More than 600 student musicians perform in this year's annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival.
Tune in to Classical 91.5 on Wednesday, December 25 at 8 p.m. for this 100-year-old tradition. It was actually 101 years this December when a Norwegian immigrant named F. Melius Christiansen had the idea to bring together students, faculty and their families for an evening of singing and contemplation. Even back then, shopping, travel plans, parties and college finals made this time of year extremely hectic — and the real meaning of Christmas just got buried among long to-do lists.
As the years passed — this Christmas program really caught on — in a huge way — it's expanded into a festival of word and music that includes five choirs, a symphony orchestra, five conductors, two pastors and the 4,000 audience members who are invited to sing along — and St. Olaf's festival is one copied by college music programs all over the country.
Anton Armstrong is the Artistic Director of the festival and tells me this is much more than a concert — it's a transformative journey. "It's not entertainment, in the sense of Radio City Music Hall. It's not entertainment in some of the grand spectacles that some of the television specials have turned into over Christmas. But what it does is takes very heartfelt words and beautifully crafted scores and asks each of us to open all of who we are — body, mind, spirit and voice — so that we can take in this message anew."