On an autumn afternoon, the vocal strains of "Almighty and Everlasting God" fill the sanctuary at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. But the hymn isn’t being performed by a church choir. These heavenly sounds are coming from the Voces8 Scholars, 12 young American singers selected to train under the auspices of the acclaimed British vocal ensemble Voces8.
With COVID protocols making the state-of-the-art studios of Minnesota Public Radio off-limits to the public, this recording session for YourClassical MPR and the Choral Stream took place over three days in mid-November at the larger, hallowed space next door. But it was no less of an experience for the singers, who got to do more than record.
"The Voces8 Scholars program is designed to provide amazing opportunities for aspiring young professionals in the world of choral music to gain experience as performers, recording artists and educators," says Paul Smith, the co-founder of Voces8. "With that in mind, bringing them to the Twin Cities to work with the MPR team was a dream come true."
Besides recording with MPR and receiving training led by Smith and U.S. manager Erik Jacobson, the singers worked with Minnesota-based composers Shruthi Rajasekar and Jocelyn Hagen. They also had a chance to collaborate with the choir of the Cathedral of St. Paul on preparing the U.S. premiere of Smith's "O God Beyond All Praising."
"After so much work online and in the virtual space for the last two years, to have the chance to practice core skills for small ensemble musicianship and to have a space to rehearse and record some outstanding repertoire, which included coaching from local composers on their music, was just wonderful," Smith says.
Watch MPR's videos of performances from the Voces8 Scholars' Minnesota sessions now.
“Alone,” by Paul Smith
“Mother's Song," by Jocelyn Hagen. Copyright ©2020 by Henmar Press Inc. Translation ©1980 by Willis Barnstone. All rights Reserved: Edition Peters Group. Used by permission.
“Vigilate,” by William Byrd
‘Almighty and Everlasting God’
“Almighty and Everlasting God,” arranged by Paul Smith
Voces8 Scholars: Emily Wood, Lauren Lestage, Jess Huetteman, Jenna Hernandez, Grace Kiver, Michael Skarke, Maxwell Ary, Aaron Cates, Logan Combs, Adrien Redford, Christopher Short and Ross Tamaccio.
Directors: Paul Smith and Erik Jacobson
Recording: Cameron Wiley, Evan Clark and Peter Ecklund
Video post-production: Evan Clark
Executive producer: Randy Salas
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