Press Release

VocalEssence Brings Mark Twain Back to Life—Again


Jennifer Weismann

Minneapolis-based choral ensemble and Don Shelby reunite for “River Songs and Tales with Mark Twain” Jan. 29 in Moorhead, Minn.

MINNEAPOLIS — January 1, 2016 — Ever dreamed of journeying down the Mississippi River just like Huckleberry Finn? Grab your paddle for the trip with this season’s VocalEssence River Songs and Tales with Mark Twain: Northern Minnesota Tour—as 12 of the nationally acclaimed VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, accomplished fiddler Sara Pajunen and actor Don Shelby celebrate life along the Mississippi River in a special performance, conceived and directed by Jon Cranney, former artistic director of the Children’s Theatre Company.

Supported by a Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Tour grant, the musical journey of past and present—featuring choral masterpieces, folk song favorites, traditional spirituals, and Americana paired with the words of Mark Twain—visits three outstate Minnesota cities this April:

“We’re delighted to take River Songs and Tales with Mark Twain on the road again this spring.  Our southern Minnesota tour last year was a huge success—and great fun for the singers and audience alike,” said G. Phillip Shoultz, III, VocalEssence associate conductor. “For VocalEssence, this tour is a particularly special way to connect with the larger Minnesota community. We’ve had the good fortune to engage with, educate and entertain Minnesotans of all ages for more than 47 years—yet we continue to find new ways to explore choral music and uncover new audiences who resonate with its power.”

Tickets are available from $10 and up; for more information, 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