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Churchill: The Politician as Playwright

Jonathan Rose will deliver a Scholars' Convocation on "Churchill: The Politician as Playwright" at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Although he was known chiefly as a politician and wartime leader, Churchill was also a best-selling author, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. In Rose's latest book, The Literary Churchill: Writer, Reader, Actor, he introduces readers to "a Winston Churchill we have not known before." The Washington Post's review of the book states "In this sometimes speculative but immensely enjoyable biography, Jonathan Rose shows that Churchill’s authorial and political careers were entwined and inseparable."

Rose is William R. Kenan Professor of History at Drew University.

He was the founding president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, and he is coeditor of that organization’s journal, Book History.  His book The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2nd ed., 2010) won the Longman-History Today Historical Book of the Year Prize, the American Philosophical Society Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History, the British Council Prize of the North American Conference on British Studies, the SHARP Book History Prize, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Prize. 

His other publications include The Edwardian Temperament, The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, and A Companion to the History of the Book (with Simon Eliot). 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.


Il Trovatore, Live in HD

This fall Grinnell will stream four of the Metropolitan Opera's productions live and in high-definition as the Met celebrates its 10th anniversary of Live-in-HD movie theater transmissions.

The screening will start at noon in the Harris Center Cinema.

The season opens with Giuseppe Verdi's "Il Trovatore" on Saturday, Oct. 3.

A tragedy, Il Trovatore is set in Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-14) between Spain and Napoleon's forces. The Met's production features soprano Anna Netrebko as the heroine Leonora, tenor Yonghoon Lee as the ill-fated Manric, and mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick as the mysterious gypsy. Sir David McVicar directs and Marco Armiliato conducts.

The season continues with screenings featuring pre-opera talks by faculty members:

  • Guiseppe Verdi's Otello on Saturday, Oct. 17, with a pre-opera talk by Ellen Mease, associate professor of European dramatic literature, criticism, theory and theatre history.
  • Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser on Saturday, Oct. 31, with a pre-opera talk by Kelly Maynard, assistant professor and department chair of European Studies
  • Alban Berg's Lulu on Saturday, Nov. 21, with a pre-opera talk by Eugene Gaub, associate professor of music theory and music history

Refreshments will be available for purchase in the lobby of the cinema before each opera.

Tickets are available at the Pioneer Bookshop, the Grinnell College Bookstore, and at the door on the day of the show. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, children and Met Opera members.

The Office of the President has generously funded tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff, and students, and these tickets are available for free at all locations. Family members not employed by the College are required to purchase tickets.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations.

Writers@Grinnell: Kiese Laymon

Kiese LaymonKiese Laymon, the second author in this year’s Writers @Grinnell series, will present two events on Thursday, Sept. 17:

  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 209
  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Laymon is an African-American southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Miss.

His novel Long Division was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by a number of publications — including Buzzfeed, The Believer, Salon, Guernica, Mosaic Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Morning News, MSNBC, Library Journal, Contemporary Literature, and the Crunk Feminist Collective — and is currently a finalist for Stanford’s Saroyan international writing award.

Long Division and his collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, are finalists for the Mississippi Award for Arts and Letters in the fiction and nonfiction categories.

Laymon, an associate professor of English at Vassar College, has written essays and stories for numerous publications including Esquire, ESPN, Colorlines, NPR, Gawker, Truthout, Longman’s Hip Hop Reader, The Best American Non-required Reading, Guernica, Mythium, and Politics and Culture. He is working on a new novel, And So On, and a memoir, 309: A Fat Black Memoir.

Both the roundtable and reading are free and open to the public. Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Writers @Grinnell

Writers @Grinnell, the English department’s reading series, brings to campus writers of all kinds: poets, novelists, memoirists, essayists, radio essayists, columnists, graphic memoirists, playwrights, and short story writers. Recent visitors include African-American and Latino writers, international writers, LGBT writers, blind and deaf writers, bi-polar writers, and writers with mobility impairments. An anonymous donor enables the series to host an annual distinguished author reading and an interdisciplinary creative writing event.

Professor's Fellowships Lead to Taiwan

Craig Quintero, associate professor of theatre and dance, has been named the Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year. Quintero has also received a Fulbright Scholar Award and an Academic Enterprise Leave grant, funded by a grant made to the College by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to support his research and creative work in Taiwan during his sabbatical year.

As a Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar, Quintero will direct his new production Rice Dreams at the Avignon Off Festival in France this summer as well as his multi-media performance Dreaming David Lynch at Taiwan’s National Experimental Theatre in November. During the fall he will also teach a class on site-specific art at Taipei’s National University of the Arts as a Fulbright Scholar. In the spring, Quintero will study filmmaking with Taiwanese director Hung Ya-yen and produce his first short film.

Quintero has spent more than ten years in Asia and has worked to forge cultural exchanges between Grinnell College and Taiwan.

As the artistic director of Riverbed Theatre, he has staged his image-based productions in Germany, Taiwan, France, Macau, Singapore, and Japan. Last year, Quintero collaborated with Professor John Rommereim, music, and six Grinnell students in staging an adaptation of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold in Taipei. The production was nominated for Taiwan’s prestigious Taishin Arts Award.

The Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholarship was established in 2000 by the late Roberta Stanbery Furbush in appreciation for the influence of Grinnell College upon the lives of her and her husband, Frank. Both Frank and Roberta were highly active in the Des Moines community, and both enjoyed theatre, art, and music.

Recent Art History Grads Make Good

Two recent art history grads move forward in their post-B.A. professional lives.

This summer Tianhan Gao ’11 (left) 

…became the associate cataloguer for the Classical Chinese Paintings Department at the art auction house Sotheby’s International in New York. Tianhan came to Grinnell in 2007 as an international student from China. She double-majored in bio-chemistry and art history. After graduation she took an internship at Samuel T. Freeman & Co. Auctioneers in Philadelphia, and then worked her way up to department assistant, property manager, and associate specialist of Asian art in three years before being hired this summer by Sotheby’s.

This fall José Segebre ’09 (right) 

…begins an M.A. program in curatorial studies at the Städelschule and Goethe Universität in Frankfurt, Germany. José came to Grinnell in 2005 as an International Merit Scholar from Honduras without (in his words) “the slightest idea that he would leave with a degree in art history.” He has since been involved with different art projects in Mexico City, his city of birth, and a self-sustainable art community in Portugal, and has also worked as assistant curator at the exhibition hall for contemporary art, Portikus, in Frankfurt. He is currently helping to organize an international symposium about contemporary Muralism that will take place in October at the cultural center riesa efau in Dresden, Germany.

The Art of Making Art

In one month over the summer, the average person might get through a novel or two. Joe Engleman ’14 (pictured) wrote one. Both he and Gavin Warnock ’14, a physics/studio art major, were accepted to the Emerging Artist Residency at Grin City Collective.

Grin City sits on a 320-acre farm and in the summer invites nine college-level writers and visual or performance artists to a unique, subsidized artist residency specifically for undergraduates — Engleman and Warnock were undergrads when they applied.

The four-week residency culminates in a gallery show at the Grinnell Art Gallery.

Shared history

Engleman and Warnock were enrolled in the Collaborative Arts course taught by art professor Lee Running, English professor Dean Bakopoulos, and music professor John Rommereim in spring 2014, but didn’t get a chance to work with each other. They decided that in addition to the individual projects they intended to complete at the residency, they would collaborate on an art installation. “I was very interested in Joe’s motivations for his work,” says Warnock.

They were both interested in memory and what happens when you revisit shared experiences — specifically when it came to two Grinnellians telling stories about Grinnell. “The more we reminisce, the less true the memories are,” says Warnock.

The installation featured a filing cabinet with folders full of dozens of sheets of paper. At the front of each folder was a clear image that faded a little on each subsequent page. Visitors to the gallery are invited to take a picture from the front of a folder and shred it. By the end of the exhibition on July 31, only faded images or blank pages will remain.

More than art

Molly Rideout ’10, the residency coordinator and co-director of Grin City, is responsible for adding the goals of community enrichment and social commitment to the Emerging Artist Residency. One of the ways residents meet these goals is through working at Middle Way Farm, which Jordan Scheibel ’10 broke ground on two years ago.

In addition to helping the community, this work can help artists when they feel stuck. “When you do something that feels like it’s never done, like writing, it’s great to be able to look at the pile of weeds you’ve pulled or the basket full of beans you picked — something tangible,” says Engleman.

It’s remarkable how quickly nine artists from across the country formed a community — one based on passion and mutual interest. “I enjoy talking with artists about their work and motivations. To a large extent, it doesn’t matter what their content is as long as they’re passionate about it,” says Warnock.

Gavin Warnock ’14, a physics and studio art major from Perry, Iowa, is entering Grinnell’s ninth semester licensure program for teachers.
Joe Engleman ’14, a history major from Chicago, Ill., is pursuing his writing career.

Students Compose Music for Grammy Winners

One class of Grinnell students is taking advantage of a unique opportunity: composing music for a Grammy-winning vocal ensemble.

Roomful of Teeth will present a performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27 in Sebring-Lewis Hall. It will be the premiere of several works by students of this semester’s Collaborative Arts course, a team-taught course that brings together student artists, writers, and composers.

This performance and exhibition will include:

  • Music by members of the Composition Seminar, taught by John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music;
  • Art objects created by members of professor Lee Running’s Advanced Studio: Site Specific art class; and
  • Works of micro-fiction written by members of the Fiction Seminar, taught by English professor Dean Bakopoulos.

The event is a good example of the collaboration that occurs regularly at Grinnell, which emphasizes academic strength, innovation, mentoring, and individualized study.

Earlier in the semester, the students became acquainted with the ensemble via Skype.  The students sent their scores to the ensemble. The ensemble will arrive in Grinnell a few days before the concert to review the compositions and rehearse.

Earlier in the semester, the students taking these classes collaborated, with help from artist-in-residence Scott Hocking, to create a series of site-specific installations. More than 100 people walked through the guided tour, stopping off at the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Herrick Chapel, Noyce Science Center, and even the Bear Center pool.

The class’ final project of the semester, on May 5, will be a presentation of a number of collaborative video-based projects that were conceived during artist-in-residence Katie McGowan’s visit in February. McGowan’s genre-bending, multimedia art explores the boundaries of mind/body discipline and ideology.

About Roomful of Teeth

The Roomful of Teeth ensembleRoomful of Teeth’s debut CD received a Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance earlier this year. The group formed in 2009.

In April 2013, ensemble member Caroline Shaw received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Partita, the four movements of which appear on the ensemble’s debut album. The 30-year-old composer is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in music ever.  The ensemble has quickly come to play a leading role in modern vocal performance, through their expansion of styles across cultures, through their many commissions, and through projects such as this one.


Lunar New Year 2014

Happy year of the horse! A Lunar New Year celebration was held on the evening of January 31, 2014 at Harris Concert Hall. The party was attended by around three hundred students, faculty and staff members, families, host families, and Grinnell community members. We had delicious food ordered from China Sea, wonderful performance put up by various Grinnell students, and fun games. Special thanks go to CSA, AAA, Chinese and Japanese SEPC, SGA, ISO, and all the other organizations and individuals who helped make this such a great success!

Grinnell Singers Tour 2014


The Grinnell Singers will perform a series of March concerts in Iowa and California as part of a spring break tour.

The 40-voice ensemble will present an evening of distinctive choral music that includes the elevated sounds of English cathedral music by John Sheppard, the spiritual depth of Rachmaninov, the austere beauty of Arvo Pärt, the playfulness of a children’s counting game by the up-and-coming Philippine composer Nilo Alcala, music by Ingram Marshall that offers a new take on the American shape-note tradition, and cutting edge a cappella music by 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw. The Singers’ tour schedule will include:

  • 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 15: Grace Methodist Church, 37th and Cottage Grove, Des Moines, Iowa
  • 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 17: All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto, Calif.
  • 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 18: St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, 500 De Haro St., San Francisco, Calif.
  • 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 19: Oak Glen Pavilion, San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, 3450 Dairy Creek Road, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
  • 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 20: First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, 1220 2nd St., Santa Monica, Calif.
  • 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 21: Foothills United Methodist Church, 4031 Avocado Blvd., La Mesa, Calif.

View the full program.

Admission is $15, except for the free concerts March 15 in Des Moines and March 19 in San Luis Obispo.

Under the direction of John Rommereim, the Blanche Johnson Professor of Music at Grinnell, the Grinnell Singers have premiered more than 20 choral works in the past five years. Each year the choir presents concerts across the country, and the group has also traveled to Estonia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. The Grinnell Singers have also been invited to perform at two regional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association.

 In 2013, the Grinnell Singers released their latest CD, Seeking After that Sweet Golden Clime. The disc is centered on Jonathan Dove’s evocative choral cycle The Passing of the Year, and also includes distinctive works by Ola Gjeilo, John Taverner,

Tarik O’Regan, Alexander Grechaninov, Gyorgii Sviridov, Joseph Jennings, and conductor Rommereim.

Grinnell Singers

The Grinnell Singers, 2014

Premiere of Rommereim's "And Glory Shone Around"

Listen to the Marsh Chapel Choir perform music professor John Rommereim’s new piece for mixed choir, “And Glory Shone Around.” The choir premiered the work on Dec. 13. Their Dec. 16 performance was broadcast live on 90.9 WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, and is available on the Marsh Chapel podcast, Dec. 16. “And Glory Shown Around” begins at 10:41 in the broadcast.

Rommereim was inspired by the early American shape-note composition Sherburne by Daniel Reed, based on Nahum Tate’s poem “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.”

“The shape-note tradition is a distinctly American phenomenon, and I hope that this piece captures some of its wonderful energy and its home-spun flavor,” Rommereim says.

“The poem puts forward the most essential images from the Nativity story in simple, direct language. I tried to follow the course of this drama in miniature, with all its contrast, from the shepherds working their night shift ‘all seated on the ground,’ to the ‘mighty dread’ that ‘seized their troubled mind,’ to the touching scene of the ‘meanly wrapped’ infant, to the announcement of peace, and the thrilling appearance of the ‘heavenly throng’ singing those catchy lines, ‘Goodwill henceforth from heaven to men/Begin and never cease!’”

In 2012, the Grinnell Singers collaborated with the Marsh Chapel Choir in commissioning a work by Mohammed Fairouz. The ties between the groups were strengthened when the Grinnell Singers performed at Boston University's Marsh Chapel as the final stop on their 2013 choral tour.

“Scott Jarrett [director of music at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel] is a phenomenal pianist and organist, and a conductor who has worked with some of the country's most renowned ensembles. I'm thrilled to have such a top-flight ensemble performing the premiere of my piece,” says Rommereim.

Rommereim is Blanche Johnson Professor of Music at Grinnell. He teaches composition and conducts the Grinnell Singers and Grinnell Oratorio Society.