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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.

Celebrate Humanities Day

Grinnell College will mark Celebrate Humanities Day, a daylong series of free, public events to honor the study of the humanities, on Monday, March 14.

U.S. Rep. Jim Leach will present the keynote, "Where Politics and Morality Conjoin and Disconnect," at 7:30 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Leach represented Iowa’s second district in the House of Representatives for 30 years and later served as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Under his leadership, the NEH created a Bridging Cultures program designed to promote understanding and mutual respect for diverse groups within the United States and abroad. Leach is now chair in public affairs and visiting professor of law in the College of Law at the University of Iowa.

Students will perform at 4 p.m. in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Sebring-Lewis Hall.

Student performances include:

  • "Choreography as Research" by Rosie Fuqua ’17, Ivy Kuhn ’17,  and Taylor Watts.
  • "Indo-Jazz Fusion from Banaras to New York," by Vincent Kelley ’17 and his band.

Kelley, drums and tabla, will be joined by Omri Benami ’17, piano; Tom Earnest ’17, bass; and Jacob Ziontz ’17, viola; and Assistant Professor of Music Mark Laver, saxophone.

The daylong celebration will culminate in a Pub Quiz trivia night at 9 p.m. in Lyle's Pub, in the basement of the Rosenfield Center.

This will be Grinnell College’s first Celebrate Humanities Day, which is organized by the College’s Center for the Humanities.

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. The Bucksbaum Center has accessible parking at the south entrance.  You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Carnival and Creativity

February 11-12, 2016 at Grinnell College

Queen ReesieOn August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. Roughly five years later, on January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake rocked the small island nation of Haiti.

These cataclysmic events, this shared experience of trauma, added a further layer of connection between these two regions, already linked by their shared African and French heritage, the legacy of colonialism, and the experience of slavery that made Louisiana and Haiti home to vibrant, thriving Afro-diasporic communities.

February 2016 represents the 10th and 5th anniversaries (respectively) of the first Pre-Lenten celebrations – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Haiti – to follow these social and environmental catastrophes.

Bennie Pete and Hot 8 Brass BandIn New Orleans and Port-Au-Prince alike, Carnival did what Carnival always does: it gave the community a chance to come together in solidarity in the face of struggle; it provided an opportunity to heal from trauma; and it offered a moment for people who are often ignored – especially within the upper echelons of global social and economic power – to give voice and movement to their struggles and their triumphs through song and dance and celebration.

These Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations showed us the remarkable power that music, dance, and art have to heal and to empower individuals and communities.

On February 11-12, 2016, we will pay tribute to those individuals and communities with a series of events that mark the 10th and 5th anniversaries of the 2006 and 2011 Carnival celebrations:

Thursday, Feb. 11

4:30-6:30 p.m., Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Lawson Hall, Room 102
New Orleans Brass Band Workshop with Bennie Pete, tuba and co-founder, Hot 8 Brass Band
7:30-9 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Lawson Hall, Room 152
"If You Don't Like What the Big Queen Says, Just...": An Evening With Queen Reesie (Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame and Big Queen of the Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indians)

Friday, Feb. 12

4:15-6 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Lawson Hall, Room 152
Carnival and Creativity Roundtable Discussion
  • Gage Averill, University of British Columbia
  • Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame
  • Tess Kulstad, Grinnell College
  • Bennie Pete, Hot 8 Brass Band
  • Moderated by Mark Laver, Grinnell College
8-9:30 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Sebring-Lewis Hall
The Grinnell Jazz Ensemble Plays the Music of New Orleans, featuring Bennie Pete and Cherice Harrison-Nelson. Directed by Mark Laver.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Music, the Center for Humanities, the Center for International Studies, and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

Schubert's 'Winterreise'

Baritone John Rommereim and pianist Ian Moschenross will perform Schubert's "Winterreise" at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7.

"Winterreise," or "Winter's Journey," tells the story of a young man who has been rejected in love and who sets out on a journey, with his destination unknown. The concert, which is free and open to the public, will take place in Sebring-Lewis Hall in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St., Grinnell.

A series of 24 songs sung without interruption, "Winterreise" follows the young man through the course of his travels as he experiences a wide range of emotions, from tender nostalgia and feelings of affection, to bitterness and regret. The work includes some of Schubert's best-loved songs, and it is a supreme example of the successful combination of poetry and music. 

Rommereim is Blanche Johnson Professor of Music at Grinnell College. In addition to his appearances as a singer, he is also a noted composer and choral conductor. Celebrated choirs across the nation, such as the Princeton Singers and Magnum Chorum, have performed his original choral works.

Moschenross is an accomplished pianist, active recitalist, chamber musician, and accompanist throughout the Midwest. He is an applied music associate at Grinnell College. A gifted professor, he also teaches applied piano, music history, theory, appreciation, and interdisciplinary courses at Monmouth College, where he is an associate professor of music.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accessible parking is available at the south entrance to the Bucksbaum Center. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Join the Grinnell Oratorio Society

Chapel stage with instruments

First meeting will be Monday, January 29, 2016, 7 p.m., Sebring Lewis Hall at Grinnell College's Bucksbaum Center for the Arts

RSVP to join the Oratorio Society

The Oratorio Society is open to all – students, faculty, staff, and community members - to get together on Mondays and have a good time singing tuneful, spirited music. Music should not be a spectator sport! Here is a valuable opportunity to get involved. We’ve got an exciting array of music to continue the 2016-17 year. This year, in the fall, we will be preparing to perform Handel’s Messiah with a professional orchestra and soloists on December 4.  We will also perform several selections for a special concert during Family Weekend on September 17: a love song by Johannes Brahms, a powerful setting of the Lord’s prayer, sung in the original Aramaic, by Lebanese-American composer Ilyas Iliya, and a rousing folk hymn, “Halelluia,” by Shawn Kirchner. In May, we will join forces with the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra to perform Johannes Brahms’s German Requiem.   Please take a moment to sign up to let us know you are interested.

The Grinnell Oratorio Society rehearses Mondays 7-9 p.m. in Sebring Lewis Hall.  

Freedom to Explore

Josie Bircher ’16 came to Grinnell undecided about what field she was going to pursue. That has turned to inspired certainty, and she credits Grinnell’s individually advised curriculum with helping her chart her course.

A First-Year Tutorial is the only required class at Grinnell. With no general education requirements, students and their advisers have greater flexibility in building majors that serve students’ career and life goals. 

“Initially I just continued math because I was pretty good at it in high school and I found it challenging, so I wanted to keep that going,” Bircher says. “The open curriculum gave me the opportunity to explore different fields and individualize my coursework to make me more prepared for the field I want to go into.”

Confirmed Direction

Bircher’s first Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) in computational chemistry “confirmed that I like theoretical, quantitative sort of approaches,” she says. “Chemistry was on a little too small of a scale for me, so it helped to determine where I went next, which was more biochem — lots of chemical interactions combining into one. “

Her current MAP — using mathematical modeling to predict receptor activity in the brain — has further inspired her to look toward graduate school and a career in research.

Integration and Flexibility

“I’m drawing from my work in biochem, as well as the skills I learned in one of my applied math courses and in my probability and statistics course, too,” Bircher says. “That’s been sort of a theme in my coursework, to integrate all of the different things I take into one type of work.”

Bircher also appreciates flexibility in scheduling other activities. She is on Grinnell’s swim team and plays violin in the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra.

“In my first meeting with the swim coach I asked her if it was feasible to do both orchestra and swimming,” Bircher recalls. “She made it clear that she would be able to be in communication with the orchestra director, and that it would be easy for me to do everything I wanted to do in terms of my extracurricular activities.  

“Grinnell really seemed like the place where I could do everything I wanted to do,” Bircher says.

Grinnell Clicked

In deciding where to attend college, Queenster Nartey ’16 applied and was admitted to several major research universities in the Midwest.

“After visiting all those schools, Grinnell is the only one that clicked,” Nartey says.

The individually advised curriculum was a major incentive for Nartey. “Knowing that there is only one required class, the tutorial, I could basically shape my education however I wanted to,” she says.

Personalized Interests

“Yes, there are requirements for the major, but not every biochemistry major takes the exact same classes,” Nartey explains. “It’s very personalized. It’s appealing to me to basically wrap my major around things that I’m interested in.”

Nartey had intended to double in Spanish with a concentration in neuroscience, but dropped the idea. “I was pre-med, I wanted to study abroad, and as time went on I realized I didn’t want to spread myself too thin,” she says. “I wanted to focus on one thing and do it really well.”

Ultimately, she was able to take a Spanish class, and she combined her study abroad and neuroscience through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad program. Clinical experience in Copenhagen, along with research opportunities she capitalized on during her first two years, expanded both her medical and research horizons. “I didn’t have to give anything up at all,” she says.

Set Her Apart

Queenster Nartey ’16 testing copper surfaces for bacterial growth at a local hospitalNartey’s current MAP is focused on testing copper surfaces for bacterial growth in hospital environments. Her poster presentation on that study earned her accolades at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle last November.

“From the copper study, we wrote a paper that’s going to be published very soon, Nartey says. “As an undergraduate, having a published paper sets you apart from the crowd. It’s very exciting, and something I can highlight as a result of doing a MAP.”

Nartey says the experience will help her in applying for a National Institutes of Health postbaccalaureate fellowship and eventually for an M.D./Ph.D. program.

“Grinnell opened all these doors,” Nartey says. “Having the freedom to design my major and go abroad, having the encouragement from professors and other students and staff in a collaborative environment, is wonderful.

“I feel very good and very confident as a scientist, and it’s because of this individualized curriculum. It all comes down to that.”


Josie Bircher ’16 is a biological chemistry and mathematics double major from Omaha, Neb. Queenster Nartey ’16, a biological chemistry major, is from Chicago.


Renaissance Compline Concert

Jennifer Williams BrownThe Grinnell College Collegium Musicum will perform a 30-minute candlelit concert, featuring English and Latin chants interspersed with vocal and instrumental pieces by English Renaissance composers Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. The compline concert, based on evening prayers, is free and open to the public. It starts at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1026 State St., Grinnell.

The Collegium Musicum is an ensemble that studies and performs Early Music, including pieces from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods of Western European music history. Including both vocalists and instrumentalists, the ensemble gives students a unique opportunity for hands-on learning about early Western music. Instrumentalists learn and perform on Grinnell College's first-class collection of replica period instruments under the direction of director Jennifer Williams Brown.

Brown is an associate professor of music. She specializes in the history and performance of Baroque music, especially 17th century Italian opera. An acclaimed scholar, Brown was awarded the American Musicological Society Claude V. Palisca Award for the best scholarly edition or translation in the field of musicology in 2008. She also has received numerous fellowships and grants for her work. She has been published in several journals, including The Cambridge Opera Journal, The New Grove Dictionary of Music, and The Journal of Musicological Research.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. St. Paul's Episcopal Church has an entrance through the office door for people with disabilities. Parking is available on the street and in the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church across the street at 1025 Fifth Ave.

Hallelujah! Sing/Play Along

Celebrate the last day of classes and the holiday season by joining the 11th annual read-through of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts' Rotunda.

Singers and instrumentalists are invited to participate; non-musicians are invited to listen. John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music, will conduct. The free, public event will last about 15 minutes.

Music will be provided for singers and instrumentalists, and all instruments are welcome. Instrumentalists, please email Jennifer Brown, associate professor of music, in advance to make sure there is a part that works for your instrument. Please bring your own instrument; chairs and stands will be provided.

Joy, Joy, Joy: An Organ Reflection

Grinnell College Organist Linda Bryant will present "Joy, Joy, Joy: An Organ Reflection" at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, in Herrick Chapel. The performance is free and open to the public. 

Most of the program will be carol-based music, reflective of the quiet and exuberant moods of the holiday season. Bryant will be playing the 59 rank Aeolian-Skinner organ installed in 1949 and completely restored in 2009. 

"Take a break from whatever you are doing," Bryant says, "and enjoy 45 minutes of respite during this busy holiday season."

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