Press Release

VocalEssence Announces Season Lineup for Extraordinary 49th Year

Jennifer Weismann

Stellar artistic performances, unique educational programming, and enriching community engagement on track for Twin Cities choral organization’s 2017-2018 season

MINNEAPOLIS—APRIL 24, 2017—Nationally renowned choral organization VocalEssence today announces its 49th season. The 2017-2018 season will give VocalEssence opportunities to further extend its reach and reputation as a builder of community and sponsor of transformative musical performances.

For nearly five decades, VocalEssence has used singing as a bridge between cultures, between communities, and between groups. It has touched the lives of many in the Twin Cities region while drawing acclaim and recognition from artists and organizations around the globe. At the heart of this influence is programming designed with diversity and ambition in mind — a tradition which continues in the upcoming year’s schedule.

Events in the 2017-2018 season include:

  • Finlandia Forever, September 24, 2017: While the land of the midnight sun has long been known for refreshingly bright ideas—from saunas to cell phones—its musical contributions are equally innovative. Favorite Finns Osmo Vänskä and Sara Pajunen will help us celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence, performing music of Sibelius, Rautavaara, Mäntyjärvi, Saariaho, and others. Catch “Finn Fever” and join in with a chorus of Sibelius’s Finlandia. Presented in partnership with the American Swedish Institute and national FinnFest USA.
  • Bach & Bluegrass Jamboree, November 10, 2017: Get ready for toe-tappin’, knee-slappin’ fun as VocalEssence breathes new life into J.S. Bach and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with special guests Monroe Crossing. Hear VocalEssence perform some of Bach’s most jubilant music alongside gospel bluegrass tunes and a regional premiere of Carol Barnett’s Bluegrass Te Deum with Monroe Crossing and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers.
  • Bach’s Mighty Fortress Community Sing, November 11, 2017: Sing the songs of a German master! Join us for a morning of fellowship and song performing Bach’s Cantata No. 80 – Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) as well as other Bach chorales and choruses to celebrate 500 years since the Protestant Reformation.
  • VocalEssence Welcome Christmas, December 2, 8, 9, 10, 2017: There’s no place like home for the holidays, so join us to hear the warm sounds of a Minnesota Christmas. This year we salute many of the composers that call Minnesota home in a blend of the most beloved music of the season. Fall in love with new carols as we celebrate the 20th year of our national carol competition in the way it first began—with music for a cappella chorus.
  • Star of Wonder, December 9, 2017: Clap, wiggle and sing along to your favorite carols at our 45-minute family holiday concert. Sit up close and experience the wonder of choral singing (maybe for the first time). Pillows, baby bottles and teddy bears welcome!
  • Together We Sing Festival, January 13, 2018: This free Saturday festival encourages attendees to explore songs of hope and unity from a wide array of cultural perspectives, and engage in conversation and fellowship over food. Special musical guests from the community will join throughout the day to enrich the experience. Together We Sing culminates with a mini-concert/public sharing session.
  • VocalEssence WITNESS: Of Such I Dream, February 18, 2018: Dream of a better world as we pay tribute to the Harlem Renaissance on the 100th anniversary of its birth through song, poetry, hip-hop, dance, and more. Hear the debut of the VocalEssence Youth Choral Arts Initiative as well as the world premiere of William Banfield’s chamber symphony, I Trust Harlem Is Still There, based on the letters of Langston Hughes. Be inspired and challenged to become an agent of change in our community.
  • Rutter Returns, April 21, 2018: On the eve of our golden anniversary, see VocalEssence shine as never before when we revisit some of our best-loved performances and hit new heights in the inspiring Cathedral of Saint Paul. The incomparable John Rutter returns to conduct Feel the Spirit, a cycle of his spiritual arrangements for chorus and chamber orchestra, as well as a new piece he penned to celebrate our upcoming 50th anniversary.
  • Community Sing with John Rutter, April 22, 2018: Britain’s John Rutter invites you to join him for an afternoon of sweeter music as he leads you through a selection of his favorites. Enthusiastic singers of all levels are welcome.
  • River Songs and Tales Tour, April 4-8, 2018: Supported by an Arts Tour grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, members of the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and Don Shelby as Mark Twain go on the road to celebrate life on the Mississippi River. Through choral music and the spoken word, VocalEssence takes listeners on a musical journey of the past and present—choral masterpieces, favorite folksongs, traditional spirituals, and Americana—all paired with the words of Mark Twain. Stops include:
  • April 4, Wilcox Theatre in the Reif Performing Arts Center, Grand Rapids
  • April 5, Hibbing High School, Mesaba Concert Association, Hibbing
  • April 6, Historic Holmes Theatre, Detroit Lakes
  • April 7, Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center, Brainerd
  • April 8, Alexandria High School Performing Arts Center, Alexandria
  • VocalEssence Choralia, May 6, 2018: Choralia is a biennial fundraising effort and singing celebration to benefit VocalEssence Community Engagement Programs: this year—VocalEssence ¡Cantaré!
  • VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! Community Concert, May 22, 2018: VocalEssence ¡Cantaré! is a unique program designed to bring the talents of composers from Mexico directly into Minnesota classrooms. Through VocalEssence ¡Cantaré!, selected composers from Mexico participate as artists-in-residence with elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and community organizations. The composers work directly with student choirs and community choruses throughout the year, becoming familiar with the ensembles and writing new music specifically for each. At the end of the school year, community and school partners present these world premieres in concert at the Ordway.

“After months of planning, we’re so pleased to unveil this season packed with a remarkable breadth and variety of music,” said Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence founder and artistic director. “So many cultures pull strength from the joy and bonding created when we come together in song—so this year we’ll look at the many different approaches to the same end. From Germany to Finland to the Harlem Renaissance, the impact choral music makes is powerful and transcendent.”]

“We have amazing goals and dreams for this new season, and we can’t wait to see the reaction from audiences new and old,” said G. Phillip Shoultz, III, associate conductor, VocalEssence. “Engaging people with choral music goes beyond just gathering people in a concert hall — it’s about maintaining a bond and unity outside the performance space and introducing music into everyday lives. We put great emphasis on our programming beyond the stage, like VocalEssence WITNESS and ¡Cantaré!, which both engage the artistic senses while educating the next generation of musicians, and build a spirit of community.”

VocalEssence season tickets will go on sale starting April 24, 2017. Single tickets go on sale August 7, 2017. 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