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PREVIEW: A Voyage with Quilts, Haj, Shakespeare, and Music by Five Women (VocalEssence)

People in Minnesota don’t like to boast. This modesty, politeness, or whatever you’d like to call it has been acknowledged by BuzzFeed, The Onion, and even academic researchers. It’s a thing. As a result, if you glanced at the blurb for an upcoming event about quilting at a local church, you might not realize that it’s actually VocalEssence’s season-opening concert.

  • Editor’s note: This preview makes extensive use of quilting puns. You have been warned.

The Voyage, as this program is called, certainly has some quilts in it – but it also features quite a bit more. For VocalEssence’s 48th season, Artistic Director Philip Brunelle pulled out the serger and tatting to put together a program that makes perfect sense once explained, but otherwise is more than a little bewildering in its diversity.

The dye magnet, if you will, of this concert is the five songs that make up Quilt Songs – pieces of music inspired by the art of quilter Kay McCarthy and composed by five prominent women composers:

  • “The Children’s Orchard” – Libby Larsen
  • Most Holy Night” – Carol Barnett
  • “Nearly Insane” – Ysaÿe Barnwell
  • “Sun Quilt” – Gabriela Lena Frank
  • “The Children’s Orchard” – Libby Larsen
  • “this is the garden” – Alice Parker

Before the quilting arrives, however, there is something of an opening act – choral settings of texts by William Shakespeare (whose 400th death anniversary is still going strong) written by Thomas Arne, Libby Larsen, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Stephen Paulus, John Rutter, Josep Vila, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, plus recitations by the Guthrie Theater’s artistic director Joseph Haj. (In a telephone interview, Brunelle said that he enlisted Haj by brashly calling him on the phone.)

If that sounds like a recipe for echo quilting, don’t worry – there’s an intermission. The second half of the program begins with Catherine Dalton’s “Out Beyond Ideas (I’ll Meet You There),” invoking the 13th century poet Rumi. The program concludes with a musical trapunto combining the forces of VocalEssence Chorus, Minneapolis Youth Chorus, Sabathani Vintage Voices, Voices of Experience, and Instrumental Chamber Ensemble for the premiere of Bob Chilcott’s The Voyage.

VocalEssence’s The Voyage concert takes place at 4 PM on Sunday, October 16 at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

Twin Cities Arts Reader