René Clausen is the conductor of The Concordia Choir, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. He began conducting the choir in 1986 and is only the third conductor since the choir's founding in 1920. In addition to conducting, Clausen is known throughout the United States as an active composer and clinician. He has written over 45 commissioned works and has conducted major choral-orchestral performances, choral festivals, and workshops in over 35 states.
Joe Carter is a celebrated performer and educator. Among his many roles in musical theater and opera, he portrayed Paul Robeson in a one-man musical written for him, Let My People Go. And as a traveling humanitarian, he has taken the Negro Spiritual to audiences around the world, from Novosibirsk to Nigeria.
Being's Joe Carter and the Legacy of the African-American Spiritual was recently awarded a Gabriel Award for outstanding artistic achievement in a television or radio program.
Silvester Vicic has been with Minnesota Public Radio since 1992, working in a variety of capacities in the organization's music department - most recently as the senior producer overseeing all aspects of Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service.
During his tenure, Vicic has distinguished himself as a producer and broadcaster for such programs as the Minnesota Orchestra broadcasts, The Music Room (with Eric Friesen), The Morning Show, The Composer's Voice, Composer's Datebook, and the BBC Proms. He has also served as the principal contact and Minnesota Public Radio liaison for many local and regional music organizations, producing many of their concerts, which have aired in Minnesota and across the country.
History of the concerts
Since 1927, the Concordia Christmas Concerts have grown to become a vital part of life within Concordia College, the community-at-large and, indeed, a good portion of the Upper Midwest region.
Today's concerts are a far cry from the first ones initiated by a college piano and organ professor, Miss Clara Duea (pronounced Dewey). She organized the Concordia Music Club and one of their activities was a Christmas program that would gradually evolve into the famed Concordia Christmas Concerts of today.
Old Main's chapel (auditorium) hosted the first program, but by 1928 it was moved to Moorhead's Trinity Lutheran Church. Beginning in 1937 it alternated between Trinity and First Lutheran in Fargo.
1937 was also the year that a young music professor from Northfield, Minnesota, joined the faculty. He was Paul J. Christiansen, son of the noted St. Olaf College choir director F. Melius Christiansen. Among his responsibilities was the continuation of the Christmas Concert. In 1940, another new faculty member, Cyrus M. Running, came to Concordia to head the fledgling art department. Running brought with him an interest in both art and music and the two colleagues would become lifelong friends and partners in the amazing Christmas Concert tradition.
What has developed into the Christmas Concert murals began in Cy's first year: a large sheet of blue sateen in front of which was suspended a single star. There were also some simulated stained-glass windows covering the choir and organ lofts on either side of the sanctuary.
In 1943, the concert venue was moved to the Moorhead Armory to accommodate the ever-increasing public demand. After the war, with gas rationing no longer a deterrent to travel, people began coming from even greater distances. The (Fargo) Forum newspaper once took a survey and discovered that the Concordia Christmas Concert was the single event that attracted the greatest number of out-of-town visitors and generated the greatest economic impact on local businesses. (This, of course, was before the Fargo-Moorhead community developed into a place of virtually unlimited and diverse cultural opportunity.)
Because admission to the Christmas Concerts was for the first half-century a free-will offering, the event became known as "Concordia's Christmas Gift to the Midwest." And while economic necessity has forced the inception of tickets for sale, the admission price remains unusually modest.
By 1946, three performances were held and within six years, five were required to handle the demand. In 1952, the new gymnasium (Memorial Auditorium) was completed and has since been the home of the Moorhead concerts.
In 1975, the college took its show on the road to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. This was an effort to broaden Concordia's outreach and to strengthen its ties with a large Twin Cities constituency of alumni and friends. Combined Moorhead/Minneapolis audiences of nearly 30,000 people were not uncommon in the ë70s.
Cy Running retired in 1972 because of ill health, although he continued to design the concert art for another year. He died on Christmas Day of 1976 at the age of 62. Paul Christiansen continued with the Christmas Concerts through 1985. Following a year of academic leave, he retired after serving the college for 50 years.
Cy was replaced on the art faculty by Paul Allen who designed the Christmas Concert murals from 1974-1977. Beginning in 1978 and continuing through today, David J. Hetland has taken responsibility for the art, working first with Paul Christiansen and, since 1976, with René Clausen who succeeded Paul on the music faculty and as conductor of the Concordia Choir.
Today, the Concordia Christmas Concerts include four choirs, a full orchestra and a bell choir. The mural production is annually accomplished with the assistance of over 100 volunteers from both campus and community. Technical matters are the responsibility of Bryan B. Duncan, director of campus lighting.