Although my main interest at St. Olaf College has been with the music organizations, there have been others, and while I am reminiscing about my years at college, some of these other interests should perhaps come in for some mention.
There were two faculty committees on which I served as chairman for many years, the “Music and Lecture Course” committee and the “Public Functions” committee.
It was the duty of the members of the former to secure the best possible musicians and lecturers which the budget would allow, and then arrange the details in connection with the proper promotion and presentation of each number on the artist course. Although the funds available were always very meager, a goodly number of fine artists and personalities were brought to the college under our auspices. I remember especially Marcella Kraft, Madame Sundelius, Kirsten Flagstad, Helen Traubel, Brailowsky, Roland Hayes, Piatigorsky, Christopher Morley and Olin Downs. Dr. Christiansen also served on this committee for some years as the chosen representative of the music and arts group.
The members of the Public Functions committee were responsible annually for arrangements in connection with Opening Exercises, Homecoming, Founders Day, Honors Day, Commencement, special speakers and events, such as the visit of Crown Prince Olaf from Norway, the inauguration of President Granskou, and the 75th anniversary of the founding of the college. Included as one of the features of the last mentioned event was the granting to St. Olaf College of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, in which I was privileged to have a part.
The first St. Olaf Christmas Concert for which printed programs were used was given in 1912 on the Sunday before the close of school for the Christmas vacation. The St. Olaf Lutheran Choir and the Choral Union were the organizations that took part. Mr. R. M. Fjelstad, who that year was a student at the college, gave a fitting address and a friend of the Professors Christiansen and Grönseth families sang two tenor solos.
One presentation of the concert was given each year in Hoyme Chapel, and later in the college gymnasium. At first no admission tickets were used and admission was free. The result was that several hours before the time set for the beginning of the program, crowds would gather at the entrance and as soon as doors were opened the rush for the better seats began. It was therefore decided that tickets should be used for admission, but that there should be no charge for these.
The demand for tickets increased from year to year so that in 1936 it was necessary to give two presentations, in 1945 three, and since 1949 four. Even four presentations in the college gymnasium, which seats about 2,500 each evening, does not begin to take care of all requests for tickets, and several thousand are turned away each year.
To plan the program, make all arrangements for its presentation, print programs, prepare and distribute tickets, is quite an undertaking and demands a great deal of work on the part of the organizations, the directors, the college help and the manager of music organizations.
The first spring music festival at St. Olaf was held on May 17 and 18, 1907. A number of choirs from neighboring congregations were added to the music forces at the college and a splendid program was given. As most of the travel at that time was by train it was necessary to secure lodging for a great many visitors and this greatly increased the work of those who were in charge of arrangements. For some years the railroads granted reduced rates to the festival. When the automobile came into general use the attendance ran into the thousands. The concert by the united choirs was from the first given on Sunday afternoon and high school, college, and church choirs participated. The proper seating of so large a chorus in our college auditorium became quite a problem and it was therefore decided in 1942 to invite high school choirs to come on Saturday afternoon and college and church choirs on Sunday. This arrangement has been followed very successfully since that year.
My Years at St. Olaf
Early Family History
My Years at St. Olaf’s School
Interim Days at the University of Minnesota
Teaching and Administrative Assignments at St. Olaf College
New Interest in Music at St. Olaf
The 1906 Band Tour to Norway
Band Trips — 1907 on…
The Founding of the St. Olaf Lutheran Choir Tours of 1912 and 1913
The First Choir Tour to Metropolitan Centers in America
The 1930 European Tour
Some Interesting Experiences
Other College Interests
The Choir Workshop
Dr. F. Melius Christiansen, A Brief Biography
A Notable Achievement