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October 2007

The first public sounds of the National Lutheran Choir were made not on the concert stage, but in a church sanctuary turned recording studio. On November 22, 1986 a congregation of friends and family assembled at House of Prayer Lutheran Church in Richfield, Minnesota to join voices with the nascent choir in the recording of some favorite old hymns. (The first official concert was in March of 1987.)

Despite the great joy heard in the singing from choir and congregation that day, the music never found its way onto CD, most likely because it did not fit the themes which were ultimately developed. A small number of similar unreleased masters can be found scattered throughout the 36 recording sessions conducted over 12 years by founder Larry L. Fleming. In each case the finished music sat waiting for the right project to come along.

A look through the concert programs from this period also yields a fair number of significant works which were performed by the choir but not recorded. Sadly, many of these performances are now lost. But live concert recordings of varying quality have preserved at least some of this music, allowing it to be heard once again.

To honor the 20th anniversary of the choir's founding, many of these "missing" recordings have been collected here in combination with a broad sampling of the choir's "essential" recordings made under the direction of its founder. They are grouped according to four key founding principles: Thanksgiving for the great gifts of God and the musical tradition into which the choir was born; celebration of the Word made flesh; support and encouragement provided to the congregational Song; and the sense of Awe which must inform our response to the Divine.

While Larry's mastery of the choral instrument was without peer, his legacy to the choral arts may lie equally with the institution he created. It was always his wish that the choir would continue beyond the end of his leadership because the need to energize choral and congregational song is without end. Thus, this collection is presented not for reasons of nostalgia, but rather as documentation of those founding years and the principles which have continued to inform the organization's activities under its equally-devoted successive leadership.

A listener to the unedited recording sessions cannot help but notice something utterly absent from the finished recordings: the conductor's voice. Larry's verbal admonitions to the choir were frequent, lengthy, precise, passionate, and often downright comical. Intense moments were routinely followed by laughter. It is no wonder then that the music made in those many hours retains an air of life and joy across the years.

--Notes by Lowell Prescott, October, 2007