Press Release

Set Your Soul Free with VocalEssence WITNESS: What a Mighty God

Jennifer Weismann


Spirituals are in the spotlight as the VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers welcome Dr. André Thomas, NaGuanda Nobles, and Christian Mark Gibbs—November 17   

MINNEAPOLIS — June 26, 2019 — VocalEssence is honoring the tradition of African American spirituals in a special November VocalEssence WITNESS performance. On Sunday, November 17, What a Mighty God will feature Dr. André Thomas conducting the Midwest premiere of his Mass: A Celebration of Love and Joy. Joining the VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi will be the VocalEssence Singers Of This Age and guest soloists NaGuanda Nobles and Christian Mark Gibbs.

Images are available here.

“VocalEssence was founded on the community-building power of song, and the African American spiritual is a mighty example,” says VocalEssence Associate Conductor G. Phillip Shoultz, III. “As we celebrate 30 years of VocalEssence WITNESS with an extra November performance this season, we’re reminded of what a tremendous resource we have in our own voices.”

“Using little more than their voices and their faith, enslaved African Americans invented music that allowed an expression of both sorrow and hope for freedom, right under the noses of their oppressors,” added Shoultz. “A spiritual was a vehicle for storytelling, secret-sharing and plan-making—and became the foundation of uniquely American sounds like gospel, blues, and jazz. Dr. Thomas has dedicated his life to choral and spiritual music, and with his help, our audiences will leave inspired and filled with spirit themselves.”

What a Mighty God will be performed at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi on Sunday, November 17 at 4 p.m. Ticket holders are invited to attend a post-concert conversation from 6 to 6:30 pm. Tickets are currently available as part of a 2019-20 Concert Series Subscription. Single tickets go on sale on Monday, August 5, 2019.

Each year since its birth in 1991, VocalEssence WITNESS has shined a light on the cultural contributions of African Americans. Besides creating the annual WITNESS public concert, the program places teaching artists in local schools, develops educational curricula, commissions new works, releases recordings, and hosts youth concerts. Its Reatha Clark King Award for Excellence and Youth Motivation through the Cultural Arts celebrates and recognizes outstanding leaders who are in the field empowering young people through direct contact, making a way for them to be as successful as they can be.

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