LaGrange College to host internationally acclaimed choir

Published 5:56 pm Monday, January 29, 2024

Thursday will be a night to remember as The St. Olaf Choir brings their 13-city national tour to LaGrange.

The internationally-renowned St. Olaf Choir will perform at Callaway Auditorium at LaGrange College in LaGrange on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. during its 2024 National Tour.

The 75-voice St. Olaf Choir is hailed as one of the nation’s premier ensembles, providing a gold standard in choral performances around the world.

The choir is conducted by Dr. Anton Armstrong, a 34-year-veteran conductor. Armstrong is the fourth conductor to lead the ensemble during its 111-year history. Armstrong is now the school’s longest-serving conductor, but he is also a graduate having sang in the choir as a student.

Armstrong earned his undergrad degree at St. Olaf before going on to get degrees in conducting at the University of Illinois and Michigan State University. He currently serves as a professor of music at St. Olaf College and leads their famed choir.

The St. Olaf Choir and Dr. Armstrong began their 13-city tour on Saturday, which will take them through Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Armstrong said St. Olaf does have a connection to LaGrange, through locals Louis and Mary Kay Smith. The couple is well known to the LaGrange College community for their generosity to the school. The couple is also a generous donor to St. Olaf. Armstrong that said during a lunch with the couple, Lewis mentioned that his great grandfather, Rufus Wright Smith, had been the president of LaGrange College for 30 years, so that put the school on his radar.

“That’s more coincidental than anything. Often on these tours, we go back to the same venues, but this was a new one for us. It’s serendipitous to find out that connection,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the performance Thursday will primarily feature music of a religious nature but some secular music is also included. The choir is also bringing in an organ for accompaniment on a few songs.

“We made our reputation as one of the finest acapella choirs. So there’s still a fair amount of unaccompanied choral music. I also like to bring in other colors, so there are several pieces that will be accompanied by piano and then they’re about four pieces that we are using organ accompaniment,” the conductor said.

Armstrong said LaGrange residents should come out to see the performance if they want to hear choral music at some of the highest levels of performance done by some incredible young people.

“It will be better than watching television or going to a movie. I think they will come away not only entertained in the best sense of that word, but as people have been telling me, they’ll come out transformed,” Armstrong said.

“In a world that has right now a lot of darkness, a lot of division, this is a concert that brings hope, and it brings light and it brings understanding,” Armstrong said.

“People don’t need to sit and watch Fox or MSNBC. They want to come and feel revitalized by seeing young people sing beautiful music with healing texts. It’ll be worth their evening to come.”

“Hearing the St. Olaf Choir in concert is more than just a musical experience,” Armstrong said. “Our singers, performing at the highest artistic level, convey a message of hope. Our music provides a bridge to what can unite us at a time when the world is so divided.”

St. Olaf Choir will perform at Callaway Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 1 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Tickets are available for all tour concerts online at stolaf.edu/tickets/choir. For the LaGrange performance, tickets are $30 for adults/seniors and $10 for students of all ages.