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St. Olaf Choir’s 2014 national tour to include Birmingham, Montgomerycomment (0)

January 30, 2014

By Carrie Brown McWhorter


St. Olaf Choir’s 2014  national tour to include Birmingham, Montgomery

The world-renowned St. Olaf Choir will launch its 2014 national tour with performances in Birmingham and Montgomery in early February.

The choir will perform Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, and Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. The choir also will join with the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir for morning worship at the Tuskegee University Chapel. The service begins at 9:30 a.m. and is open to the public.

The weekend of performances by the St. Olaf Choir is a rare opportunity to hear one of America’s premiere collegiate ensembles, said Chip Colee, minister of music at First, Montgomery, in Montgomery Baptist Association.

“By most anybody’s standards, the St. Olaf Choir is one of the finest choirs in the world,” Colee said. “The choir has a respected tradition and is just very impressive.”

Many people might be familiar with the choir because of its participation in the annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, which is broadcast nationwide on public television and radio. What listeners may not realize is that the St. Olaf Choir tradition has long been a strong influence on other collegiate choirs around the United States, including the Samford A Cappella Choir. 

“The Samford A Cappella Choir is — if you will — a direct descendent of the St. Olaf Choir, in that the founding conductor of the A Cappella Choir, George Koski, attended St. Olaf and was a member of that choir,” according to Joe Estes, minister of music and worship at First Baptist Church, Trussville, in Birmingham Baptist Association. 

Koski formed the first A Cappella Choir at Howard College (now Samford University) in 1949, incorporating a similar approach to choral singing as that taken by the founder of the St. Olaf Choir, F. Melius Christiansen. Gene Black, who succeeded Koski as the conductor of the A Cappella Choir in 1967 and served until his retirement in 1999, was influenced by Koski and the St. Olaf sound as well.

Hundreds of young musicians and future worship leaders received their training under Black at Samford, thus spreading the influence of the St. Olaf musical tradition throughout Alabama and the world, said Bob Hatfield, minister of music at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, in Birmingham Association.

The combination of Black’s association with the St. Olaf Choir, former St. Olaf conductor Kenneth Jennings and current St. Olaf conductor (since 1990) Anton Armstrong also nurtured a beneficial relationship between the two choirs and the evolving legacy of each, Armstrong said. Armstrong is the fourth conductor in the choir’s 102-year history. 

“Dr. Black often reached out to us in his years as conductor of the Samford A Cappella Choir and derived his approach to choral singing from his own teacher and the influence of the St. Olaf tradition,” Armstrong said. 

Black’s continued work with the Samford Alumni Choir continues this tradition, he added.

In the upcoming national tour performances, the St. Olaf Choir will bring a “smorgasbord of music” to the stage. There will be music of the church from centuries past as well as contemporary compositions. Selections such as André J. Thomas’ “I’ve Just Come From the Foundation,” William Dawson’s arrangement of “Ezekiel Saw de Wheel,” Robert Scholz’s arrangement of William Walker’s “What Wondrous Love” and Yu-Shan Tsai’s arrangement of Philip P. Bliss’ “It is Well with My Soul” will showcase African-American spirituals and American hymnity. 

Guest artist Catherine Rodland will accompany some pieces on grand pipe organ. There is even a part of the performance in which the audience will be invited to sing along with the choir.

Armstrong said audiences should expect much more from these performances than good music.

“Hearing the St. Olaf Choir is more than just a musical experience,” Armstrong said. “What makes this ensemble distinctive is the way our singers perform at the highest artistic level and touch the hearts and souls of our listeners. Through body, mind, spirit and voice, our audiences are transformed.” 

Tickets are required and are available online at www.stolaftickets.com or by phone at 1-800-363-5487. 

Available seating will be on sale at the door on the day of each concert. Additional information on ticket policies can be found at stolaftickets.com.

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