Choir heads to Norway

Luther College excels in Nordic music

Luther College Choir

Photo courtesy of Luther College
The Nordic Choir from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, will be on its way to Norway this May.

Maya Winkel
Luther College

In May of 2024, the premiere touring ensemble at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Nordic Choir will travel to Norway. Under the direction of Andrew Last of the class of ’97, they will embark on an extended tour to share music and learn about culture and customs in Norway.

The Luther College Nordic Choir is a mixed voice choir composed of singers in their sophomore, junior, and senior years who have shown exemplary musical ability through a rigorous audition process. The ensemble was founded in 1946 and soon thereafter conducted by Weston Noble, who led the ensemble for 57 years and created a strong musical foundation from which the ensemble continues today.

Rooted in the Lutheran church, Luther College and the Luther College Nordic Choir honor the Lutheran choral tradition while also featuring new and innovative choral works. The choir showcases versatility, artistry, and technical mastery across many genres of music.

The ensemble was slated to travel abroad on an international tour in 2021, but, like many other musical ensembles, was prevented from doing so by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The last international tour the ensemble embarked on was to Germany and the Czech Republic in 2018, where they lived, sang, and studied in Europe throughout the month of May. The choral tradition in Germany is very strong and is deeply rooted all of the way back to J.S Bach.

Andrew Last

Photo courtesy of Luther College
Andrew Last, class of ’97, is the director of the Nordic Choir at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

“It will be interesting to see how choral music will read in Norway,” says the choir’s director, Last. In deciding where to travel for the 2024 international tour, it was a question of where the greatest impact lay. Given the bicentennial anniversary of Norwegian immigration to the United States is in 2025, it was a clear decision, “This tour feels like it has a strong purpose,” he says.

The ensemble will present a set of music inspired by immigration and the stories of traveling to a new place that is unknown. One piece that on this set is titled “I was a Stranger,” commissioned by Zachary J. Moore. The text of the composition chronicles the struggles of arriving in a new country where there are many unknowns and feeling as though you must learn to start over. The piece was commissioned for and premiered by Nordic Choir on their Midwest tour earlier this year.

Luther College’s ties to Norway date back to 1861, when the school was founded by Norwegian immigrants with a small teaching faculty of two professors, and it continues to reflect the Norwegian Lutheran traditions throughout the educational process.

An alumni and companion tour will join the ensemble on their tour, traveling with the group as well as having a chance to take a class taught by Nordic Choir alumni and Norwegian language assistant professor Evelyn Galstad, class of ’20, on Norwegian culture. Members of the ensemble will also have the chance to take part in the companion class to give them a well-rounded experience.

For many of the students going, this trip will be their first time leaving the country. Haaken Rustad, a member of the choir and a Nordic Studies major, traveled to Norway in January 2023 to take part in a course exploring architecture and design in Norway.

“I’m really excited to be able to explore parts of Norway that I have not yet traveled to, as well as for the opportunity to see the places that I’ve visited before.” says Rustad. “I’m feeling very excited and grateful for the opportunity to embark on this international tour to Norway. This is a group of people who are incredibly passionate and committed to their craft, and having the opportunity to share our music with the audiences in Norway will be an incredible experience.”

For both students and alumni, this trip is guaranteed to open doors for discussion and spark an interest in Luther College’s deep Norwegian heritage.

To follow along with Nordic Choir on their upcoming trip to Norway, you can check out @musicatluther on all major social media platforms and Luther College Nordic Choir on Facebook.

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.