VocalEssence has just returned from conducting some “choral diplomacy” in Mexico. The trip to Mexico City—from Aug. 26 to Sept. 3— was a historic one. For ten years, Philip Brunelle has been visiting Mexico to meet and audition composers willing to fly up to Minnesota multiple times during the school year for VocalEssence ¡Cantaré!, staying a total of four weeks, and teaching children in elementary, middle, and high school choirs how to sing and compose in traditional Mexican forms. Now Philip got a chance to share his experience of this incredible country with the choir—and share the choir with the passionate musical talents befriended through the years.
The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers had a magical time performing with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería for a three-night run. Besides singing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the two groups joined forces to bring to life music from both Mexican and American composers. They got a chance to step onstage at some world-class, prestigious venues— the Auditorio Blas Galindo of the Centro Nacional de las Artes, national landmark Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Sala Nezahualcoyotl at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Watch their performance of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
Some singers even broke out into song after climbing to the top of the pyramids between concert times—but that was strictly impromptu! Check out a video of the singing below.
Students and faculty at UNAM who share the VocalEssence passion for choral music gave the Ensemble Singers a warm reception, with several hundred attending a workshop and trading performances—the singers got to hear songs from the Engineering Department Choir, the Biology Department Choir, and the Psychology Department Choir. At the end of the program they brought Philip Brunelle to the stage and made him an official “Puma”—the soccer team of the Engineering Department!
It’s so important to remember the exchange of goodwill and humanity that is possible when groups of individuals tune out the cacophony of the political discourse and answer the call of the VocalEssence motto: Together We Sing! Below are a sampling of the notes that the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers wrote to their Mexican counterparts.
- “The whole week felt like an arm outstretched to our Mexican neighbors, accompanied by unspoken words, ‘We all are brothers and sisters in music. We are better together.'”
- “During these times of political and social turmoil, with so much misinformed tension, fear and ignorance that has grown in many United States citizens, I feel that we musicians (both from Mexico and the USA) who participated in this experience became cultural ambassadors for our countries. It is through music and the arts and humanities that our people will be able to grow closer, and to drive away the racism and ignorance that tries to keep us divided. We are all one big family. It was a great honor and privilege for me to be able to establish close and lasting friendships with our Mexican brothers and sisters, and to show them our love, honor, respect and admiration. Mexico – you are a beautiful, extraordinary, rich country filled with beautiful people, culture, cuisine, music, landscape and history.”
- “There are times in life where purpose, or the intuition to act willfully, will cause change to happen and intentions to shift. During our Mexico Tour, we used universal language – love, passion, and music, to transform the listening experiences of thousands of listeners, all Americans – all working in harmony to complete a single goal with excellence.”
- “I sing not simply for the joy and catharsis that music offers me personally, but also for the connections music offers which nothing else can. Music is a language all its own which transcends borders and conflicts and can touch the soul, sometimes unexpectedly. Traveling to Mexico City, singing with amazing singers, performing with a first class orchestra, forging friendships that will last beyond this week.”
- “Going to Mexico City with the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers was one of the most rewarding musical experiences I’ve ever had. It was humbling to make music with the amazing Mexican choral singers, and I believe I walked away as a better singer because of singing alongside them. I am excited to share my experience with anyone who will listen; everyone should know about this beautiful city and beautiful people.”