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ISSUE 119 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/2/2005

PBS features Norway tour

By Cate Grochala
Staff Writer

Friday, December 2, 2005

A new St. Olaf special, "A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway," will air on PBS this holiday season. The program will feature the St. Olaf Choir, the Nidaros Cathedral Girls Choir (also called Jentekor) and Norwegian mezzo soprano, Randi Stene, at the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway.

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and St. Olaf College produced the program in association with Twin Cities Public Television. The program was taped this summer during the St. Olaf Choir’s tour in Norway.

While "A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway" will air on PBS in a few weeks, this year’s Christmas Festival will not be taped for television. Although Christmas Festival tapings recently have been four years apart, this occurred because funding was available at these times and not because of any college obligation for it to be taped at regular intervals.

"There was no expectation to do it," said B.J. Johnson, manager of the St. Olaf Choir, on taping Christmas Fest this year. "But by collaborating with the NRK for 'A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway,' we were able to produce a new Christmas program with a new format for this year."

It takes three to four years to plan each Christmas Festival and in 2000, the NRK invited St. Olaf to participate in a Christmas special involving the college’s ensembles and Norwegian choirs, which the NRK would primarily fund. Originally, plans called for bringing the entire Christmas Festival to Norway.

"We came very close to having this happen," said Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir and artistic director of Christmas Festival. "My dream would be, in my lifetime, to take the entire Christmas Festival, as we have it here, to Norway. Hopefully, this production will open some doors that would make this possible."

The cost of taping such a large production prevented this from happening for this year, however. Because the St. Olaf Choir had the most recognition in Norway and could be musically balanced with the Nidaros Cathedral’s Jentekor, it was the St. Olaf ensemble selected for "A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway."

Armstrong also praised the acoustics and overall aesthetic quality of the cathedral.

"The cathedral edifice was visually magnificent. It had a natural beauty about it. Also, it was acoustically stunning, much more so than Skoglund," Armstrong said. "It was a long tour for us and I’m very, very proud of the choir. The results were greatly satisfying."

Though taping "A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway" was a positive experience for the choir, both Johnson and Armstrong agreed there will be another taping of Christmas Festival on campus in the future.

"I’m hoping we’ll have the opportunity, and I think the college is committed,” Johnson said. “Choices like this year’s are not easy."

"A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway" will premiere worldwide Dec. 21 and an encore broadcast will follow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Further broadcast information and preview clips of "A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway" can be found at

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