Founded in 1937, the internationally acclaimed Wartburg Choir performs sacred music from all historical periods and styles and often collaborates with contemporary composers, including Morten Lauridsen, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Jake Runestad, Abbie Betinis, Ola Gjeilo, René Clausen, Stacey V. Gibbs, and Shawn Kirchner. 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 80 years the choir has toured domestically and internationally, visiting 38 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, 23 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 80-year history. The choir was named the national winner of The American Prize in Choral Performance (college/university division) in 2017. The Wartburg Choir has received several invitations to perform at the National American Choral Directors Association Convention, most recently in 2017, and the North Central division of the American Choral Directors Association. 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.
Over the past 30 years, 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.; Lincoln Center, New York; and Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, Chicago. Estes and the choir also performed two concerts with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague. The Wartburg Choir has also 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 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 online and being shown worldwide.