The Saint John's University Men's Chorus was organized by Fr. Bartholomew Sayles, OSB of the Saint John's Abbey in 1948. Fr. James Kelly, OSB conducted the choir until 1958 and Gerhard Track until 1969, when Axel Theimer, the present director, joined the music faculty at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict. Until 1960, annual tours concentrated mainly on Minnesota and the surrounding states. In 1960, the choir made the first of many trips to Europe. The majority of performances, however, are still scheduled in the north central states.
Recent tours included concerts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, California, Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska. In May 2005 members of this choir joined other singers at CSB/SJU on a 23-day concert tour to Asia. The choir (CSB/SJU Choral Arts Ensemble) performed concerts and was part of several choral festivals and seminars in Tokyo, Okinawa, Seoul, Beijing and Hong Kong, including a performance which was part of the "Welcome to Beijing' Fine Arts Festival. In May 2010 members of this choir traveled to Europe for 3 weeks, performing concerts in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.
The SJU Men's Chorus performs frequently for state and regional music conventions and joined the Minnesota Chorale and the Minnesota Orchestra in the performances of Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder in 1996 and again in the fall of 2001. An invitation by the Minnesota Orchestra led to the participation in the December 1998 performances of Beethoven's Symphony #9 at Orchestra Hall. Other invitations have included participation in the United States premiere performance of John Tavener's Akathist of Thanksgiving as part of the Plymouth Music Series, Philip Brunelle, director, and Petr Eben's monumental new oratorio "Anno Domini". Throughout its history the SJU Men's Chorus has received numerous international prizes and awards - including first places at the International Music Eisteddod in Llangolen - and has appeared regularly on regional and national broadcasts, such as Great Choirs of America and Voice of America.
During the 2007/2008 academic year the choir performed at the MN-ACDA State Convention as well as at NC ACDA Division and the MMEA Conference.
In the spring of 2009 the choir performed concerts in Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, New Mexico and Arizona and shared a festival/concert with the award winning Great Northern Union (Barbershop) Choir.
Traditionally the year begins with singing for the University's Opening Convocation and getting the 'home-crowd' excited at all the home football games, and continues with participation in the annual ACDA of MN - Male Chorus/Women's Choir Choral Festival at the end of October at St. John's and the annualChristmas at Saint John's concerts and Celebrate the Season CSB/SJU's traditional Christmas concert at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis.
In 2009/2010, in addition to the annual schedule and additional concerts throughout Minnesota, the choir was invited to be part of the 2009 Minnesota Collegiate Choral Festival (ACDA - MN and F. Melius Christiansen Endowment Fund) and traveled to Appleton, WI, to join hundreds of young men, who are part of the highly successful male choir program in the Appleton school district, in a day-long men's choir festival "Real Men Sing".
The Spring 2011 tour included concerts in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Washington, DC.
The singers of the choir represent a wide variety of musical background, talent and choral experience. What brings us all together is the love for singing, making music with others and the special camaraderie, which is such an important part of ensembles. Students are encouraged to join choirs in their first year at St. John's /St. Ben's and, time and schedule permitting, remain in the choir throughout their college years.
The choir's 1999/2000, 2002/2003, 2005/2006 and 2008/2009 concerts are available on CD.
Auditions are held every fall, at the beginning of a new academic year, and are open to all students, First Year to Senior. Previous choral experience is not necessary. The students of the Saint John's University Men's Chorus represent a wide variety of musical background, talent, and choral experience. In general, students join in the first year at Saint John's and are encouraged, time and schedule permitting, to remain in the choir throughout their college years.