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Founded in 1969 under the name Plymouth Music Series, VocalEssence is recognized internationally for innovative exploration of music for voices and instruments. Each year the organization presents an engaging collection of concerts featuring the 120-voice VocalEssence Chorus and the 32-voice Ensemble Singers along with soloists and instrumentalists.
The Plymouth Music Series was founded by Philip Brunelle, now one of Minnesota's most recognized musical entrepreneurs, as an arts outreach program of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. The Series immediately established the marks of its future success: world, United States, and Midwest premieres; famous guest artists; commissions of new works (over 100 to date); and a reputation for surprise.
In the very first season Aaron Copland came to conduct his choral works for the Plymouth Music Series — the first time he had ever been asked to conduct his choral music.
By 1979, the Plymouth Music Series was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation governed by its own independent board of directors. In 1991, international recording successes convinced the board that the Series was ready for new artistic challenges. Over the next three years, the organization professionalized its performing ensemble, creating the Ensemble Singers, and hired its first full-time management staff.
Internationally recognized as a leader in choral performance and organizational management, the Plymouth Music Series hosted the annual Chorus America Conference in Minneapolis in June 1999. At the invitation of the Series and other Minnesota choral organizations, the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music was held in the Twin Cities in August 2002. Philip Brunelle served as the president of this international event.
In 2002 the Plymouth Music Series changed its name to VocalEssence, capturing the essence of its mission to explore music for the human voice, from spoken word to choral singing.
In addition to championing lesser known works of the past, VocalEssence has an unwavering commitment to today's composers. It has received the ASCAP/ Chorus America Award for adventurous programming of contemporary music an unprecedented five times it has been eligible, and it was awarded the once-in-an-organizational lifetime Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence.