Concordia Choir Sets Sail in 1949

Posts from the Past: The choir's first international tour.

A brochure for The Concordia Choir’s 1949 European Tour states: “Take 60 mixed, trained voices, hand-picked for tone, color and blend, trueness of ear, and a working spirit; give them to Paul J. Christiansen and choral music becomes a fine art.”

The 1949 Norwegian tour, The Concordia Choir’s first international voyage, was unique in that much of Europe was in the process of recovering from World War II. Thus, the goals of the tour, as stated in a May 13, 1949, Concordian editorial, were to “help bring about a revitalization of Lutheranism in Norway” and to “serve to bind the Scandinavians in the Northwest in a closer union of mutual understanding and goodwill with those in the country of their origin.”  Marilyn Nissen, class of 1950 and a member of the touring choir, echoes these sentiments: “We felt we were on a mission. It was an emotional experience because many of us [choir members] had roots in Norway.”

Prior to its departure, the choir performed a series of concerts starting with a “bon voyage” concert in Moorhead. En route to New York, where they would board a ship to Europe, the choir performed in Minneapolis and Northfield, Minn.; Morris, Ill.; Detroit, Mich.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Washington D.C.; and Port Richmond and Brooklyn, N.Y. On May 28, 1949, the choir set sail from New York aboard the S.S. Stavangerfjord – the same ship that carried The Concordia Band to Europe in 1935. Originally, the choir was composed of 59 members; however, a first alto fell ill shortly before departure. Christiansen and his wife Eleanor, business manager Leonard Moe, counselor Thelma Halvorsen, President Brown, and the wives of two choir members accompanied the choir to Norway. 

The 1949 Norwegian tour was hailed a huge success. In all of its 33 performances abroad, the choir sang for eager audiences that were packed into concert venues. Many of the venues were not spacious enough to house the large audiences, so loudspeakers were used to project the concert to the crowds formed outside. In some instances, outdoor concerts were performed in order to accommodate the bigger audiences. Even the choir’s concerts aboard the S.S. Stavangerfjord en route to Norway were well attended by fellow passengers.

At the close of the tour, Nissen recalls Christiansen, whom the choir affectionately called “Christy,” expressing his pride in the choir members for their hard work despite a tight and hectic schedule. When asked what Nissen remembers most about the experience, she stated, “We were part of a group that was close knit which brought about a desire to do well. It was a privilege, and one of those life experiences that can never be repeated.”


– Contributed by Lisa Sjoberg, former college archivist