Grinnell Singers to perform concerts in six cities during spring break tour

Mar. 8, 2018 — The Grinnell Singers will be presenting a mix of stirring contemporary music along with cherished selections from the past during the group’s 2018 road tour.

Group shot of the 2017/2018 Grinnell Singers
Group picture of the 2017/2018 Grinnell Singers

The 50-voice choral ensemble from Grinnell College will be presenting concerts in Des Moines, Lawrence, Kansas City, Tulsa, Dallas, and New Orleans from March 11-23. All six concerts are free and open to the public. No tickets are requited. Alumni and their guests are encouraged to attend.

Titled “In Converse with the Stars,” the concert will feature distinguished choral music spanning five centuries.

John Rommereim
   John Rommereim

“We always enjoy providing the audience with some of the great treasures of choral music,” says John Rommereim, Grinnell Singers director and the Blanche Johnson Professor of Music. “These are selections that should be kept alive, but we also try to balance it with what’s currently happening in music. A strong component of this concert is the way we unite these treasures with appealing and significant music written today.”

The centerpiece of the concert is a performance of “To the Hands,” a 2016 piece by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. The song focuses on America’s promise of welcome as inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

“It’s a powerful piece because it has to do with issues of immigration and whether America is a welcoming country,” Rommereim says. “The students have enjoyed getting to perform a newer selection that carries a great deal of meaning. Ms. Shaw made the piece available for free on the basis that we make efforts to assist with refugee resettlement and homelessness, so our concerts have had a connection with different organizations that support those causes.”

Because “To the Hands” is written for choir and strings, Rommereim said a group of Grinnell College string players will accompany the ensemble on the trip.

The choir also will perform a selection from Sergei Rachmaninov’s “All-Night Vigil,” which has become a specialty of the Singers in recent years.

“It’s very satisfying music that is orchestral with voices,” Rommereim says. “I try to include Rachmaninov every year because it’s something the students like.”

The Singers also will perform a couple short selections from “Words Adorned,” their recent collaborative concert with the Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble of Philadelphia, a group that specializes in Arabic music.

The Grinnell Singers perform with the Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble of Philadelphia.
The Grinnell Singers performing with the Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble of Philadelphia.

“The way our students took on this music in Arabic and performed with this specialty ensemble was telling,” Rommereim says. “I’m pleased with their adventurous spirit. It’s really great to see the energy students bring to music making, especially since most of them are majoring in other subjects. Their enthusiasm and love of music shines through in their performances.”

The road tour program also includes selections by William Byrd, Claudio Monteverdi, Johannes Brahms, Gyorgii Sviridov, Shawn Kirchner, and Einojuhani Rautavaara.

“We have a beautiful motet by William Byrd that is colorful, rhythmic, complex and very fun to sing,” Rommereim says. “It’s a colorful setting of song that lists all the different instruments. Each instrument is called to sing praise to God, and the music is colored by that instrument.”

The concert also includes the last movement from Craig Hella Johnson’s recent oratorio, “Considering Matthew Shepard.” It focuses on the tragedy of Shepard’s murder. The final movement is uplifting. It starts with the tragedy and works toward healing out of it, Rommereim says.

While most of the tour will be spent performing and traveling, students will have some free time in Dallas and a free day in New Orleans. Rommereim invites alumni living in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana to attend the concerts. Free-will donations will be accepted.

“I hope alumni from all different generations can attend,” he says. “The College has had a great tradition of choral singing for decades. Music is such a great way to connect people.”

Grinnell Singers 2018 Concert Tour

All six concerts are free and open to the public. No tickets are requited. Alumni and their guests are encouraged to attend.

Des Moines
Sunday, March 11 4 p.m.
Plymouth United Church of Christ
4126 Ingersoll Ave.

Lawrence, Kan.
Saturday, March 17 7:30 p.m.
Plymouth Church
925 Vermont St.

Kansas City
Sunday, March 18 2 p.m.
Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral
415 W. 13th St.

Monday, March 19 7:30 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church
501 S. Cincinnati Ave.

Tuesday, March 20 7:30 p.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
6306 Kenwood Ave.

New Orleans
Friday, March 23 7 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church
1329 Jackson Ave.

- by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Known for their innovative and adventurous choral programming, the Grinnell Singers have performed in Estonia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, and across the U.S. Learn more about the Singers.