Music Education - Connors and Last

Bailey Connors '22 and Andrew Last '97.

Research Project: A 75-Year History of the Nordic Choir

Bailey Connors ‘22, Major: Music Education
Andrew Last ‘97, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities

About the Project

Over the summer, senior Bailey Connors worked with Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Andrew Last to research and catalog 75 years worth of Nordic Choir history. Last explains, “We began with an idea that we were going to create a Nordic Choir history timeline. In addition to that, we were hoping to put together a recordingcompilation recordingthat encompasses the 75 years, and we’ve done pretty well with both of those projects. We’re still working on the recording project, but it’s been fascinating to learn things that even I, as a former member and now conductor of the choir, didn’t know about the history of Nordic Choir.”

Facing Challenges

“The most challenging part of the project was trying to find little bits of information,” says Connors. “Getting the full scope of the history of Nordic Choir, and understanding how it evolved over the years was pretty simple, just because there are a lot of records of big moments like when the choir’s name changed or when there was a new director. But when we wanted to focus on finding more specific information, like what the color the choir robes were in 1948, learning that information proved to be a little trickier. Eventually we were able to get more detailed information, so it was good. There were some gaps, but largely the narrative is intact.”

Fascinating Discoveries

“I think Dr. Last and I are in agreement that the most fascinating discovery was the fact that Nordic Choir didn’t have a name when it was first created in the fall of 1946,” says Connors. “Originally, it was just a soprano, alto, tenor, and bass ensemble created by Dr. Sigvart Steen, The ensemble was loosely called the 'All College Choir or the 'Co Ed' choir,' since this choir included the full range of voice parts, unlike the Schola Cantorum, which only featured tenor and bass voices. They toiled over the name for a very long time until around March of 1947, right before they went on tour.”

“We realized early into our research that the name had changed throughout history, but we had never figured out why it was first called Nordic Choir,” adds Last. “We eventually found the first news article in Luther Chips that reported the choir rehearsing all year long, and then finally in the spring, the choir had come up with the name of the Nordic Cathedral Choir.”

Importance of Student Involvement in Research

“The students are active members of the choir right now, and as an alum myself of the ensemble, it’s always been my desire for people not to forget its roots,” says Last. “I want to make sure that my students not only know of my mentor and former director of Nordic Choir, Weston Noble, and about his input and his history with the ensemble, but of every conductor that was part of the history of the choir. It’s important for us to know who these individuals are that created this choir we’ve all come to love.”


“I’m not as good at staying focused as I originally thought,” says Connors. “While hunting for small bits of information, I find I easily get distracted, especially when I’m not succeeding at first. But mainly, I learned that I can accomplish this long term goal that I have had for two years now. We were going to do this project last year and it got cancelled because of COVID-19. Finally seeing it through was really a privilege.”

Sharing the Research

“We will be producing a timeline that will be available to view online and in-person in the Jenson-Noble Hall of Music,” says Last. “We will also be putting together a compilation of pieces performed by Nordic Choir over the years and as we celebrate 75 years of the performance tour, our audience members will be able to, within a page of the tour program, get a brief history of the Nordic Choir. These are just a few of the ways in which people are going to be able to enjoy the research that we’ve completed.”

“In doing this project, I’ve realized that this choir has left quite the legacy, leaving an impact on people here in Iowa but also in California, Norway, Russia, and beyond. This choir is historic and it is one of the gems of the Midwest. It was a privilege to be able to share its story.”

Bailey Connors ‘22

“It’s been fascinating to learn things that even I, as a former member of the choir and now conductor of the choir, didn’t know about the history of Nordic Choir.”

Andrew Last ‘97

Advice for Other Considering Research at Luther

“Do it. It’s so fun. Summer research is a great experience. I recommend that if you’re doing research, create a weekly schedule. Figure out what you want to accomplish every day, and eventually you’ll get it done.”

—Bailey Connors ‘22