Welcome Christmas 2023 Highlights Digital Concert Program

VocalEssence singers holding black folders performing at Northrop with brass and percussion players conducted by G. Phillip Shoultz, III. Photo Credit: Tony Nelson PhotographyFEATURING:
VocalEssence Chorus
VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
VocalEssence Singers Of This Age
VocalEssence Vintage Voices
Brass and Percussion Ensemble
Casey Rafn, piano
Mary Jo Gothmann, organ
Philip Brunelle, conductor
G . Phillip Shoultz, III, conductor



It is a delight to send this welcome from Northrop and VocalEssence to you! For many years Welcome Christmas has set the standard for celebrating choral music that combines the familiar with the new—and this year’s program continues that tradition—doing it uniquely by greeting all of you from the University of Minnesota’s beloved Northrop.

This is the second year that VocalEssence has partnered with Northrop to present Welcome Christmas with all four of our performing choirs: the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, Chorus, Singers Of This Age, and Vintage Voices—200 voices serenading you! We are delighted that Northrop, with its grand stage and backstage facilities, can be the home for Welcome Christmas. Of course, the presence of Northrop’s glorious Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ adds an additional luster to these concerts!

VocalEssence and Northrop are about community, continuing to expand our messages through music and dance to a greater Twin Cities populace. VocalEssence has presented at Northrop before (with the music of Rodion Shchedrin, heard in a ballet evening with the Bolshoi Ballet ballerina assoluta, Maya Plisetskaya) so we are delighted to return to Northrop. Thank you all for joining us and our best wishes to each of you for a wonderful Holiday Season!

—Kari A. Schloner, Executive Director, Northrop
—Philip Brunelle, Artistic Director and Founder, VocalEssence


Jonathan Dove (b. 1959)
VocalEssence Singers Of This Age
Ily Matthew Maniano (b. 1988)
VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers
arr. Naji Hakim (b. 1955)
VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
Pärt Uusberg (b. 1986)
VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers
Katie Boardman & JoAnna Johnson, soloists
Three Latvian Yuletide Folksongs, Carol one
Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977)
VocalEssence Ensemble Singers
We Three Kings
arr. Stuart Nicholson (1975)
VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers
AUDIENCE SING: Joy to the World
arr. John Rutter (b. 1945)
VocalEssence Chorus, Ensemble Singers, Singers Of This Age, & Vintage Voices


CHRISTMAS IS HERE, Jonathan Dove (Great Britain)
Christmas is come, be of good cheer.
A magical time at the end of the year.
Children can’t sleep, waiting all night,
For presents to open and share with delight.
With nose pressed to windows they’re eager to spy
A sleigh pulled by reindeer, crossing the sky.
Fingers and toes, whiskers and paws,
It’s freezing outside but we’re toasty indoors.
Candles are lit, trees decked with lights,
A welcoming sight on the darkest of nights.
We’ve left him some treats on a tray in the hall,
So old Father Christmas will pay us a call.
Christmas is come, joy fills the air,
Hearts race with every creak of the stair.
Have you behaved? No going back,
Only good children have toys in his sack.
He’s here! He’s here! Christmas is here!
Christmas is come, Santa’s been here!
Our stockings are filled, there was nothing to fear.
Want to see proof? Look to the floor,
A dusting of footprints leads to the door.
With finger to nose up the chimney he sped,
Then off through the night, packed with toys on his sled.
Be of good cheer, Christmas has come
Share what you have because giving is fun.
Mustn’t be glum, give me your hand!
Goodness and kindness are spread through the land.
It’s here! It’s here! Christmas is here!
—Zeb Soanes from Gaspard’s Christmas


GLORIA, Ily Matthew Maniano (Philippines)
Gloria in excelsis Deo. (Glory to God in the highest.)


O TANNENBAUM (O CHRISTMAS TREE), arr. Naji Hakim (Lebanon, France)
(sung in German)
O Christmas tree!
How faithful are your needles.
Not only are you green in the summer time
But also in the winter when it snows,
O Christmas tree!
How faithful are your needles.
O Christmas tree!
You can give me great joy.
How often has at Christmas time
A tree of yours delighted me,
O Christmas tree!
You can give me great joy.
O Christmas tree!
Your garment wants to teach me something.
It is hope and constancy that
Provide comfort and strength at any time,
O Christmas tree!
Your garment wants to teach me something.
—Traditional carol from Alsace


AVE MARIA, Pärt Uusberg (Estonia)
(sung in Latin)
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with you,
Blessed are you among women.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.


Carol One
Pure silver’s raining down
On the Yuletide eve,
Every tiny stick and twig
Shoot off silver sparks.
All night long the candles burn
In their silver lamps.
Gently, gently God was coming
Driving down the hill:
God has only gentle horses,
And a gently fitted sled.
Make the fire flame burn bright,
Welcome God inside:
God has driven down the hill
In a coat of silver.
I am thanking God tonight
I saw theYuletide come;
Let Him keep me in good health
So I’m around at Easter.
—Traditional Latvian carol


WE THREE KINGS, John Henry Hopkins, arr. Stuart Nicholson (Ireland)
We three kings of orient are;
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar,
Field and fountain,
Moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain.
Gold I bring to crown him a gain.
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshiping God on high.
Myrrh is mine its bitter perfume.
Breathes a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in a stone cold tomb.
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice.
Heaven sing Alleluia,
Alleluia the earth replies.


JOY TO THE WORLD, Traditional, arr. John Rutter (Great Britain)
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing!
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ;
While fields and floods,
Rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.
—Isaac Watts (1719)

Brass and Percussion

John Koopmann
Pam Humphrey
Sylvain Pineault

Neal Bolter
Jenna Mcbride-Harris

Kirsten Lies-Warfield
Jeff Rinear
Scott Moore

Jacob Grewe

Will Kemperman
Jarod Bendele

About Northrop

Situated at the heart of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus and a state historic landmark, Northrop has served as the University’s primary gathering place for the performing arts, world-renowned dance performances, concerts, academic ceremonies, and major civic events for nearly 100 years. From touring international and favorite local dance companies, musicians, and film screenings to the hottest comedy acts,
renowned speakers, celebrated authors, and prestigious UMN lectures, Northrop offers opportunities for all ages to explore, learn, and engage.

Northrop Advisory Boards

The Northrop Advisory Board is committed to the growth and awareness of Northrop’s mission, vision, and the continued future of presenting world-class dance and music in our community. If you would like more information about the advisory board and its work, please contact Cynthia Betz, Director of Development, at 612-626-7554 or betzx011@umn.edu.
Cynthia Betz
Jeff Bieganek, Chair
Kristen Brogdon
Dr. Robert Bruininks
John Conlin
Deb Cran
Susan DeNuccio
Karen Hanson
Cari Hatcher
Jill Hauwiller
Holly Kellar
Kelly McQueen
Bob McMaster
Katheryn Menaged
Gary Reetz
Robyne Robinson
Toni Pierce-Sands
Kari Schloner
Kao Lee Vang
Donald Williams
Michael Barone
Cynthia Betz
Dean Billmeyer
Kristen Brogdon
Dr. Robert Bruininks
Dee Ann Crossley
Laura Edman
Nils Halker
Cari Hatcher
David Jenkins
Pamela Neuenfeldt
Phillip Radtke
Emily Roth
Kari Schloner
Lindsey Siders

About VocalEssence

For 55 years, VocalEssence has provided opportunities for singers from the Twin Cities area to create incredible music together and build connections as part of the vibrant arts community in Minnesota.
VocalEssence is known for introducing audiences to music and artists who are not yet known, often welcoming guest artists, composers, and conductors who are emerging, have unknown works, or represent a variety of cultures. Welcoming all members of the greater community, VocalEssence embodies the motto: Together We Sing.
VocalEssence draws upon the power of singing together to nurture community, inspire creativity, affirm the value of all persons, and expand the influence of choral music.
Artistic Director and Founder
Philip Brunelle, artistic director and founder of VocalEssence 55 years ago, is an internationally-renowned conductor, choral scholar, and visionary. Philip has conducted symphonies, choral festivals, and operas on six continents. He holds five honorary degrees, served 9 years as Vice President of IFCM (International Federation for Choral Music), and has been recognized for his commitment to choral music by the governments of Norway, Hungary, Sweden, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. In 2019, he was awarded the American Prize in Choral Conducting and, in 2020, was given the Honorary Member Award by the Society for American Music. Last fall Philip was appointed a National Arts Associate of the Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity. Philip is also Organist-Choirmaster at Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis. During the pandemic Philip recorded 300 “Musical Moments” which can be accessed at https:// www.vocalessence.org/what-we-do/virtual-projects/musical-moments-with-philip-brunelle/ and his thoughts on music are at RenaissanceManpodcast.com. Philip and his wife Carolyn, a studio artist, have 3 children (Tim, Christopher and Elise) and 7 grandchildren.
Associate Artistic Director
G. Phillip Shoultz, III, associate artistic director, uses the power of the spoken word and song to foster community and inspire action among people of all ages and abilities. Phillip conducts festival choirs and leads workshops across the United States and beyond. He serves on the faculty of the University of St. Thomas and guides the ministries of worship, music, and the arts at Westwood Lutheran Church. An accomplished curator of multi-disciplinary community collaborations, Phillip is the Artistic Director of the University of Minnesota Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert. The Minnesota Orchestra regularly engages Phillip to host their Young People’s Concerts and his online presence continues to grow as his pandemic livestream, Take 5 with GPS, recently reached the 500-episode milestone. The winner of numerous honors, including the ACDA Graduate Conducting Competition and multiple Teacher of the Year awards, Phillip founded “Table for More” in the summer of 2020 to help organizations address issues related to innovation, equity, racial justice, and belonging in the arts. Phillip lives in St. Louis Park with his wife, Michelle, and their two children (Malachi and Lydia Grace).
Learning and Engagement Manager
Conductor, Vintage Voices
Robert Graham is the Learning and Engagement Manager at VocalEssence where he serves as the conductor for the VocalEssence Vintage Voices choirs, and oversees the renowned VocalEssence WITNESS School Program. Robert has a Master of Music degree in both vocal performance and choral conducting from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and a B.A. in vocal performance from Xavier University of Louisiana. Robert currently serves as a section leader of the adult choir at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, sings second tenor in the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, and also performs around the Twin Cities as a solo and chamber musician.
Pianist Casey Rafn enjoys a varied career as a collaborative pianist both in the United States and abroad, in Europe and Latin America. He is a member of ‘Trés’, whose saxophone-piano trio was just nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album for their new album “Romance al Campesino Porteño.” Casey often collaborates in concert or recordings with members of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and University of Minnesota School of Music faculty. As a piano soloist he took top prizes at the International Liszt-Garrison Competition in Baltimore, has appeared with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, and has taught at both the University of Minnesota School of Music and the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts.
Accompanist, VocalEssence Vintage Voices
John Jensen received his music degrees in Southern California, where he attended Occidental College and University of Southern California. While there he free-lanced as a studio musician, playing on the Andy Williams show and touring the country with prominent singers through Columbia Artists Management. He moved to Iowa and taught for 15 years at Grinnell College as an artist-in-residence. In 1990, John moved to St. Paul and has played with VocalEssence, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In November 2022, John appeared with the Yale Symphony Orchestra at Yale University to play and record a piano concerto by the late Paul Reale, for Naxos records (to be released in 2023).

VocalEssence Chorus 2023-24, photo credit-Bruce Silcox

The VocalEssence Chorus is a group of talented and enthusiastic singers from many different walks of life, united by their love of singing and community. Performing a wide variety of musical styles, premiering new works, and sharing the stage with a diverse array of guest artists, the Chorus is a welcome home for singers who wish to continue making music throughout their adult lives.
Ann Ambach
AnnaLisa Anderson
Madison Asher
Jessica Belt
Christine Boone
Kara Carrier
Corey Cellurale
Lorinda Chagnon
Amanda Connolly
McKenna Cromwell
Emily Dyrdahl
Eva Gibney-Jones
Lillian Gray
Kristina M. Guiffre
Becca Hovsepian
Claire Huber
Sally Jaffray
Elinor Jones
Magdalena Koebele
Laura Langan
Clara Lind
Lisa D Moncur
Christina Pederson
Emma Schlabach
Emily D. Seifers
Ashley Slattery
Leah Sovick
Abbie Sulik
Dana Terres
Katherine Tonn Eisinger
Amanda Troolin
Jennifer Vickerman
Laura Walket Jacobsen
Dannika Wright
Akosua Obuo Addo
Nancy Jo Aldrich
Azure Anderson
Jo Beld
Katelyn Belden
Mary Depew
Grace Dokken
Maggie Driemeyer
Emma Goos
Autumn Gurgel Valentini
Meg Hanna
Dee Hein
Grace Alice Herbertz
Brianna Hill
Emma Jirele
Jenny Kisner
Katie Kovacovich
Wenie Lado
Jessica Laven Johnson
Jeenee Lee
Ana M. Levya
Carly Lunden
Danica McDonald
Rachel Moniz
Kristi Mueller
Elizabeth Neuenfeldt
Liz Raimann
Marty Raymond
Miriam Sahouani
Erin Sandsmark
Katie Sandsmark
Lisa Kathleen Schalla
Sydney Schoeberle
Forrest Schrader
Laura Tanner
Claire Campion Walsh
Steve Aggergaard
David Ampaabeng
Brett Bacon
Larry J Brandts
Cheryl A Calloway
Justin Clark
Ryan Coopergard
Ben Demaree
Grant Gilbert Dunne
Tim Emery
Reagan Lee
Owen Metzger
Kurtis Parlin
Thomas Sasdi
Ona Sussman
Barry John Tikalsky
Ethan Williams
Robert Atendido
David Castro
Adam Hecker
Russ Kaplan
Evan Clay Kelly
Jordan Kiffmeyer
Phil Lowry
Noah K Lucas
Nicholas Marcouiller
Thomas Mondry
Nicholas Mroczek
Declan O’Higgins
Milo Oien-Rochat
David Olson
Ron Pearson
Brian D. Ruhl
Josh Snapp
Trent Stenoien
Dave Toht
Jacob Hurley Weindling

VocalEssence Ensemble Singers 2023-24, photo credit-Bruce Silcox

The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers have established an international reputation because of their extensive catalog of recordings and broad range of unique repertoire. This chamber choir, whose members hail from a wide variety of professions, is bound together by their skilled artistry to create what The Times of London has described as a “flawless” sound.
Jennifer Bevington
Katie Boardman
Elsa Buck
Chloe Johnson
JoAnna Johnson
Kathryn Rupp
Mari Scott
Carey Shunskis
Robin Joy Helgen
Patty Kramer
Audrey Lane-Getaz
Judith McClain Melander
Anna G Meek
Carolyn Nuelle
Kristina Rodel Sorum
Catherine Terres
Peter Aldrich
Eli Baumgartner
Will Berendsen
Ben Brunnette
Jared Campbell
Robert J. Graham
Jonah Herzog
Phil Reilly
Joseph Ellickson
David Gindra
Joe Kastner
Erik Krohg
Nathan Petersen-Kindem
Dr. Michael P. Schmidt
Benjamin Shermock

Members of VocalEssence Singers Of This Age on performing stage wearing multi colored shirts.
VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, photo credit-Anna Min

The VocalEssence Singers Of This Age (VESOTA) is a community of Twin Cities teenagers engaged in expanding what it means to be a choir and, encouraging a wider circle of participation in the artform. Presenting music ranging from classical to hip-hop, they use creativity and collaboration to build an accepting community, equipped with the skills to lead social change in our society.
Alice Weiland
Alyssa Witty
Ani Yorkhall
Anaje Colquitt
Anna Delaney
Audrey Tuite
Avery Somdahl
Dede Jones
Esme Wright
Essie Botz
Jadesola “Ghost” Olatunde
Harry Lintner
Henrik Mills
Ian Ronning
Jamvon Rush-Reeves
James Tucker
Jer Vang
Josh Ramirez
Kaija Halvorson
Kiara Steiner
Korto Bessman
Leah Odegaard-Dunning
Lela Sabin
Lily Hiebert
Mahogany Robinson
Elizabeth “Moxie” Tucker
Natalie Goodman
Nyx Crews
Raegan Brogdon
Jerusha Burdette
Ruby Atkins
Ursula Beitz
Wendy Mulewa
Yawn Ye Thao
Zola Ranum

Three adult Vintage Voices members holding black folders and singing. Photo Credit: Adja Gildersleve
Vintage Voices members, photo credit-Adja Gildersleve

VocalEssence Vintage Voices is an exciting choral program that integrates the arts into the everyday lives of older adults. Guided by a desire to create a welcoming atmosphere and remove barriers for participation, these choirs sing to build community, combat loneliness and isolation, and improve physical and emotional wellbeing.
Jean Heberle
Valton Henderson
Wilmetia Henderson
Susan Hentges
Jean Herron
Grace Jaggers
Ann Jensen
Arlene Pelayo
Teresa Reynolds
Nancey Riley
Lisa Sinclair
Laura Crosby
Jan Cutler
Jim Ervin
Joy Pierce
Joyce Sluss
Mike Sluss
Jean Spong
Chuck Swanson

VocalEssence Board of Directors and Staff

Carolina Maranon-Cobos
Torrie Allen
Vice President
Daniel Fernelius
Kristen Hoeschler O’Brien
Mary Ann Aufderheide
Anna Boyle
Tanya M. Bransford
Philip Brunelle
Ben Brunnette
Amber Cales
Mirella Ceja-Orozco
Margaret Chutich
Dan Dressen
Martha Driessen
Cassandra Garnett
Autumn Gurgel
Valton Henderson
Daniel Kantor
Lisa Merklin Lewis
Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed
Richard Neuner
Kristine Oberg
Jim Odland
Doug Parish
Joanne Reeck
G. Phillip Shoultz, III
Jeff Smith
Amanda Storm Schuster
Timothy C. Takach
Bob Thacker
Elizabeth Truesdell Smith
Ann Barkelew
Ann Buran
Art Kaemmer
Nikki Lewis
Mike McCarthy*
Dave Mona
Fred Moore
Don Shelby
Dorene Wernke
Dominick Argento*
William Bolcom
Dave Brubeck*
Stewart Copeland
Aaron Copland*
Håkan Hagegård
Louise Heffelfinger*
Eskil Hemberg*
Betty Hulings*
Sigrid Johnson*
James Earl Jones
Garrison Keillor
Donald Mitchell*
Helmuth Rilling
John Rutter
Peter Schickele
Dr. André J. Thomas
Eric Whitacre
*In remembrance
Philip Brunelle
Artistic Director and Founder
G. Phillip Shoultz, III
Associate Artistic Director
Robert Graham
Learning and Engagement Manager | Conductor, Vintage Voices
Casey Rafn
John Jensen
Accompanist, Vintage Voices
Azure Anderson
Executive Assistant
Mary Ann Aufderheide
Executive Director
Jeff Bina
Director of Finance and Operations
Rhiannon Fiskradatz
Learning and Engagement Manager
Laura Holst
Development and Marketing Associate
Emma Jirele Sandhurst
Learning and Engagement Manager
Ethan Johnson
Director of Artistic Operations
Amanda Timmer
Director of Marketing and Communications
Elissa Weller
Director of Development

Thank you, Northrop and VocalEssence Supporters

We are grateful to these supporters and donors who continue to support programming, education, and community engagement.

Northrop Supporters

VocalEssence has a large group of committed supporters and is honored by the many gifts received in memory, appreciation, and celebration of friends and family that are too many to list in this concert program. Please click the button below to see a full list of supporters and special tributes.

VocalEssence Supporters

Special Thanks

Lilli Branitzki
Dan Dressen
Ēriks Ešenvalds
Dave Lee
Anna Meek
Robin Tyson

Special Thanks for the Support of this Concert