By Kathryn Hujda
Assistant Curator, Performing Arts Archives and Literary Manuscripts
In the waning days of summer, the Performing Arts Archives welcomed the records of the Minneapolis-based choral music ensemble VocalEssence led by Artistic Director and founder Philip Brunelle. Within the nearly 150 boxes full, we are finding a fabulous history of Minnesota’s choral music tradition, including extensive files on early collaborations with Aaron Copland, Dominick Argento, and Garrison Keillor.
There are programs, fliers, press clippings, and photos from concerts and events from the 1960s to present, and materials documenting innovative community and education programs. We even have the set list from VocalEssence’s recent performance with The Rolling Stones.
Local in its operations, VocalEssence is one of the leading choral music ensembles in the country. It is the recipient of numerous awards, including six ASCAP/Chorus American Awards for Adventurous Choral Programming and the once-in-an-organizational-lifetime Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence. VocalEssence also leads in its commitment to new music and composers, commissioning commissioned over 240 new works in its 46 years of operation, and in 2007 it was awarded the Champion of New Music award from the American Composers Forum.
This trove of historical records arrived at the Elmer L. Andersen Library from VocalEssenece’s space in Plymouth Church in remarkable condition. The project, years in the making, was spearheaded by VocalEssence’s Director of Development and Communications Katrina Wallmeyer VocalEssence committed significant staff time to carefully packing and labeling each box. This allows Performing Arts Archives staff to quickly inventory the incoming materials in order to provide more ready access to researchers. So look for the VocalEssence Papers in our online list of collections! Open to research soon!