VocalEssence Christmas Concert Featuring Gustavus Alumni Wins Upper Midwest Emmy
by Sara Cronk
Gustavus Adolphus Fine Arts Blog | October 21st, 2021
At the 22nd annual Upper Midwest Regional Emmys, Minneapolis-based VocalEssence’s Christmas concert, Welcome Christmas, received the Emmy for Entertainment, Long Form Content. Five Gustavus alumni performed in the concert, and VocalEssence Artistic Director/Founder Philip Brunelle was awarded an honorary Gustavus doctorate in music in 1993.
This Emmy is the first in VocalEssence’s 53 years as an organization. “It is always a thrill to be recognized for something artistic and receiving this Emmy which involved all our singers in Welcome Christmas, made it extra special!” said Brunelle.
The VocalEssence Chorus features alumni Cassidy Coats ’19, Elizabeth Neuenfeldt ’19, Jacob Koshiol ’20, and Jennifer Vickerman ’97. Anders Eckman ’06 is a part of the 32-voice VocalEssence Ensemble Singers.
The VocalEssence Chorus typically performs as a group of 100 singers, but filmed in groups of no more than 24 singers due to COVID-19 precautions. “It challenged us in a new way to make music in a smaller ensemble, which we’re not always accustomed to doing,” Vickerman said.
Neuenfeldt was part of the group that recorded all of their portions virtually. “I would have never expected that I would be in the same room as an Emmy that I played a super tiny role in helping that accomplishment be achieved,” she said. “It makes all of that hard work and just navigating through working on a program in a completely different way, all that more rewarding.”
The concert was filmed back in October 2020. “It felt strange to have shot and completed a Christmas program in the middle of October, because then we had no performances during the actual holiday season!” Eckman said.
Eckman joined VocalEssence in 2006, right after he graduated from Gustavus. He sang in the volunteer chorus his first season, before joining the Ensemble Singers the following year. He has toured with VocalEssence to England, South Korea, China, and Mexico. His favorite part about being involved with VocalEssence is the diversity of repertoire the ensemble performs. “We oftentimes have direct contact with living composers and we get to bring to life their new compositions, which is really rewarding,” he said.
Vickerman also joined the VocalEssence Chorus soon after graduating from Gustavus. She was heavily involved in vocal music at Gustavus, performing with the Choir of Christ Chapel for a year and the Gustavus Choir for three years. Vickerman currently works in the advancement office at Gustavus and is the advancement liaison for Gustavus Friends of Music. She says that she enjoys the opportunity to sing pieces from a variety of composers, as well as the community of singers.
“It’s really fun to know that you can take music with you after Gustavus,” she said.