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VocalEssence via BBC: inaugural-day gift from abroad

It seems hard to believe, but I wasn’t even given the chance to decline an invitation to the Jan. 20 inaugural celebration in Washington, D.C. But if you can’t make it either, here’s the next best thing after getting your glut of TV coverage:

While the Washington pols are dancing at their inaugural ball -- and long after the Fergus Falls High School band has played “Yankee Doodle” in the inaugural parade -- listen to a concert of “All American” music by a Minnesota group performing in London.

That’s right: The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers will be midway through a tour of Great Britain on inaugural day, and a concert they’re giving in St. John’s Square in London will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on classical Minnesota Public Radio, 99.5 FM. It’s not a live broadcast, but one recorded by the BBC earlier that day and sent over here as an inaugural-day gift from the Brits.

The program of American music spans three centuries: from William Billings in mid-18th century to Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, plus Minnesota’s own Stephen Paulus and Libby Larsen, and Minnesota adoptee Aaron Jay Kernis (though he lives in New York, poor thing).

The 32-member Ensemble Singers and their conductor/founder Philip Brunelle leave Jan. 15 for the British tour, which includes six public concerts in England, including a rare opportunity to perform (on Jan. 23) at King’s College in Cambridge. That concert will be followed by a collaborative concert with the BBC Singers at the BBC studios in London. It honors Stephen Cleobury, the 60-year-old British conductor whose career has included directing both the Choir of King’s College and the BBC Singers.

Fergus Falls kids marching in Washington and Minnesota professional choristers singing in London. Small world, eh?

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