First held in 1912, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival is one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States, and has become one of the nation’s most cherished holiday celebrations. Led by five conductors, it features more than 500 student musicians from St. Olaf College’s world-renowned choirs and orchestra. Each group participates individually and as part of a massed ensemble.
The theme of the 2023 St. Olaf Christmas Festival, Love and Joy Come to You, will feature repertoire of classic Advent and Christmas compositions, familiar carols, global hymns, and contemporary pieces.
Anton Armstrong ’78 is artistic director of the Christmas Festival and conductor of the St. Olaf Choir. Adam Reinwald ’00 is conductor of the Chapel Choir and Viking Chorus. Therees Tkach Hibbard conducts the Manitou Singers. James E. Bobb leads the St. Olaf Cantorei. The St. Olaf Orchestra, regarded as one of the finest collegiate orchestras in the United States, is conducted by Chung Park.
The St. Olaf Christmas Festival has also been enjoyed by millions of Americans across the country, who have watched the festival through public television as a broadcast special. In 2013, PBS aired the one-hour television special, Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir, as part of their holiday programming, which won two regional Emmy awards.