Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Twin Cities Tour

Hosted by VocalEssence, Philip Brunelle – Artistic Director

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The thermometer read 15 degrees the day YPC arrived in Minneapolis/St. Paul, but with the sun-filled sky and the warm welcomes from everyone we met, we didn’t feel cold at all.

As soon as we stepped off the plane in Minnesota, MaryAnn Aufderheide, the executive director of VocalEssence, the professional choir that was presenting us, was waiting with a bus to take the choristers to the first workshop of their trip.

At Johnson Senior High School they were met by four choirs from three St. Paul high schools for a few hours of musical sharing.  With YPC, there were more than 200 choristers in the hall.  Francisco first worked with each of the high school choirs; then YPC drew great applause when they sang a 15-minute preview of their concert program.

Singing with new friends at Johnson Senior High School

But the best was yet to come.  Within about 20 minutes Francisco taught all of the choristers “Es Tu Tiempo” and had them all on their feet rocking to the song’s gospel/Latin groove.  Afterwards, the YPC choristers, together with their new friends, all gave themselves a standing ovation.

That evening after a pizza party and concert at Roseville High School, the choristers were welcomed by generous families for home stays in the area.

Pizza party at Roseville High School

Friday, November 21, 2014

After a good night’s rest and hot breakfasts with their host families from the Roseville Area High School and the Roseville Lutheran Church, the YPC choristers arrived at Roseville Area High School for two more high school workshops, this time with the Roseville choruses they had seen in concert the night before.  This time Francisco taught them a different song, “Nothing More,” which was accompanied by and began with a solo by Nick.  It included the refrain, “We are love; We are one; We are how we treat each other when the day is done.  We are Peace; We are War; We are how we treat each other and Nothing More.”

Francisco in workshop with Roseville High School students

YPC joins Roseville High School choristers in song accompanied by Nick

The rest of the day was a blur of exciting events and experiences. 

YPC traveled by bus to the Minnesota Public Radio station in St. Paul where they were welcomed by Brian Newhouse, MPR Managing Director of Classical Programming. We were accompanied to the recording studio by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, MPR’s
Choral Stream Representative, to sing several songs, which were recorded for national broadcast on American Public Media’s popular “Performance Today” program hosted by Fred Child.  This radio show is aired on 240 cities across the country. 

Selfie with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu at MPR

MPR RecordingYPC through MPR control room window

Choristers leave while singing to cheering MPR staff members.

From there, the YPC choristers were whisked off to sing at a Minnesota State ACDA [American Choral Directors Association] gathering, where Elizabeth opened with a speech.  Here they entered singing to set the stage for a workshop by Francisco and a short performance. 

Elizabeth and Francisco address ACDA members

Then, what the YPC choristers were all waiting for—a visit to the largest mall in the U.S.—the Mall of America, complete with an amusement park of great rides, the perfect ending to a very busy and satisfying day.
Mall of America
Saturday, November 22

The morning of the big concert, the choristers, pumped and ready to work, were dropped off by their home-stay hosts at the performance site, the beautiful Roseville Lutheran Church.

For five hours, if they weren’t working with Francisco, the YPC singers were off in groups sharpening their musical performances or perfecting some tricky choreography by our very own Jacquie Bird.

Francisco rehearses YPC at Roseville Lutheran Church

At 5 p.m. the choristers boarded the bus heading for the newly refurbished Ordway Theater in St. Paul to give a short 15-minute performance at an Ordway Circle of the Stars Gala for the Ordway education programs sponsored by Travelers. They entered a huge formal reception area where the gala with a 1940’s theme was underway, with men in tuxedos and women in luxurious gowns and glistening jewels. The audience, which had been chatting loudly, went absolutely silent when YPC started singing.  They didn’t want to miss a thing, and when the choristers walked through the crowd singing, the gorgeous harmonies filled the hall, and the sophisticated crowd couldn’t help themselves but cheer.

YPC Sings at Ordway Gala

With no time to waste, it was back on the bus to Roseville and the highlight of the tour:  a two-hour, sold-out concert at Roseville Lutheran Church

Back on bus
The concert was attended by a who’s who of choral conductors, singers, and other dignitaries, such as the illustrious Dale Warland and his wife, composer Jake Runestad and Timothy C. Takach (who arranged one of the concert pieces sung by the Young Men). The audience also included many Minnesota ACDA members who had traveled for this special event, which closed the conference.  

Composer Timothy C. Takach speaks to the Young Men prior to the concert

The audience members were stunned by YPC’s performances—amazed not only by the skill of the singers to sing exquisitely while executing difficult choreographic moves, but also how they were able move from pure classical to folk to contemporary to jazz, etc., etc. employing a variety of so many vocal techniques in quick succession.

YPC in Performance at Roseville Lutheran Church

The first standing ovation came just before intermission but there was so much more to come.  And when the choristers finished the program the audience was on its feet wanting more, more, more.  YPC’s encore  wasn’t enough so they sang one more with Francisco urging the audience to sing (or shout) along.  The whooping, clapping, and stomping did not stop until the choristers, singing and dancing up the aisles and shaking hands along the way, filed out of the space. 

In the lobby, the audience members were charmed to be able to meet with the chorus members, ask questions, and take lots of selfies.  They also scooped up dozens of YPC CDs.  There is going to be an awful lot of YPC holiday music in Minneapolis/St. Paul homes this year.

YPC choristers greeting audience members.

Sunday, November 23
The last performance of the tour took place at the 10:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Sunday service of the Plymouth Congregational Church, where our good friend Philip Brunelle, the Artistic Director of VocalEssence, is the organist and choirmaster.

Catherine Crooks, the minister for member care of the church, welcomed the chorus with heart-warming remarks and told the congregation that the concert she attended the previous evening changed her life and the lives of the other audience members.

The audience responded to the songs by YPC in this service of thanksgiving with loud applause and tears running down their cheeks.

On the way to the airport, the chorus members reminisced about their short but event-filled time in the Twin Cities and how generous and sweet everyone was to them.

YPC would like to thank VocalEssence and its wonderful staff, especially MaryAnn Aufderheide and Philip Brunelle for hosting our tour to the Twin Cities; the engineers and staff members of MPR; Rev. Catherine Crooks and the staff at the Roseville Lutheran Church; and of course our host families from the Roseville Area High School Chorus and Roseville Lutheran Church.

We are so grateful for the support and gracious response from the Twin Cities community.

Goin’ Home
Photos by Christopher Hall, Nancy Bloom, and Bruce Silcox