Tour the World and Ring in the Season with VocalEssence

November 18, 2023
A choir wearing black with various colored scarves performs onstage with patterned pink and purple lighting projected behind them. A conductor stands downstage with their back toward the camera and musicians surrounding them.

Check out these featured facts before the VocalEssence: Welcome Christmas Dec 9-10 performances at Northrop.

A choir wearing black with various colored scarves performs onstage with patterned red lighting projected behind them. A conductor stands downstage with their back toward the camera and musicians surrounding them.

Photo by Tony Nelson Photography.

Sharing the Joy

Welcome Christmas is a powerful program that combines over 200 voices featuring all four VocalEssence singing ensembles, brass, percussion, and Northrop’s historic Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ—plus you! This rousing sing-along concert presenting carols from around the world is intended to ignite the audience’s holiday spirit and create a welcoming atmosphere of joyous music and collaboration. 

Photo by Tony Nelson Photography.

A Decades-long Commitment to Minnesota

VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and has accumulated decades of history as one of the world’s premier choral music organizations. Despite its global influence, the organization has kept its focus local—molding and strengthening Minnesota’s community through engaging musical experiences and programs. VocalEssence maintains four performing ensembles: VocalEssence Chorus, a 110-voice chorus, VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, a 32-voice professional choir known as one of Minnesota’s most highly trained, experienced and professional group of singers, VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, a dynamic and diverse group of 40 Twin Cities teenagers, and VocalEssence Vintage Voices, a program that fosters the creation of choirs in assisted living communities and senior centers.

Ēriks Ešenvalds

Photo by Aivars Krastiņš.

New Works from “The World’s Hottest Young Choral Composer” (The Boston Globe)

The Welcome Christmas program will showcase new and familiar favorites including the world premiere of three beloved Latvian carols by Ēriks Ešenvalds, one of the most sought-after composers working today. “An inventive Latvian composer with an ear for a good hook and a knack for evocative effects” (The New York Times), Ešenvalds has had his music heard on every continent. Ešenvalds performed in Minnesota last summer for the XV Latvian Song and Dance Festival.

A conductor dressed in black faces to the left with one arm lifted and the other bent at their side. A music stand and musicians appear below them.

Photo by Tony Nelson Photography.

“Christmas Concertizing”

MinnPost has recognized VocalEssence as “one of the granddaddies of Christmas concertizing in these parts...propelled by the musically insatiable curiosity of its founder, Philip Brunelle, has thrived...convincing audiences that vocal music is not for the timid." The organization has commissioned more than 300 works under the leadership of artistic director Brunelle (who is also an organist and writes the column “Choral Old and New” for The American Organist). VocalEssence has held annual Welcome Christmas performances for over five decades—though initially joined forces with Northrop to present the program in 2022—marking the first time that all VocalEssence ensembles performed at one concert.

A person in a gray suit conducts a choir of children.

Photo by Laura Alpizar.

Innovation, Inclusivity, and G. Phillip Shoultz III in Choral Music

VocalEssence encourages the promotion of choral arts and participation in all of its forms. Associate artistic director G. Phillip Shoultz III not only founded the VocalEssence Singers of This Age ensemble, but he is also known for fostering community and inspiring action through his multifaceted career as artist, educator, consultant, speaker, and pastoral musician. Shoultz curated a spirited and moving program to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, Let Freedom Ring, presented by the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, Northrop, and VocalEssence on Aug 28, 2023. He hosts Young People’s Concerts, conducts a popular livestream, Take 5 with GPS, has won multiple Teacher of the Year awards, and founded “Table for More” in the summer of 2020 to help organizations address issues related to innovation, equity, and belonging in the arts.

A person in a navy suit and light-colored shirt sit in front of a piano and face the camera.

Photo by Tony Nelson Photography.

“Musical Moments” of Inspiration

During the pandemic, Brunelle recorded Musical Moments to celebrate and share insider information about composers who have been central to the success of VocalEssence. Check out these Musical Moments with composers from around the globe who have music featured in the VocalEssence: Welcome Christmas 2023 program:


Minnesota State Arts Board - logos


This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.