A Toast to 50 Years from Marilyn Carlson Nelson

And on the eighth day, God created VocalEssence, and it was good.

So now, dear Philip, Carolyn, VocalEssence, it falls to me to end this magnificent celebration with a toast. A toast to 50 years of music that have unspooled before us at a dizzying speed tonight, beginning and ending with Aaron Copeland and The Promise of Living.

I couldn’t help how often we talked about new music, global presence, about expecting the unexpected. But tonight I was reassured by the expected. The profundity of Philip’s vision, the depth of his love, that God could create a genius intellectually with a heart this big, who found ways through music to give us messages we need to hear, at times we needed to hear them, and to remind us that we can be better for having known Philip, and having heard what he has produced.

Philip, we all hope to make a difference. And I know you will continue to, but you must know tonight, that every one of us is somehow better having known you. And we cannot thank you enough.

So, it feels more like we need to start with a prayer of gratitude. Gratitude for Philip, whose friendship, whose global understanding of human nature, whose deep understanding of music as a vehicle to reach our souls, has enriched our lives for 50 years. Gratitude for his beloved Carolyn, whose art gives us new ways to see people, and inspires each of us to find and develop our own talent. Gratitude for generations of singers who have continued to uplift our spirits. Gratitude for composers who have helped to give our lives expressive meaning. Gratitude for the staff, business, and community leaders, whose talent, time, and treasure enable us. We bow our heads with gratitude that we in some small way have been part of something so breathtaking.

But now, instead of a seven-fold amen, which I would assume Philip would have done, I think it’s time to have a quick toast. And I’ll do it thanks to our friend Benny Andersson. Who else would say what we want to say like he did. Philip, VocalEssence, thank you for the music, the songs we’re singing, thank you for all the joy we’re bringing. Who could live without it. We ask in all honesty, what would life be without VocalEssence? What indeed are we? And so tonight we say, once again, thank you for the music, for giving it to us! Here’s to you Philip and Carolyn!

Marilyn Carlson Nelson presented this toast at the VocalEssence 50th Anniversary Dinner at the Landmark Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Sunday, October 7, 2018.