Choral Iowa

Welcome to IPR's Choral Iowa!  This page will make it easy for you to keep up with our state’s flourishing choral scene. You'll find event calendars, music videos, and ideas from the many Iowans who make our choral scene happen. Please let us know of events or ideas you’d like to share! After all, choral music is the most inclusive of genres. America has about 1,200 orchestras but 270,000 choirs. One household out of five includes a choral member, ranging from children to retirees. Their conductors are just as likely to be maestras as maestros, and their audiences love new works as much as classics. Our state is a national presence in choral music, and Choral Iowa will help you find out why.

 

Sven Zacek / Special to IPR

America does things big. Our Super Bowl attracts 100,000 fans and a hundred million TV viewers; New Year’s Eve on Times Square draws a million celebrants. But adjusted for population, these numbers have nothing on Laulupidu, the national song festival of the tiny nation of Estonia that takes place every five years.

Jackie Blake Jensen

"Bach is the father, we are the kids,” said Mozart, maybe. The quote was reported 40 years after Mozart’s death by someone known to make stuff up and otherwise fall short of NPR sourcing standards. But even if it’s apocryphal, what makes it interesting is not who said it but which Bach he had in mind: not Johann Sebastian, but his second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Let's call him CPE (1714-1788).

Courtesy Orchestra Iowa

Orchestra Iowa’s “German Requiem” concert will be featured on this week’s Symphonies of Iowa broadcast.

Courtesy DSM Magazine

This week’s Symphonies of Iowa features Iowa native and internationally-renowned bass-baritone Simon Estes taking the stage with the Des Moines Symphony for their “Simon Sings Porgy & Bess” concert.

Simon Estes joined the Des Moines Symphony along with Janice Chandler-Eteme, “one of the world’s foremost lyric sopranos,” to perform selections from Gershwin’s “beloved” Porgy & Bess.

Simon Estes “has filled opera houses from New York City to Paris and beyond.”

Drake University Choirs

Aimee Beckmann-Collier jokes that she “had a plan for every minute of her life since junior high.” By age seven she knew she would be a teacher, and by age thirteen she was sure her focus would be high-school choirs. But plans can lead to unexpected vistas.

University Relations

The UNI School of Music brings Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Choral” to Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

johnrommereim.com

 

It's good to have many skills, but even better when they synergize. At Grinnell College, John Rommereim conducts choirs, writes music, teaches composition and theory, plays keyboards, and researches musicology. The strands are varied but they weave together into something more than their sum. What connects them, Rommereim told me, is imagination. He explains in this short interview: 

Chorus America/ University of Iowa

In the last two months of 2018, Iowans gave 100 choral concerts (we listed them!). But if December is "peak choral," the singing returns in February and especially in March and April. We won’t create another “big list” of every event, but will try to keep you updated with brief, occasional posts. As usual, let me know what I’m missing! Here’s a start:

___________________________________________________________

TUESDAY, MARCH 5th

RNZ Music / Stan Alley https://www.radionz.co.nz/collections/u/music-festivals-and-events/womad/audio/201815807/interview-ladysmith-black-mambazo-womad-2016

Albert Mazibuko grew up on a farm in South Africa then found work at an asbestos factory. But since childhood he'd dreamed of singing with an innovative local ensemble, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In 1969, he was invited to join the group, and half a century later he has lost none of his enthusiasm.

Haley Gibbons

 UPDATE: Tonight at 6:30 PM*, Vocalese will sing at St. John's Lutheran Church in Des Moines, as will the Urbandale Singers and Iowa State Singers. It's a "bon voyage" concert before the three groups sing at the American Choral Directors Association national convention in Kansas City - an honor mentioned in the original post below. The Iowa State Singers will also perform their program on Sunday, Feb 24th 1:30 at ISU Music Hall in Ames:

St. Olaf College

A Long Island teenager had a ticket to a Moody Blues concert, but his mother insisted he go instead to hear a college choir visiting from Minnesota. Eighteen years later, that young man, Anton Armstrong, became the conductor of that ensemble, the St. Olaf Choir - and as you can imagine, the details make quite a story. You can hear it from Dr. Armstrong himself in the clip below.

Wartburg Marketing and Communications

A Choral Iowa post: Supermarkets began piping in holiday tunes in November, so you've probably heard all the standards just in the course of buying groceries. But below is a gem for which you need a choral group. Called Estampie Natalis, it reflects two of the enthusiasms of its Czech-born composer, Vaclav Nelhybel.

Heartland Youth Choir, http://joinhyc.org/

It's the perfect month for a choral concert, and Iowa's artists have been hard at work preparing. From university concerts to madrigal dinners to Handel in Clinton and Cedar Rapids and an Iowa premiere in Grinnell, here's what I hope will become a complete list.  I'm sure I've missed things, so please let me know of omissions or corrections (at choraliowa@iowapublicradio.org). The goal is to include everyone!

_________________________________________________

Elaine Hagenberg

When Des Moines resident Elaine Hagenberg graduated from Drake in 2002, her degree was in music education. How did she go on to become an internationally admired choral composer, with works published by Oxford University Press and performances in London, Melbourne, and New York? She talks about it briefly in this interview with IPR's Jacqueline Halbloom.

John Rommereim

In a dusty box in the archives of Grinnell College, John Rommereim found a long-missing manuscript.  It was the only copy of a massive score by Edward Scheve, the composer who "made Grinnell musical."  Scheve conducted it in a 1910 performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, but all that survived was a piano reduction - or so things appeared until Rommereim opened that box.  Below, he explains how his discovery set in motion an enthusiastic response thousands of miles away.  He also discusses Scheve's rel

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson of Luther College is President of the Iowa Choral Directors Association.

I am thrilled to help welcome you to the Choral Iowa topic page!  My gratitude goes to Barney Sherman and the rest of the team for creating a way to share the work of amazing choirs all over the state. 

“I shouldn’t tell you this, but she advocates dirty books… Chaucer… Rabelais... BALZAC!” It’s a laugh line that never falls flat, and it advances the plot of The Music Man. Broadway convention meant that Harold Hill and Marian Paroo must end up together, so Meredith Willson needed another dramatic tension, and he found it in priggish opposition to the library. And what bluenoses could be more hilarious - or more believable - than the mayor's wife and her cronies?