THE WARTBURG CHOIR

The internationally acclaimed Wartburg Choir performs sacred music from all historical periods and styles and often features premiere works of contemporary composers, including Morten Lauridsen, Ola Gjeilo, Ben Allaway, Stacey V. Gibbs, Stanford Scriven, and Connor Koppin ’13. Choir members are chosen by audition and represent most academic disciplines on campus. The choir makes annual concert tours throughout the United States and travels abroad every three years during the college’s one-month May Term. For more than 75 years the choir has toured domestically and internationally visiting 38 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and performed in 21 European countries, Scandinavia, South Africa, and three Canadian provinces. The Wartburg Choir is the select a cappella choir, one of five choirs offered through the music department.

The Wartburg Choir performed at the 2012 and 2014 North Central division of the American Choral Directors Association (NCACDA) conferences. The choir has performed two other times at the NCACDA and twice at National American Choral Director Association conventions. In 2011, the choir was invited to perform at the White House and Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

In 2004, the choir performed with opera star and Wartburg faculty member Simon Estes at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis; Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; and Lincoln Center, New York. The Wartburg Choir made its debut at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago in an April 2006 concert that also featured Estes. He and the choir performed two concerts with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague in December 2006.The choir has appeared at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York in 1985 and 2004 and performed solo concerts at Carnegie Hall in 1989 and 1993. A 1999 Iowa Public Television production of the Wartburg Choir at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany, was broadcast on public television stations throughout the United States. It marked the first performance ever taped for television at the historic castle, where Martin Luther took refuge for 10 months during the stormy days of the Protestant Reformation.

The Wartburg Choir worked with composer Morten Lauridsen who lauded their performance of his O Magnum Mysterium as being “in the top echelon of any performance of that piece by any choir that I haveever heard.” In this video the Wartburg Choir performs Morten Lauridsen’s “Prayer” with him at the piano.

MUSICAL AMBASSADORS

The Wartburg Choir has appeared in many prestigious concert halls throughout the world. The group tours the U.S. each spring and abroad every three years.

TRAVELING THE GLOBE AND MAKING MUSIC. WORTH IT.

LUTHERAN CHORAL TRADITION

The AMERICAN LUTHERAN CHOIR TRADITION is deeply tied to the central role of choral performance in educational institutions of the Midwest, a region often described as the “choral belt.” F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1955), founder of the St. Olaf Choir and mentor to Dr. Edwin Liemohn, founder of the Wartburg Choir, was seminal in shaping the aesthetic of the Lutheran choral sound in the early 20th century. By basing the sound of the choir on the sonority of the string quartet, he created a highly unified ensemble known for its tuning, technical abilities, and musical discipline.

Preferring an unaccompanied performance style, Christiansen ensured that the choir would never be limited by the resources of each performance venue. Thus, he was able to extend the performance outreach of his ensemble to any congregation. The latter defined another key aspect of the Lutheran choir tradition through the emphasis on the touring ensemble. Directors of the choir stress the continuing importance of the tradition, explaining that the Wartburg Choir’s central goal is to sing the music historically and pedagogically as appropriately as possible while still honoring the legacy of the tradition.

2015-16 MEMBERS

Soprano 1 
Rebecca Bennett, Denver, Colo.
Madelyn Carlson, Cedar Rapids
Sammie Hallgren, Minneapolis
Erin Henderson, Edina, Minn.
Coryn Jacobson, Maple Grove, Minn.
Emily Meeker, Altoona
Ellen Opperman, Strawberry Point
Taylor Peek, Albert Lea, Minn.
Emily Smith, Stevens Point, Wis.
Mackenzie Walsh, San Antonio, Texas

Soprano 2 
Ally Diercksen, Manchester
Jesslyn Hall, Washburn, N.D.
Elizabeth Jewitt, Round Lake Heights, Ill.
Stephanie Keiper, Cedar Rapids
Megan Lang, Independence
Molly Savage, Princeton, Minn.
Abby Schott, Liberty, Miss.
Casey Schroeder, St. Louis
Kayla Wiley, Denver
Rachel Zumwalt, Indianola

Alto 1 
Hannah Crumpton, Manchester
Alexis Finder, Tripoli
Hannah Grimm, Ely
Caitlin Hanson, Sioux City
Lindsay Heinen, Eldridge
Holly Koffron, Solon
Kayla Kuethe, Clive
Caria Philgreen, Manchester
Lexi Plumb, Spirit Lake
Haley Rudd, Manchester

Alto 2 
Emily Banwart, Algona
Katherine Bomgaars, Sheldon
Hannah Bryant, Eldridge
Libby DeJardin, Eau Claire, Wis.
Amanda Halvorson, Cedar Rapids
Kamryn Kronschnabel, La Porte City
Madalynn McKelvey, Ottumwa
Greta Nelson, Northfield, Minn.
Abby Singleton, Indianola
Amanda Wright, La Crescent, Minn.

Tenor 1 
Tim Baird, Denver, Colo.
Mitchell Bluml, Marion
Mark Fakler, Emmetsburg
Ryan Henkel, Graymont, Ill.
Andrew Hoyt, Grimes
Justin Ladage, Tripoli
Drew Peeler, Indianola
Ethan Pruisman, Mason City
Alex Shockley, Cedar Falls
Trenton Teske, New Providence
Blaine Woodson, Ossian

Tenor 2 
Riley Anderson, Cedar Rapids
Justin Beals, Indianola
Jacob Bennett, Ellsworth
Cory Brannaman, Mount Vernon
Brady Frieden, Donahue
Caleb Milius, Denver
Jackson Rohweder, Champlin, Minn.
Micah Russell, Mount Vernon
Tristen Sima, Cambridge, Minn.
Mitchell Stover, Gilbertville
Drew Vitale, Hiawatha

Bass 1 
Wes Carlson, Cedar Rapids
Tyler Davis, Urbandale
Noah Dwyer, Cedar Rapids
Jake Huntley, Dodge Center, Minn.
Nathan Lange, Stewartville, Minn.
Leif Olson, Rosemount, Minn.
Brett Schwickerath, Parkersburg
Elliott Stern, St. Paul, Minn.
Tanner Stutzman, Mount Pleasant
Tyler Vogel, Oelwein
Nicholas Walther, Albert Lea, Minn.

Bass 2 
Garrett Carlston, Mount Pleasant
Angelo DeNubbila, Barranquilla, Colombia
Chris Hale, San Antonio, Texas
Tyler Hoey, Jesup
Adam Kurt, Independence
Gunnar Lenzen, Cedar Rapids
Caleb Maughan, Albia
Ben Olson Coon, Rapids, Minn.
Anthony Piscopo, Clear Lake
Zach Schulz, Independence
Landon Stalzer, Story City
Ethan VanderWoude, Pipestone, Minn.

SAMPLE VIDEOS

DIRECTOR HISTORY

The Wartburg Choir was founded in 1937 by Dr. Edwin Liemohn, a student of F. Melius Christiansen, founder of the St. Olaf Choir and the a cappella Lutheran choral tradition. During his tenure he set a high standard of choral excellence, initiated the first Christmas with Wartburg festival in 1947, began the tradition of national concert tours, and coordinated the choir’s first international tour. 

Dr. James Fritschel, a student of Liemohn’s, put his own stamp on the choir beginning in 1968. His singers toured Europe in 1974 and began the tradition of performing at the Wartburg Castle, the college’s namesake in Eisenach, Germany. In 1980, the Wartburg Choir became the first American choral group to win first place at the International Choral Festival in Cork, Ireland. A prolific composer, Fritschel left a lasting mark on the Lutheran choral tradition.

In 1984 Dr. Paul Torkelson, a student of Fritschel’s, became the third director of the Wartburg Choir. His choirs gained international acclaim for their versatility and precision. The Washington Post described the choir as “a Mighty Fortress of Skill” in headlining a review of the 2004 Kennedy Center concert by music critic Cecelia Porter. She described the choir as “a chorus trained with rock-solid discipline…The choir has impeccable intonation and excellent diction.” 

Dr. Lee Nelson became the choir’s fourth director in 2009. Under his leadership the Wartburg Choir amassed many new champions for the group. His efforts have increased the awareness and reputation of the choir. The group is in high demand for premieres of new compositions, and the choir continues to be praised by critics where ever it appears.

DIRECTOR + CONDUCTOR

Lee Nelson

Associate Professor of Music / Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting