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 31, 2016, 3 p.m.
Monday, February 1, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Kansas City, Missouri
East Heights United Methodist Church
Tuesday, February 2, 2016, 7 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church
Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 7 p.m.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Baylor University, Jones Concert Hall
Thursday, February 4, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
University United Methodist Church
Friday, February 5, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
San Antonio, Texas
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church
Saturday, February 6, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Monday, February 8, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Grace Presbyterian Church
Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 7 p.m.
Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church
Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Bartlett United Methodist Church
Thursday, February 11, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Manchester United Methodist Church
Friday, February 12, 2016, 7 p.m. St. Louis, Missouri
St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saturday, February 13, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Iowa City, Iowa
Boe Memorial Chapel, St. Olaf College
Sunday, February 14, 2016, 3:30 p.m.
Northfield, Minnesota Stream the live concert *No ticket required*