More than 600 student musicians are part of this year's St. Olaf Christmas Festival, a 100-year-old tradition deeply cherished in Northfield, Minn., as well as listened to raptly by millions throughout the world.
It was more than 100 years ago this December when a Norwegian immigrant named F. Melius Christiansen had the idea to bring together students, faculty and their families for an evening of singing and contemplation. Even back then, shopping, travel plans, parties and college finals made this time of year extremely hectic — and the real meaning of Christmas just got buried among long to-do lists.
As the years passed, it's expanded into a festival of word and music that includes five choirs, a symphony orchestra, five conductors, two pastors and the 4,000 audience members who are invited to sing along. This year's concert features the first-year men's Viking Chorus, first-year women's Manitou Singers, two of the largest choirs at St. Olaf, the Chapel Choir, and the Cantorei, and the famed 75-member St. Olaf Choir, plus the 90 member St. Olaf Orchestra.