Documentary will characteristic beloved Stillwater choir director – Twin Cities
Erik “Doc” Christiansen anticipated greatness from his college students — and he bought it.
Christiansen, a choir director at Stillwater Space Excessive Faculty for 28 years, routinely requested his college students to sing items that “actually had been in all probability too difficult for us,” mentioned Katelyn Larson, a former pupil.
“However he held us to a excessive normal, and we all the time met it,” Larson mentioned. “The extra he believed in us, the extra we believed in ourselves.”
When Christiansen retired in 2016, a whole bunch of former college students got here to his last college live performance at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi and sang a bit that had been commissioned for the event.
Now a former pupil is making a documentary in regards to the alumni choir and the legendary choir director.
Roger Williams, who sang within the choir in 1993, is producing “His Voices — A Brief ‘Doc’umentary” and has turned to crowd sourcing to get it funded.
The movie options interviews with alumni, images, and video clips of the alumni choir singing “When Music Sounds,” a bit organized by René Clausen, the conductor of the choir and a professor at Concordia Faculty in Moorhead, primarily based on the Walter de la Mare poem.
Sonia Esch, a former Christiansen pupil who teaches music at Rutherford Elementary in Stillwater, organized for the fee. She requested Larson, who teaches choir at Stillwater Space Excessive Faculty, to prepare a small alumni choir.
“Sonia requested if we may get a quartet or an octet collectively,” mentioned Larson, a soprano. “I put one thing out on Fb and despatched out an invite to see if we may get 10, 15 folks to come back again and put some effort and time into this mission. I used to be pondering 15 to 20 folks max.”
Inside days, greater than 200 alumni had signed as much as take part.
The choir was so giant that the live performance needed to be moved from Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater to St. Andrew’s, Larson mentioned.
“We rehearsed in a separate constructing so Doc didn’t know we had been there,” Larson mentioned.
Roger Williams, left, works with editor Matt Grosso on a documentary about legendary Stillwater choir director Dr. Erik “Doc” Christiansen known as “His Voices – A Brief ‘Doc’umentary” at Grosso’s dwelling studio in St. Paul on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. Williams, who sang within the choir in 1993, is producing the documentary. (Matthew Weber / Pioneer Press)‘WORLD-CLASS EXCELLENCE’
Williams, 43, of Stillwater, mentioned he knew the live performance was going to be price documenting. He organized to interview most of the alumni who flew in for it.
“Everybody stored saying the identical factor about being in Doc’s choir: It was the primary time that that they had ever been a part of one thing that concerned world-class excellence,” mentioned Williams, who sang bass. “For some, like me, it was their solely brush with that degree of efficiency, that degree of dedication.”
When Williams was within the live performance choir, the choir traveled to Seattle to carry out in a contest. His mom, Marjorie Williams, served as a chaperone.
Dad and mom of singers in different choirs would hear the Stillwater Space Excessive Faculty choir and ask Marjorie Williams for Christiansen’s secret, he mentioned.
“They needed to understand how he bought a choir to sound that means as a result of it didn’t sound like a highschool choir,” Williams mentioned.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Christiansen, who continues to reside within the Stillwater space, comes from an extended line of gifted choir administrators.
His late father, Paul J. Christiansen, was a composer and longtime choral director at Concordia Faculty. When Stillwater Space Excessive Faculty opened in 1993, the varsity district commissioned Paul Christiansen to write down “The River Flows On,” which an alumni choir and orchestra sang on the dedication.
Erik Christiansen’s grandfather, F. Melius Christiansen, based the St. Olaf Faculty Choir. Amongst his compositions was “O Day Stuffed with Grace,” now Stillwater Space Excessive Faculty’s signature track. A couple of years in the past, members of the live performance choir, wearing bathing fits, began singing “O Day Stuffed with Grace” within the swimming pool of the High quality Inn & Suites throughout a choir journey to Ames, Iowa.
The video of that watery efficiency has been considered greater than four.7 million instances. Erik Christiansen missed the efficiency; he was in his resort room taking a nap.
“He anticipated us to know fairly advanced music and in addition advanced execution of the music,” former pupil Autumn Compton says within the documentary. “He taught us the steps of find out how to do it, after which he anticipated us to rise to that event each time. He noticed that in us on a regular basis, and so we began to see it in ourselves.”
College students knew that Christiansen, who has a Physician of Musical Arts diploma in choral music from Arizona State College, may have been educating on the faculty degree, Compton mentioned.
“This was someone who could possibly be someplace else, however he was selecting to be with us,” she mentioned. “He was a personality. He was form of a mad genius directing us.”
Christiansen was a stickler for getting issues proper, mentioned Larson, 28, of St. Paul.
“He was simply extremely attentive to element. All the time,” she mentioned. “I do not forget that we may spend half of a rehearsal engaged on eight measures of a bit of music.”
Christiansen didn’t essentially search for college students with excellent pitch when holding auditions, Williams mentioned.
“He needed (college students) who maintained eye contact, actually tried, and that, when he corrected you, you possibly can be corrected,” Williams mentioned. “With that, he’d say, ‘OK, this individual has promise.’”
Williams mentioned he hopes “His Voices” will assist reveal the value of music applications in public faculties. Most of the alumni interviewed within the documentary are musicians, choir administrators and music lecturers, he mentioned.
“That is an instance of the ability of a public music training,” he mentioned. “If you happen to don’t suppose it’s price something, effectively guess what? Many of those college students turned lecturers themselves and are educating your youngsters.”
He mentioned the title of the documentary — “His Voices” — got here from a citation from an alumnus who mentioned performing within the last live performance “was like all of his voices coming collectively to sing as soon as once more.”
Christiansen was steeped in Lutheran choral custom and knew find out how to get complete sections to “sound like one voice,” Williams mentioned.
“That’s so essential,” Williams mentioned. “Doc and his father and grandfather helped develop the ‘Minnesota choral sound,’ the place all of the members of a piece mix collectively.”
When Larson was a senior, the choir traveled to Chicago and carried out a live performance for ladies inmates on the Cook dinner County Jail.
“We sang in a giant gymnasium, and there have been a bunch of followers going, so the setting was not an excellent area to sing in, however that didn’t matter in any respect,” Larson mentioned. “The ladies had been cheering so loudly after each piece, and a few of them had been crying. I couldn’t even have a look at Doc.
“Everybody was simply looking at these girls, who by no means get to listen to this type of music,” she mentioned. “It was probably the most highly effective experiences I’ve ever had.”
Williams mentioned he’s engaged on a last edit, coloration correction, sound and distribution. He expects the movie, which is able to run a couple of half-hour, to be accessible for buy at the start of subsequent yr; the associated fee is $10 for a digital copy and $25 for a digital copy plus DVD.
At Christiansen’s last live performance choir efficiency at St. Andrew’s, the alumni choir joined the live performance choir for the ultimate track: “O Day Stuffed with Grace.”
“I’m so undeserving of those individuals who have come by way of my life,” Christiansen mentioned on the live performance. “How fortunate I’m. In fact, I all the time mentioned, ‘We should encourage one another for this to work.’ All proper, that’s it.”
With that, the choir sang:
O day stuffed with grace which we behold,
Now gently to view ascending,
Thou over the earth thy reign unfold,
Good cheer to all mortals lending,
With pleasure we depart for the promised land,
And there we will stroll in infinite mild.
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