Press Release

VocalEssence Announcements Concert & Family Programs for Historic 50th Season

Jennifer Weismann


Celebrating 50 years of honoring music’s greatest artists, introducing their work to new audiences, and nurturing the diverse voices that will shape its next half-century. Download season photos here.

MINNEAPOLIS — May 15, 2018—Marking a milestone for the nationally renowned arts organization, VocalEssence announces its jubilee 50th season. The journey to its 2018-2019 season is a remarkable achievement for the nonprofit: a half-century of building engagement, sharing the benefits of vocal music, and planting the seeds that ensure that singing together will evolve and thrive in the years ahead.

The 50th season schedule reveals exciting new endeavors, including an outdoor summer sing-along, an innovative new work commissioned in honor of Minnesota’s own Bob Dylan; a world premiere from young star composer Nico Muhly; and the launch of the new Family Series, a program that expands access to culture by offering free tickets to all children.

VocalEssence programmed the 50th season to embody its values: giving access to and nurturing new voices in our community. Through five decades of creating pioneering programs, throwing memorable concerts, and forging local and international connections, VocalEssence has created a dynamic institution with a worldwide impact.

Events in the 2018-2019 season include:

  • The Wizard of Oz Movie Sing-Along, August 31, 2018: There’s no place like home, and VocalEssence is proud to kick off the 50th season in our hometown in true VocalEssence fashion—using our outdoor voices! Bring the family, grab some popcorn, and settle in for an evening of fun. Led by Associate Conductor G. Phillip Shoultz, III, join us as we sing familiar and favorite songs—from movies, to Broadway, to folk, to popular—along with a few surprises. After sunset, stay for a sing-along of one of the greatest films in cinema history, The Wizard of Oz. Prizes for the best costumes. You can even bring your little dog, too!
  • 50th Anniversary Concert, October 7, 2018: Roll out the red carpet and stroll down memory lane as we celebrate the people and songs that made VocalEssence what it is today. Opening just as we did 50 years ago with Copland’s In the Beginning, the concert will bring back audience favorites including selections from Benny Andersson’s Kristina and John Philip Sousa’s El Capitan. Guest artists from Bradley Greenwald to Dessa will join us to add sparkle to the golden affair, including some surprises! Continue the celebration with a “who’s who” of VocalEssence celebrities at the After Party at Landmark Center catered by Deco Catering.
  • Music for a Grand Cathedral, October 28, 2018: Every day deserves beauty. Give yourself time to sit and soak in Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G minor in a space worthy of its expansive beauty, the majestic Cathedral of Saint Paul. Written when the composer turned 50, the Mass is simultaneously inspired by the past yet uniquely Vaughan Williams’s own, with lush English harmonies that stretch the choir to its fullest potential. As VocalEssence and The St. Olaf Choir join forces on this mystical masterpiece, let it wash over you and bring you to a hushed devotion.
  • Identity, November 8, 2018: Be inspired by new voices and the changing face of choir at the inaugural solo performance of VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, the VocalEssence youth choir. Using the diversity of its membership as a guide, VocalEssence Singers Of This Age and guest artists will use song, spoken word, and movement to explore the concept of identity and celebrate the rich tapestry of Minnesota’s cultural communities. Joining the youth choir will be artists from around the community including members of the VocalEssence Vintage Voices choirs, a program that creates choirs for older adults. Find your own voice and sing along as we find unity through our differences.
  • Welcome Christmas, December 1, 7, 8, 9, 2018: Every beloved Christmas song had a first performance. Discover your holiday soundtrack as VocalEssence performs the crème de la crème of Christmas premieres over the past 49 years and looks toward the future with world premieres by screen and stage composer Nico Muhly (hot off his premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York!) and two new carols by winners of the 21st annual Welcome Christmas Carol Contest.
  • Star of Wonder—Reimagined!, December 8, 2018: Deck the hall with VocalEssence at this hands-on holiday event. Clap, wiggle, and sing along to your favorite carols, and try your hand at creating a holiday-themed craft to take home. Sit up close and experience the wonder of singing together (maybe for the first time). Pillows, baby bottles, and teddy bears welcome!
  • Together We Sing Festival, January 19, 2019: Every social movement in modern history has been inspired by music that rouses the masses, speaks truth to power, and cements public consciousness. On MLK weekend 2019, join VocalEssence and guest artists to raise your voice and give back. In partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society, sing songs of protest and progress, move your feet to the rhythm of justice, try your hand at spoken word performance, and volunteer for a cause.
  • Frozen Movie Sing-Along at ASI, Saturday, February 2, 2019: Whether it’s Elsa, Anna, Olaf, or Sven, dress up as your favorite character and join us at a Frozen movie sing-along led by members of our new youth choir VocalEssence Singers Of This Age. Walk over to the “castle” (Turnblad Mansion) to take a photo with your prince or princess, and create a snowflake in honor of your favorite snowman. American Swedish Institute Museum admission included.
  • VocalEssence WITNESS: Yet They Persist, Sunday, February 24, 2019: Stand up and cheer as VocalEssence honors past, present, and future trailblazing African and African American women who persist against all odds to change their communities and the world. Atlanta’s Spelman College Glee Club will join the VocalEssence Chorus and VocalEssence Singers Of This Age in this electrifying program, which celebrates entrepreneurship, highlights the importance of education, and advocates for the equality of all.
  • VocalEssence & The Avant Garde: Soul Sing, Date TBD VocalEssence is partnering with The Avant Garde to bring out the soul in all of us. Led by VocalEssence Teaching Artist Niles (Chadwick Phillips), The Avant Garde specializes in fusing multiple forms of art into one event (music concerts, visual art showings, dance performances, poetic readings, theater, and more). This event will feature performances by local soul artists as well as space to add your voice and a little soul to the evening in a sing-along of your favorites.
  • Candide, March 21-24, 2019: With star-crossed lovers, villains, Monty Python-esque comedy, and a beautiful score, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is opera for the people. Wrapped in irony, this musical follows the optimistic young Candide in search of “the best of all possible worlds” on an extraordinary journey to reunite with his soulmate. Imagined by Theater Latté Da’s Peter Rothstein, the all-star cast will perform a theatrical concert version, allowing audiences to savor the epic beauty of Bernstein’s music. This is production is in partnership with Theater Latté Da.
  • Tales & Tunes, March 30, 2019: Let’s create together! In this musical story time, your little ones can roll up their sleeves and make a craft, sing along to nursery rhymes with our singers, and hear acclaimed local author Nancy Carlson read some of her most-loved books. Listen to brand new songs written by teen moms through our Lullaby Project, and create a song with us that you can take home.
  • The Times They Are A-Changin’, April 27, 2019: Bob Dylan’s timeless music has been covered by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Kronos Quartet. As the finale to our 50th season, it’s time to add our name to the list. Join us as we reimagine Dylan in the Midwest premiere of The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Words and Music of Bob Dylan, commissioned in honor of his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature and arranged by Steve Hackman. Kick back, grab a drink, and hear Dylan’s music like it’s the first time all over again.
  • VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! Community Concert 2019, May 21, 2019: Hear our community come together as hundreds of students join VocalEssence to celebrate Mexico in song at the VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! Community Concert. The culmination of a year-long composer-in-residence program, this bilingual concert includes premieres and an audience sing-along that will leave you with a renewed hope that music can change the world.

“When I founded VocalEssence in 1969, I knew that both the tradition of choirs and the community I lived in could benefit by the inclusion of new voices and new perspectives in the art,” said Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence founder and artistic director. “That original vision has propelled VocalEssence through more artistic adventures and thrilling human moments than I could have ever imagined. I’m very proud to see what we’ve achieved—touching lives from children to seniors, bridging cultures with educational programs, and commissioning work from artists, both world-famous and emerging.  In addition to our traditional concerts, I’m excited to reveal our new Family Series for the 50th season, the first concert program of its kind by a choir in the USA that removes ticket prices as a barrier to admission for children and youth ages 0-17; these Family Series concerts offer a new level of inclusion.”

“This season has a feeling of triumph about it, because it’s a validation and continuation of our mission,” said G. Phillip Shoultz, III, VocalEssence associate conductor. “Last year we launched an ambitious new venture, VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, our intentionally inclusive youth choir made up of area high school students. It was a tremendous success, and we can’t wait to see the impact of their engagement as we build on what the students accomplished last year. The response we see when we reach out in song to grow our community is always so positive—and it drives our passion as we encourage everyone to find their voice.”

VocalEssence season tickets will go on sale starting May 15, 2018. Single tickets go on sale August 13, 2018. For season tickets, details about the season, individual tickets and other 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”—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 250 commissions and world premieres. For more information, visit