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The 2021 St. Olaf Christmas Festival

The global pandemic has caused us to assess everything we do, how we do it, and how it can be done safely for students, faculty, staff, our community, and audiences. COVID-19 has impacted most industries with devastating cultural and economic consequences. 

Music at St. Olaf College is treasured by students and faculty alike, and listeners and audience members are deeply impacted and affected by our musical and artistic offerings. The Christmas Festival is quite literally a cultural institution at St. Olaf, bringing together hundreds of student musicians, dozens of faculty and staff, and thousands of audience members, not to mention the thousands of additional audience members now reached by streaming. 

Unfortunately, St. Olaf College will be unable to offer an in-person Christmas Festival this year. We simply cannot host an event that large, that involves so many people visiting campus, in a way that adheres to our commitment to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the health of our students. 

We are working now on ways we can still share the music of the St. Olaf Christmas Festival that so many people across the country hold dear. What we are currently planning is not intended as a substitute for how the Christmas Festival has been envisioned, produced, and offered for many years. Nonetheless, and especially in these times, music at St. Olaf can bring healing and hope to thousands, whether they have experienced the Festival in person, watched a live stream, listened to it on the radio, or watched it on public television. We are eager to share some of our current planning for this year.

This spring, when it became clear that in-person concerts would not be possible, we launched a digital concert series called Sounds from St. Olaf , that featured new episodes weekly throughout April and May. In early December, we will make available a unique, extended offering as a part of this digital concert series that will feature treasured music captured from recent Christmas Festival presentations, and with additional material from festivals not seen in many years.

Additionally, we will distribute, in cooperation with Twin Cities Public Television, a new one-hour long television program featuring material from the 2019 Christmas Festival on PBS+ television stations nationwide.

Also, we will again be collaborating with Minnesota Public Radio to offer a one-hour long radio program featuring archival recordings, interviews, and other features. This program will be heard on public radio stations nationwide. More information on these broadcasts will be available on our website in the coming months.

And finally, St. Olaf College’s sacred music radio program Sing For Joy  will offer a 30-minute radio version of the 2019 Christmas Festival that will be distributed to its affiliate stations.

St. Olaf will be providing updates to our students, alumni and the public as these plans are created and finalized. We deeply regret the impact these circumstances have on our student musicians, but look forward with hope to the day when we can resume an in-person Christmas Festival for many to enjoy.

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