Choral comedy? Listeners of Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor know choral comedy is not an oxymoron when it comes to the Vocal Essence Ensemble Singers. This choir has been regular guests on Prairie Home Companion and even participated in a News From Lake Wobegon story or two over the last ten years or so. Hymn To Potatoes is a 2 CD set that captures these appearances and is something that will definitely please fans of choir music, people who like funny songs, and fans of comedy in general.Not that the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers only does funny songs. This is a real, genuine, obviously very talented choir that can shift from Ave Maria by Franz Schubert to the traditional Shenandoah (and keep a straight & voice while Keillor rips that old chestnut apart) to very good and very weird choral versions of the Archies'Sugar Sugar, Manillow's Copacabana, and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. This is a choral group that takes its serious music and not so serious music seriously without taking itself seriously.The trick, and Garrison Keillor and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers conducted by Philip Brunelle master it, is to know your classics so well you can perform them with the proper respect while also poking fun at them. Listeners will definitely enjoy the fake history of Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms as told by Keillor while the choir performs their greatest hits behind him.Philip Brunelle also plays a starring role in Holy Trinity Lutheran Seeks Music Director where Keillor tells the story of a church's unsuccessful quest throughout the years for a good Lutheran director. As Keillor tells the story, Brunelle plays Onward Christian Soldier as various conductors like Wagner, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Sousa, Glass, Puccini, and other famous composers. That Brunelle has been able to adapt that hymn to reflect each composer's style is simply stunning.That there is not one bad track on this two CD set shows how great Prairie Home Companion can be but also the versatile talents of VocalEssence. A personal favorite, aside from the hilarious story The Runaway Choir (with Sugar, Sugar and so on) and The Choral News From Lake Wobegon and its many religious songs is Song of the Sons of Bernie where the SOBs chant a hymn to male liberation.Hymn To Potatoes is a great 2 CD set to give as a gift for any fan of classical or choral music who has a sense of humour.
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