Twin Cities choral organization celebrates nearly

half a century of musical innovation with another epic season

MINNEAPOLIS —VocalEssence, the acclaimed Minneapolis-based choral ensemble recognized internationally for its innovative exploration of music for voices and instruments and beautiful sound, this week announces its 45th season.

Forty-five years is no small feat for a non-profit arts organization. Each year, VocalEssence presents an engaging and eclectic series of concerts featuring the 120-voice VocalEssence Chorus, the 32-voice professional Ensemble Singers (known as the “house choir” on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion), as well as guest soloists and instrumentalists.

“One would think it would be a challenge to keep things fresh after more than four decades — but we find the contrary to be true,” says Philip Brunelle, founder of VocalEssence. “The mission of VocalEssence is to explore the human voice, and certainly that has no limit. I’m absolutely thrilled about next season — including the premieres and commissions — and we can’t wait to roll up our sleeves.”

The diverse, energetic 2013-2014 season lineup includes something for everyone:

  • There Was a Child, October 27, 2013: In its season opener, VocalEssence and The St. Olaf Choir will share the stage, performing audience favorites by Eric Whitacre, René Clausen, Egil Hovland and F. Melius Christiansen. Then the choirs will join forces for the U.S. premiere of Jonathan Dove’s poetic masterpiece, There Was a Child, an epic and moving celebration of lifeComposed in 2011 as a tribute to a friend’s son, There Was a Child traces a young man’s life from childhood to manhood in the spirit of Britten and Vaughan Williams. The passionate, romantic, and uplifting premiere will be held in the newly renovated Orchestra Hall.
  • Cocktails & Cabaret, November 18, 2013: This will be a special benefit event at the Metropolitan Ballroom and Clubroom. With Philip Brunelle at the piano, Twin Cities-based musical theater stars Simone Perrin, Bradley Greenwald, Greta Oglesby and Dieter Bierbrauer will fill the stage with songs of love, life and laughter. Attendees can sip a delicious cocktail, sample fabulous hors d’oeuvres, and soak in an incredible show. All proceeds benefit VocalEssence education programs, which bring music and cultural workshops to thousands of Minnesota’s schoolchildren each year.
  • Welcome Christmas, December 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 2013: Welcome the holidays with a tribute to the late jazz legend Dave Brubeck and his charming Christmas cantata La Fiesta de la Posada, featuring pianist Dan Chouinard and local mariachi band Mariachi Mi Tierra. Inspired by Mexican folk music, Brubeck blends Latin rhythms with American jazz in a stunning Christmas piece celebrating Las Posadas, the Latin festival recounting the journey of Mary and Joseph to the stable. Beloved carols will complete the program for a performance that will warm hearts and get everyone in the Christmas spirit!
  • Star of Wonder, December 14, 2013: Something to add to the family’s holiday traditions: the VocalEssence annual one-hour family Christmas concert. Kids are invited to sit up close as members of the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers perform familiar holiday music, including a rousing “Twelve Days of Christmas” sing-along, perfect for every age.
  • WITNESS: Stomp & Sing, February 9, 2014: Inspiring vocal activist Melanie DeMore will take audiences on a journey through the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina. For the enslaved Gullah people, communal singing and dance were seen as vital to survival, and rhythm was deep in their souls. Through powerful spirituals performed in the Gullah tradition, accompanied by stick pounding, hand clapping and foot stomping, DeMore will challenge the audience to connect with our neighbors and the music within us.
  • John Rutter Jubilee, March 21 and 23, 2014: As dean of British choral composers and conductor of the world-famous Cambridge Singers, John Rutter has most recently been on the world stage for composing an anthem for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Here, Rutter will lead VocalEssence in a concert of his favorites, including his delightfully jazzy Birthday Madrigals, and music by some of his favorite English romantic composers, Charles Villiers Stanford and C. Hubert H. Parry.
  • Tchaikovsky for Voices, April 27, 2014: This soul-stirring season finale will celebrate centuries-old Russian orthodox tradition with The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, a precursor to the Rachmaninoff Vespers. The piece combines lush romanticism with a haunting and austere simplicity. VocalEssence and four of the region’s most acclaimed college choirs will join together more than 350 voices recreating the spirit of the original premiere performance in 1880 that Tchaikovsky called “one of the happiest moments” of his career.
  • ¡Cantaré! Community Concert, May 20, 2014: At this multi-generational fiesta, prominent Mexican composers will work with school choirs, community choruses, and VocalEssence to create a stunning performance, bringing the sounds of Mexico to Minnesota in a family-friendly, bilingual music celebration!

Season tickets are now on sale. For tickets, details about the season, and other information, please visit, or call 612-371-5656.

Called “one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time” by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, VocalEssence was founded in 1969 by Artistic Director Philip Brunelle. VocalEssence has championed the vocal experience in unconventional ways through concerts, commissions, and community engagement, and has debuted more than 150 commissions and world premieres. Beyond performances and recordings, VocalEssence impacts thousands of students, singers, and composers each year through its programs, contests, and support for innovative art. For more information, visit


Jennifer Weismann