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Main Event: Singing Valentine makes great date night

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Michael Culloton, artistic director for the Choral Arts Ensemble and Honors Choirs of Southeast Minnesota, is leaving Rochester June 30. He is returning to his alma mater, Concordia College, where he will conduct three choirs and teach a choral literature course for music education majors.

Love songs filled the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Rochester on Feb. 12 for the Choral Arts Ensemble’s annual " A Singing Valentine."

"It’s a wonderful event and a great date night for couples," said Pat Aldis, who attended the event with her husband, Colin, who is president of the ensemble’s board of directors.

The evening featured a cocktail reception, dinner, live and silent auctions, dancing and a concert of love songs from the 42-member ensemble.

"It’s going to be the grooviest concert ever at Singing Valentine," said Artistic Director Michael Culloton. "We’ve added a jazz ensemble. The choir ate it up in rehearsal."

Joining the singers this year were pianist Laurie Priniski, bassist Robert Gardnerand drummer Terry Gresser. The choir and jazz partners performed old and new love songs from a wide range of artists, including Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Rascal Flatts and the BeeGees.

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Guest Dennis Gastineau,of Byron, an original member of the ensemble and a long-time supporter of the group, said the group is good for both the community and the singers.

"It brings good music to Rochester, and provides an outlet for people with talents that may be hidden in other things they do," he said.

A special moment during the evening came with the announcement of the creation of the Lloyd Ketterling Christmas Carol. Family, friends and students of the retired John Marshall High School choir director are commissioning a series of original Christmas carols in Ketterling’s honor.

A new carol will be performed at the Choral Arts Ensemble’s Christmas concert each year for the next 10 years. The first Ketterling carol, composed by Rene Clausen, will debut in December.

A Singing Valentine’s live auction featured one of the most unique items in all of Rochester’s many fundraising auctions — a love song specially arranged by Michael Culloton and performed by the ensemble at next year’s A Singing Valentine event.

Organizers were expecting near-record attendance for the event, which is the Choral Arts Ensemble’s primary annual fundraiser.

"This is an important fundraising event for us, but it’s wonderful that it’s such a fun event as well," said Executive Director Carolyn Hiller.

A Singing Valentine was sponsored by Apollo Wine & Spirits, Charter House, Doubletree Hotel Rochester, Think Mutual Bankand Thrivent Financial.

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