One of the many challenges that leaders of community choruses faced when Covid-19 lockdowns began in March 2020 was figuring out how to sustain a connection with their audience members in the absence of live performances. The forced cancellation of concerts nationwide led Philip Brunelle, founder and artistic director of VocalEssence and organist choirmaster at Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, to conclude that his imperative was “to give people a sense of joy when they were stuck at home.” Capturing the interest of viewers meant that the project needed to be musically stimulating and visually engaging; and to help with the latter, Brunelle enlisted his son Tim Brunelle, a marketing professional and videographer, to work with him on the project.
With father as creative director and presenter and son as videographer, the team set about creating a one-of-a-kind video catalogue of choral composers whose compositions have been performed by VocalEssence or the adult choir at Plymouth Congregational Church over the past fifty-three years. They titled the series Musical Moments, and the first video debuted on March 23, 2020, featuring Dominick Argento (1927-2019), an American composer who lived most of his life in Minnesota. To Brunelle, Argento “was just a natural…I had studied with him, I had performed a lot of his music and I commissioned him.” Each individual composer video is eight to ten minutes in length, but in the project’s last week the daily videos were expanded to include eight brief composer “snapshots” rather than focusing on a single composer and were lengthened to twelve to fifteen minutes each.
Their initial plan was to make fifty videos, but as the pandemic continued, Brunelle and his son decided to keep going. The completed Musical Moments project encompasses a total of 330 videos, of which 320 feature one composer, five feature eight composers, four show Brunelle discussing general topics related to choirs, and one is a conversation between Philip and Tim Brunelle about the project. Altogether, the series examines a total of 361 composers. The final episode aired on July 2, 2021.
Read the rest of this article, along with a table of selected composers, at acda.org/choraljournal
Musical Moments project: https://www.vocalessence.org/category/musical-moments/.