Profile: The East Central Minnesota Chorale

Winter greetings, everyone!

Charles Moe

As I have likely not had the chance to meet many of you, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Charles Moe and I currently have the pleasure of being the artistic director of The East Central Minnesota Chorale (ECMC). The Twin Cities is a treasure trove of professional and civic choirs. We are an example of the latter and we get to make music in greater Minnesota.

A little history:

Based out of Cambridge, MN, ECMC was founded in 1980 by David Clarke, who at the time was the choir director of Cambridge (now Cambridge-Isanti) High School. The ensemble has also been led by Dr. Dennis Port, Mark Potvin, Joseph Osowski, and now, myself.

The ensemble draws membership from more than ten East Central communities in Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Sherburne, and Pine counties.

Who we are:

In my eyes there are two goals that ECMC stands for at its core:

The first is the task of finding an equal balance and importance in both words of the phrase “Community Choir.” Like so many ensembles, the best part is the people. In the first rehearsals of the season our music making takes a temporary backseat to community building. Chorale members slap on name tags and take 20 minutes or so to converse, catch up with returning members, and more importantly, help cultivate a welcoming environment for new members. Laughs are had and for the most part the choir is a social outlet for many people. However this does not mean that the work done isn’t thorough, exacting, and purposeful. Warm-up time is used for technical training that requires singers to think about and evaluate how they are producing sound (not always an easy task when someone has been singing for 60-plus years!) and the repertoire ranges anywhere from Broadway to Bach. This group, composed of retailers, restaurant owners, doctors, auto mechanics, farmers, air traffic controllers, teachers, retirees, etc. all come with a goal of singing high-level repertoire to the best of their ability. They are willing, ever Monday night, to push themselves to the next level. Then, after what can be a strenuous 90 minutes, it is common for many members to adjourn into town for post-rehearsal refreshments. If it were up to me, every member would be at this “afterglow” of sorts, because it is my belief (as well as many of yours, I’m sure) that these moments of personal connection are what put something extra special into a community of music makers.

The second goal is to reinforce the widely held belief that singing is an activity for a lifetime. Members of the Chorale currently range from their 20s well into their 80s. In 2010, Unum Vox was created. This ensemble, currently under the leadership of Tonya Barnes, is open to high schoolers in grades 10-12 and serves the same membership area as ECMC. These groups combine for every concert of our season. In the Spring, we further celebrate the idea of lifetime music making with our Scholarship Choral Invitational. This event invites choirs from the East Central MN area to perform for each other and together. The concert typically concludes with a short masterworks. This year we will be joined by choirs from Mora, Pine City, and Cambridge-Isanti. The organization also annually awards a scholarship to one deserving area high school student who is planning on further music study after high school. We value these opportunities to make intergenerational music. I know that the more veteran members of ECMC are inspired by the music made by the high schoolers and it is my hope that the high school singers are inspired to continue to sing in some way for their entire lives. The wonderful thing about Minnesota is that in so many places you can find similar organizations with similar, important goals. We will continue to do our part out in East Central Minnesota.