The man behind the celebrated Dale Warland Singers has distinguished himself not only as a choral director, but also as an arranger, composer, guest conductor, and festival adjudicator.
Through his uncanny ability to draw from choristers a tonal sophistication in which a tensile inner core is always warmly, softly sheathed, he has achieved sounds envied by fellow choral conductors. The accuracy of intonation he obtains from his singers is another source of wonder, whether from his own ensemble or chorales he periodically guest conducts.
Warland chose St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, for his university training, thereby placing himself in a school with an honored choral tradition. After graduating from St. Olaf in 1954, Warland served as a first lieutenant in the United States Air Force and founded the Scott Male Chorus at Illinois' Scott Air Force base. Following his two years of active duty, Warland enrolled at the University of Minnesota to begin work on his master's degree, also serving as the minister of music for University Lutheran Church in Hope, MN. In 1960, master's degree in hand, Warland entered the University of Southern California School of Music to pursue his doctorate in music. In 1963, he joined the faculty at California's Humboldt State College and in 1965, doctorate completed, he became chairman of the music department at Keuka College in Keuka, NY. By the time he had reached his mid-thirties, Warland had begun to make a name for himself. He was called back to the Twin Cities to become director of choral activities at Macalester College in St. Paul. That same year, he served as an assistant to Robert Shaw at the celebrated Meadowbrook School of Music and was engaged to prepare the chorus for Krzysztof Penderecki's Passion According to St. Luke, which was having its American premiere in a Twin Cities production led by the composer himself. In 1971, Warland was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to study with two of the world's finest choral directors. He traveled to Sweden to work with Eric Ericson and to England to train with David Willcocks, then-director of music at Kings College, Cambridge. The following year saw the birth of the Dale Warland Singers in a June 12 concert at the Walker Art Center. In 1976 and 1977, Warland worked with another famous choral conductor, Norman Luboff, to produce two recordings with his new ensemble and, in 1977, he took his singers on a tour of Scandinavia. By 1980, Warland was able to initiate a subscription series with his Singers. The same year, he was appointed to the choral panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. Although Warland resigned from Macalester College in 1985 to devote himself to his ensemble, he nonetheless brought the college's concert choir with his own group to perform in Germany during J.S. Bach's 300th anniversary celebrations. A grant from the Major Jerome Foundation in 1987 enabled Warland to inaugurate the Dale Warland Singers' New Choral Music Program for Emerging Composers, a venture that led to significant additions to the choral literature. Given the St. Olaf College Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1988, Warland gained still more celebrity when his Singers performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Honors have accrued, among them the very first Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence. Guest engagements, meanwhile, have taken Warland from Estonia to Japan. The Dale Warland Singers disbanded in 2004.