Other College Interests
Although my main interest at St. Olaf College has been with the
music organizations, there have been others, and while I am reminiscing
about my years at college, some of these other interests should
perhaps come in for some mention.
There were two faculty committees on which I served as chairman
for many years, the "Music and Lecture Course" committee
and the "Public Functions" committee.
It was the duty of the members of the former to secure the best
possible musicians and lecturers which the budget would allow, and
then arrange the details in connection with the proper promotion
and presentation of each number on the artist course. Although the
funds available were always very meager, a goodly number of fine
artists and personalities were brought to the college under our
auspices. I remember especially Marcella Kraft, Madame Sundelius,
Kirsten Flagstad, Helen Traubel, Brailowsky, Roland Hayes, Piatigorsky,
Christopher Morley and Olin Downs. Dr. Christiansen also served
on this committee for some years as the chosen representative of
the music and arts group.
The members of the Public Functions committee were responsible
annually for arrangements in connection with Opening Exercises,
Homecoming, Founders Day, Honors Day, Commencement, special speakers
and events, such as the visit of Crown Prince Olaf from Norway,
the inauguration of President Granskou, and the 75th anniversary
of the founding of the college. Included as one of the features
of the last mentioned event was the granting to St. Olaf College
of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, in which I was privileged to have
The first St. Olaf Christmas Concert for which printed programs
were used was given in 1912 on the Sunday before the close of school
for the Christmas vacation. The St. Olaf Lutheran Choir and the
Choral Union were the organizations that took part. Mr. R. M. Fjelstad,
who that year was a student at the college, gave a fitting address
and a friend of the Professors Christiansen and Grönseth families
sang two tenor solos.
One presentation of the concert was given each year in Hoyme Chapel,
and later in the college gymnasium. At first no admission tickets
were used and admission was free. The result was that several hours
before the time set for the beginning of the program, crowds would
gather at the entrance and as soon as doors were opened the rush
for the better seats began. It was therefore decided that tickets
should be used for admission, but that there should be no charge
The demand for tickets increased from year to year so that in 1936
it was necessary to give two presentations, in 1945 three, and since
1949 four. Even four presentations in the college gymnasium, which
seats about 2,500 each evening, does not begin to take care of all
requests for tickets, and several thousand are turned away each
To plan the program, make all arrangements for its presentation,
print programs, prepare and distribute tickets, is quite an undertaking
and demands a great deal of work on the part of the organizations,
the directors, the college help and the manager of music organizations.
The first spring music festival at St. Olaf was held on May 17
and 18, 1907. A number of choirs from neighboring congregations
were added to the music forces at the college and a splendid program
was given. As most of the travel at that time was by train it was
necessary to secure lodging for a great many visitors and this greatly
increased the work of those who were in charge of arrangements.
For some years the railroads granted reduced rates to the festival.
When the automobile came into general use the attendance ran into
the thousands. The concert by the united choirs was from the first
given on Sunday afternoon and high school, college, and church choirs
participated. The proper seating of so large a chorus in our college
auditorium became quite a problem and it was therefore decided in
1942 to invite high school choirs to come on Saturday afternoon
and college and church choirs on Sunday. This arrangement has been
followed very successfully since that year.