'To Serve God, The Church, and Our School': 100 Years of the Augustana Choir

Augustana Choir performing in Arendal, Norway, 1960

The Center for Western Studies is excited to present “To Serve God, the Church, and Our School”: 100 Years of the Augustana Choir. This gallery exhibition celebrating the centennial of the Augustana Choir opens April 11, 2022, and runs through July 22, 2022.

Since its initial charter on November 9, 1921, the Augustana Choir has performed for communities and congregations all across the nation and overseas. As stated by the choir's founding conductor, Dr. Carl Youngdahl, the choir would "perform a cappella and could thereby appear in the smallest of churches as well as the largest and our concert would be a sermon in song." One hundred years later, this rich tradition continues. 

Featuring photographs, artifacts, documents, and recordings and highlighting directors, tours, and ensembles from the past century, this exhibition takes visitors on a journey through time. Coinciding with the School of Music’s larger choir centennial celebration, the display is expected to bring many alumni, faculty, staff, and students through our doors. 

The exhibition has been a major collaborative project involving several CWS staff. Education Assistant Kamryn Miller served as primary curator, with Collections Assistant Liz Cisar providing support in facilitating access to the collections, digitizing selected materials, and assisting with research and text. CWS intern Ailin Montgomery conducted the initial survey of the university archives to identify relevant materials and curated the cases of artifacts from the 1929 and 1960 tours. Intern PattyJo English drafted biographies of each choir director, and intern August Brown assisted with mounting the exhibit texts.

Crucial resources for exploring the choir's first 50 years included Heath F. Weber's master's thesis, "The History of the Augustana Choir, 1921-1953: An Historical Review" (2000), and Greg Alan Handel's dissertation, "The Augustana College Department of Music, 1921-1973: A History" (2007). The team also relied heavily on the digitized Augustana yearbooks, newspapers, and alumni publications available online at np3.augie.edu. One of the biggest challenges in curating the exhibit was the lack of identification on photographs within the university archives. Over the years, images representing Augustana's various choral ensembles have all been filed together, and the collections staff spent a lot of time identifying photographs using the np3 site to determine their relevance for this project.

“To Serve God, the Church, and Our School”: 100 Years of the Augustana Choir runs through July 22, 2022, and is free and open to the public. Viewing hours are Monday–Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A special Saturday viewing time is scheduled for April 30 from 8 a.m. to noon, to coincide with the School of Music's choir centennial festivities. The exhibition is located in the Madsen/Nelson/Elmen Galleries of the Center's Fantle Building at 2121 South Summit Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD.

Per Augustana University policy, masks are encouraged.

For more information, please contact the Center for Western Studies at 605.274.4007 or cws@augie.edu.