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Artistic Collaborations Online

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 and Arch Williams ’18, both members of Grinnell Singers, are helping launch a new project called the Grinnell Virtual Choir. In the project's most recent video, 25 singers used the technology to perform a movement from Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil.

In a virtual choir, each participant records one or more individual singing parts of a particular song, and the videos are then synchronized and combined into a group performance.

In the current video, Middeldorp and Williams are among the singers testing virtual choir technology and demonstrating how it works. It’s the first step in introducing both a testing tool for better choir singing and a new opportunity for musical interaction among alumni and current students.

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Middledorp says she found her initial singing experience to be “simple and straightforward” from a technological standpoint. “I only had to practice once or twice to figure out some of the logistics,” Middeldorp says. “I was in a practice room, and I just recorded it on whatever video recorder is built in on the computer and watched John [Rommereim] conduct on the same device.”

Williams did the same “after finding a quiet spot in my house where I could sing,” he says. “I did a couple of takes before submitting my video. I adjusted based on the recordings of my own voice and as I got a better handle on the music.”

Taking Ownership

One of the goals of the virtual choir project is to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Using videos to record individual parts may provide a better way to test and evaluate the contribution of singers and improve their accountability in the chorus.

“Often in choir you think you know your lines but you’re just relying on the person next to you,” Middeldorp says. “When it’s just you singing alone you really take ownership over the music. One of the great benefits of this is that you know if you’re truly solid on your part independently.”

The Grinnell Singers have already begun putting virtual choir technology to the test as a rehearsal tool. They are using it to practice Duruflé’s Requiem for a combined concert with the Grinnell Oratorio Society later this spring.

“I think that using virtual choir capabilities will be an exciting experience and will help us learn the music in a new, cool, and different way then we normally do in class,” Williams says.

Learning the Technology

Austin Morris ’15, a mathematics major and Grinnell Singers alumnus, is the talent behind the scenes. He says learning to synchronize audio and video files from various devices has been challenging but worthwhile. Innovation Fund support for the project helped secure dedicated equipment for his work.

“Once we get the videos from all the people that we contact, it’s my job to put them all together in the final project,” Morris says. “My goal is to make it look as good and complete as possible.”

Fun and Inspiring

“The main goal of the Grinnell Virtual Choir is to create an online platform that facilitates choral performances that are connected virtually,” says John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music. “It’s a way to engage alumni in an artistic way so they can collaborate with current students and with each other.”

Current singers and alumni are invited to contribute additional vocal parts on All-Night Vigil and other works via the website. In addition to instructions for accessing the score and conducting video, the site offers musical and technical tips for getting a workable recording.

Essentially, singers can make it as simple as putting on earbuds and singing into their phones or laptops.

“We want it to be fun and a little inspiring,” Rommereim says. “We’re hoping it will blossom into a significant artistic endeavor.” 

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 is an anthropology major from Northfield, Minn. Arch Williams ’18 is a chemistry and political science double major from Minneapolis.

Spring Flute Studio Recital

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 4:15pm
Sebring-Lewis Hall
Bucksbaum Center for the Arts

Do the Math: Brilliant Colors + Flutes = SPRING Studio Recital by Students of Claudia Anderson. Assisted by collaborative pianist Melinda Westphalen. This concert features something for everyone: solos, duos, trios, big flutes, little flutes, violin, cello and piano. Music by Gaubert, Telemann, Ganne, Schocker, Marais, Morlacchi, Reinecke, Boyd, Taffanel, Clarke, Lievermann, CPE Bach, Zempleni, Ibert Thomson, Prokofiev, Borne, and Bartok.

Audition for Grinnell Singers! Fall 2016

New Grinnell Singers Auditions

Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152

  • Monday, August 22, 3:30–5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 23, 3:30–5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 24, 7–8 p.m.

Sign up for an audition

Returning Singer Auditions

Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152

  • Thursday, August 25, 4:15–6 p.m.; 7–9 p.m.
  • Friday, August 26, 4:15–6 p.m.

All returning students are required to complete an individual audition. We need to complete these auditions for returning students before the callbacks on Saturday, so we will need the cooperation of the returning students in fitting in all of these individual appointments on the Thursday and Friday of the first week of the semester.

Sign up for an audition

Callback Group Auditions

Sebring-Lewis Hall , Saturday, August 27

  • Altos, 10–11 a.m.
  • Sopranos, 11 a.m.–noon
  • Basses, 1–2 p.m.
  • Tenors, 2–3 p.m.

For the Audition

Please fill out the information sheet provided online prior to the audition.

The ten-minute individual audition will consist of:

  • Singing one of the two sight-reading selections. You will have the opportunity to practice the two pieces ahead of time. The two pieces are “Sainte-Chapell” by Eric Whitcare (mm. 1—32), and “Ave Verum Corpus” by William Byrd (mm. 1—22).
  • Singing back short melodies played on the piano (testing tonal memory).
  • Testing your range using a simple pattern, such as 1-5-4-3-2-1 on "ee" and "ah" vowels. The pattern will move up and down by half steps.

Optionally, you may sing a prepared piece up to three minutes long. It is helpful to hear how you sound when you're singing a piece that you know well. Any style is acceptable — whatever allows you to show your musical and vocal personality. Again, this is optional; it is perfectly ok if you don't have a prepared piece.

The Scoop on Shovel Knight

Although millions of people around the world enjoy playing video games, not many people have the talent or motivation to make a game of their own. For David D’Angelo ’08, however, the spark, the drive, and the talent were all there.

D’Angelo was heavily involved in music while at Grinnell, participating in the orchestra and serving as president of the acapella ensemble G-Tones. He was also an avid gamer and had always been interested in the process of making video games. After a short postgraduation stint writing commercial jingles, the dual music and computer science major moved to Los Angeles and began to pursue a career in video game design.  

He got a job as a video game programmer at WayForward, a work-for-hire video game company that produces games at the request of companies like Warner Brothers, despite the fact that the economy was crashing for many other industries. “Video games are kind of recession-proof for some reason,” he says.

After working on retro-style 2-D games like “Double Dragon Neon” and “Contra 4,” an idea began to bud in D’Angelo and a few of his coworkers. In 2013, they broke off from WayForward and began their own video game company, Yacht Club Games.

“We wanted to create a retro game that was the first in a new franchise rather than a continuation of an old series,” D’Angelo says. “We were looking at ‘Zelda II: The Adventure of Link’ and observing the underused down-thrust attack of Link, and we just thought ‘How cool would it be to base an entire game around that simple mechanic?’”

After much debate over what kind of weapon would work best for flipping enemies over and attacking their underbellies, the team decided on a shovel. “Then we thought that ‘knight’ is the funniest word you could put next to ‘shovel’, so we wound up with a game called ‘Shovel Knight,’” D’Angelo says.

D’Angelo and his team started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game, in which they had 30 days to reach their monetary goal through online donations. To get the word out, they went to conventions to show off the game, released live-streamed video updates on the project daily, and communicated heavily with their fans.

“We streamed ourselves making the game, we streamed ourselves talking to our fans, we responded to every single email and comment we received,” D’Angelo says. “We wanted people to see how passionate we were about this game.”

The Kickstarter campaign was launched in the middle of March 2013 with a goal of $75,000; they reached that goal in just a few short weeks. By the end of the campaign in mid-April, the team had collected a total of $311,502 for the development of the game. The game was released in June 2014, and has since sold more than a million copies. It can be now purchased for Wii U, 3DS, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Windows, Amazon Fire TV, Mac, and Linux.

When it came to the designing and marketing of “Shovel Knight,” D’Angelo says his Grinnell experience has been a valuable asset to his work. “I didn’t learn how to make games at Grinnell, but I did acquire the knowledge and tools needed to face any programming problem, and my music background helped me create and implement sound in our games,” he says. “Even the course I took in Japanese literature has come in handy as I draw on Japanese art and customs when engaging with our partners there in preparation for the game’s release.

“You get a taste of a little bit of everything at Grinnell, and that has been so important in what I do. I think the best thing you can do is to explore all your options while you’re there, because you just never know what skills you’ll end up using later on!”

These Heavy Sands

John RommereimThese Heavy Sands, a concert of new and recent music by John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music, will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 17, in Herrick Chapel.

The concert, which is free and open to the public, includes four world premieres:

  • Together with the Voca String Quartet, soprano Rosie O’Brien ’16 will perform the premier of the featured work on the program: “These Heavy Sands Are Language,” with text by James Joyce.
  • The premiere of two songs will be sung by Rommereim with pianist Marlys Grimm: “The Gift” (text by Louise Erdrich) and “Elegy for a Walnut Tree” (text by W. S. Merwin).
  • Grimm, the College organist, will premiere “Veritas and Humanitas,” a piece written for the College’s annual commencement and reunion celebrations. 

Jazz saxophonist Mark Laver, assistant professor of music, will join with Rommereim to present improvisatory music for saxophone and piano. In addition, Laver will accompany the ensemble in a performance of Rommereim’s “Amara [grace].”

Flutist Claudia Anderson will perform “Weather Conversations,” a work for flute and electronics co-composed with Rommereim.

The Voca String Quartet will also perform “Illimitable Distance” from Rommereim’s 2004 string quartet, and selections will be offered from Rommereim’s chamber opera, “Rheingold,” a reimagining of Wagner’s opera commissioned by the Taiwan Ministry of Culture and performed with Craig Quintero’s Riverbed Theatre in Taipei in 2014. 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations through Conference Operations and Events.

About John Rommereim

Rommereim conducts the Grinnell Singers and the Grinnell Oratorio Society and he teaches composition. He has conducted the Grinnell Singers on concert tours across the country and in Estonia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.

Rommereim’s choral works have been performed by distinguished ensembles across the United States, including Magnum Chorum, the Princeton Singers, VocalEssence, Voces Novae, Roomful of Teeth, and The Rose Ensemble, for which he served as 2008-09 composer-in-residence.

The New York Times praised the “richly expressive” character of his work for voice and piano, “Into the Still Hollow (2006).” In addition to his numerous choral works, Rommereim has composed a chamber opera, songs, electronic music, and works for piano, organ, guitar, flute, saxophone quartet, brass quintet, and string quartet.

Dave Stamey & Grinnell Symphony Orchestra

The Grinnell Symphony Orchestra will perform with celebrated Western musician Dave Stamey in concert at Grinnell College on Saturday, April 16.

A singer, songwriter and guitarist, Stamey also has been a cowboy, a mule packer, a dude wrangler, and is now one of the most popular Western entertainers working today. His "Vaquero Song" is widely considered one of the best Western songs of all time.

The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Herrick Chapel. No tickets are required for this event, which is free and open to the public.

Stamey also will conduct a songwriting workshop from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. Friday, April 15, in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 103. The workshop, which is free and open to all, offers a great chance to talk with Stamey and learn about the art and business of songwriting.

In 2010, 2011, and 2013, Stamey was named True West Magazine's "Best Living Western Solo Musician." The Western Music Association has voted Stamey Entertainer of the Year seven times, Male Performer of the Year six times, and Songwriter of the Year five times. He also received the Will Rogers Award from the Academy of Western Artists.

Stamey says he has long dreamed about it, but this will be his first time performing with a symphony orchestra, said Grinnell Professor of Music Eric McIntyre who directs the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra. Stamey will sing 10 of his songs that McIntyre has arranged for orchestra.

"The orchestra has a long history of performing with soloists and ensembles that are not from the standard classical tradition," McIntyre said. "These include collaborations with Grinnell College's Young, Gifted and Black gospel choir, Jazz Ensemble, a hip-hop DJ narrator, and even a traditional German Oompah band.

"This performance will be the first time the orchestra has worked with a singer/songwriter," McIntyre added. "It is a wonderful opportunity to expand our range of styles and savor the experience of working with a popular artist."

McIntyre noted that Stamey has a big following and that the College has received inquires from people who plan to travel to Iowa to hear Stamey perform with an orchestra.

"It's going to be an amazing show," he said. "We recommend that people come early to get good seats."

The Grinnell Symphony Orchestra is comprised of student musicians representing all disciplines within the College who are unified by a love of music and a dedication to the art of orchestral performance.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations and Events.

Grinnell Singers Spring Concert Tour

The Grinnell Singers, the College's premier choir, will perform in six cities during a concert tour of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico during the week leading up to Easter. The concerts, which will take place from March 19-25, are open to the public.

Directed by Lecturer in Music Ben Luedcke, the choir will sing motets by Francis Poulenc, Eric Whitacre and Knut Nystedt written specifically for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

A string quartet of Grinnell College students will join the Grinnell Singers to perform a sacred work for strings and choir by Joseph Haydn. The choir also will present sacred works by Orlando Gibbons, Maurice Duruflé and Hubert Parry.

The 38-voice Grinnell Singers will round out the program with some part-songs and spirituals, including pieces celebrating Spanish dance and butterflies.

The Grinnell Singers have toured Finland, Estonia, Russia, and Turkey. The choir has produced two recordings, including a CD of Rachmaninoff's "All-Night Vigil," which was praised for its "consummate artistry" by Iowa Public Radio.

Free-will donations will be accepted at all of the concerts, which start at 7:30 p.m.:

  • Saturday, March 19, at Asbury United Methodist Church, 5400 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, Kansas.
  • Sunday, March 20, at Cathedral of the Plains — Basilica of St. Fidelis, 900 Cathedral Ave., Victoria, Kansas.
  • Monday, March 21, at First Congregational Church of Boulder, 1128 Pine St., Boulder, Colorado.
  • Tuesday, March 22, at Green Mountain United Methodist Church, 12755 W. Cedar Drive, Lakewood, Colorado.
  • Wednesday, March 23, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel, 50 Mount Carmel Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
  • Friday, March 25, at First Christian Church, 16 E. Platte Ave., Colorado Springs, Colorado.