THE WARTBURG CHOIR

Founded in 1937, the internationally acclaimed Wartburg Choir performs sacred music from all historical periodsand styles and o en collaborates with contemporary composers, including Morten Lauridsen, Ēriks Ešenvalds, JakeRunestad, Abbie Betinis, Ola Gjeilo, René Clausen, Stacey V. Gibbs, and Shawn Kirchner. Choir members are chosenby 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 yearsthe 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 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.

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.

2020-21 MEMBERS

Soprano 1
Hannah Boecker, Newton
Kayla Boeke, Princeton, Minn.
Natalie Camp, Newton
Kaitlyn Feldman, Panama
Lydia Hobby, Fort Wayne, Ind.
JennaMcMainsOwatonna, Minn.EmersenSmithKenosha, Wis.AutumnVoylesKenosha, Wis.BrittaWilliamsMora, Minn.Kjirsten ZahnFarmington Hills, Mich.

Soprano 2
Madalyn Ellingson, Waukon
Julia Evans, Kasson, Minn.
Katelyn Kluver, Portsmouth
Gwen McQuaig, Wenatchee, Wash.
Cam Mears West Des Moines
Katheryn Opperman, Mount Vernon
Amelia Ouverson, Mason City
Ellie Roquet, Johnston
Morgan Schlichting, Belmond
Sam Wieland, Dubuque

Alto 1
Katriela Caspari, Bloomington, Minn.
London Dodd, Janesville
Carly Girtz, Princeton, Minn.
Alex Holden, Fairfield
Natalie Keenan, Ogden
Megan McGuigan, Story City
Emma Nelson, Waverly
Kayla Reisch, Kenosha, Wis.
Abree Russell, Appleton, Wis.
Natalie Segura, Des Moines

Alto 2 
Lizzi Barrett, Jewell
Arinda Barthel, Saint Michael, Minn.
Grace Becker, Bloomington, Minn.
Carrie Harper, Coralville
Kennedy Hiles, Ogden
Irelynn McMurphy, Harlan
Grace Morningstar, Cedar Rapids
Olivia Ramaekers, Des Moines
Delaney Sorem, Zearing
Olivia Walsh, Belgrade, Minn.

Tenor 1
Britt Avery, Story City
Levi Capesius, Algona
Micah Decker, Monona
Ben Edwards, Holly Springs, N.C.
Gordy Field, Eldridge
Daniel Miller, Carroll
Grant Olson, Story City
Keegan Pippett, Le Mars
Braeden Radke, Princeton, Minn.
Hayden Stone, Woodland Park, Colo.

Tenor 2
Da Quevion Burke, Waterloo
Joey Gutzmann, Fond du Lac, Wis.
Theo Herbst-Ulmer, Algona
Brenden Hinspeter, Waukee
Reid Kallenbach, Norwalk
Marcus Ortiz, Solon
Ethan Peter, Stewartville, Minn.
Aaron Rothfusz, Atlantic
Kyle Ruckman, Fairfield
Tristan Voelker, Manchester

Bass 1
Thomas Allen, Keokuk
Ethan Beck, Story City
Antonio Cadena, Mason City
Trenton Clausen, West Union
William Dix, Shell Rock
Travis Errthum-Goode, Knoxville
Max Miller, Spirit Lake
James Mossman, Winthrop
Andrew Newell, Waverly
Caleb Poissant, Farmington, Minn.
Rece Vining, Bettendorf

Bass 2
Grant Berends, Roland
Hugh Brown, Iowa City
Eric Dowe, Story City
Levi Feltman, Paullina
Nathan Hickox-Young, Reno, Nev.
Derek Jordan, Mount Vernon
Riordan Lujano, Washington
Daniel Novotney, Rockwell
Samuel Yoon, Albert Lea, Minn.

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

Professor of Music / Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting