Press Release

It’s Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas—with VocalEssence!


Jennifer Weismann

This year, the Minneapolis-based choral ensemble’s beloved annual Welcome Christmas concert will include a special 50th Anniversary Season retrospective and new pieces by composer Nico Muhly

MINNEAPOLIS — September 18, 2018 — The VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers’ annual Welcome Christmas Concerts are a beloved tradition; as much a holiday staple for many Minnesotans as pumpkin pie and eggnog. But this year’s performance will have a little extra special something under the tree, as VocalEssence will feature world premieres by famed composer Nico Muhly (who calls choral music “slow food for the soul”), present Christmas premieres from the past 49 years, as well as two new carols by winners of the 21st annual Welcome Christmas Carol Contest.

Images are available here.

Performances will be at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, December 1 at 7:30 p.m.; Roseville Lutheran Church on December 7 at 7:30 p.m.; and December 8 & 9 at 4 p.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis.

“It’s worth remembering that every beloved Christmas song had a first performance,” says VocalEssence Founder and Artistic Director Philip Brunelle. “With that in mind, VocalEssence has commissioned a new holiday piece of music each year, and this year is no exception. For 2018, we will present a world premiere by screen and stage composer Nico Muhly, hot off another premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. We will also sing two new carols by winners of the 21st annual Welcome Christmas Carol Contest. And, to celebrate our 50th Season, we will revisit the crème de la crème of Christmas premieres from our entire history.”

“This year’s Welcome Christmas is going to be even more exciting than usual, as we are highlighting several other VocalEssence programs we’re so proud of,” adds Associate Conductor G. Phillip Shoultz, III. “We’ll be featuring two world premieres, from winning VocalEssence ReMix composer —and Minnesotan— Shruthi Rajasekar, as well as former VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! composer-in-residence Rodrigo Cadet. Welcome Christmas will certainly be the must-see holiday event for choir fans.”

This year’s Welcome Christmas Carol Contest, sponsored by the American Composers Forum and VocalEssence, asked composers to write a carol for SATB voice and oboe, and winners were selected from entrants across the country. The winners are New York composer Stephan Shewan, with his new piece “The Little Cradle Rocks Tonight,” and Minnesota composer Mark Shepperd, who wrote “O Jesus So Sweet, O Jesus So Mild.”

Tickets are now available for all shows. The 50th Anniversary Concert Series also includes Music for a Grand Cathedral (a joint performance of Vaughan William’s Mass in G minor with the St. Olaf Choir at the Cathedral of St. Paul) as well as a special VocalEssence WITNESS concert celebrating women, four performances of Candide and a concert featuring the words and music of Minnesota’s native son and Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan.

VocalEssence, called “one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time” by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, impacts thousands of students, singers, and composers each year through its initiative programs, contests, and support for innovative art. VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and has debuted more than 300 commissions and 500 world premieres. For more information, visit