Simpson’s vocal music thrives on and off campus


by Taia Veren, Staff Reporter

INDIANOLA, Iowa — The Women’s Chorale, Chamber Singers, Madrigal Singers and College Choir are the four vocal ensembles which make up the vocal music program at Simpson College, and they are all working hard to share music on campus and beyond.

“All of the ensembles are high-level auditioned ensembles,” said Tim McMillin, professor of music and director of choral activities and voice.

Ensembles are categorized by size and genre of music sung. Sometimes the ensembles combine to perform a large choral piece together.

“I really like to perform slow classical music,” said sophomore Darian Briles, a soprano. “It’s easy to get into and sounds really great in the church.”
Briles sang in the Women’s Chorale last year and is now singing in the College Choir.

“I’m really excited to be singing with guys and girls this year,” said Briles. “I like hearing the rich voices of the bass and tenor sections and how those contrast with the soprano and alto voices.”
Students involved in these ensembles are not all music majors. Majors can audition for music scholarships, but music activity scholarships can also be awarded to students not pursuing the major who still want to sing in an ensemble.
McMillin directs the college choir and the chamber singers, while Dennis Hendrickson directs the Women’s Chorale, and Zach Rohlwing directs the Madrigal Singers.

“I get to stand in front of musicians and make music, which is something I love to do, and I know it’s what they love to do. There isn’t a much better life than that,” said McMillin.

The Women’s Chorale and Madrigal Singers rehearse for two hours a week on a Tuesday and Thursday schedule. The College Choir and Chamber Singers rehearse three hours a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule.

“Beyond rehearsals, time expectations come around performance times,” said McMillin.

In preparation for a concert, there is typically a rehearsal the day before to put final touches on the musical pieces. The day of the concert, musicians are expected to be ready at a call-time set by their director before the performance to warm-up as a group.

“Outside of rehearsal time, there may be between 10 to 12 hours of additional rehearsing and performing,” said McMillin.
McMillin said he’s aware of his students’ busy schedules, so he is careful to not schedule too many extra performances throughout the year.

“The Chamber Singers, College Choir and occasionally the Madrigal Singers will perform at some events off-campus,” McMillin said.

McMillin gets opportunities to guest direct nearby high school honor choirs, and when asked, he brings along a choir from Simpson to share music and generate interest in Simpson’s music program.

Recently, the Chamber Singers sang with the First United Methodist Church’s Chancellor Choir on Oct. 15 for an on-campus homecoming service. In the spring, First United Methodist Church will host Simpson’s singers for “Simpson Sunday” to collaborate again for the service. Also in the spring, the Madrigal singers will perform with Des Moines area choral groups in a musical exchange.

“Next year, the Chamber Singers will do a five-day regional tour,” said McMillin. “We might go to Minneapolis, Chicago or Kansas City.”

This tour happens every other year in the music department, alternating between the band and the choral ensembles. This year the band will be traveling.

“The goal of the tour is to have choral exchange opportunities with high school constituencies, so that people know about the music program at Simpson,” said McMillin.

There is also a music department international tour every other May Term. The department will have this travel opportunity again in May 2019. The department is currently looking at a southern European destination, but nothing is set in stone.

The music department’s next concerts will be on Nov. 5 and 12.