VocalEssence celebrates century of Finnish Independence with music from the land of the Midnight Sun

VocalEssence celebrates century of Finnish Independence with music from the land of the Midnight Sun



Jennifer Weismann


“Finlandia Forever” features Osmo Vänskä and Sara Pajunen plus selections from major Finnish composers—Sept. 24

MINNEAPOLIS—June 16, 2017—VocalEssence, the nationally acclaimed choral organization, is honoring Finland—and delighting audiences—with a concert featuring some of that country’s most successful and gifted composers and musicians. Finlandia Forever pays tribute to the innovative and wonderful music produced by this culture, which, in 2017, is celebrating its first century of independence.

In Minnesota—a state with long ties to this land of extreme beauty and proud originality—VocalEssence will highlight music that some in the audience will welcome as an old friend, and others as a joyous discovery. The concert, which includes two performances on Sunday, Sept. 24 at the American Swedish Institute, is the first event of the 49th season of VocalEssence.

Presented in partnership with the American Swedish Institute and national FinnFest USA, Finlandia Forever features the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, conductor Philip Brunelle, and some very special guests. Esteemed Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, will perform on clarinet along with Finnish folk music fiddler Sara Pajunen. Audiences will have a broad and thrilling exposure to some of the fundamental elements of Finnish music, including numbers by Sibelius, Rautavaara, Mäntyjärvi, and Saariaho.

“Finnish choral music holds a special place in that country’s national identity, and we’re excited to honor both the country and its artistry by exposing American audiences to a lot more of it,” said Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence founder and artistic director. “The story behind Sibelius’ Finlandia is one that never fails to move audiences. Singing this composition, once a song of protest against the Russian Empire and now tied to resistance and tenacity after an entire century of freedom, is a remarkably emotional experience.”

“One of the things that makes Finlandia Forever such an exciting program is the range of music we can draw upon,” said G. Phillip Shoultz, III, VocalEssence associate conductor and education program director. “Besides works from long-established masters like Sibelius and Rautavaara, we also have Finland’s spirited tradition of folk music and experimental contemporary composers like Kaija Saariaho and choral traditionalist Jaakko Mäntyjärvi—there is something for everyone to enjoy!”

Finlandia Forever will be performed on Sunday, September 24, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., at the American Swedish Institute’s Nelson Hall, 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis. Tickets for VocalEssence Finlandia Forever are currently available as part of a 49th Season Subscription. Single tickets go on sale Monday, August 7, 2017. For more information about ticketing venues and the concerts in the 2017-2018 season, please visit vocalessence.org.

VocalEssence, called “one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time” by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts—and the choral ensemble that Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones says “sings magnificently”—impacts thousands of students, singers, and composers each year through its initiative programs, contests, and support for innovative art. VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and has debuted more than 250 commissions and world premieres. For more information, visit vocalessence.org.