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Vocalessence and Famed Singer/Composer Moira Smiley Premiere New Works In “Singing the World Awake”

SBO Staff • News • February 17, 2023

Celebrate the joy of collaboration and singing together at Ordway Concert Hall on May 12 

VocalEssence, one of the world’s premier choral music organizations, has commissioned two new works from innovative American composer, arranger, performer and teacher Moira Smiley, as part of its final concert of the 22-23 season, “Singing the World Awake,” May 12 at Ordway Concert Hall in St. Paul.

Smiley’s unique genre-bending style, described as “mixing Bartok with street-singing,” will come to life in these premieres — one for the VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers, and one for the VocalEssence teen choir Singers Of This Age (SOTA). The concert will also feature VocalEssence Ensemble Singers in an international group of four works – music from Denmark by John Høybye (“The Slow Spring”), from Mexico by Jomi Delgado (“Nomes”), from Haiti by Sydney Guillaume (“This, Too, Shall Pass”) and Moira Smiley’s “Bellow.”

“The Ensemble Singers are adept at singing in different styles and this performance will truly show their talent and delight listeners,” says Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence artistic director and founder. “And it wouldn’t be a concert about Singing the World Awake without including the audience in song as well.”

Smiley helps groups study and perform folk harmony repertoires, use body percussion, and polyphonic song-building, inspiring young singers to use their voices both as an instrument and a tool for composing, improvising and arranging. “I’m thrilled to bring Moira back to Minnesota and into this partnership with VocalEssence— she joined us last spring for a song creation retreat with SOTA, and led a day of inspiring performance with VocalEssence singers,” says G. Phillip Shoultz, III, associate artistic director, VocalEssence. “She has a way of expanding people’s imagination around the ways their voices can be used.”

VocalEssence singers will work with Smiley in a week-long residency leading up to the concert, and she will lead experiences for young people during her time in Minnesota at several area schools, as well as in two open festival sings in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“I’m catching my breath with excitement as I look forward to this collaboration on these two pieces with all VocalEssence singers — we’ve been making absolute, utter magic together,” says Moira Smiley. “And the piece I am co-creating with VocalEssence Singers of This Age will be, I imagine, an energetic finale to this concert as we invite the audience to join us in a hopeful refrain.”

Singing the World Awake is from 7:30-9:30 pm on May 12, 2023, at the Ordway Concert Hall in St. Paul. Tickets, priced between $25 and $45, are available online now. For season tickets, details about the season, individual tickets and other information, please visit vocalessence.org.

The VocalEssence Singers Of This Age (VESOTA) is a community of Twin Cities teenagers engaged in expanding what it means to be a choir and, encouraging a wider circle of participation in the artform. Presenting music ranging from classical to hip-hop, they use creativity and collaboration to build an accepting community, equipped with the skills to lead social change in our society.

VocalEssence, the choral organization Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones says “sings magnificently,” provides opportunities that draw upon the power of singing together to nurture community, inspire creativity, affirm the value of all persons, and expand the impact of choral music. VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and through its performance series has debuted more than 300 commissions and world premieres. VocalEssence Learning & Engagement programs help people of all ages bridge, create, and learn across cultures by connecting them with renowned choral experts to provide exceptional role models, grow community self-esteem, self-expression, and engagement. For more information, visit www.vocalessence.org.

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