April 1, 1871, Eidsvoll, Akershus, Norway.

June 1, 1955, Northfield, Minnesota.

Oaklawn Cemetery, Northfield, Minnesota.


Son of a factory worker, Christiansen emigrated to America at age 17, settling in Washburn, Wisconsin. He studied at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and in 1897 returned to Europe to study three years at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, Germany. In 1901, he was recruited by John N. Kildahl, president of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. He was a skilled conductor, directing bands and choirs alike. He assumed direction of the St. Olaf Band in 1903, and took the ensemble on tour to Norway in 1906 to play for King Haakon VII, making it the first college music ensemble to conduct a tour abroad.

Though Christiansen’s first love was the violin, he received international fame as director of the St. Olaf Choir, 1912–44. The St. Olaf Choir was founded as an outgrowth of the St. John’s Lutheran Church Choir in Northfield, Minnesota. Christiansen was considered a pioneer in the art of a cappella choral music. He composed and arranged over 250 musical selections, and his choral techniques were spread throughout America by St. Olaf graduates.

  1. O Bread of Life