All posts by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

The Choral Guy at American Public Media/Classical Minnesota Public Radio

A choral reflection for Delta State University

Delta State University campus
Delta State University campus (courtesy Delta State University via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Although I am in Duluth for meetings and performances, I was thinking about the Delta State University shooting yesterday. I contacted my childhood friend from Memphis, Dr. Nicholaus B. Cummins, the former Director of Choral Activities of Delta State University (he just took a new job at Northwestern State University in Louisiana this summer), and he sent the message below. Delta State University, located in Cleveland, Miss., is only 115 miles south of Memphis, my hometown.

Dr. Nicholaus Cummins
Dr. Nicholaus Cummins (Northwestern State University Photo Services/Gary Hardamon)
Here is Dr. Cummins statement:

“For the previous four years, I had the privilege of conducting the choirs at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. I was selected to take a new position at a school in Louisiana, but was thrilled that Dr. Adam Potter was chosen as the new Director of Choral Activities at Delta State University. He has already done marvelous work with all the students at DSU. Today I was stunned at this campus shooting that occurred at DSU. Cleveland is a small college town that loves to support all aspects of campus life. Dr. Potter is locked into his office and the students are huddled in classrooms waiting for safety [Update: Delta State University has announced the lockdown has been lifted]. I pray that Cleveland and Delta State University are safe and peace is found soon. I hope this setting of Eriks Ešenvalds’ O Salutaris Hostia by the 2013 Delta State University Chorale will serve as a signal of peace in this tragic time.”

My heart immediately melted after listening to DSU sing the opening minute and change. That soaring, piercingly beautiful treble duet will hopefully help touch the hearts of those affected by this unfathomable atrocity.

Here is the translation of the very appropriate text.

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of Heaven to us below;
Our foes press hard on every side;
Thine aid supply; thy strength bestow.
To thy great name be endless praise,
Immortal Godhead, One in Three.
O grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with thee.
Amen.

Check out this impromptu choir at the State Fair

Today was the third day of my sing-alongs at the Minnesota State Fair. When we began at 9 a.m., the numbers were low (just two); probably the fear of a rainout kept people away at first. We treated this morning’s sing more like a “choir practice” since it was more of an intimate setting without piano. We worked on tone quality, support, consonant energy and harmonizing during the first set of songs, a selection of patriotic music. We ran it through once, and then walked out to the street to recruit new members for our choir.

The singers retained a lot of information given during “choir practice,” and for a group of strangers to come together — that only started with two — and become a solid choir of about 15 members to deliver a performance with poise and confidence like they did … I would call it a total home run! Check out the video below to see this fantastic group in action:

Kudos to the participants in this morning’s sing! I hope to see many more people come sing with us tomorrow and Monday.

Pentatonix explore the evolution of Michael Jackson

Texas-based vocal ensemble Pentatonix have released a performance video on YouTube in which they explore the evolution of Michael Jackson’s music.

Many of Jackson’s greatest songs — including tunes from his blockbuster album, Thriller — were produced and co-written by Quincy Jones. It’s worth noting Jones studied with the vastly influential Nadia Boulanger, who called Jones one of her favorite students.

Here’s the video by Pentatonix — keep in mind this is an a cappella performance:

#RACHparty with the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale

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Welcome to the Classical MPR landing page of the #RACHparty: hosted by #TheChoralStream , the Kansas City Chorale, and the Phoenix Chorale.  Our stream will deliver the world premiere broadcast their “Rachmaninoff: All-night Vigil” CD at 8pm CDT. After the broadcast, please join us for an exclusive live video interview/hangout with both choirs and artistic director, Charles Bruffy.

Before the #RACHparty begins that evening, American Public Media’s Performance Today will broadcast a sneak preview of highlights from the new release to a national audience. During the broadcast, Performance Today host Fred Child will speak with artistic director Charles Bruffy and Dr. Vladimir Morosan, president of Musica Russica and a leading expert on Russian choral music. Child and Morosan will discuss the audience reaction to the premiere of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers and why the piece is still relevant today.

Listen Here

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Google Hangout LIVE YouTube Feed

Official Google Hangout Event Page

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Link to KC Chorale Google+
Link to Phoenix Chorale Google+

Twitter Feed

We want your questions, so tweet using the hashtags #RACHparty and #AllNightVigil and your question might be used during the interview with Charles Bruffy and the choirs.

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Audio Sneak Peek

Knut Nystedt Dies at Age 99

Nystedt was appointed Commander of Order of St. Olav in 2005 for his efforts in Norwegian music. He has also received numerous other awards and honors. (Photo: Lars O. Flydal / Vårt Land)

Grammy Award-winning Norwegian conductor, composer and organist extraordinaire, Knut Nystedt, died yesterday at age 99. Nystedt’s music has made a lasting impression amongst classical musicians across the globe.

One of my favorite compositions is this setting of Bach’s Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh where he splits the choir into 5 groups and infuses assigned, timed movement to the traditional chorale setting. The final product is hauntingly beautiful…

May he rest in peace …

This Arrangement of Silent Night Can't Be Missed

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I got this video sent to me by my choral partner in crime (B-House). We were fortunate enough to have Pentatonix in our studio earlier this year and hope to collaborate with them again in the near future. We wish everybody a fantastic holiday season and hope this video gets you in the holiday spirit like it did for us!

After checking out this video, please listen to our 24/7 choral stream for more amazing music.

2014 Twin Cities Choral Showcase Packed the House

Classical MPR’s Julie Amacher introduces Jane Ramseyer Miller and the One Voice Mixed Chorus at the 2014 Twin Cities Choral Showcase.

More than 1,000 people attended the 2014 Twin Cities Choral Showcase. Last year during the lockout, the Minnesota Chorale organized the event and it was a huge success. From the looks of it, this might be a tradition for many years to come. Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s Julie Amacher hosted yesterday’s spectacular choral showcase.

Here is a video of one of the day’s many fine performances:

This year’s participants included Cantus, Kantorei, Magnum Chorum, Minnesota Chorale, One Voice Mixed Chorus, The Singers, Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and VocalEssence. You can find more information about each of their upcoming seasons below.

Want even more choral music? Listen to our 24/7 Choral Stream.


Singing in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

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On Saturday, Sept. 27, 37 people joined together in song at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. We moved, we clapped, we smiled and we sang; often loud enough to cause fellow onlookers to stop in their tracks (some even began to participate). 

Our journey started in the baroque gallery singing Caldara in Italy, moving down to the beautifully sculpted Doryphoros statue where we sang Praetorius’, Jubilate Deo. After our canon, we took an expedition to Africa where we sang the beloved South African song, Siyahamba and the Ghanian children’s song, Sansa Kroma.

We completed our journey in China were we sang an excerpt from Jing Ling Tam’s arrangement of the Flower Drum Song

Check out this awesome video of that performance and look for more incredible singing opportunities at classicalmpr.org/choral.

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Iconic Choral Organization Finds a New Voice and Logo

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VocalEssence, which is entering its 46th season, decided to do a little soul searching.  After many months of working on this project, the organization had its brand unveil party yesterday at the place it all started, Plymouth Congregational Church. 
According to a press release from VocalEssence, Executive Director Mary Ann Aufderheide, had this to say, “VocalEssence embarked on journey to explore the core of who we are, what we do, and where we see ourselves in the future…In the end, VocalEssence has found our new voice and direction for the future. And now that we have found it, we want to tell the world about it.”
The brand refresh includes a new logo, style guide, a redesigned website and tagline (Together We Sing).

Here is a sneak peek screenshot of the new website
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Check out this video of the VocalEssence Chorus performing at Orchestra Hall

VocalEssence Asia Pacific Tour Social Media Highlights

VE-Ensemble-Singers-2011.jpgThe VocalEssence Ensemble Singers just completed a performing tour throughout Korea and China. This group was one of 4 American choral ensembles invited to participate in the 10th World Symposium on Choral Music. Here is the view of that tour through the VocalEssence Social Media Lens.

A Clip of the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers “Singin’ in Seoul”

Tenor, Mike Fairnbairn and VocalEssence artistic director, Philip Brunelle enjoying a meal


The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers cruisin’ around Korea

Seth Keeton (Bass Extraordinaire) enjoying some tourist time

Tenors trying to keep cool


Dinner in Shanghai

Nanjing and Minnesota find out that they have a common friend in Gustavus Adolphus

Papa Philip feeding his flock before their flight home