About the Choral Society
The Des Moines Choral Society, under the direction of Artistic Director Dr. James Rodde, is made up of auditioned volunteer singers from throughout Central Iowa. With a long tradition in the community, the Des Moines Choral Society is a major force for the promotion of quality choral music in Iowa. The choir was recognized in March 2000 as best Artist/Performing Group by the Iowa Arts Council through their Arts Build Communities award program.
The group presents several concerts each season, often offering major choral works. Notable works performed lately include Faure's Requiem, the Stravinsky Mass and Symphony of Psalms, and the Iowa premier of Eric Whitacre's Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine.
Recent concerts have showcased the Des Moines Choral Society's penchant to find interesting things to sing about. Here are some highlights.
Essential Water. We teamed up with Polk County Conservation to present stories and songs about water, our most precious natural resource. From Handel's He Gave Them Hailstones, to Eric Whitacre's Cloudburst, this concert engaged the audience in new ways of listening to and thinking about water.
To Life! The historic Tifereth Israel Synagogue provided an inspiring space for a concert devoted to Jewish composers. Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, Copland's Zion's Walls, and a number of luscious folk tunes filled the snowy night. Our special guests, the Java Jews thrilled the audience and singers alike with Klezmer accompaniment.
Masterworks of Hope. Iowa Public Radio's Hollis Monroe offered insights into the three major choral works that were performed: Haydn's Kettledrum Mass, Rutter's Requiem, and Beethoven's Choral Fantasy.
Destination Iowa. This latest concert in the Iowa Heritage series told the story of the commonality of the Iowa immigrant experience across generations and across cultures. The program included selections from Brahms' Liebeslieder Walzer, Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine, as well as pieces sung in Swedish, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The concert closed with a moving tribute to former governor Robert Ray, who initiated a major resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees.
Christmas with the Choral Society. Our popular December concerts combine carols and classic works conveying the majesty of the season. Past concerts have featured Magnificat settingsby Rutter and Vivaldi; movements from Bach's Mass in B Minor, and contemporary carol arrangements by Mack Wilberg, Randall Stroope, and Steven Paulus. For many audience members, this concert has become their traditional kick-off to the holiday season.
The Des Moines Choral Society has often performed with the Des Moines Symphony, and its members regularly perform as part of the Des Moines Metro Opera ensemble. In June 2001, the choir performed at Carnegie Hall, Janet Davis' conducting debut in the hall.
The Choral Society performed "Battle Cry of Freedom: Iowa in the Civil War," in May 2003, a performance of music from the Civil War era, highlighting a script commissioned by the Des Moines Choral Society, written by nationally recognized Iowa playwright Cynthia Mercati, and performed by Hal Holbrook and two accomplished local actors. The performance was wholly envisioned, created, and performed due to the vision, stamina, and professional-level creativity and artistic ability of the Choral Society. The performance, telling the true story of the large part that Iowans played in the Civil War, attracted an audience of over 1,300, earning attention statewide and nationally.
In 1999, the Society inaugurated an in-school educational outreach program for 4th and 5th graders. Very popular, these hands-on programs gave children the opportunity to sing with the adult singers, while teaching them musical concepts related to the theme of the program. As requested and as time permits, ensembles made up of Society members can sing for special events for organizations in exchange for a fee. Please contact the Society office for details.
Through generous private and public support, grants, concert revenue and membership dues, the Des Moines Choral Society maintains a tradition of excellence in performance of old and new classics, folk songs, and spirituals. We welcome you as a singer or audience member. You'll agree, the Des Moines Choral Society is "something to sing about."
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Dr. James Rodde, the Louise Moen Endowed Chair in Music and Director of Choral Activities at Iowa State University, became the Artistic Director of the Des Moines Choral Society in January, 2003. Dr. Rodde's choirs have been honored with performances at distinguished events, including four national and four divisional ACDA conventions. An active clinician, Dr. Rodde has conducted several All-State Honor Choirs, most recently in Wisconsin, Texas, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Elaine Millett Wedeking earned degrees in piano performance from William Penn College and Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman University). She completed additional graduate study at Northwestern University, Boston University/Tanglewood Institute, and Drake University. She served on the faculties of NMSU and Westmar College, where she taught and performed regularly both as a soloist and accompanist. In addition to her work with the Choral Society, she is involved in the choir programs at Lincoln High School, Plymouth Congregational Church, and Drake University. Since 2001 she has served as a staff accompanist for the American Suzuki Institute summer program in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Elaine has been the Choral Society accompanist since 1997.
- Sharon Strohmaier, President
- Phillip Sandager, Vice President, Community Outreach
- Jacque Warming, Vice President, Development
- Ashley Maiers, Vice President, Member and Concert Services
- Dave Short, Treasurer
- Gordon Smith, Secretary
- Wayne Bauman, Immediate Past President
Dr. James Rodde, Artistic Director, ex officio
Carolyn Petsche, Office Administrator, ex officio
Dr. James Rodde
Des Moines Choral Society Performs at Tree Lighting Ceremony
In December 2009, the Des Moines Choral Society was invited to perform Christmas carols for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the Iowa State Capitol Rotunda. Governor Chet Culver, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, and other state officials were present for the tree lighting and kick off to the annual Toys for Tots toy drive.
In 1999, the Des Moines Choral Society inaugurated an educational outreach program, bringing singers of the Choral Society to fourth and fifth grade students in the schools. The first program, Fascinatin' Rhythm, demonstrated the varieties of rhythm found in choral music and gave children the opportunity to join the adult singers in performing several selections. This exciting program served over 900 students in the Des Moines metropolitan area in 1999 and over 950 students in the Des Moines inner-city schools and the community of Pella in 2000.
The educational outreach program continued with Animalia in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 season, again targeting fourth and fifth graders. In March 2002, the Choral Society singers visited five Des Moines schools they had not visited the prior year, including Smouse Elementary, where the singers worked with kids with developmental disorders. The Animalia program demonstrated how composers write music in different ways €“ in the melody, the rhythm, the words €“ using animals as the main theme.
Imagine the sight of over 100 fourth and fifth grade students in class, cheering wildly after singing along with the Choral Society singers. Imagine the thrill of nine- and ten-year-old boys joining along in song with adult tenors and basses!
The Choral Society could not offer these exciting, in-demand educational programs without the financial support of corporations in central Iowa. Their support demonstrates their commitment to the importance of music in the future of our community. To contribute to this exceptional cause, visit our Support page.