In the mid 1800's in Norway as well as in much of
Europe; students, craftsmen and merchants organized choruses
to provide a musical and social opportunity outside of church music.
These groups, with the support of Nordic composers of the time,
performed music that came from folk songs, reflected Nordic life
and nature, and supported the new sense of patriotic fervor in the
As Scandinavians migrated to North America in the late
brought with them their love of singing and singing societies. These
societies first established on both east and west coasts but once
the immigrants moved inland the Midwest became a vital center of
singing as well.
The first Scandinavian Sangerfest was held in
1887. A local male chorus was joined by a New York City Chorus,
Normennenes of Chicago and two choirs from Norway for that
event. A second Sangerfest was held in Chicago with 24 choruses
making up 600 singers. By 1891, when Minneapolis held its first
biennial Sangerfest, it attracted 51 choirs from New York to Seattle
totaling over 800 singers!
Although one of the purposes of the early choruses was
fellowship among all Scandinavian groups, it soon became
evident that various ethnic groups were setting up their own
singing societies. On September 21, 1892 the Norwegian Singers
Association of America was founded and NSAA Sangerfests have
been held in even numbered years ever since, with the exception of
1918 and 1944, war years.
Regional associations were also formed, such as the
Singers Association in 1936, which still holds Sangerfests in the
odd numbered years. As members grew older, a Veterans Chorus
was established around 1930 within the NSAA. Each of the NSAA
member choruses has its own structure and history. All of the
choruses represented in this 61st Biennial Sangerfest have long
histories, many over 100 years of singing. The pattern for
and events as well as the music selected for Sangerfest has been
established by the musical leadership of the member choruses.
With so many years of singing, "traditions" have been
that members hold as very special, one being the awarding of
medals for years of singing.
The NSAA has established a website (www.nsaaonline.org)
official publication is Sanger Hilsen (singers greeting), which is
published bimonthly. Archives of the NSAA and member choruses
are housed at the Center for Western Studies within the Library of
Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Information in this summary is from two documents
Story of Norwegian Choruses" by Dr. Ralph Iverson and
Biennial Sangerfest "by Donald L. Berg, NSAA Corresponding