History of the Concordia Christmas Concert
Since 1927, the Concordia Christmas Concerts have become a vital part of life within this institution, the community-at-large and a good portion of the Upper Midwest.
In the Beginning
Clara Duea, Concordia’s piano and organ professor, organized the Concordia Music Club in 1927 and one of their activities was a Christmas program. The very first concert was performed in Old Main’s chapel, but in 1928 it was moved to Moorhead’s Trinity Lutheran Church.
Paul J. Christiansen
Christiansen joined the faculty at Concordia in 1937. Among his responsibilities was the continuation of the Christmas Concert. This was the same year the concert venue began to alternate between Trinity and First Lutheran in Fargo.
Cyrus M. Running
Running came to Concordia in 1940 to head the fledgling art department. He had an interest in both art and music and began creating a backdrop for the Christmas Concerts his very first year.
The first backdrop was a large blue sheet of sateen behind a single suspended star. He simulated stained glass windows to cover the church’s choir and organ lofts.
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 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.
By 1946, three performances were held and within six years five were required to handle the demand. In 1952, Memorial Auditorium was completed and has since been the home of the Moorhead concerts.
On the Road
In 1975, the college took its show 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.
Running’s final Christmas Concert mural was in 1973. He died on Christmas day in 1976 at the age of 62. Christiansen continued with the Christmas Concerts through 1985.
Running was replaced on the art faculty by Paul Allen, who designed the Christmas Concert murals from 1974 to 1977.
David J. Hetland took responsibility for the art from 1978 to 2005, working first with Christiansen and, after 1986, with Dr. René Clausen, who succeeded Christiansen on the music faculty and as conductor of The Concordia Choir.
A Lasting Legacy
After dedicating 34 years to The Concordia Choir, Clausen retired in 2020 and Dr. Michael Culloton took over the role of artistic director for the Christmas Concert.
In 2009, newly commissioned artist Paul Johnson designed and printed the mural digitally for the first time in the concert's history. This is how the mural is created today.
The Concordia Christmas Concerts now include four choirs and a full orchestra. There are four performances in Moorhead and two in Minneapolis. The concert is broadcast on regional radio stations.
Approximately every five years, the event is recorded for airing on public and commercial television stations across the country.