Christmas at St. Olaf: Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing premiered December 2011.
Since 1912, music lovers have marked the holiday season with one of the country’s most honored traditions, the St. Olaf College Christmas Festival. Initially a small musical program for the college community in Northfield, Minnesota, started by the founder of the school's music department, F. Melius Christiansen, the beloved annual celebration now enjoys a national, and even worldwide, audience.
This year’s centennial performance marks the ninth time that Christmas at St. Olaf has been produced for broadcast on PBS. Five choral ensembles — St. Olaf Choir, Viking Chorus, Chapel Choir, Cantorei and the Manitou Singers — and the St. Olaf Orchestra perform a full repertoire of Christmas compositions, as well as familiar carols and hymns from around the world. Featuring more than 500 student musicians, the vocal groups and orchestra perform separately as well as together. Christmas at St. Olaf, held at the college's Skoglund Center, offers a rich blend of selections from previous Christmas Festivals, including excerpts from R.V. Williams’ "Hodie." Additionally, this year’s performance debuts newly commissioned works by American composers André J. Thomas and David N. Childs.
According to the festival's artistic director and conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, Anton Armstrong, the centennial festival's theme, Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing, draws from the hymn "Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart." Each year since 1938 the Christmas Festival has had a theme, but it was Armstrong who began the tradition of choosing works that best served the theme instead of imposing a theme on music that had already been selected, which had been the practice prior to his arrival in 1990. The theme is developed by the festival's creative team, which is made up of Armstrong; the conductors of the other four choral ensembles — Christopher Aspaas, John Ferguson and Sigrid Johnson; Steven Amundson, the St. Olaf Orchestra's conductor; the college pastor; and the visual designer, Judy Seleen Swanson.
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