Sample Critical Reviews
"I attended their rehearsal of my O Magnum Mysterium, a piece that is 19 years old and has been recorded more than 100 times. It has been sung by the finest choirs in the world. It is part of the basic repertoire of choral singers. And their performance was wonderful. It brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t talk for two or three minutes because it was so exquisite and sublimely done. It was in the top echelon of any performance of that piece by any choir that I have ever heard. And that is saying a lot. "
- Morten Lauridsen, composer-in-residence, Jan. 23, 2014
Choir, a Mighty Fortress of Skill"
Wednesday, March 3, 2004; Page C04; Washington Post
"Together with the acclaimed bass-baritone Simon Estes, the Wartburg College Choir gave an enthralling concert Monday night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. The school -- in Waverly, Iowa -- is named after the legendary Wartburg Castle in eastern Germany, a fortress perched on a precipice looming over Eisenach, where Bach was born and Luther was housed when he translated the New Testament. The Wartburg College Choir continues much of that German Lutheran tradition today -- a chorus trained with rock-solid discipline and convinced that communal singing sometimes says more than "ordinary" speech."
"Estes, veteran star of opera houses around the globe, still captivates with his fabled majestic stage presence. Now a professor and artist-in-residence at Wartburg, he was a commanding figure Monday in Verdi arias, songs by Copland and Vaughan Williams, and spirituals. Despite the decades, Estes' voice has lost none of its vigor, focus or brilliantly burnished sonority. And his pianissimo is worth a million bucks. Admirably responsive to its conductor, Paul A. Torkelson, the choir has impeccable intonation and excellent diction apart from its slurred (very American) R's. Together with Estes and separately, the singers were at home in many styles, capturing the fresh-air ambiance of a chorus from Copland's "Tender Land" as beautifully as they did the gospel tone of "Music Down in My Soul." Pianist Suzanne Torkelson was a fully supportive accompanist along with students Angela Kohlhaas and Elizabeth Carr."
-- Cecelia Porter © 2004 The Washington Post Company
long breath control"
"In a fraction of a second the dynamics change from maximum to minimum volume. A lightly gliding vibrato can fortify itself in a concentrated block of fortissimo. Not to mention the unbelievably long breath control."
- Translated from May 29, 2000, Thuringer Allgemeine, Germany
encores and a standing ovation"
"[The program] at the Wartburg Castle was a trilogy, including American spirituals, with parts of "Amazing Grace" from "Precious Land" and culminating in a grand finale. The guests from Iowa were ultimately released after three encores and a standing ovation."
- Translated from May 30, 2000, Thuringer Allgemeine, Germany
discipline was impressive"
"Among the accomplishments of the Choir, whose professional discipline was impressive, the following was fascinating: the extensive, not easy to sing, and exclusively sacred music program was performed from memory, from beginning to end... It culminated in a holistic tone of complete homogeneity, rounded off by the enviable numerical balance between female and male voices. Impressive was the well accentuated and flexible dynamics, the not noticeable breathing technique, and the tongue-tying rhythmical precision."
- Translated from Dr. Wolfram Klante's review, May 4, 1999, Thuringer Allgemeine, Germany