The Magic of St. Olaf 

The premiere a cappella choir comes to Eugene Feb. 8

Anton Armstrong knew a good thing when he heard it as an undergrad at St. Olaf College in Minnesota — the school’s choir.

He graduated from St. Olaf in 1978, but he never forgot the choir. Indeed, his post-graduate thesis was devoted to “Celebrating 75 Years of Musical Excellence: The Evolution of the St. Olaf Choir,” and in 1990, he returned to the private Lutheran liberal arts school to become its fourth choir director in its now 111-year history.

Still going strong, Armstrong is leading the critically acclaimed and internationally known 75-member chorus in an 11-city tour that includes a stop at Eugene’s First United Methodist Church. Fans of choral music should be treated to a first-rate performance.

Founded in 1912 by F. Melius Christiansen — and continued by his son Olaf C. Christiansen and Kenneth Jennings — the St. Olaf Choir has always been known for its controlled, disciplined sound free of excessive vibrato, always in tune and smooth in delivery.

That tradition continues, and Armstrong has enlarged the repertoire to include music from the Pacific Rim, Africa and Latin America. He also expanded the choir’s touring horizons to include major concert halls in the U.S. and throughout the world. 

Guest conductors for St. Olaf have included notable names such as Sir Neville Marriner, Sir David Willcocks, Helmuth Rilling and Robert Shaw, and the St. Olaf Choir regularly performs with the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and has performed at the Oregon Bach Festival. The choir also has more than 25 recordings and PBS holiday specials in 2013 and 2018 to its credit. 

The St. Olaf Choir performs 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street. Tickets range from $10 to $35 and can be purchased at or at 800-363-5487.

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