John Rutter, Dave Brubeck and Jonathan Dove are among the composers who come front and center for the 45th season of VocalEssence, beginning in October. The schedule also includes a celebration of music from the Gullah tradition and the Russian Orthodox liturgy. Philip Brunelle leads the organization, which includes a 120-voice chorus and a 32-voice ensemble.
The season opens Oct. 27 in a collaboration with the St. Olaf College Choir. The groups will combine for the U.S. premiere of "There Was a Child," Dove's musical tribute to a friend's son. Twin Cities audiences might remember Dove for his opera "Pinocchio," which had its American premiere at Minnesota Opera in 2009. Also on the program will be works by Eric Whitacre, René Clausen and Egil Hovland.
Brubeck, the famed jazz pianist who died in December, will be featured in "Welcome Christmas," the annual holiday show. Dan Chouinard will perform Brubeck's "La Fiesta de la Posada" with local mariachi band Mariachi Mi Tierra. Brubeck blended Latin rhythms and American jazz in the cantata, which celebrates the Latin festival marking the journey of Mary and Joseph. There will be five performances.
Next year's "Witness" concert on Feb. 9 brings vocalist Melanie DeMore to Minnesota. DeMore specializes in the Gullah musical tradition — with spirituals accented by strong percussion, whether it be pounding sticks, stomping feet or clapping hands. The Gullah culture flourished in the Sea Islands off Georgia and South Carolina.
Rutter, dean of British choral composers, will revisit the Twin Cities on March 21 and 23. Rutter recently wrote an anthem for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. He will conduct VocalEssence in some of his work and also bring pieces by Charles Villiers Stanford and C. Hubert Parry.
"Tchaikovsky for Voices" closes the season April 27 with four college choirs joining VocalEssence in a performance of the composer's vespers, which echo the Russian Orthodox liturgical tradition.
There are also two special events on the calendar: a VocalEssence cabaret benefit on Nov. 18, and a Cantaré! Community Concert on May 20.