St. Olaf Christmas Festival


St. Olaf Christmas Festival
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Intermission segment
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Northfield, Minnesota welcomes over 600 student musicians for this year's annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, a 100-year-old tradition deeply cherished in this part of the country, as well as listened to raptly by millions throughout the world.

It was over 100 years ago this December when a Norwegian immigrant named F. Melius Christiansen had the idea to bring together students, faculty and their families for an evening of singing and contemplation. Even back then, shopping, travel plans, parties and college finals made this time of year extremely hectic — and the real meaning of Christmas just got buried among long to-do lists.

As the years passed — this Christmas program really caught on — in a huge way — it's expanded into a festival of word and music that includes five choirs, a symphony orchestra, five conductors, two pastors and the 4,000 audience members who are invited to sing along — and St. Olaf's festival is one copied by college music programs all over the country.

Anton Armstrong is the Artistic Director of the festival and tells me this is much more than a concert — it's a transformative journey. "It's not entertainment, in the sense of Radio City Music Hall. It's not entertainment in some of the grand spectacles that some of the television specials have turned into over Christmas. But what it does is takes very heartfelt words and beautifully crafted scores and asks each of us to open all of who we are — body, mind, spirit and voice — so that we can take in this message anew."

That message is simple — "Heaven and Earth, Awake and Sing." It's the gift of a child born simply, and humbly, for us and the words and music we'll hear will take us straight into the heart of that message, its meaning penetrating deeply into our souls.

Five choirs perform in the Christmas Festival -- including the first-year men's Viking Chorus; first-year women's Manitou Singers; two of the largest choirs at St. Olaf, the Chapel Choir; and the Cantorei, and the famed 75-member St. Olaf Choir, plus the 90 member St. Olaf Orchestra.

And the sounds these students create is full of magic — peaceful at times, hushed and contemplative — and then at others so grand, full, like a heavenly chorus.

But this magic doesn't just happen. Steve Amundson is the Conductor of the orchestra and he says the minute last year's festival finishes, the faculty sit down and begin planning the next festival.

"It's really a team effort. We tend to pick a few pieces that we're excited about doing. And as we look at the texts of the pieces we're doing, our creative energies kick into high gear and we start thinking about words, images and ideas, and in doing so we come up with lots of ideas. We liked the idea of wonder and gift and Christ as the gift to the world and it just conjures up lots of images visual and otherwise."

The faculty conductors get the theme hammered out, and pick their songs, and then they have to prepare the choirs, which is not an easy task, especially considering about a third of the students are in their first years and may never have seen the Christmas Festival before.

Sigrid Johnson leads an entire choir of first year students — the all-female Manitou Singers — and I just had to ask her, how does she get these girls to sound like angels?

"It's called prayer. No, we take them down and show them the space, and we try to let them know what's going on but it's just talk until we are actually doing it.

Every time I have an opportunity to with a teacher or student, they talk about process — choosing the music, rehearsing, memorizing, finding the spots for all these musicians on the risers — but in the end, it's the moment itself, one that in the midst of the beautiful music awakens us to the message of Christmas. Anton Armstrong says it the best.

"We purposely begin without words to allow the listener to come into their own sphere of influence. And for some it's the wonder as they're surrounded by the choirs and the audience, and then they hear these voices as they process to the stage, and then we start unraveling this message in as many ways as possible and I think every year — those who have heard it forty-some odd times or are hearing it for the first time — seem spellbound and they seem touched."

Program

Heaven and Earth, Awake and Sing

The 2013 St. Olaf Christmas Festival

Musica Celestis (Excerpt)
Aaron Jay Kernis
St. Olaf Orchestra (Steven Amundson)

Narration
Pastor Matthew Marohl

Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains (Elijah)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Women of the Massed Choirs (Sigrid Johnson)

Lift thine eyes, O lift thine eyes to the mountains,
Whence cometh help.
Thy help cometh from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.
He hath said, thy foot shall not be moved.
Thy keeper will never slumber.

Psalm 121:1-3

 

Climb to the Top of the Highest Mountain
Carolyn Jennings
Massed Choirs and St. Olaf Orchestra (Sigrid Johnson)

Climb to the top of the highest mountain,
Joyous tidings proclaim to the world,
Lift up your voice, shout the good news:
Behold, your Lord comes to you.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd,
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
He will ever keep them safe from harm.
Behold, your Lord comes to you.

He who made the stars in the heaven,
He who fashioned the earth and the sea,
From time eternal he was God,
The Alpha and Omega, He.
Behold your Lord!

He will come in power and glory,
He will rule with mercy and truth,
Hope of all the nations,
Light of all the world!

He will love the little children,
He will hold them in his arms,
Love him and trust him as a child,
Behold, your Lord comes to you.

Isaiah 40, adapted

Processional Hymn: Prepare the Royal Highway
Tune: Bereden Vag For Herran
Swedish Folk Tune, arr. John Ferguson (World Premiere)
Massed Choirs, Audience, and St. Olaf Orchestra (Steven Amundson)

Choir:
Prepare the royal highway, the King of kings is near!
Let ev'ry hill and valley a level road appear!
Then greet the King of glory, foretold in sacred story:
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God's word!

All:
Prepare the royal highway, the King of kings is near!
Let ev'ry hill and valley a level road appear!
Then greet the King of glory, foretold in sacred story:
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God's word!

All:
Behold, the dessert blossoms, the dry land blooms like spring.
The time is near when heaven and earth awake and sing.
Hear trees and hills rejoicing, with stars and angels voicing:
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God's word!

Men:
The prophet's voice announces a shoot from Jesse's stem,
With words of hope and comfort to all Jerusalem.
See now, your King arriving, in love, your souls reviving.
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God's word!

Women:
This King is meek and humble, a child of lowly birth;
Yet one whose love and mercy, encompass all the earth.
His cradle is a manger, his heart receives the stranger.
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God's word!

All:
Then fling the gates wide open to greet your promised king!
Your king, yet ev'ry nation its tribute too may bring.
All lands will bow before him; their voices join your singing.
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God's word!

All:
His is no earthly kingdom; it comes from heav'n above.
His rule is peace and freedom and justice, truth and love.
So let your praise be sounding for kindness so abounding.
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God's word!

Frans Mikael Franzen; tr. Lutheran Book of Worship (stanzas 1, 5-6)

W. Bruce Benson (stanzas 2-4)
Translation © 1979 Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Used by Permission

Antiphon (Five Mystical Songs)
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Massed Choir and St. Olaf Orchestra (Christopher Aspaas)

Refrain:
Let all the world in every corner sing,
My God and King.

The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither fly:
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.

Refrain

The Church with Psalms must shout,
No door can keep them out:
But above all, the heart
Must bear the longest part.

Refrain

George Herbert

This Night
Johann G. Ebeling, arr. Christopher Aspaas (World Premiere)
Viking Chorus (Christopher Aspaas)

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
"Christ is born," their choirs are singing,
Till the air everywhere now with joy is ringing.

Jesus' voice from lowly manger
Softly thus calls to us:
"You are safe from danger;
Come and see; from all that grieves you
You are freed; all you need
I will surely give you."
All this night: rejoice!

Paul Gerhardt

     trans. Catherine Winkworth, alt.

Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913
Kenneth Jennings
St. Olaf Choir (Anton Armstrong); Charles Gray, Viola

A frosty Christmas Eve when the stars were shining
Fared I forth alone where westward falls the hill,
And from many a village in the water'd valley
Distant music reach'd me peals of bells a-ringing:
The constellated sounds ran sprinkling of earth's floor
As the dark vault above with stars was spangled o'er.

Then sped my thoughts to keep that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields and marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels or the bright stars singing.

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatia.
Peace to all of good will.

Now blessed be the tow'rs that crown England so fair
That stand up strong in prayer unto God for our souls:
Blessed be their founders (said I) an' our country folk
Who are ringing for Christ in the belfries tonight
With arms lifted to clutch the rattling ropes that race
Into the dark above and the mad romping din.

But to me heard afar it was starry music
Angel's song, comforting as the comfort of Christ
When he spake tenderly to his sorrowful flock:
The old words came to me by the riches of time
Mellow'd and transfigured as I stood on the hill
Heark'ning in the aspect of th'eternal silence.

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatia.
Peace to all of good will.

Robert Bridges

 

Cradle Hymn
Kim Andre Arnesen (U.S. Premiere)
Manitou Singers and St. Olaf Orchestra (Sigrid Johnson)

Hush my dear, lie still and slumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently falling on thy head.

See the kindly shepherds round Him,
Telling wonders from the sky!
When they sought Him,
There they found Him,
With His Virgin Mother by.

See the lovely babe a-dressing;
Lovely infant how He smiled!
When He wept, the mother's blessing
Soothed and hush'd the holy child.

May'st thou live to know and fear Him,
Trust and love Him all thy days;
Then go dwell forever near Him,
See His face, and sing His praise!

Hush, my dear, Holy angels guard thy bed!
Amen.

Isaac Watts

 

Hymn: This is My Father's World (Stanzas 1‑2)
Tune: Terra Beata
Franklin L. Sheppard, arr. John Ferguson (World Premiere)
Massed Choirs, Audience, and St. Olaf Orchestra (James Bobb)

            All:
This is my Father's world, and to my list'ning ears all nature sings,
and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world; I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world; the birds their carols raise; the morning light,
the lily white, declare their maker's praise.
This is my Father's world; he shines in all that's fair. In the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me ev'rywhere.

Maltbie D. Babcock

 

Gospel Reading: John 1: 1‑5, 14
Pastor Matthew Marohl


Hymn: This is My Father's World (Stanza 3)
Tune: Terra Beata
Franklin L. Sheppard, arr. John Ferguson (World Premiere)
Massed Choirs, Audience, and St. Olaf Orchestra (James Bobb)

            All:

This is my Father's world; oh, let me not forget that,
though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring; God reigns, let earth be glad!

Maltbie D. Babcock

 

Midnight Clear
Russell Schulz-Widmar, orch. Robert Scholz
Cantorei (James Bobb)

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to all,
From heaven's gracious king."
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And warring humankind hears not
The tidings which they bring;
Oh hush the noise and cease your strife
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! The days are hast'ning on
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Edmund H. Sears, alt.

Hark!
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, arr. Steven Landau
Chapel Choir (Christopher Aspaas)

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king!
Peace on Earth, and mercy mild.
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise.
Join the triumph of the skies.
With angelic hosts proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king.

Christ, by highest heav'n adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.
Hail th'incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel,
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King."

Charles Wesley

 

Go Tell It on the Mountain
Tune: Go Tell It
African American Spiritual, arr. Michael Huff
Massed Choirs, Audience, and St. Olaf Orchestra (Steven Amundson)

Refrain (CHOIRS):
Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and ev'rywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!

While shepherds kept their watching
O'er silent flocks by night,
Behold, throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light.

Refrain (ALL SING)

The shepherds feared and trembled
When, lo, above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our Savior's birth.

Refrain (ALL SING)

Down in a lonely manger
The humble Christ was born;
And God sent us salvation
That blessed Christmas morn.

Refrain (ALL SING)

John W. Work, Jr.

Hodie Christus natus est
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
Cantorei (James Bobb)

Hodie Christus natus est. Noe, noe.
Today Christ is born. Noel, noel.
Hodie Salvator apparuit. Alleluia.
Today the Savior appears. Alleluia.
Hodie in terra canunt Angeli.
Today on earth the angels sing.
Laetantur archangeli. Noe, noe.
The archangels rejoice. Noel, noel.
Hodie exsultant justi dicentes:
Today the righteous rejoice saying:
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Alleluia. Noe, noe.
Glory to God in the highest, alleluia, noel.

Luke 2:11, 13-14 and Psalm 32:1, adapted

 

Your Little Ones, Dear Lord
Johann A.P. Schultz, arr. Christopher Aspaas (World Premiere)
Chapel Choir (Christopher Aspaas)

Your little ones, dear Lord, are we,
And come your lowly bed to see;
Enlighten ev'ry soul and mind,
That we the way to you may find.

With songs we hasten you to greet,
And kiss the ground before your feet.
Oh, blessed hour, oh, sweetest night
That gave you birth, our soul's delight.

Oh, draw us wholly to you Lord,
And to us all your grace accord;
True faith and love to us impart,
That we may hold you in our heart.

Until at last we too proclaim,
With all your saints, your glorious name;
In paradise our songs renew,
And praise you as the angels do.

Alleluia!
Your littles ones are we.

Hans A. Brorson

     trans. Harriet Reynolds Krauth, alt.

Gloria
Gryorgy Orban
Manitou Singers (Sigrid Johnson)

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Glory to God in the highest.
Et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis.
And on earth peace to those of good will.
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te.
We praise thee. We bless thee.
Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
We worship thee. We glorify thee.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty.
Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.
Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Who taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Who taketh away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.

Quoniam tu solus sanctus. Tu solus Dominus,
For thou only art holy. Thou only art the Lord,
Tu solus sanctus, Jesu Christe, tu solus altissimus.
Thou art holy, Jesus Christ, thou art most high.
Cum sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris.
With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father.
Gloria! Gloria in excelsis!
Glory! Glory to God in the highest!
Amen.

Ordinary of the Mass

 

Bring a Torch
Old French air, arr. Carolyn Jennings
St. Olaf Choir (Anton Armstrong)

Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella!
Bring a torch, to the cradle run!
It is Jesus, good folk of the village,
Christ is born and Mary's calling, ah!
Beautiful is the Mother, ah,
Beautiful is her Son.

Softly to the little stable,
Softly for a moment come.
Now look and see the Infant Jesus,
He our Lord and He our Savior.
Hush, see how the Child is sleeping,
Hush, see how He smiles in dreams.

trans. E. Cuthbert Nunn, alt.

 

Glory Be to God
Jean Berger
St. Olaf Choir (Anton Armstrong)

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Glory be to God on high.
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His mercy endureth forever.
O give thanks to the God of gods:
For His mercy endureth forever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
For His mercy endureth forever.
To Him who alone doeth great wonders,
For His mercy endureth forever.
To Him who by wisdom made the heavens.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Glory be to God on high.

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
For His mercy endureth forever.
O give thanks to the God of gods
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Praise Him all His angels,
Praise Him all His hosts,
Praise Him, sun and moon,
Praise Him, all you shining stars.
Let everything that hath breath,
Praise the Lord.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Glory be to God on high.

from the Scriptures

 

Betelehemu
Via Olatunji, arr. Wendell Whalum
Viking Chorus (Christopher Aspaas)

Betelehemu,
Bethlehem,
Awa yi o ri Baba gbojule,
We are glad that we have a Father to trust.
Awa yi o ri Baba fehinti.
We are glad that we have a Father to rely upon.
Nibo labi Jesu, nibo labe bii.
Where was Jesus born? Where was he born?
Betelehemu ilu ara,
Bethlehem, the city of wonder.
Nibe labi Baba o daju.
That is where the Father was born for sure.
Iyin, Iyin, Iyin, nifuno.
Praise, praise, praise be to Him.
Adupe fun o, adupe fun o, adupe fun ojo oni,
We thank Thee, we thank Thee, we thank Thee for this day,
Baba oloreo.
Gracious Father.
Iyin fun o Baba, Iyin fun o Baba, Iyin fun o Baba anu,
Praise, praise, praise be to Thee.
Baba toda wasi.
Merciful Father.
Betelehemu ilu ara,
Bethlehem, the city of wonder,
Nibe labi Baba o daju.
That is where the Father was born for sure.

Nigerian carol

 

I Saw Three Ships
Traditional English carol, arr. Mack Wilberg
Massed Choirs and St. Olaf Orchestra (James Bobb)

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three?
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Our Savior Christ and His Lady,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Pray, whither sailed those ships all three?
On Christmas Day in the morning.

O, they sailed into Bethlehem
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the angels in heaven shall sing
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the souls on earth shall sing
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice a-main!
On Christmas Day in the morning.

English Traditional

 

Pat-A-Pan
Hershy Kay
St. Olaf Orchestra (Steven Amundson)

Carols from Eve 'til Morn
arr. Bradley Ellingboe (World Premiere)
Massed Choirs and St. Olaf Orchestra

O Come, Little Children
Massed Choir

I Am So Glad Each Christmas Eve
Manitou Singers

Midnight Stars Make Bright the Skies
Cantorei

Past Three O'Clock
Chapel Choir

My Lord, What a Mornin'
Viking Chorus

Good Christian Friends, Rejoice
St. Olaf Choir

Bright and Glorious is the Sky
Tune: Dejlig er den Himmel Bla
Danish Traditional, arr. G. Winston Cassler
Massed Choirs, Audience, and St. Olaf Orchestra (Steven Amundson)

All:
Deilig er den himmel bla
Lyst det er a se derpa.
Hvor de gyldne, sterner blinker,
Hvor de smiler, hvor de vinker,
Oss fra jorden opp til seg,
Oss fra jorden opp til seg.

Bright and glorious is the sky,
Radiant are the heavens high
Where the golden stars are shining.
All their rays to earth inclining
Beckon us to heav'n above,
Beckon us to heav'n above.

Guided by the star, they found
Him whose praise the ages sound.
We too have a star to guide us,
Which forever will provide us
With the light to find our Lord,
With the light to find our Lord.

trans. Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig

 

Narration
Pastor Matthew Marohl

Praise to the Lord
Stralsund Gesangbuch, arr. F. Melius Christiansen
Massed Choirs (Anton Armstrong)

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Wonder anew
What the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee!

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him!
Let the Amen
Sound from His people again;
Gladly for aye we adore Him.  Halleluja.

Joachim Neander

                 trans. Catherine Winkworth

The Spirit of the Lord (The World of the Spirit)
Benjamin Britten
Massed Choirs and St. Olaf Orchestra (Anton Armstrong)

The spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world!
Alleluia!

O send forth thy spirit, and they shall be made:
And thou shalt renew the peace of the earth,
Alleluia!

I will not leave you comfortless.
I will come to you again,
And your heart shall be joyful.
Alleluia!

from Proper Antiphons for Whit Sunday

Recessional Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King
Tune: Lasst Uns Erfreuen
Geistliche Kirchengesange, arr. John Rutter
Massed Choirs, Audience, and St. Olaf Orchestra (Steven Amundson)

ALL:
All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
O burning sun with golden beam,
And silver moon with softer gleam:

Refrain:
O praise him! O praise him!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

MEN:
O rushing wind and breezes soft,
O clouds that ride the winds aloft:
O praise him! Alleluia!
O rising morn, in praise rejoice,
O lights of evening, find a voice.

Refrain

WOMEN:
O flowing waters, pure and clear,
Make music for your Lord to hear.
O praise him! Alleluia!
O fire so masterful and bright,
Providing us with warmth and light,

Refrain

ALL:
Let all things their Creator bless
And worship God in humbleness.
O praise him! Alleluia!
O praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One.

Refrain

            -- St. Francis of Assisi
                 trans. William H. Draper

E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come
Paul O. Manz
Massed Choirs (Sigrid Johnson)

Peace be to you and grace from Him
Who freed us from our sin,
Who loved us all and shed His blood
That we might saved be.

Sing Holy, Holy to our Lord,
The Lord, Almighty God,
Who was and is and is to come;
Sing Holy, Holy, Lord!

Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein,
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below,
For Christ is coming soon,
For Christ is coming soon!

E'en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,
And night shall be no more;
They need no light nor lamp nor sun,
For Christ will be their All!

Revelation 22

                 adapted by Ruth Manz
Text © MorningStar Music Publishers, Used by Permission

Beautiful Savior
Silesian Folk Tune, arr. F. Melius Christiansen
Massed Choirs (Anton Armstrong)

Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be thine!

  —Gesangbuch, Munster, 1677

trans. Joseph H. Seiss

Larger view
2012 St. Olaf Christmas: Viking Chorus (St. Olaf College)