History of Gustavus Choir Published

Posted on May 29th, 2011 by

Commitment to Musical Excellence: The 75 Years of the Gustavus Choir by David Holdhusen

Commitment to Musical Excellence: The 75 Years of the Gustavus Choir by David Holdhusen

Gustavus Adolphus College is pleased to announce the publication of David Holdhusen’s Commitment to Musical Excellence: The 75 Year History of the Gustavus Choir. Published by Cambridge Scholars, the work is a result of the research Holdhusen, a 1996 Gustavus graduate, compiled for his doctoral dissertation at Florida State University. With information collected from the Gustavus College Archives, interviews with the current and former conductors, alumni and staff, and more than 40 photos dating from the 1891 Lyric Quartette to the 2008 75th Anniversary Alumni Choir, Holdhusen relates the story of the place of the Gustavus Choir and choral music in the life of the Gustavus Adolphus College.

From the introduction by current Conductor Gregory Aune, it’s clear that Commitment to Excellence is more than a simple re-telling of the “who, what and when” of 75 years of the Gustavus Choir. Aune references Robert Shaw’s belief that perhaps the most important development in choral music in the past century was the movement from its place as recreational pastime to one that reaches the highest artistic standards to “rival that of the instrumental and orchestral genres.” The beginning of that development can be rightly attributed to the work and vision of F. Melius Christiansen and his work with the St. Olaf Choir. Within a few years, Gustavus and other Lutheran colleges in the Midwest followed with programs of their own. Aune continues, “Long noted for their technical and musical accomplishments, rigorous discipline, and professionally managed concert touring, these choirs also function within the greater mission of these church related colleges…..this book documents and affirms the place of the Gustavus Choir in this long and important Lutheran choral tradition that uniquely exemplifies the power of music.”

David Holdhusen

David Holdhusen

A quick reading of the table of contents reveals the impact of the Christiansen legacy and the stature of the Gustavus Choir in the College’s history. From its earliest days, music was a part of the life of the College. Choral ensembles such a the Lyric Male Chorus and the Schumann Ladies Chorus were a part of that history long before G. Adolph Nelson arrived and established the Gustavus Adolphus A Capella Choir in 1932. Even the Choir’s first full concert program reflected the new standards of a capella programming as it included works by Bach, Gretchaninoff and F. Melius Christiansen.

Succeeding conductors have continued to build on that tradition of excellence. From Wilbur Swanson, to Eugene Casselman, Philip F. Knautz, Karle Erickson and Gregory Aune, the primary focus on the highest standards of a capella singing has been front and center for the ensemble. Most of the conductors were directly influenced by the Christiansen legacy and worked to build the reputation of the Choir through excellent programming, increased visibility with the introduction of concert touring, commissioning of new works and a commitment to a great deal of hard work. Each left his particular signature on the Choir.

The rich tradition of the Gustavus Choir continues today, built on the foundation and vision of the conductors who have led it through its 75 years. Whether it be on an international stage or as part of Christmas in Christ Chapel, the rehearsal studio or the recording studio, the Choir has built its legacy with a combination of the centuries-old tradition of music in the Lutheran Church and the commitment to the highest standards of a capella singing. As David Holdhusen wrote for the cover of his book, “For seventy-five years, the members of the Gustavus Choir have lifted their voices in beauty and praise from the small campus on top of the hill.” With this sure foundation, the Choir will continue to lift its voice through the next 75 years.

David Holdhusen’s Commitment to Musical Excellence: The 75 Year History of the Gustavus Choir is available at the Gustavus Book Mark.

 

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