The St. Olaf Choir was founded in 1911 by Dr. F. Melius Christiansen, an immigrant from Larvik, Norway, who came to St. Olaf College in 1903 to organize the college's department of music. It was Christiansen who fostered the a cappella tradition of unaccompanied singing of sacred music that became the hallmark for high school, college, and church choirs throughout America.
Christiansen was succeeded in 1941 by his son, Olaf, who expanded the repertoire, adding 16th century composers and contemporary American music. Upon Olaf Christiansen's retirement in 1968, Kenneth Jennings became the Choir's third music director. Jennings introduced the occasional use of instruments and added secular compositions to the musical mix.
Anton Armstrong, who succeeded Kenneth Jennings in 1990, is interested in the tradition of Western European choral music and in increasing diversity of the audience for choral music by adding more 20th century compositions, as well as arrangements of folk music from the U.S. and third world countries.
St. Olaf College, located in Northfield, Minnesota, is a four-year, co-educational, liberal arts college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As noted in the college's mission statement, St. Olaf "provides an education committed to the liberal arts, rooted in the Christian gospel, and incorporating a global perspective."