St. Olaf College will host its annual Christmas Festival next week.
The Christmas Festival, a century-long tradition at the college, is considered a celebration of the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season. This year’s celebration is from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 5 to Dec. 7.
This year’s Christmas festival includes the St. Olaf Choir, St. Olaf Orchestra, St. Olaf Cantorei, St. Olaf Chapel Choir, Manitou Singers and Viking Chorus, as well as individual groups and a massed ensemble.
“The festival continues as an outgrowth of Christian conviction and an expression of the rich musical heritage at St. Olaf, a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” the college states.
The first festival, in 1912, was a musical program for the college community, planned and directed by F. Melius Christiansen, founder of the St. Olaf Music Department.
The festival was originally intended as a Christmas program for students and those of the college community to celebrate the end of the semester. It’s now considered one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the U.S. Led by five conductors, it features more than 500 student-musicians.
According to the college, the festival features a solid display of classic Advent and Christmas compositions, carols, hymns and contemporary pieces from a range of composers and cultures, “offering music that both celebrates the Norwegian American history of the college while also highlighting beautiful works from around the globe. It traditionally closes with the hymn “Beautiful Savior.”
“We felt that with all the conflict, all the strife in the world, what we wanted to bring was something that was fresh, something that would give hope, something that would give people a reason not just to celebrate the holiday season, but something that they could take with them throughout the course of the year,” said St. Olaf Christmas Festival Artistic Director Anton Armstrong, who also conducts the St. Olaf Choir. “We’re hoping that people will find a sense of care and compassion — and that maybe, if in a very small way, we help them to be a bit gentler, a bit kinder, a bit more loving, then what we’ve done is a really good thing.”.