The year 1930 was to be an unusually festive year in Norway especially in the Trondhjem district, the 900th anniversary of the Christianizing of the country. For it was in the year 1030 that the forces of the Christian King Olaf fought the armies of the heathen kings in a great battle at Stiklestad near Trondhjem and Norway became a Christian nation. King Olaf lost his life in that battle. He was greatly beloved by his people. After his death he was sainted and in Norwegian history is known as “St. Olaf” to distinguish him from other leaders who also had the name Olaf. Our college on the Hill bears his name. For when Pastor Muus sought a name for the new school he had been instrumental in founding in Northfield in 1874, he selected the name of this king, St. Olaf.
Pastor Muus was born near Trondhjem and lived in that district through childhood and youth before coming to America. Like all others from that district in Norway, he had the highest regard and admiration for this Christian warrior of old.
The institution in Northfield which Pastor Muus had founded and named was well-known in Trondhjem in 1930, for two St. Olaf College organizations had visited the city in previous years, the St. Olaf Band in 1906 and the St. Olaf Choir in 1913. It was not surprising, therefore, that an invitation was sent by the Festival Committee in Trondhjem to the St. Olaf Choir requesting the organization to again come to Norway and take part in the 1930 celebration. The invitation was carefully considered and accepted.
Church dignitaries from many Christian countries of the globe were expected to attend the celebration and Norwegians who had emigrated to America. and to other countries were sure to return that summer in large numbers to pay their mother country a visit. The Trönderlag, a league or association of people that had emigrated to America from the Trondhjem district, was making great preparations for a visit to the old homeland.
As most of the members of Trönderlag were from the Midwestern states, it seemed desirable that the officers of this organization, the manager of the St. Olaf Lutheran Choir, and the general agent of the Norwegian-America Steamship Company should meet and plan jointly especially for the eastbound sailing to Norway. Consequently, meetings were held and agreements arrived at concerning the best methods of procedure. This was quite important as there was to be an official welcome in Norway. Then too, it was important that sufficient space be reserved on the transatlantic liners for the members of the choir and their friends, and also for members of Trönderlag.
Some of the items of the agreement arrived at were the following:
1. Trönderlag and the St. Olaf Lutheran Choir mutually agree to join forces to make the tour to Norway together in 1930. The sailing from New York is to be the June 28th sailing of STAVANGERFJORD of the Norwegian-America line.
2. Trönderlag agrees that Mr. Paul G. Schmidt, manager of the St. Olaf Lutheran Choir, shall act as booking agent for this sailing.
3. Rebates on the tickets sold by Mr. Schmidt are to be credited to the St. Olaf Choir to help pay their expenses of the trip. A large number of berths on the STAVANGERFJORD were reserved and sold with the result that the commission from the sale of berths and sightseeing tours in Europe amounted to $6,500 which was a great financial help to the choir.
Widespread announcement was, of course, made in Norway that the St. Olaf Lutheran Choir had accepted the invitation to take part in the great celebration in Trondhjem. The announcement very likely was also received in Germany, for it was not long before an invitation came from the city of Augsburg to have the choir also take part in a nationwide celebration in Germany in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. This invitation was also accepted.
These preliminary arrangements meant that the choir of 1930 was scheduled to go abroad on what probably would be the longest and most important tour the organization had ever made, and it was quite evident that much planning and a tremendous amount of work would have to be done.
Nordmanns Forbundet (the league of Norsemen) in Norway would be ready to give all possible assistance in arranging a tour in Norway and the German Festival committee in Augsburg would arrange the concerts in Germany.
Mr. J. Jörgen Thompson was again asked to go to Norway early in the spring to plan with the help of Nordmanns Forbundet the concert tour in that country. He was also to arrange some concerts in Sweden and Denmark, and then go to Augsburg to confer with the committee there and give such advice and assistance as he felt would be needed to complete arrangements for a series of concert stops in key cities of Germany. He was also asked to see that arrangements would be made for a trip by the entire choir from Augsburg to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play.
My work in connection with the tour was to book twenty-five concerts en route to New York, to arrange a grand farewell concert in the Minneapolis Auditorium, to complete all steamship arrangements for the choir and for a host of other passengers, and to promote three separate sightseeing tours through European countries under the sponsorship of a travel bureau known as “Lutheran Tours.” Then, of course, I had my college teaching to take care of and also my duties and responsibilities as a singing member of the choir; and this meant daily attendance at choir rehearsals and memorizing some rather difficult anthems which were included in the program that was to be sung in Europe. It was a rather strenuous assignment of work for us all.
Among those in Minneapolis who were very helpful in getting the promotional work of the farewell concert off to a good start, Mr. S. H. Holstad and Mr. O. I. Hertsgaard deserve special mention. The first important contact made with their help was with the Minneapolis Civic and Commerce Association of which Mr. B. B. Sheffield was president and Mr. Perry S. Williams executive director. They in turn solicited the cooperation of other groups and individuals, among them The Minneapolis Church Federation, the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, The Honorable Theodore Christianson, Governor of Minnesota, Dr. L. D. Coffman, President of the University, and Mr. William F. Kunze, Mayor of Minneapolis. A St. Olaf Choir Committee of thirty-two prominent citizens was secured and a great deal of desirable publicity was given the concert through verbal announcements at dinners and meetings and through stories and statements in the daily papers. Mr. Henri Verbrugghen, conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, issued this statement:
“The choir’s appearance in Europe will be a revelation. It will be an asset not only to Minnesota but to the United States and it will add materially to the cultural contribution of America to the world.”
Mr. W. E. Edgar, for many years owner and editor of The Northwestern Miller and The Bellman, asserted: “Minneapolis will not do its full duty to the St. Olaf Choir even if it fills the auditorium. I will go any reasonable distance any time to hear this great choir and no ordinary price for a ticket is proper compensation to the choir for the enjoyment and uplift it gives me.”
The date for the concert was Tuesday, April 29, and the place selected, the Minneapolis Auditorium. There was a heavy demand for tickets, and quite a number sent a contribution in addition to the admission price. The concert was a great success in every way.
For the trip to New York two Jefferson Transportation buses were chartered and one Skellet truck for baggage. The singers left Northfield on June 3rd, and on one of the last days before the departure, the college faculty gave a farewell reception which was thoroughly appreciated by all choir members. For the next twenty-five days the schedule called for a concert each day, the last one in Brooklyn, N. Y., on the evening before embarking on the transatlantic liner. The route followed by the buses took the choir through southern Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania and many interesting places were visited. The boys frequently played baseball in the afternoon and there was considerable friendly rivalry between two teams that had been chosen. Swimming was also a favorite pastime and quite frequently picnic lunches were arranged instead of stops in restaurants for the noonday meal. On the morning of the sailing date, June 28, our two buses picked us up at the hotel, drove to the waterfront, and out on the pier alongside the Stavangerfjord. The wives of our two drivers had come to Brooklyn by train to accompany their husbands back to Minneapolis. They were with us on the buses on the drive to the pier and before they left us, arrangements were made to take the two drivers and their wives aboard to be guests of the choir at the noonday meal in the ship’s diner. This was a very enjoyable occasion, for a splendid meal with smorgasbord was served. It may be mentioned that one of the drivers is still with the Jefferson Transportation Company but no longer as a bus driver; for he has been promoted and for some years now has been traveling passenger representative.
As already mentioned, this sailing of the Stavangerfjord was the official sailing from America to the celebration in Norway, and of course all available space on the boat had been sold. Most of the choir members were assigned berths in second cabin class, a few in first class.
When the boat had gotten well under way, Captain Irgens came to my room to tell me he was ready and anxious to do everything possible to entertain the choir while they were on board. When I told him the choir members would not be permitted to take part in dancing, he seemed a bit worried. That was one of the principal forms of entertainment on board ship. I assured him, however, that the members could easily arrange their own entertainment. I explained that rehearsals were scheduled for ten o’clock each forenoon and for three o’clock each afternoon. In the evening the students could gather in the large reception room and play games of various kinds. I said I was sure a very enjoyable trip was in store for us all. This program was carried out day after day and quite often the captain himself joined the choir in their games.
On July 4 all passengers gathered on deck for a grand parade and a program in honor of the day. Dr. J. A. Aasgaard spoke and the choir sang a number of songs, among them our National Anthem.
During this 4th of July celebration it was learned that one of the girls in the choir had her birthday on July 4th and her roommate on May 17th. As they were both of about the same height and build they were given the name “Independence Twins.”
The route of the Stavangerfjord was changed somewhat and for the first time in the career of the steamship company it was scheduled to go directly to Trondhjem where the festival was to be held and where the official welcome was to be given to the American party.
We reached the outer entrance to the Trondhjem fjord on July 8 at about seven o’clock in the morning and were met by a boat on which were members of the reception committee and our advance representative, Mr. J. Jörgen Thompson. Arrangements for the reception and welcome as well as plans for the housing of the guests, were explained before the arrival in the city. There were in all about eleven hundred passengers on board and about one half of this number planned to disembark that morning. The main festivities of the great celebration were not to take place until July 29, and many of the passengers made use of the three weeks of the interim to visit relatives and friends in different parts of Norway.
When we reached the city our liner had to anchor in the outer harbor and a number of smaller boats brought the passengers ashore. I will never forget an amusing incident that occurred as our first boat load came to the pier. I must explain, first of all, that there was quite a language controversy in Norway that year and some names of cities had been changed by law enactment to names that had been in use in olden times. Christiania was changed to Oslo and Trondhjem to Nidaros and, we were told, people were subject to a fine if they did not use the changed name. There were many who were opposed to the change. A great crowd had gathered in the streets and on housetops near the landing. Suddenly, from one of the roofs a sailor in a tremendous voice called out, “Welcome to Trondhjem,” a daring challenge to those who insisted the name should be “Nidaros.”
Our choir party disembarked about ten o’clock in the forenoon and were taken at once to homes in the city where they were to stay the next two nights. They were instructed to meet again at the Olaf Tryggvason monument in the center of the city at seven o’clock in the evening and march from there to the Bishop’s Square, an open space next to the cathedral, where the official welcome was to be given. According to estimates, more than forty thousand people gathered in the open spaces and streets around the monument that evening and most of them followed the procession to the cathedral.
At this official welcoming ceremony our choir sang some numbers and a large choir of local singers responded. There also were a number of speakers. A rather unfortunate incident took place during the proceedings. The principal speaker for the occasion had decided to give his address in the newly proposed Norse Landsmaal, which evidently the majority of the people did not understand very well or did not like. The tremendous crowd soon began to express its disapproval by clapping hands very noisily so that the speaker could not be heard at all. For some time there was considerable confusion on the speakers’ stand. Members of the committee pleaded with the crowd to allow the speaker to proceed without interruption, but not very much attention was paid to their request. Everyone felt very much relieved when the speaker finally finished.
The first concert in Norway was given on the following evening in a large auditorium known as Singers Hall, after which a splendid reception had been arranged to which both members of Trönderlag and choir were invited.
From Trondhjem the choir was taken some distance south to a small village, Melhus by name, where a concert was given in a beautiful church. The good people of the community had prepared special refreshments for the occasion, Flötegröt or Römmegröt, a delicacy made of rich cream and milk. This was served after the concert and as the young folks in the choir had had a rather strenuous day and were hungry, many of them partook too freely of the rich food. Sleepers had been engaged for the trip from Melhus south and arrangements had been made for a bountiful breakfast next morning at Hamar. However, when the train stopped in Hamar and all were to go to the depot dining room, very few made their appearance. I did not know what the trouble was until someone told me a great many of the choir members were suffering from severe stomachache. The rich food at Melhus was no doubt the cause of their trouble. A doctor was called and was able to give partial relief to some, but most of those who were ill did not fully recover for several days. This was especially unfortunate as the concert that night was to be given in the University Auditorium in Oslo, and the King and the Crown Prince were to attend. Not all the members felt well enough that night to take their places on the choir risers; one or two stayed out. However, during the singing of the first group quite a few were obliged to leave the choir and lie down for rest in an adjoining room. During the brief intermission I left the choir and went out to see how they were getting along and found most of them crying because they wanted so badly to help out in the singing. The concert nevertheless was a success in every way and all critics next day in their reviews wrote in highest terms of the magnificent work of Dr. Christiansen and the choir. Very few in the audience knew that the members left the choir because of illness; they all thought it was part of a fixed program and that at certain times members were supposed to take a rest.
Next morning the choir was taken to Ullern, a short distance out from the center of the city, where brief services were held in the church in memory of a young man, Nils Jakob Wulfsberg, who had come to St. Olaf College as a member of the faculty in September, 1928, but had lived only a few months after coming to Northfield. His father was the pastor of this church in Ullern. Then in the afternoon the choir members were guests of U.S. Minister Lauritz Swenson and his daughter at the American Embassy in Oslo. On this occasion an honorary doctor’s degree was conferred on Minister Swenson by St. Olaf College, Dr. Aasgaard having been commissioned to give the citation and confer the degree.
The itinerary which Mr. Thompson had planned included some short trips to nearby places in southern Norway, then a tour along the coast in a chartered boat, stopping in the larger cities for evening concerts, and arriving in Trondhjem again in time for the festive celebration on July 29. The boat which had been selected this time was the ZETA, and a little more than two very enjoyable weeks were spent aboard. It was very interesting for Dr. Christiansen and me to visit these beautiful cities for the third time, again with the choir. Eidsvold and Larvik were of special interest to Dr. Christiansen. He was born in the vicinity of Eidsvold and was baptized in the church there. It must have touched his heart deeply when the choir sang in this old church. Larvik was the town of his youth and he told me many stories of his boyhood days there and introduced me to many of his early friends. There the choir sang in the church in which he had been confirmed.
Many interesting places were visited along the coast. I remember especially an automobile trip out from Stavanger where we had an unusual view of the rolling sea. Also an excursion in Bergen to the Grieg home and a tour through the home in which the famous composer wrote many of his beautiful musical compositions. A stop at the quaint hexagonal church in Veblungsness and an auto trip to Romsdal, with a wonderful view of Romsdals Horn, are also memorable events of the tour.
The events in connection with the festivities in Trondhjem on July 29 were of course the most festive and perhaps also the most important of the entire tour in Norway. There was to be an imposing parade to the cathedral of church dignitaries from many countries of the globe and the place of each one in the parade was very carefully decided by the celebration committee. It was indeed a wonderful spectacle to see all these dignitaries in their colorful robes. The choir, dressed in choir garb, was assigned an important place in this parade for it was to take part in this festive service in the cathedral. The building was, of course, filled to overflowing and thousands stood outside. It was an unforgettable experience to be privileged to take part in a program of such world-wide significance.
The choir was scheduled to give its concert in the cathedral the following day, and this concert was to be broadcast to America.. It was late when the singing began but according to estimates an audience of ten million heard the choir on this trans-oceanic broadcast, the first such broadcast of any American concert organization. From the cathedral in Trondhjem the voices of the singers were carried to Southampton, England, over telephone wires by way of Oslo, Stockholm, and Berlin. From the British Isles a short wave transmitter carried the broadcast to Long Island, New York, where it was connected with the nationwide network. National baseball games were stopped and announcements made to the crowds to listen to the St. Olaf Choir singing in Europe. A large number of cablegrams were received the next day from friends in America saying they had heard the choir.
PROGRAM SUNG IN THE CATHEDRAL IN TRONDHJEM ON JULY 30, 1930,
AS PART OF THE 900TH ANNIVERSARY FESTIVITIES
|Sing Ye to the Lord||
J. S. Bach
|Benedictus Qui Venit||
|Nu Runden Er Den Saele Stund||
F. Melius Christiansen
|O Hoved Höit Farhaanet||
H. L. Hassler
|How Fair the Church of Christ Shall Stand||
|Deilig Er Jorden (Beautiful Savior)||
Arr. F. Melius Christiansen
|Motet for Advent||
|O How Shall I Receive Thee As Thou Once Wast Received|
|I Himmelen, I Himmelen||
Arr. F. Melius Christiansen
|Lost in the Night||
Finnish Folk Song
“Nu Runden Er” was a hymn of greeting to Norway on the occasion of the 1930 Festival. The words are by Pastor D. C. Jordahl of Ridgeway, Iowa, and the music by F. Melius Christiansen.
Our advance man, Professor J. Jörgen Thompson, was obliged to leave us in Trondhjem and return to America. I was of course sorry to see him go for he had been of tremendous help to us all in Norway and from now on for the rest of the tour I would have to look after things alone.
From Trondhjem the choir again headed south to Oslo where two more concerts were given, one in Our Saviors Church and another in the huge Mission Auditorium. Both of these concerts were entirely sold out. Moss, Sarpsborg, and several other cities in southern Norway were yet to be visited.
In Moss our director was to meet his father. We went to the home where he was staying and as we neared the house I got my camera in readiness and took a picture as Dr. Christiansen walked up the porch steps to grasp his father’s hand. The elder Christiansen was a grand old man, very proud of the accomplishments of his son F. Melius.
From southern Norway the choir went on to Sweden where stops were to be made in Gothenburg and Malmö. The Gothenburg concert was given on a Sunday and when we reached the city and I had taken the choir members to the hotel, I went back to the depot to arrange the transfer of our trunks and risers to the auditorium. There I was told that I could not take the baggage out of the depot because it was checked and no one there could release it on Sunday. All the baggage men were on weekend vacations. I argued with the agent at length without success. Luckily a truck driver overheard some of the conversation and, calling me aside, offered to take the responsibility of transferring our baggage without removing the baggage checks. I accepted the proposition and in that way got the risers and choir robes to the concert hall.
After the concert I had to go back to the depot to check the baggage and trunks to the next stop. There were in all seventy-six pieces of checkable baggage as each member had a tour robe, and in addition there were a number of trunks and the risers. The agent insisted on checking this baggage piece by piece. First, there was a ticket to be bought for each piece as an addition to the party ticket. The amount to be paid was the same for each piece of baggage regardless of size or weight. This smaller ticket was called a “tillaeg” which means “an addition.” Then each piece was weighed separately and the cost of checking it to the next stop was carefully and tediously computed. Although all of the pieces went to the same stop on the same train and I was paying the entire bill, the agent would not weigh them lumped together but insisted on going through the tiring process for each piece separately. I did not get through until four o’clock in the morning.
Both concerts in Sweden were very well attended. From Malmö the party went by ferry to Copenhagen where the concert was given in the cathedral, “The Church of Our Lady,” in which may be seen on the altar Thorwaldsen’s famous statue of Christ with outstretched arms, “Come Unto Me.” Along the side walls are the statues of the apostles. Arrangements had been made to have the choir stand in the space immediately in front of the “Christus” statue, a most wonderful setting for our concert. Our stay in Copenhagen was very much enjoyed and was long enough to permit the choir folks to visit a number of very interesting places, the Tivoli Amusement Park, Glypthotec, and other museums.
The next move was by express train from Copenhagen to Berlin via Gedser in the southern part of Denmark and arriving in Germany at Warnemünde. At Gedser the train was divided into sections and put on a huge ferry boat. Crossing an arm of the Baltic Sea took a number of hours during which time the choir members left their coach seats and found places on the upper deck of the boat. It was a beautiful day, the sea was calm, and there was much to see of great interest. When we reached the German shore it did not take the train crew long to couple the sections of the train and soon we were speeding toward Berlin.
As we had entered a new country all passengers were obliged to show their passports to the inspector who would soon be coming through the train. I announced this to the choir and asked them to have their passports ready. It was not long before one of the members came to me and said she had lost her purse containing her passport, travelers checks, and cash. She thought she had left it on the upper deck of the ferry boat but she was not sure. There was little I could do at the moment as the train was a fast train and there would be no stops for some time. First of all, I had to explain things to the inspectors; then when the train did come to its first stop I sent telegrams to various places and individuals asking their help in locating the purse. In the course of the next several days the replies came in but none were favorable. No purse had been found. I did not have much trouble in Germany from the circumstance we had a passenger in our party without a passport; but I began to worry about the return entrance into our own country where I knew the inspections were very strict. I therefore cabled Washington, explaining what had happened and asking what I should do. I soon received reply that when the choir came to Frankfurt, Germany, I was to see the American Consul for further instructions and information. At Frankfurt we were told that a new passport would be issued, but the young lady was first to go to a photographer to get a photo and then fill out the usual questionnaire. The officials were very friendly and helpful and made us feel very much relieved.
The sequel to this little incident occurred about two months after we had returned to St. Olaf. I received a letter in November from the American consul in Copenhagen stating that a purse had been brought to his office and that in a passport found in the purse was a note that in case it was lost and found, I was to be notified. The consul asked what he should do with the purse. I replied at once asking him to send it to me. When it arrived I called the owner and gave it to her. Nothing was missing. Not only the passport but all the travelers checks and the cash were returned.
We arrived in Berlin late in the afternoon and were housed in hotels. Next morning at breakfast most of the members of our party were afraid they might have trouble ordering their food. They had been in Norway nearly a month and had learned some Norwegian. Now, suddenly, they were in another country where a different language was spoken. So those who had studied German at St. Olaf took the lead in trying to speak German and helping the others. One of the boys gave his order to the waiter somewhat like this: “Ich will, ich will kogt egg haben.” The waiter answered at once in pure English: “If you want boiled eggs, just say it in English.”
A representative of the Augsburg celebration committee met us in Berlin and told us he had been commissioned to travel with us through Germany and assist us in every possible way with travel, concert, and housing arrangements. One of our first problems had to do with the risers or platform sections on which the choir members stood during a concert and which we had brought with us from America. Our German friend, in consultation with others, told us we could not use these risers in Germany as our concerts would be in churches and cathedrals in which there would not be suitable room to set them up. It was therefore decided to store them in Berlin and pick them up again when the choir was to return to give their concert there later in the month. A drayman was given the checks on the risers and told to put them in temporary storage and our German representative took a receipt.
The choir was not scheduled to give a concert in Berlin at this time but was to go to Augsburg first. We therefore took the train for Augsburg where we spent a number of very pleasant and interesting days.
Our first concert in Germany was given in Nordlingen, a city some distance to the north of Augsburg. The cathedral in which we sang was an imposing structure and a large audience came to the concert. Arrangements had been made to take the choir next day by bus to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play. After a very interesting drive through this beautiful southern Bavarian country we came to Oberammergau and were housed in homes of the townspeople. About five thousand visitors arrive each day to see the play, and of course the same number leave. Dr. and Mrs. Aasgaard were on this trip and were assigned room in the home of the young girl who portrayed the part of Salome in the play. I had been assigned to a home near the Aasgaard’s. Several members of the family where I stayed had parts in the play, two sons in the chorus and the father in a minor role. The play started next morning at about eight o’clock and continued throughout the day with an hour and a half for noonday lunch. We therefore stayed in Oberammergau two nights and returned to Augsburg on the third day of the trip.
The festivities in Augsburg included a service in the St. Anna Church on Sunday, Dr. Aasgaard preaching the sermon in German and the choir singing an anthem. The festival St. Olaf Choir Concert was given next day in another beautiful cathedral in the city, the Church of the Barefoot Monks. A capacity audience greeted Dr. Aasgaard, Dr. Christiansen, and the choir on both of these occasions and a magnificent reception was arranged for all in another of the famous buildings of the city, the “Goldener Saal” or Golden Hall. A conducted tour through the city with an English-speaking guide was another interesting experience for the entertainment of the choir members.
Leaving Augsburg, the tour continued through many of the larger cities of Germany and also through some of the smaller ones, those especially dear to Lutherans, Wittenberg and Eisenach. Naumburg was a great surprise to us all. The cathedral there was one of the largest we had seen. The statues and ornamentations were wonderful. After the concert, the choir members arranged a party in the hotel where we all stayed and invited several of the citizens of the community to be their guests — the bishop of the cathedral, a local news reporter, and several residents of the city who had been in America.. A splendid meal was served, songs were sung, and a good time was had. In the daily paper next day the reporter described the party in detail and stressed the fact that these young Americans really had a wonderful evening without the use of intoxicating drinks.
The bishop of the Naumburg Cathedral sent me a large book describing this wonderful structure and giving its history. I learned that at the close of the first world war, when treaties of peace were to be signed, one of the French demands was that the statues and other decorations in the cathedral be given to France; this, however, was not allowed.
The Luther cities, Wittenberg and Eisenach, were included in the itinerary and a concert was given in each city. In Wittenberg a pilgrimage was made to the famous Schloss Kirche (Castle Church), and all stood in silence before the church doors made famous by Dr. Martin Luther when in 1517 he nailed on them his Ninety-five Theses. The original wooden doors were replaced in 1858 by bronze doors on which the Ninety-five Theses are embossed, also in bronze.
Entering the historic church we noted first the grave of Melancthon and then later gathered around Luther’s grave which is in the front of the church near the pulpit. The concert in Wittenberg was given in the State Church, not in the Castle Church.
In the State Church some interesting observations were made. In one of the rooms a number of paintings by Cranach, painter of the well-known Luther portrait, had been hung. One of these portrayed the Last Supper and another the conversion of Paul on the Damascus Road. The very interesting thing about these paintings was that the faces painted by Cranach were those of his friends in Wittenberg, his own likeness was included in each group.
The stay in Eisenach included a visit to the Wartburg Castle, an unforgettable experience. An English-speaking guide led the way through the castle, to the room in which Luther lived while he translated the New Testament. On one of the walls much of the plaster had been removed and we were told that it was here that Luther had thrown his ink well at the evil spirit. In the course of time small pieces of plaster had been removed by tourists as souvenirs and quite a hole had been made in the wall. In this same castle is the large hall where Wagner first conducted Tannhäuser and some of his other operas.
The St. Thomas Church in Leipzig was also one of the churches of special interest to the members of the choir. This was the church of Johan Sebastian Bach and his choir, and much later of Gustav Schreck. Here it was that Dr. Christiansen spent much time while a student at the Leipzig Conservatory, listening to rehearsals and concerts of the St. Thomas Choir under the direction of Schreck. Dr. Christiansen often told me, as he no doubt has told others, what a profound influence Schreck and the singers of his choir had had on him, and how he had decided to try to bring to America some of the choir essentials and ideals he had absorbed there during those rehearsals. The choir spent much time during the day in browsing through the rooms of the famous church. All gathered around the grave of Bach and stood for a brief moment in silent meditation. The concert was given in the church in the evening.
Other churches and cathedrals in which the choir sang in Germany were the St. Lorenz Cathedral in Nürnberg, a most beautiful building, St. Paul in Frankfurt, St. Michael in Hamburg, and the Dom in Berlin.
The stop in Berlin and the concert in the Dom were of course looked forward to with great anticipation. The Dom was a magnificent cathedral. The choir sang from one of the balconies to a very large and enthusiastic audience. The music critics in their reports of the concert in next day’s dailies praised the choir and director in highest terms.
It was here in Berlin that I asked the choir one day if they would like a typical German dinner for the next meal and all replied enthusiastically in the affirmative. So the order went out to the chef for sauerkraut and frankfurters. When that meal was served, each individual was given a huge platter on which were six good sized frankfurters and a sumptuous supply of kraut. I do not believe anyone in the choir was able to eat half his portion although it was a delicious dish.
For me, the day in Berlin was not the most pleasant. Our risers had been stored somewhere in the city on the day we arrived in Germany two weeks earlier. Our German representative had taken the name of the truck driver and the address of his place of business and a receipt and now we planned to pick up the baggage again. When inquiries were made, we were informed that the truck driver had gone out of business and had left the city and no one seemed to know how to reach him. We were therefore obliged to get a taxi and drive from one storage place to another until finally late in the afternoon the risers were located.
The last concert in Germany and of the tour was given in Hamburg in the large St. Michael Cathedral. The local pastor was very gracious and helpful and when I asked him to speak in German on behalf of the choir, to thank not only the assembled audience, but all the people in Germany whom we had met, for their wonderful hospitality, he consented and gave a heart warming talk. There was no cheering in the church but when the concert had ended and the choir members had put away their robes and had come out into the street, they found the entire audience waiting for them, clapping hands and cheering. It was a wonderful “good-bye.”
During the following years I received many letters from different parts of Germany telling me they still remembered the beautiful singing and asking when the choir would come again. Some of these letters also told of the destruction in World War II of some of the grand cathedrals and buildings, especially those in Augsburg and Nürnberg.
From Hamburg our party was to go first to London for a brief stay, then cross England to Liverpool, and return to America. on one of the transatlantic liners of the Canadian Pacific. For the trip from Hamburg to Portsmouth, England, I had engaged first class cabin rooms for all the choir members on the linerMontcalm. We went on board about ten o’clock in the morning and arrived in Portsmouth next forenoon. As soon as I was able to do so, I looked up the chef and asked him if he had already printed the menu cards for the evening dinner. He said he had not and told me I could make up the menu and he would have it printed and distributed at the tables in the dining room. So here is the menu for that evening’s dinner. When the choir members took their places at the table and picked up the cards, they were just a little puzzled at first, but soon burst into uproarious laughter. They had quite a time of it trying to order their meal. The Minneapolis members, of course, all ordered “Minneapolis Beauty Fancies” and got sardines.
Steamer Montcalm of the Canadian Pacific Line
St. James Cocktail
Waseca Savoury Dish
Minneapolis Beauty Fancies
Iced Alexandria Celery
Smoked Red Man
Consomme “St. Olaf”
Boiled Salmon Argyle Style
Sweetbread and Tongue Croquette Randall
Beef Medaillon Round Up Style
Roast Ranch Lamb, Mint Sauce
Golden Wax Beans
Potatoes Boiled and Rissolees
Roast Duckling Northfield
Heart Of Lettuce Waverly Dressing
MONTCALM, Thursday, August 21, 1930
When the choir arrived in St. Paul they were greeted by a host of relatives and friends, happy that the tour had been so successful and thankful that all had safely returned.
During the next two decades, tours through various sections of the country were undertaken. In 1944 the following letter was inserted in the programs that were used at all concerts of the entire tour:
To the Friends and Patrons of the St. Olaf Choir:
We regret very much that Dr. F. Melius Christiansen is unable to be with the St. Olaf Choir on its annual tour this year. He is the founder of the choir and for more than 30 years has been its sole director, traveling with the organization on all of its concert tours, both in this country and abroad.
Four years ago he expressed a wish that his son Olaf, who then was a member of the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and director of the Oberlin Choir, might be his successor. Accordingly, the President of St. Olaf College, after a conference with Olaf, extended a call to him to become his father’s assistant in the Music Department and Associate Director of the St. Olaf Choir. This call was accepted by the younger Christiansen.
During the last few years, father and son have served as co-directors Of the choir, not only during the months Of arduous preparation but also at concerts. Gradually, however, more and more Of this work has been left to the younger man, while the older one stood by, giving from time to time, much valued advice and inspiration.
This year’s choir is altogether a product of the younger director. We had hoped that Dr. F. Melius Christiansen would still be with the choir on its tour, even though the responsibility of directing at concerts would be assumed entirely by his son. He, however, now feels he must remain at home.
While we regret that the element of Time has entered in and has made a change in directorship necessary, we are very happy in our good fortune to have as Dr. Christiansen’s successor a “chip off the old block.” With courage and determination, he has taken hold of the somewhat limited material available this year and has developed a choir which we feel in every respect measures up to the high standard set by its predecessors. He is an exceptional director in his own right — a worthy successor to his distinguished father.
April 3, 1944
PAUL G. SCHMIDT
Manager St. Olaf Choir
Since 1944 Olaf C. Christiansen has developed and directed the choir with outstanding success and the usual annual tours have been made to the east, west, and south.
As was the case with the directorship of the choir, so also with its management it was deemed advisable to secure an assistant to work with me for some time before I retired. In 1948 the college president, Dr. Clemens Granskou, conferred with my son Frederick, who then was in charge of music in the Austin, Minnesota, high school, with the result that he accepted the offer made to him and came to St. Olaf College as assistant manager of music organizations. The father and son tradition prevailed also in this department. The two younger men have carried on with enthusiasm and determination, and have demonstrated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the choir is in as good hands as ever.
As I come to the close of this portion of my story, I would like to give expression to the thoughts that have been the guiding light and compelling urge in the work that both the director, my friend Dr. F. Melius Christiansen, and I have endeavored to do in and through the St. Olaf Lutheran Choir:
But be ye filled with the spirit; speaking to yourselves
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. —
In days of unrest nothing can so cheer the hearts of men in all walks of life as the beautiful harmonies of sacred song. Year after year the St. Olaf Lutheran Choir has spread the light of the gospel to thousands in all parts of the country; and one of the most common expressions used by concert reviewers has been: “They sang their way into the hearts of the people.” It is their beautiful singing of a wonderful message that has gripped so many. The central theme of that message is the story of God’s love and man’s salvation and is worthy of the best presentation it is possible to give it through beautiful singing. No amount of painstaking drill or rehearsal should be spared or considered too strenuous in preparing a program of hymns and chorales that sound forth for the words of so glorious a truth. After every concert tour many letters have been received expressing profound gratitude for the inspiration and spiritual uplift the singing has given. Now, perhaps, more than ever before in our country, that spiritual uplift and encouragement is needed.
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