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.