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Joseph Giunta looks forward to picking up his baton as soon as possible.


It's been touching in recent days to see favorite artists respond online to the current health crisis. For example, we thoroughly enjoyed Neil Diamond singing at fireside with his dog, in creative lyrics—"Sweet Caroline" tweaked to  "hands, washing hands"—plus Sheryl Crow and others. Search the web; you'll find some of your favorite entertainers doing what they do best, with casual at-home intimacy. Locals are also on board, from Max Wellman to the B2Wins. Your online search will be rewarding.

ln that spirit, we reached out to Des Moines Symphony conductor Joseph Giunta, asking him what some of his favorite pieces are that the symphony had planned to perform during the rest of the the now-canceled season. Here's what he told us, with links to past performances by other orchestras:

This is one of the most popular, appealing and challenging pieces in music history, and it’s truly a spectacle to perform. A very large chorus and children's chorus are required to perform this piecealong with a large orchestra! Imagine 13th-century students studying to be monks in a monastery in the Bavarian Alps, who, during their free time, write songs about the anticipation of spring, love, gluttony and drinking. These songs, which numbered more than 1,000, were kept secretly; they were found, anthologized, and published 600 years later. Orff was fascinated with early music and chant; he read these songs and they inspired him to write this very unique and novel piece. The opening chorus, "O Fortuna," became hugely popular for selling after-shave, cars and more—it's even been heard at football games!

This performance would have been a Des Moines Symphony premiere. During the turbulence of World War I, Elgar was asked to write a piece for the Polish Victims Relief Fund. He dedicated the piece to the great Polish pianist Paderewski and incorporated a theme that the great pianist wrote. It is full of nationalism and majesty and, as always with Elgar's music, superb and engaging orchestration. I always look forward to working on pieces I have never performed, and I eagerly anticipate this performance.

Stravinsky did for the 20th century what Beethoven did for the 19th century: He changed the way we criticized, listened to, composed and performed music. His genius influenced every composer that followed him. His special gift of complex rhythms, orchestration, and fabulous storytelling techniques make performances of his music eagerly anticipated. The Firebird is one of Stravinsky’s greatest and most popular compositions, and it continues to appeal to audiences and musicians throughout the world. 

Bravo and grazie, Maestro.
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By Wini Moranville

As you continue to prep meals at home, using up what’s in your fridge, freezer and pantry while limiting your trips to the store, you might have some cooking and food safety questions. To help, I thought I’d share some sources I’ve trusted in my 25 years of food writing:

• FSIS/USDA: The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service focuses on ensuring the safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products. I often consult their fact sheets, which answer all kinds of questions, such as what foods can be frozen (see answer) and whether raw or cooked meat can be cooked from its frozen state (see answer, under "Cooking Frozen Foods"). The search window lets you ask food storage and safety questions that might be on your mind, such as "Does all cheese need to be refrigerated?" I’ve been consulting the "Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease" page regarding the safety and ongoing availability of the U.S. food supply. So far, the news is encouraging.

Cook’s Thesaurus: Though not an official educational/government website, I’ve generally found this to be a good source for food substitution ideas. I particularly like their cheese substitution section. If you’d feel better consulting something more official, university extension websites are a good source. This one from the University of Mississippi is one of the more extensive that I’ve found.

Another site I’ve been turning to lately is the Centers for Disease Control’s Coronavirus FAQ page, which includes some information on food as well as info on how to protect yourself in general.

Meanwhile, because my recent trips to the supermarket have been so few and far between, I’ve been stretching my meat purchases even more than usual. Most recently I morphed one 14-ounce package of Kielbasa sausage into eight great servings. Here’s how to do it:

• One half of the package can serve two diners; heat according to package directions and serve with any ol’ vegetables and a starch (potatoes, at my house). And yes, during these times, mustard counts as a sauce.

• For something more "stretchy," use the second half of the package in this classic Better Homes and Gardens Black Bean Soup, a recipe I’ve made hundreds of times. I generally go with the shortcut version using canned beans. Out of black beans? Just about any kind of soup bean will do: I’ve used garbanzos, navy beans, cannellini beans and great northern beans, sometimes in interesting combinations. Definitely mash some of the beans (as suggested) for a thicker stew. Oh, and this soup freezes well.

No black bean soup I’ve ever had measures up to this recipe, and I think it’s all about the peppery warmth of the dried coriander. I’m not sure I can suggest a perfect substitute for that, but here’s some great news: If you’re out of the ground coriander called for, Allspice now delivers locally. What a great service to local cooks! Find out more on the Allspice Facebook page.


By Rachel Vogel Quinn

When flooding hit Des Moines in July 2018, nonprofit and government leaders realized they could have been more prepared. More than 40 organizations came together, with help from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, to create a Disaster Recovery Fund (DRF). At the time, they had no idea they’d need to deploy it so soon, or in such a big way.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked its havoc, the group worked through the weekend to launch the DRF March 16. The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and United Way of Central Iowa pledged $100,000 each. Administered by the Community Foundation, which is not charging an administrative fee, the DRF had raised more than $378,000 as of Friday afternoon.

A grantmaking committee will decide how to allocate funds. Grants will be awarded to direct-service organizations that support vulnerable populations. Long-term, the committee will address gaps that aren’t being filled by other programs.

"We know that low-income and marginalized communities are the first ones that will be impacted," says Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa. "They have the least assets right now to help sustain them."

Even before the pandemic, one-third of Central Iowans were not making enough to meet their basic needs, says Buck. Many of these individuals, employed in the service and manufacturing industries, can no longer work due to pandemic-related closures.

Kristi Knous, president of the Community Foundation, has seen Central Iowa struggle before, especially during the 2008-09 economic crisis. At the time, nonprofits had to serve more people on smaller budgets. But Knous says donors did not stop giving. She believes they will step up again.

Buck shares the same hope: "We are here to support our nonprofits and make sure our community can come back from this really scary time stronger than we were before."

What you can do:
Donate to the Disaster Recover Fund online here.
If you’re young and healthy, consider volunteering. Find COVID-19-related opportunities on United Way’s volunteer platform here.
If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, or if you’re struggling financially due to lost work, call 211 for guidance and resources.

In other nonprofit-related news:

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Polk County Health Department this morning announced that the county and community partners will use the Youth Inn at the Iowa State Fairgrounds as a shelter for those experiencing homelessness.
Oakridge Neighborhood is seeking support to provide food, cleaning products and critical operations for the neighborhood’s 1,100 residents, nearly 90% of whom earn less than $20,000 a year.
Hy-Vee has announced a goal to raise $1 million to help local food banks restock their shelves during the outbreak.
Headphones once provided isolation; now they're a key element in staying socially connected.


By Karla Walsh

I’ve been working from home for more than 15 months and remember how huge a transition it was to shift from typing alongside 700 other office dwellers to clocking in solo each and every day. (You can read more about that adjustment in my November/December 2019 dsm No Filter column.)

One thing that really helped decrease feelings of loneliness, keep me motivated and focused, and quiet distracting thoughts was to set the mood with a productivity-boosting soundtrack. Now, more than ever, we could all use some tunes that naturally lower our blood pressure a few points. Here are five soothing soundtracks to consider as background music as many of us settle into isolated weeks to come. (These also work if you’re still commuting to your job!)

The "Hidden Figures" original score
Acoustic Covers Spotify Playlist
Karla’s Just Jazz Playlist
Mumford & Sons Spotify Radio
Dinner Music Spotify Playlist

This is the first of a self-care tip-of the-week series, hosted by dsm contributor, indoor cycling instructor and wellness freelance writer Karla Walsh. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll continue to offer little tips, tricks and expert advice as we all navigate these uncertain times.

Check out the transformation of a Des Moines loft in our new "Home" issue.


We had planned to have a new-issue launch/unveiling party today for dsm Home, one of the specialty issues we're producing this year. Well, plans change. But publishing calendars don't. The home issue, full of building and remodeling ideas, is now in our usual distribution sites and online here. The party? We'll let you know when we can all get together again ... and it'll be a blast!
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