The Grinnell Singers are a group of people who are highly diverse in terms of their backgrounds, interests, and talents, but who are united in their love of singing and their dedication to the choral art. They perform music from an extremely wide variety of traditions and locales — from Brahms to Bluegrass, from Renaissance England to twenty-first century New York. They work hard to craft the very best musical performances together, and as they pursue these high ideals, they are committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and supportive for each and every member. In addition to their musical work, the ensemble regularly contributes to the community in the form of volunteer projects.
The 2016–17 Season
The Grinnell Singers had an action-packed year in 2016-17.
One highlight came in March when our tour performance with the Lyra Baroque Orchestra was hailed as “superbly nimble and confident” in a Rochester Post-Bulletin Newspaper review. The ensemble participated in a two-week residency with the renowned conductor Simon Carrington (founding member of the King’s Singers and professor emeritus at Yale), who conducted the group together with the Lyra Baroque Orchestra, a professional period-instrument ensemble based in the Twin Cities. This was the second collaboration with this outstanding ensemble, and it was so successful that we have established a regular relationship with the group, and we are looking forward to another collaboration with them in 2019.
Over the course of the year, the Singers also participated in a performance of Handel’s Messiah, and the German Requiem of Johannes Brahms — two of the most celebrated choral/orchestral works in the repertoire. A rich and rewarding year of choral music.
The 2017–18 Season
This year promises once again to offer many opportunities for quality music-making and ways to grow together in friendship and in our love for music.
One special project is our planned collaboration with the Al-Bustan Takht ensemble, a professional group from Philadelphia who are steeped in Arab musical traditions. This project will offer us an opportunity for substantial engagement with Arabic music and poetry. The collaborative concert will consist of music that combines Arab musical traditions with Western choral and instrumental traditions. Members of the Takht ensemble will be visiting Grinnell in the fall to help to give the choir a sense of the musical tradition. The Al Bustan Takht Ensemble will then come to Grinnell for three days to rehearse and perform with the Grinnell Singers in late February of 2018.
Another exciting project we’ll pursue is the performance of Caroline Shaw’s recent work, To the Hands. Caroline Shaw is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in music — and the only woman to ever receive that award. Her piece focuses on the issues of refugee resettlement and homelessness. Rather than charging a fee for the performance materials, Shaw provides them for free with the strict stipulation that the ensemble must make funding efforts to contribute toward the resolution of these problems. The musical work uses phrases from the poem inscribed in the Statue of Liberty and holds them up to the listener as a provocative challenge.
Each year, the Singers complete a concert tour during the first week of Spring Recess. In past years, the Singers have completed tours to Finland, Estonia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Their 2012 tour took them into Canada, with concerts in Chicago, Ann Arbor, Toronto, and Montreal, culminating in a concert at Boston University, and in 2013, they travelled to California, with concerts all along the coast, from San Francisco to San Diego.
The Singers have produced two recordings:
They have been honored with two ACDA convention invitations.
The ensemble regularly performs works by its members, and a number of students in the ensemble have gone on to careers as composers. We were proud to see that works by Grinnell Singers alum Jisoo Ben Kim ’08, for example, was performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The performance by this world-class choir was facilitated by the fact that the Grinnell Singers had taken the time and effort to record these works, which helped them to be published — which in turn brought them to the attention of the LA Master Chorale.
Each year, we have a composition contest to provide Grinnell students the opportunity to have their music performed by the choir.
In addition, in previous years the ensemble has commissioned several major composers. In 2006, the Singers commissioned an extended work from the 2005 Pulitzer Award winner, Steven Stucky in a consortium with the Kansas City Chorale, the Phoenix Bach Choir, and Seattle Pro Musica.
The Grinnell Singers’ 2012 season featured the premiere of a commissioned work, “Anything Can Happen,” by Mohammed Fairouz (sample of 3rd movement from Fairouz’s “Anything Can Happen”). In pursuing this project, the ensemble formed a consortium with three of the country's most distinguished choirs: the Back Bay Chorale and the Marsh Chapel Choir of Boston, Scott Jarrett, Conductor, and Cantori New York, Mark Shapiro, Conductor. Through these commissioning projects, the Grinnell Singers are playing a role in advancing the choral art in the twenty-first century.