St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf celebrates ‘Love and Joy’ with Christmas Festival at Orchestra Hall

Thousands of people gathered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis December 1 and 2 to celebrate the sounds of the season with the 2023 St. Olaf Christmas Festival, Love and Joy Come to You

A tradition since 1912, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival is one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States. Led by five conductors, it features more than 500 musicians who are members of the college’s world-renowned choirs and orchestra.

The video recording of this year’s Christmas Festival will be available for on-demand viewing beginning Wednesday, December 13 at 7 p.m. Learn more and watch the premiere at CDs and digital streaming of this year’s Christmas Festival will be available in early 2024.

St. Olaf Choir Conductor Anton Armstrong ’78 says the Christmas Festival Artistic Committee developed this year’s theme, Love and Joy Come to You, as a progression and response to recent past Festival themes.

“In planning the 2023 St. Olaf Christmas Festival, my colleagues who comprise the Artistic Committee decided we wanted to bring out the joy and celebration that the promise of the birth of the Christ child can bring to the world,” says Armstrong, who serves as the artistic director of the St. Olaf Christmas Festival. “Our more recent themes have tried to bring a musical response of healing and peace as a result of the impact of the COVID pandemic as well as the strife and division present in current country and world. This year we felt that in spite of these continuing issues, we wanted to lift up the love and hope that the world so yearns for today.”

Traditionally held on campus in Skoglund Auditorium, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival was held at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis this year, just like it was in 2022. Orchestra Hall, located on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, is home to the Grammy Award–winning Minnesota Orchestra and is renowned as one of the best concert halls in the country. St. Olaf is proud to welcome the 2024 and 2025 Christmas Festivals back to the Hill, where they will once again take place in Skoglund Auditorium. The college then plans to initiate a two-year rotation between the two venues: two years at Orchestra Hall, followed by two years on campus, and so on.

In addition to providing students with the opportunity to perform at Orchestra Hall, St. Olaf also continues to offer several of the traditions on campus that accompany the Christmas Festival each year — from a traditional Scandinavian buffet dinner to music by the St. Olaf Band and St. Olaf Handbells.

The St. Olaf Band performed during Sunday morning worship in Boe Chapel. Watch the performance below.