MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (April 7, 2010) — The Alliance Française de Minneapolis and St. Paul is honoring two Minnesotans for their dedication to promoting French language and culture with the prestigious Médaillons de l’Alliance Française. The Award of Excellence will be given to Philip Brunelle, internationally renowned artistic director of VocalEssence, for featuring no less than 19 French composers in his repertoire. Brunelle has staged concerts entirely devoted to French music – the Musique de France series – and even led a three-day marathon of all the vocal works of Francis Poulenc.
The President’s Award, which honors exemplary service to the Alliance Française, goes to Judith Koll Healey, a former board member who led a strategic planning effort that contributed to the non-profit organization’s success in weathering the recession. Healey has also spurred interest in Medieval French history through her novels The Canterbury Papers and The Rebel Princess, fictional accounts of an actual thirteenth century princess, Alais Capet, sister of King Phillippe Auguste of France.
“We are proud to honor such enthusiastic and gifted Francophiles in our first presentation of the Médaillons de l’Alliance Française,” said board president Franck Marret, a native Frenchman.
Both Brunelle and Healey speak French and are well traveled in France, plus they share a frustration that many Minnesotans are unaware of the state’s French roots. French explorers and fur trappers were the first Europeans in Minnesota, which explains why downtown Minneapolis has streets named Hennepin, Nicollet and Marquette. And St. Paul was originally known as “Pigs Eye,” the nickname of Pierre Parrant, a colorful and notorious entrepreneur.
“Perhaps the Swedes and Norwegians have done a better job of saying that this state is Scandinavian,” said Brunelle. “That may be true in numbers but not in terms of history.” Healey sees a contemporary relevance for knowing about Minnesota’s past. “For anyone wanting to understand emerging nations, they also need to understand the colonial history of the United States and France,” she said.
The official presentation of the awards takes place on May 6 at the fundraising gala for the Alliance Française at Hotel Sofitel in Bloomington. Its theme is “May we? Mais oui! Springtime in Paris.” Singer Connie Evingson will perform with the Clearwater Hot Club, an acoustic jazz ensemble. Master of Ceremonies is KSTP-TV News Anchor Cyndy Brucato.