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Minnesota – a Choral Mecca

This piece was originally posted at nathanbird.com in February of 2012 by classical tenor Nathan Bird.

I have known for some time that the Twin Cities is a strong incubator of arts and culture.  I was impressed by a documentary I watched last week entitled “Never Stop Singing” by TPT.  Originally aired summer of 2009 it was recently rebroadcast on February 11th of this year.  It celebrates the rich choral tradition of the state of MN.  Thomas D. Rossin, conductor of chamber choir and orchestra, Exultate, describes MN as the “mecca” of choral singing.  I believe it.  I’m proud of our state.  Here’s a few links to the transcripts of the interviews that were used for this documentary.  These are just a handful of the many composers, conductors, and performers in choral music who live or work in this state.

Philip Brunelle

René Clausen

Erick Lichte

Weston Noble

Joan Oliver Goldsmith

Robert Robinson

Kathy Saltzman Romey

Dale Warland

Anton Armstrong

The largest reason why Minnesota is the greatest state for choral singing is thanks to a man that wasn’t even a singer:  F. Melius Christainsen.

This man came to work for a little college in Northfield, MN called St. Olaf in 1892.   Even though his main instrument was violin, his love of choral music and passion for excellence left a legacy that is still alive today.  St. Olaf is internationally known and has been leading the way in this nation for decades.  The following was taken from St. Olaf’s website.

A description of Dr. Christiansen while conducting a rehearsal has been given by a visiting music critic as follows:

“A strikingly calm, cool exterior might easily mislead the careless observer into a belief that the celebrated Minnesota Kapellmeister is a musician of the purely scientific, intellectual variety. But a view of his face while he conducts a rehearsal, a glimpse of his eyes as he discusses some great composer, the tone of his voice as he expounds the great principles underlying his work, these tell the story of an ever-burning spiritual flame which now and again reaches white heat.”

Are you in Minnesota and wanting to join a choir or attend a concert?  There are only 75 to choose from hereNever Stop Singing  houses much of the information that was used for the documentary.  It summarizes the Minnesota choral reality like this:

“According to Chorus America, more than 450,000 Minnesotans sing in at least one chorus. These ensembles cover the full spectrum of choral involvement: from youth choirs to high school, college, and community choirs; from intimate ensembles to symphonic choruses; and from early-music devotees to specialists in contemporary, barbershop or Gospel music. While we couldn’t begin to cover all of these different choruses, the stories and the messages are universal. What all choral ensembles seem to share is an amazing ability to motivate, inspire and bring people together through the shared experience of singing.”

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