Erik “Doc” Christiansen expected greatness from his students — and he got it.
Christiansen, a choir director at Stillwater Area High School for 28 years, routinely asked his students to sing pieces that “really were probably too challenging for us,” said Katelyn Larson, a former student.
“But he held us to a high standard, and we always met it,” Larson said. “The more he believed in us, the more we believed in ourselves.”
When Christiansen retired in 2016, hundreds of former students came to his final school concert at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi and sang a piece that had been commissioned for the occasion.
Now a former student is making a documentary about the alumni choir and the legendary choir director.
Roger Williams, who sang in the choir in 1993, is producing “His Voices — A Short ‘Doc’umentary” and has turned to crowd sourcing to get it funded.
The film features interviews with alumni, photos, and video clips of the alumni choir singing “When Music Sounds,” a piece arranged by René Clausen, the conductor of the choir and a professor at Concordia College in Moorhead, based on the Walter de la Mare poem.
Sonia Esch, a former Christiansen student who teaches music at Rutherford Elementary in Stillwater, arranged for the commission. She asked Larson, who teaches choir at Stillwater Area High School, to organize a small alumni choir.
“Sonia asked if we could get a quartet or an octet together,” said Larson, a soprano. “I put something out on Facebook and sent out an invitation to see if we could get 10, 15 people to come back and put some time and effort into this project. I was thinking 15 to 20 people max.”
Within days, more than 200 alumni had signed up to participate.
The choir was so large that the concert had to be moved from Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater to St. Andrew’s, Larson said.
“We rehearsed in a separate building so Doc didn’t know we were there,” Larson said.