Listen Brazilian Psalm -- Jean Berger
Listen Sommersalm, The Earth Adorned -- Waldemar Ahlen
Listen I'm Going Home -- arr. Undine Smith Moore
We were saddened to learn that Kenneth Jennings, the third conductor of the renowned St. Olaf Choir, which he led from 1968 until 1990, died early on Thursday. As more details become available, we'll share them here.
As someone privileged to sing under Dr. Jennings for three rigorous, unforgettable years at St. Olaf, I can only say that his contribution to choral art (and my own education) was profound. He had a gift for illuminating music from the inside out, grounding every phrase and color in the text at hand, and sustaining works' overall structure and power without ever sacrificing their subtlety. "Art is artless," he would sometimes admonish us. He infused the great Christiansen choral tradition he'd inherited with the lightness and limberness that are afforded to college singers for a fleeting window in their 20s. The combination was revelatory.
During the choir's tour of the Western U.S. my sophomore year, Jennings let us know before a concert that his mentor and predecessor Olaf C. Christiansen had become seriously ill. A week or so after we'd returned to campus, many members of the choir visited Dr. Christiansen at his home in Northfield and sang for him. Though frail, he was full of praise for Jennings, singling out and repeating a particular descriptor for him — "lyrical."
In the words of Jennings's own successor and former student, Anton Armstrong: "The world of choral music lost a great giant today with the passing of Kenneth Jennings at the age of 90... He was an immense influence on many of the leading choral directors of his time, both those who were able to sing under his baton or his beautiful hands, and those who experienced his performances with the St. Olaf Choir, and the other choirs he conducted. We will remember him with great love and great admiration, and most of all, with great appreciation for the beauty he brought to the world of choral music."