Episode 13 - VocalEssence Turns 50 
Way back in 1969 a 25-year old Philip Brunelle was hired as organist and choirmaster at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, while still serving as percussionist and pianist for the Minnesota Orchestra. Clearly, he wasn't busy enough. Because in that same year, Philip founded the Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota which later became VocalEssence (vocalessence.org).

Minneapolis Star Tribune archive photo of Philip in Plymouth Congregational Church sanctuary, 1970

In this episode we go back in time to understand the organization's founding stories -- the motivations and challenges Philip faced, as well as his inspirations. We talk about how Philip met Aaron Copland (it involves sitting between Leonard Bernstein and Copland) then later inviting Copland to Minneapolis to conduct his choral work.

Philip and Aaron Copland rehearsing at Plymouth Congregational Church,  circa 1969/1970

We talk about the systems and attitudes necessary to sustain decade upon decade of inventive musical programming, financial stability and audience engagement. And we talk about what's in store for VocalEssence's 50th season, as well as the next 50 years. If there's a founder's story, this is it.

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Philip celebrates 50 years of Vocal Essence

This episode also features three numbers from VocalEssence's 1990 Virgin Classics recording of Aaron Copland's opera The Tender Land.
Act 1 - Two Little Bits Of Metal
Act 2 - Stomp Your Foot Upon The Floor
Act 1 - The Promise Of Living

(1970 - left to right) Philip and Carolyn Brunelle, Aaron Copland, and Star Tribune music writer Mary Ann Feldman