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Twin Cities ensembles offer Christmas concerts in Rochester

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The Rose Ensemble will perform a concert of early American music Saturday in Rochester. (Contributed photo)
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Two of Minnesota's iconic music groups, the Rose Ensemble and VocalEssence, will perform back-to-back holiday concerts this weekend in Rochester.

In the case of the Rose Ensemble, which performs at 7 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, this will be one of the final concerts for the ensemble, which will disband at the end of the current season.

The concert by the Ensemble Singers of VocalEssence is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Christ United Methodist Church. It is part of the Rochester Chamber Music Society series.

The Rose Ensemble was supposed to close down at the end of last season, but then announced plans to continue for one more year. "When I got here, I got in touch and said 'It's an open invitation," said John Stender, new director of music at First Presbyterian.

As it turned out, the Rose Ensemble had an open date. "They had a concert planned for Friday, but didn't have a home for it," Stender said.

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The church's Festival of Music has traditionally hosted concerts on Sunday afternoon, and doesn't charge admission. The Sunday tradition was re-arranged for this concert, but the free admission tradition stayed in place.

"Our committee was committed to the fact the festival has always been donation-only," Stender said. "We have never sold tickets." 

It is worth the extra effort to bring the Rose Ensemble to Rochester, he said.

"As far as early music goes, their quality is so high," Stender said. "The (festival) series is so well established and has such a following, it can handle the Rose Ensemble."

The concert, "And Glory Shone Around: An Early-American Christmas," will explore 300 years of Appalachian ballads, colonial-era carols, Shaker hymns and Irish fiddle tunes.

"I'm thinking we ought to be able to fill the place," Stender said of the 300-seat church sanctuary.

The busy weekend of holiday music continues with "Welcome Christmas with VocalEssence," Saturday. The 32-voice Ensemble Singers choir is directed by Philip Brunelle, founder of VocalEssence.

The group was founded in 1991 and has since kept a busy schedule of performing and recording, including a concert tour of Asia in 2014.

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The concert will consist of secular and sacred songs of the season from a variety of traditions.

What: The Rose Ensemble

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 512 Third St. SW

Admission: Freewill offering

What: VocalEssence Ensemble Singers

When: 7:30 p.m Saturday

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Where: Christ United Methodist Church, 400 Fifth Ave. SW

Admission: Free, donations accepted

Related Topics: MUSIC
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