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A Piece of Bad Advice

Des Moines Choral Society 2021 Shows

December 8, 2021

Ever gotten advice that sounded awful but turned out really well?

Hang on — here’s some more. Add one more event to your December schedule. (You’re asking yourself about now: are you nuts!? I’m way too stressed!)

Trust me. December 11. 7:30 p.m. Downtown Des Moines (DSM).

A still, arching space, suddenly filled with heart-achingly beautiful sound. When it ends, stillness returns, as the audience catches its breath before the applause begins.

This is the Des Moines Choral Society, celebrating the season in St. Ambrose Cathedral in Downtown DSM. This concert is very special as they begin to share live music with a live audience again. You’ll experience the purity of voices alone, and voices with a chamber orchestra. Soaring flute. And the excitement of tones ringing in the air after the musicians fall silent.

If you haven’t heard of the Des Moines Choral Society, you’re not alone. In a crowded musical scene, this amazing group of auditioned musicians are a wonderful secret. With over 50 select voices, directed by Dr. James Rodde (director of choral music at Iowa State University), they share the depth of beauty and interpretation that a mature choir can bring to the audience.

Christmas with the Choral Society

This Saturday is your chance to discover a pool of both holiday favorites and stunningly beautiful new music. Some will make you smile; others will make your pulse pound and a few will take your breath away. (Tickets are available at DMChoral.org and at the door — masks are required for singers and audience)

One of those pieces is the premiere of a five-movement work by Des Moines composer (and long-time composer in residence for the Choral Society), Elaine Hagenberg. Illuminare takes us on a journey not unlike our past year and a half. It begins in light and peace but moves to a much darker and more threatening place. The singers yearn again for peace, and slowly the mood shifts, returning us once again to a place of light and peace. Accompanied by chamber orchestra, the music takes you to a place where you also can find peace again.

If your evening is already booked, you aren’t out of luck. There are two other ways you can experience this wonderful group, depending on your tastes and time.

One of these is a lot less formal: a nine-hour series of 15-minute holiday music interludes by our singers, performing individually, in groups and with family and friends. It’s a great soundtrack if you’re wrapping presents or making cookies (there are even short baking segments!). Produced as a live fundraiser last Saturday, the 2021 Sing-a-thon is being made available on YouTube for you to enjoy in full or just parts. And with new performers every 15 minutes, it’s a little like the Iowa weather — if you don’t like it, it’ll change soon! And if the spirit moves you, the contribution link is also still “live.”


Your second option caters to classical tastes and a shorter time frame. Reprising a program created in 2020, The Messiah Project looks at the quintessential Christmas piece, Handel’s Messiah. With beautiful visuals, they showcase the work with both live music and selections from earlier concert footage. The goal is sharing the glory of the music and enhancing the listener (and singer) experience with some history and what this classic means to the many singers who have shared in its performances. It is available to stream for free here.

Whatever your tastes, time and budget, you will find that taking this “bad advice” to be one of your best decisions of the season.

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a burgeoning city with a brilliant future. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Sue Breen-Held

Sue Breen-Held is a board member of the Des Moines Choral Society board of directors for 2021-2022.