The custom of singing Christmas carols brings joy to the holiday season unlike any other tradition.  And every December VocalEssence and the American Composers Forum celebrate this tradition in their own unique way: championing today’s composers, exploring new works, and rediscovering lesser-known works of the past.

2019 Participants

Travis Ramsey
Travis Ramsey Photo by Gisela Ramsey
Paul John Rudoi
Paul John Rudoi




Under the artistic direction of founder Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence is a champion of choral music: performing past and present repertoire for voices, commissioning new works from today’s composers, and celebrating the human experience through concerts and community engagement.  VocalEssence has been recognized by ASCAP with five awards for its adventurous programming of contemporary music and has been honored with the Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence.  VocalEssence is comprised of several ensembles: the fully professional 32 voice VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, the 125 voice VocalEssence Chorus, and the VocalEssence Singers Of This Age, an innovative youth choir for singers throughout the Twin Cities.

This program is on hiatus for the 20-21 season.

2017 Participants

Nancy Gifford
Nancy Gifford
David Evan Thomas
David Evan Thomas
  • 2016: Caols with vibraphone accompaniment: Lee Blaske (Excelsior, MN) , Sean Sweeden (Kansas City, MO)
  • 2015: Carols with trumpet accompaniment: Josh Bauder (Crystal, MN), Laura Caviani (Minneapolis, MN)
  • 2014: Carols with fiddle in the Nordic tradition: Justin Merritt (Northfield, MN), Rachel DeVore Fogarty (Long Island City, NY)
  • 2013: Carols with piano accompaniment: Dale Trumbore (Los Angeles, CA), William V. Malpede (West Hollywood, CA)
  • 2012: Carols with flute accompaniment: David Biedenbender (Ann Arbor, MI), Sheena Phillips (Trenton, NJ)
  • 2011: Carols with English horn accompaniment: James Kallembach (Chicago, IL), Robert Sieving (Minnetonka, MN)
  • 2010: Carols with handbell accompaniment: J. David Moore (St. Paul, MN), Mark Shepperd (Woodbury, MN)
  • 2009: Carols with viola accompaniment: Michael J. Glasgow (Raleigh, NC), Robert Sieving (Minnetonka, MN)
  • 2008: Carols with French horn accompaniment: Scott Ethier (Astoria, NY), Peter Hilliard (Roslyn, PA)
  • 2007: Carols with celesta accompaniment: Matthew Brown (Los Angeles, CA), Stephen Main (San Francisco, CA)
  • 2006: Carols with solo acoustic guitar: Diego Luzuriaga (Ardmore, Pa.), John Rommereim (Grinnell, Iowa)
  • 2005: Carols with solo cello: Paul Gibson (Downey, Calif.), Jocelyn Hagen (Minneapolis, Minn.)
  • 2004: Carols with solo recorder: Keith Bradshaw (Lexington, Va.), James Sclater (Clinton, Miss.)
  • 2003: Carols with solo instrumental accompaniment: Thomas Fielding (Bloomington, Ind.), Alan Higbee (Beechwood, Ohio) Read and listen to the National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday coverage of the 2003 Carol Contest.
  • 2002: Carols with percussion accompaniment: Mary Lynn Place Badarak, Paul Lohman
  • 2001: Carols with string orchestra accompaniment: Clive Muncaster, Sergey Khvoshchinsky
  • 2000: Carols with harp accompaniment: Brian Holmes, Emily Maxson Porter
  • 1999: Carols with audience participation: Robert A.M. Ross, Jonathan Santore
  • 1998: Carols for a cappella chorus: Joan Griffith, Richard Voorhaar