St. Olaf College, where one-third of students participate in music and the choral ensembles are nationally renowned, is a campus community that knows how to “bring the sing.”
That’s why it’s fitting that Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s next Bring the Sing community choral event will be held on the Hill and led by one of St. Olaf’s newest music faculty members, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu. The event will draw together two core ensembles, St. Paul-based One Voice Mixed Chorus and Faribault-based Shattuck-St. Mary’s Chamber Choir, as well as members of the St. Olaf, Carleton, Northfield, Faribault, and Rice County communities — along with anyone else who loves to sing.
The Bring the Sing event, which is free and open to the public, will be held Friday, November 9, in Boe Memorial Chapel. Doors will open at 7 p.m., with the event set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
Bring the Sing events serve as communal choral singing events for participants of all abilities and from all backgrounds, strengthening and unifying communities in ways not otherwise possible. On the heels of a polarizing election season and following a string of tornadoes in southern Minnesota — the largest September outbreak on record in Minnesota — Bring the Sing will offer a sense of community togetherness throughout the region.
The conductor for the event will be Wondemagegnehu, who serves as conductor of St. Olaf’s Chapel Choir and Viking Chorus as well as guest artistic director of One Voice Mixed Chorus. Wondemagegnehu’s dynamism has graced two past Bring the Sing events, as well as Bridge of Song, an award-winning mass choral response to community violence.
Wondemagegnehu maintains an active voice studio and explores the ties between music and social justice with the goal of bridging gaps of social injustice and inspiring participants to take action in their communities. Most recently he served as Director of Choral Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church of Minneapolis, where he co-founded the Justice Choir movement with noted composer and St. Olaf alumna Abbie Betinis ’01. This past summer, Wondemagegnehu served as guest conductor of the children’s choir at the Aspen Music Festival, leading them in a weeklong journey through the Justice Choir Songbook, several selections of which will be sung at this Bring the Sing event.
Sheet music for three of the November 9 Bring the Sing selections is available online in advance of the event. These songs include “Love Is Love Is Love Is Love” by Abbie Betinis, “OneFoot/Lead with Love” by Melanie DeMore, “Courage to Be Who We Are” by Ruth Huber, and “We Shall Overcome,” arranged by Wondemagegnehu. Printed sheet music for these songs and the remaining selections will also be available at the event. The ability to read music is not necessary, and all are welcome.
Prior to the Bring the Sing performance, the St. Olaf Chapel Choir will join One Voice and the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Chamber Choir in singing “Love is,” which will be recorded by MPR.
One Voice’s participation in this event kicks off its 15th annual outreach tour, which also includes performances in Willmar, St. Cloud, and Minneapolis.
Native to Minnesota, One Voice Mixed Chorus — led by St. Olaf alumnus Christopher Taykalo ‘94 — is one of the largest LGBTQA choruses in the country. Founded 30 years ago, the group has 125 members ranging from the ages of 15 to 81 dedicated to “Building community and creating social change by raising our voices in song.” One Voice performs nationally and internationally with 15 to 20 concerts a year in schools, diversity events, and churches spreading the message of love, equality, and hope.
Having performed in Campus Christmas Walk, “Christmas in the Chapel,” and various graduation events, the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Upper School Chamber Choir isn’t new to the spotlight. Led by St. Olaf alumnus James Yao ’10 and Peter Schleif, the chamber choir is a non-audition ensemble for students in grades 9-12 with varying degrees of experience.
The St. Olaf Chapel Choir leads worship for the St. Olaf Student Congregation several Sundays per semester and performs in the annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, which is broadcast nationally in movie theaters, television, and radio. Specializing in the performance of oratorio and larger works, the St. Olaf Chapel Choir frequently collaborates with the St. Olaf Orchestra as well as instrumentalists and soloists from the St. Olaf community.