History/Timeline

1969 Philip Brunelle founds the Plymouth Church Music Series.

1970 Aaron Copland conducts a performance of his choral works aptly titled “In the Beginning.”

1973 Dominick Argento composes Jonah and the Whale, the first VocalEssence commission.

1973 Dave Brubeck Jazz legend performs the Midwest premiere of his To Hope: A Celebration.

1974 Garrison Keillor features Philip Brunelle on the first A Prairie Home Companion radio show.

1986 Philip Brunelle and Libby Larsen visit Egypt to plan for the world premiere of Larsen’s Coming Forth into Day, narrated by Jehan Sadat.

1988 Benjamin Britten’s Paul Bunyan is performed by VocalEssence at the Aldeburgh Music Festival in England.

1988 P.D.Q. Bach’s Oedipus Tex is one of 15 semi-staged productions.

1991 WITNESS debuts, featuring music of African American composers.

1992 Awards VocalEssence receives the first of six national awards for Adventurous Choral Programming­–more than any other American chorus.

1994 James Earl Jones narrates Frederick’s Fables, commissioned especially for him to perform at WITNESS.

1996 Kristina från Duvemåla written by ABBA founders, has American debut by VocalEssence at Orchestra Hall.

1997 Prague Spring Festival The Ensemble Singers are the first professional American chorus to perform at this festival.

1999 Welcome Christmas Carol Contest debuts in partnership with the American Composers Forum.

2002 Barnum’s Bird An opera by Libby Larsen is premiered at the Library of Congress.

2002 World Symposium on Choral Music hosted in the U.S. by VocalEssence for the first time: Mayor R.T. Rybak welcomes and conducts attendees.

2002 VocalEssence Plymouth Music Series changes its name to VocalEssence.

2005 Peer Gynt His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway attends the performance.

2005 100 World Premieres Cary John Franklin composes the 100th work commissioned by VocalEssence.

2007 William Bolcom A two-week multimedia festival celebrates the music of this master composer.

2007 Bluegrass Mass A celebrated world premiere performance and recording combines chorus and bluegrass band.

2008 40th Anniversary Garrison Keillor helps VocalEssence celebrate 40 years of innovative music-making.

2009 England Tour Ensemble Singers’ trip includes in-studio collaboration with BBC Singers.

2010 Mallets & Melodies As part of the Marimba 2010 Festival & Convention featuring 20 marimbas at the Cathedral of Saint Paul.

2011 ¡Cantare! Expansion brings program to rural Minnesota, to Worthington.

2011 North Star Tour brings Ensemble Singers to five communities in Greater Minnesota.

2012 WITNESS: In the Spirit of Being brings composer, educator and jazz trumpeter Hannibal Lokumbe to the Twin Cities.

2013 45th Anniversary Energetic Melanie DeMore brings the Gullah tradition of stick pounding to Orchestra Hall.

2014 Asia Pacific Tour VocalEssence Ensemble Singers tour South Korea and China.