John Rommereim, director
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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. The ensemble tours each spring, and overall, the focal point of the year lies in the preparation for these high-visibility off-campus performances. The Singers have completed tours to Finland, Estonia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Last year's tour took them into Canada, with concerts in Chicago, Ann Arbor, Toronto, and Montreal, culminating in a concert at Boston University. They have produced two recordings, a CD of the complete All-Night Vigil by Rachmaninov (hailed for its "consummate artistry" by Iowa Public Radio host Kurt Snook), and Seeking After that Sweet Golden Clime, a varied collection with Jonathan Dove's The Passing of the Year as its centerpiece. They have been honored with two ACDA convention invitations. This year's tour will take them to California during spring break; they will start with a concert in Des Moines, and then travel to California to perform concerts in San Francisco, Lafayette, San Louis Obispo, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Following the tour, in April, the Grinnell Singers will host a distinguished guest conductor, Scott Jarrett, from Boston University, who will share his insights into choral performance over the course of a week-long residency with the ensemble, and he will conduct the group in a public concert. In May, we will be hosting the innovative, Pulitzer Prize-winning a cappella ensemble, A Roomful Of Teeth.
New Chamber Ensemble
We are trying out a several new initiatives year as a way to expand our work and to remain responsive to current student needs. The rehearsal schedule has been changed: We will be meeting Tuesdays 4:30-6:00 pm, Thursdays 7:00-8:30 pm, and Sundays 4:00-5:30 pm. We will also be forming a new chamber ensemble that is a subset of the full ensemble. We will be holding auditions for the Grinnell Singers during the first few days of the fall semester, during which all returning members will be required to audition. As part of these auditions, we will be selecting a small vocal ensemble of eight to twelve singers. All the members of this new ensemble will also be members of the Grinnell Singers. This ensemble is intended to be a highly select group, and they will be called upon to perform at a variety of public events on and off the campus. They will accompany the Grinnell Singers on their spring-break concert tour to California. The new ensemble, (name TBA) will rehearse once a week, and this rehearsal will replace one of the Grinnell Singers' three weekly rehearsals. The general nature of this group will be modeled on the ensemble that will be visiting Grinnell in the spring of 2014, A Roomful of Teeth. The new chamber ensemble will pursue a wide variety of musical styles, time periods, and genres, including music outside of the Western-European tradition. The ensemble will also explore extended vocal technique and interaction with electronic media, and they will sometimes perform with amplification. All current Grinnell students are encouraged to audition.
Curd Ensemble Scholarships
On the basis of the fall auditions, eight students will be selected as Grinnell Singers Curd Ensemble Scholarship recipients. These eight students will receive a 100% scholarship for voice lessons in both semesters. The purpose of the scholarship is two-fold: to help members of the ensemble to hone their skills through private study. and to support individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to the ensemble, and who are capable of making a strong positive impact on the group.
Notes on the repertoire from the director
We have a distinguished collection of carefully chosen works lined up for this year. Here are just a few highlights:
• "A esde sol peregrine" by Tomas de Torrejon y Velasco – An up-tempo tuneful, rhythmical piece from 16th-century Peru, sung with guitar accompaniment
• "In pace" by John Sheppard -- a serene, gorgeous piece of English renaissance polyphony.
• "Kai-isa Niyan" by Nilo Alcala II – based on Maguindanaoan children's game. This piece was a real revelation for me. I can't wait to get started on it. I'm thrilled to have encountered the music of this brilliant young composer from the Philippines.
• "Adoramus te Christe " by Claudio Montervdi – wonderfully rich, full harmonies
• "Nunc dimittis" by Arvo Part – haunting, austere; one of Pärt's finest works
• "Bright Hour Delayed" by Ingram Marshall. -- a work that reinterprets early American music using digital delay. We are performing "the analog version" of Marshall's score, in Suzanne Hatcher's arrangement.
• "Carol" from Sacred and Profane, by Benjamin Britten We'll sing this beautiful piece on November 22, the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth, and St. Cecilia's Day, the Patron Saint of Music
• "Wade in the Water" by Alan Koepke. A rousing and inventive Spiritual arrangement
This year, we will be creating a chamber choir that will be an extension of the Grinnell Singers. All the members of the Chamber Choir will be members of the Grinnell Singers. A few selections lined up for the Chamber choir:
• "Canta! Guido," by Lopez Gavilan, -- a highly rhythmical piece from Cuba
• "La Guerre" by Clement Janequin – a fabulous piece of mouth music from 16th-centuryFrance. A real tour-de-force! Sort of a Renaissance version of Rockapella.
• "Rondo a la Turk" by Dave Brubeck, arranged by Ward Swingle
The Grinnell Singers and Student Composers
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 a work by Grinnell Singers alum Jisoo Ben Kim '08, for example, was performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.. The Grinnell Singers premiered this work while Ben was a student at Grinnell; the Grinnell Singers recording helped to facilitate the publication of this piece with Earthsongs. The Singers also performed Ben Kim's beautiful work "Veni Sancte Spiritus" with great success on their 2013 concert tour, as well as a work by 2012-13 Composer-In Residence, Michael Maiorana '12. In previous years, the ensemble has commissioned several major composers. In 2006, the Singers commissioned an extended ork from the 2005 Pulitzer Award winner, Steven Stucky. The Grinnell Singers received a grant from the Meet the Composers foundation for this commission, in a consortium of professional choirs that included the Kansas City Chorale, the Phoenix Bach Choir, and the Seattle Pro Musica. The Grinnell Singers' 2012 season featured the premiere of a commissioned work, "Anything Can Happen," by Mohammed Fairouz. 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. An Iowa Public Radio piece on this commission project is available in streaming audio. The entire work can also be viewed on You Tube
More on the Grinnell Singers
In 1994 and 2002, the Grinnell Singers were honored with invitations to regional ACDA conventions. In 2000, the choir traveled to Helsinki, Turku, Talinn, St. Petersburg, Prague, and Brno in a tour that included a full cappella program, as well as another separate concert of Beethoven's Mass in C and the premiere of John Rommereim's Utopia with the Prague Radio Orchestra. In 2006, they completed a concert tour of Romania, Bulgaria, again with an a cappella program as well as a separate choral/orchestral program of Mozart's Grand Mass in C Minor. In April of 2011, the Grinnell Singers worked with the renowned conductor Simon Carrington during a week-long residency, culminating in a conducting master class and concert. In May, 2011, they completed a recording titled "Seeking After that Sweet Golden Clime," which was released in 2012. In the spring of 2012, the Grinnell Singers participated in performances of Sacred Concerts, a remarkable work by the great jazz master, Duke Ellington, in collaboration with the Grinnell Jazz Ensemble. In the 2012-13 season, they continued this exploration of works that blur the lines between traditions, as they presented The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass, by Carol Barnett, in collaboration with an outstanding string band from Minneapolis, Monroe Crossing.
View The Grinnell Singers on YouTube
"Sacred Love" by Georgy Sviridov
Graciela Guzman, Soprano
The Grinnell Singers
John Rommereim, conductor
"Anything Can Happen", by Mohammed Fairouz
MP3s (on CD):
Keep Your Hand on the Plow by Joseph Jennings
The Spheres by Ola Gjeilo