THE WARTBURG CHOIR

Founded in 1937, the internationally acclaimed Wartburg Choir performs sacred music from all historical periods and styles and often collaborates with contemporary composers, including Elaine Hagenberg, Stacey V. Gibbs, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Abbie Betinis, Jake Runestad, Ola Gjeilo, and Kyle Pederson. Choir members are chosen by audition and represent various academic disciplines on campus. Wartburg Choir is a story of dedicated service and learning, told by scores of choir members who have truly learned what it means to be a servant leader. Their experiences create a rich testimony of the choir’s ongoing purpose and passion over the past 85 years.

Following the foundation started by F. Melius Christiansen and Dr. Edwin Liemohn, the Wartburg Choir honors America’s Lutheran choral tradition. The Wartburg Choir celebrates the unaccompanied performance style, annual tours, and maintains the importance of tradition by intentionally performing historical and modern masterworks, all while paving the way for the future of choral music through the performance of new compositions and uplifting emerging composers. The choir performs concert tours throughout the United States annually and travels abroad every three years during the college’s one-month May Term. At Wartburg, we believe music can embrace, heal, and connect people, uniquely inspiring individuals and the world around them. Ensemble tours are an important aspect of a Wartburg education. For more than 85 years, the choir has toured domestically and internationally, touring through United States, the District of Columbia, European countries, Scandinavia, South Africa, and three Canadian provinces. The Wartburg Choir represents one of the five vibrant choral ensembles offered through the music department.

The Wartburg Choir has received many honors in its 85-year history.  The choir most recently was selected to perform at the 2022 Midwestern American Choral Directors Association conference. The Wartburg Choir was named winner of The American Prize in Choral Performance (college/university division) in 2017. The choir has received several invitations to perform at the National ACDA conference, most recently in 2017, and the regional ACDA conferences. In January 2014, 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 have ever heard.” In 2011, the choir was invited to perform at the White House for the “Holiday Concert Series” and at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The Wartburg Choir has appeared in many prestigious concert halls throughout the United States. The choir performed with opera star Simon Estes at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis; Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; and Lincoln Center, New York. and Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago. Estes and the choir also performed two concerts with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague. The Wartburg Choir has performed solo concerts at Carnegie Hall on two different occasions.

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. In May of 2017, a new television production was taped in Wittenberg, Eisenach, Erfurt, Leipzig and Neuendettelsau, Germany as the choir followed the path of Martin Luther and the Reformation. “The Wartburg Choir in Germany: Celebrating 500 years of Reformation” is available for viewing online and has been viewed worldwide. 

Wartburg College has recently celebrated 75 years of Christmas with Wartburg. Thousands come from all over the US to witness the full splendor of Christmas with Wartburg. This award-winning concert combines music, art, poetry, scripture, and congregational singing to create an experience that invites all to welcome in the Advent and Christmas seasons.

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 have ever 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.

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.

Come with the Wartburg Choir as they tour through Germany, following the path of Martin Luther and the Reformation. This documentary was filmed in May 2017 on the Wartburg Choir’s international tour in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

2021-22 MEMBERS

Soprano 1
Natalie Camp, Newton
Kaitlyn Feldman, Panama
Lydia Hobby, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Lydia McInerney, Cedar Rapids
Gwen McQuaig, Wenatchee, Wash.
Amelia Ouverson, Mason City
Holly Rubin, Oelwein
Amber Sweeney, Walcott
Hannah Urias-Boecker, Newton
Kjirsten Zahn, Farmington Hills, Mich.

Soprano 2
Annette Baker, Davenport
Kayla Boeke, Princeton, Minn.
Maddie Ellingson, Waukon
Cam Mears, West Des Moines
Katheryn Opperman, Mount Vernon
Savanna Richardson, Waukee
Morgan Schlichting, Belmond
Emersen Smith, Kenosha, Wis.
Lydia Weippert, Grand Forks, N.D.
Britta Williams, Mora, Minn.

Alto 1
Lizzi Barrett, Jewell
Katriela Caspari, Bloomington, Minn.
Carly Girtz, Princeton, Minn.
Carrie Harper, Coralville
Alex Holden, Fairfield
Natalie Keenan, Ogden
Katelyn Kluver, Portsmouth
Megan McGuigan, Story City
Emma Nelson, Waverly
Kayla Reisch, Kenosha, Wis.

Alto 2
Arinda Barthel, St. Michael, Minn.
Grace Becker, Bloomington, Minn.
Hannah Dutcher, Ogden
Kennedy Hiles, Ogden
Madison Martindale, Story City
Irelynn McMurphy ,Harlan
Olivia Ramaekers, Des Moines
Natalie Segura, Des Moines
Delaney Sorem, Story City
Olivia Walsh, Belgrade, Minn.

Tenor 1
Britt Avery, Story City
Micah Decker, Monona
Benjamin Edwards, Holly Springs, N.C.
Gordy Field, Eldridge
Daniel Miller, Carroll
Max Miller, Spirit Lake
Grant Olson, Story City
Lennon Schriever, Ogden
Hayden Stone, Woodland Park, Colo.
Thomas Supper, Norwalk

Tenor 2
DaQuevion Burke, Waterloo
Ty Fall, Mount Vernon
Joseph Gutzmann, Fond du Lac, Wis.
Theo Herbst-Ulmer, Algona
Brenden Hinspeter, Waukee
Stephen Krcma, Stoughton, Wis.
James Mossman, Winthrop
Ethan Peter, Stewartville, Minn.
Nathan Schindler, Hastings, Minn.
Tristan Voelker, Manchester 

Bass 1
Ethan Beck, Story City
Tony Cadena, Mason City
Travis Errthum-Goode, Knoxville
Jonathan Francisco Pascual, Ottumwa
Carter Hayden, Blairstown
Ben Revier, Owatonna, Minn.
Nate Reynolds, Sumner
Nathan Shultz, Charles City
Rece Vining, Bettendorf
Sam Yoon, Albert Lea, Minn.

Bass 2
Grant Berends, Roland
Noah Cross, Whitten
Eric Dowe, Story City
Nathan Hickox-Young, Reno, Nev.
Derek Jordan, Mount Vernon
Riordan Lujano, Washington
Daniel Novotney, Rockwell
Nathan Onsgard, Stewartville, Minn.
Grant Schnieders, Delhi

DIRECTOR HISTORY

The Wartburg Choir was founded in 1937 by Dr. Edwin Liemohn, a student of F. Melius Christiansen. During his tenure, he set a high standard of choral excellence, initiated the first Christmas with Wartburg festival, 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 and began the tradition of performing at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany. 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. In 2009, Dr. Lee Nelson became the choir’s fourth director. Under his leadership, the Wartburg Choir is in high demand for premieres of new compositions and is known for establishing and empowering collaboration. The Wartburg Choir performs regularly at churches of all dominations and numerous prestigious concert halls.

DIRECTOR + CONDUCTOR

Lee Nelson

Professor of Music / Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting