Press Release

VocalEssence Ends the Year with Lullabies and Latin Rhythms in ¡Cantaré!

Jennifer Weismann

Local choral ensemble premieres new music written by Mexican composers and local students in ¡Cantaré! Community Concerts—May 23

 MINNEAPOLIS—April 26, 2016—Experience the music of our southern neighbors at a multi-generational fiesta as nationally-acclaimed choral ensemble VocalEssence sings alongside school choirs in its annual VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! Community Concerts on Monday, May 23 at the Ordway Concert Hall. The concert series marks the conclusion to the 2015-2016 VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! education program.

¡Cantaré!—Spanish for “I will sing”—pairs two Mexican composers-in-residence with local elementary school and high school choruses to discover, celebrate and create music inspired by Mexican traditions. This year, participating students met with Francisco Zúñiga Olmos and Alephsus Valdés over the course of three visits from October to May, together penning 17 new compositions which will be premiered at the Ordway Concert Hall. Zúñiga also worked with new mothers from Minneapolis’ Longfellow Alternative High School to create Spanish lullabies—two of which will be performed by an octet from the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers at the 6 pm concert—as part of Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project.

The first concert begins at 6 pm, as the 32-voice VocalEssence Ensemble Singers take the stage with students from Minneapolis’ Folwell School Performing Arts Magnet, Minneapolis’ Hiawatha Leadership Academies, and St. Paul Central High School. At 8 p.m., the Ensemble Singers return again—this time with students from Champlin Park High School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis, and Northport Elementary School in Brooklyn Center.

“VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! is one of our most exciting programs because the concerts really do feel like one big celebration. It’s just a fantastic way for students, their families and the composers to wrap up the project as well as the school year,” said G. Phillip Shoultz, III, VocalEssence associate conductor. “When VocalEssence first conceived of this program, we saw it as an opportunity to increase awareness of Mexico’s heritage throughout the wider Minnesota community since this state is home to many people of Mexican descent. But it’s also a platform that fosters cultural pride, wonderful new music, and meaningful partnerships with composers, students and organizations like Carnegie Hall—many of which have turned into longstanding relationships.”

Alephsus Valdés studied Orchestral Conducting at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música and Philosophy at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), as well as the Propedéutico in Composition at the UNAM. His career includes musical production and recording—covering everything from composing, arranging, recording, mixing and post producing. As a composer, his works focus on theatrical, orchestral, film, and chamber music, with arrangements for different instrumentations. In addition, Valdés served as the director of Luminae—a project of religious music incorporating modern arrangements and choral music. Currently, Valdés teaches music in the Contemporary Dance School at the Centro Cultural Ollin Yoliztli, working as both a teacher and pianist; he also owns his production company—Hikari Studios.

Francisco Zúñiga Olmos studied professional classical guitar at Escuela Nacional de Música (UNAM) under Guillermo Flores Méndez, and received his musical education degree at the National Musical Conservatory in Mexico. He also holds a master’s degree in Artistic Research and Education from the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA). Zúñiga has served as a choral conductor for the Armonic Progression Chamber Choir and the National School of Biologic Sciences Choir from IPN (Instituto Politécnico Nacional). In 1990, Zúñiga founded the “Ensemble Vocal Cantera” Chamber Choir, which he still conducts today. Zúñiga also teaches guitar, solmization and choral singing at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música (INBA) and at the Escuela Nacional de Música (UNAM).

Tickets for the VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! Community Concerts are free and the performances are open to the public. For more information about ticketing venues and the concert series, please visit

VocalEssence, called “one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time” by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts—and the choral ensemble that Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones says “sings magnificently”—is a leading arts organization that impacts thousands of students, singers, and composers each year through its initiative programs, contests, and support for innovative art. Regularly featured on “A Prairie Home Companion,” VocalEssence is in demand whenever choral music is required—performing with everyone from the Rolling Stones and Rufus Wainwright to James Earl Jones and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Founded in 1969, VocalEssence has debuted more than 250 commissions and world premieres. For more information, visit