VocalEssence Ensemble Singers to raise the roof at Sacred Heart Music Center
Duluth highway construction isn't the only contracting work that lets people know where they are. "My mom was born on Jefferson Street in Duluth in a spot that's a parking lot now," recalls Philip Brunelle, artistic director of the VocalEssence E...
Duluth highway construction isn't the only contracting work that lets people know where they are.
"My mom was born on Jefferson Street in Duluth in a spot that's a parking lot now," recalls Philip Brunelle, artistic director of the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers headquartered in Minneapolis.
Brunelle's mother graduated from Denfeld at 16, attended college for a year, and returned to Denfeld to teach for a time years ago. His father was born and raised in Proctor. These days, when he comes to town, his favorite stop is Leif Erikson Park.
VocalEssence will perform Friday at the Sacred Heart Music Center after a day spent working with choir students at East High School and the College of St. Scholastica. Vocal-Essence singers will help these two local choirs refine their sound and learn how to respond vocally to a variety of conducting techniques. They will also talk about the connection between music and literature and how the discipline required of musicians can be useful in life.
Bret Amundson is starting his second year as director of the College of St. Scholastica concert choir.
"I'm really excited to give the students an opportunity to not just watch a professional group, but also to rehearse with them, to have them all sitting next to each other creating music together," he said.
Students are also eager to spend day working with the renowned performers up close.
Stephen Stockhaus is a senior finishing his major in advertising and public relations. He may enter the music field in some way after he graduates in 2012.
"Right now, we're in the stage of trying to memorize music for the rehearsal. On Friday, I'm expecting to learn how a professional group interacts during a rehearsal, how the interaction is different than during a school rehearsal where it's a little more relaxed," said Stockhaus.
Brunelle founded the ensemble singers in 1991. The Times of London described the small group as "polished, bright and brilliantly balanced." In 2011, the Minnesota State Arts Board awarded the ensemble an Arts Tour grant which allows them funding to perform in venues outside the Twin Cities metro area.
Eric Swanson is Executive Director of the Sacred Heart Music Center, a former church built with sound in mind.
"It is probably one of the best, if not the best, venues in Duluth for choral music because the natural acoustics of the building are designed to make a choir sound amazing. VocalEssence approached us over eighteen months ago about doing this. The Sacred Heart Music Center signed a letter of intent saying if they got their grant we would present the program and they got their grant so now we're part of their tour."
"Singers do best in a warm acoustic, and I've heard many, many good things about the acoustics at the Sacred Heart Music Center. A friendly, inviting sound makes singers happy and it also makes audiences happy because they are able to hear the choir so well."
Among the selections for performance are two medleys. One, "Songs of Our Grandparents", contains selections reflecting Minnesota's Swedish, German and Norwegian heritage. The other, "The North Star Hit Parade", contains highlights from some famous soloists and performance groups who came from Minnesota, such as Judy Garland, Bob Dylan, the Andrews Sisters and Bobbie Vee, to name a few.
"Most folks will be surprised to think that a choral group would be able to sing all these styles, but that is one of the calling cards of the ensemble singers, to be flexible and ready to sing many different styles and periods of music," said Brunelle.
The performance is Friday, November 4, 2011 at 7:00 pm at the Sacred Heart Music Center located at 201 West Fourth Street in Duluth. Tickets are available at the Electric Fetus, www.sacredheartmusic.org ., and at the door.