CHRISTMAS WITH WARTBURG

Make Christmas with Wartburg part of your annual holiday traditions.

For more than 70 years, Christmas with Wartburg has been a traditional celebration that provides a fitting opportunity for Wartburg, as a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth in word and song.

The four-concert series includes on- and off-campus performances attended by nearly 7,000 people each year. The program features the talents over 350 students from the Wartburg Choir, Castle Singers, and Wind Ensemble, which tour annually and travel abroad every third year, and The Ritterchor, St. Elizabeth Chorale, Kammerstreicher (chamber orchestra), Kantorei, and Handbell Choir.

PRESENTING SPONSOR:

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Sukup Manufacturing 

CWW 2019 Premiere: Dec. 4, 7 p.m.

We hope you will join us Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. (CST) for the virtual premiere of last year’s Christmas with Wartburg production, Behold the Mystery. In addition to the premiere, the video will be available on demand for viewing at any time. Look for more details in the coming weeks.

CWW 2020 Premiere: Dec. 23, 7 p.m.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s concert, Hope Awakens; Love’s New Dawn, will be on video, with friends and alumni joining us online either for the virtual premiere or watching on demand whenever convenient for them. Christmas with Wartburg 2020 will premiere online Wednesday, Dec. 23, at 7 p.m. CST (Central Standard Time) on this webpage.  Instead of sharing a live performance, we will record segments of the program throughout the fall. This will allow us to keep the student musicians as safe as possible.

Order a Commemorative 2020 CWW Experience Package
We’ve added something extra special this year for viewers watching the program in living rooms across the country – a special package with a printed program, a 2020 commemorative ornament, a canvas print of the 2020 design, a 2019 Christmas with Wartburg CD, candles to light during Night of Silence at the end of the program, and other goodies to share with your family. Packages are available for $50, and orders must be received by Nov. 1.

Be part of a virtual choir for Night of Silence
For more than a decade, Night of Silence has been the emotional closing piece for Christmas with Wartburg concerts. We invite all alumni, parents, students, and friends to join us in singing Silent Night as part of a virtual choir. Click here for instructions about how to submit your recording. The process is simple and will be a truly memorable experience for all who participate. If you are unfamiliar with virtual choirs, click here for an example. The deadline to participate is Nov. 1.

The holiday tradition that began in 1947 was remarkably similar in format to the current production It opened with the audience singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” while the Wartburg Choir and the Chapel Choir processed through the aisles of the Waverly High School auditorium, now the junior high auditorium.

Dr. Edwin Liemohn directed the Wartburg Choir, and Edfield Odegard directed the Chapel Choir in the first production. In what became a tradition until her retirement in 1968, art professor Helen Wright was responsible for the stage setting, which in 1947 featured a nativity scene.

Construction of the Chapel-Auditorium, later named Neumann Auditorium, created a new home for Christmas at Wartburg in 1961. Although the program has remained in the auditorium for most of the ensuing years, it moved back to Knights Gym in 1967 and 1968 and from 1976 to 1982.

Large murals were added to the program in 2003. Janice Bergland hand-painted the first backdrops, which were used for more than one program. When Dr. Lee Nelson became the artistic director of the program, new murals were commissioned every year. Since 2011, Chris Knudson '01 has been the mural artist and moved the creation to a digital process. Knudson also designs lighting effects that match the design and theme for each year.

When Knights Gymnasium opened on the Wartburg campus, its stage became the Christmas concert venue, beginning in December 1949. The 1951 program was the first to use the title "Christmas at Wartburg." By that time, the Wartburg Band and the Castle Singers were included. Many of the early Christmas at Wartburg programs featured works by Castle Singers director Dr. E.A. Hovdesven and Wartburg Choir director Dr. Edwin Liemohn. Dr. Warren Schmidt joined the music faculty in 1950 and subsequently became Christmas with Wartburg organist for the next 40 years. He recalls moving a portative pipe organ to Knights Gym for the annual program, which by 1953 was attracting an audience of more than 1,500.

In 1968, the Wartburg Community Symphony Orchestra, an oratorio chorus, and the Wartburg Choir and Castle Singers performed Handel’s Messiah in the gym, followed the next year by Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, which included the local high school chamber choir and a sixth-grade select choir. The program moved back to Neumann Auditorium and took on a more dramatic flair in the early 1970s. The Castle Singers and the Wartburg Chamber Players presented A Christmas Carol in 1970 and The Play of Herod, a 13th century musical drama, in 1971, followed by Amahl and the Night Visitors in 1972. In 1973, drama students, the Wartburg Band, Castle Singers, Chamber Orchestra and Gospel Choir were involved in W.H. Auden’s Christmas Oratorio.

Opera star Simon Estes joined the Wartburg faculty in 2002 as distinguished professor and artist-in-residence, and began making regular appearances with Christmas with Wartburg as a soloist and with the Wartburg Choir. Choir director Dr. Paul Torkelson described Estes’ 2006 performance of Sweet Little Jesus Boy as one of the “incredible moments” in the program’s history. Estes retired from Wartburg in 2016.

Positive feedback from viewers helps get programs like Christmas with Wartburg on the air.  If your local PBS station doesn’t carry the program, try contacting the program director and make a request. Each station independently selects what they will broadcast. Since public television is driven by viewer input and contributions, if enough interest is expressed, your local station may decide to carry Christmas with Wartburg.

A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE

Thousands come from all over the U.S. to witness the full splendor of Christmas with Wartburg. This worshipful experience is different each year with new music and visual displays.

CONNECTING WITH MUSIC ON A SPIRITUAL LEVEL. WORTH IT.