Celebrating 44 Years of Performing
for the Nation’s Capital and the World
The Choral Arts Society of Washington, under the leadership of its founder and artistic director Norman Scribner, is one of the major choral organizations in the United States. Now entering its 44th season, the Chorus is composed of 190 professional-caliber volunteer singers who have sung with leading symphony orchestras and under the world’s most distinguished conductors, recorded a number of acclaimed CDs, and toured nationally and internationally. The Society presents an annual season subscription series at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and other DC-area venues. In addition, it participates in special events honoring national holidays and notable occasions through live performances and television. The Choral Arts Society has an impressive history of commissioning and performing new works, as well as presenting area and world premieres of outstanding contemporary music. Choral Arts also makes a powerful statement through its Annual Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where performers, guest choirs and conductors, composers, and celebrities join together to create a celebration of artistic diversity and expression dedicated to Dr. King’s vision.
Choral Arts has performed special commemorative concerts including the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of Mstislav Rostropovich's American debut, the American premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's Polish Requiem, a live performance honoring Stravinsky’s centenary under Leonard Bernstein at the National Cathedral, and the centenary of Prokofiev’s birth with Rostropovich and the National Symphony at Lincoln Center. Nationally televised performances include A Capitol Fourth with the National Symphony Orchestra led by Erich Kunzel, Christmas at the Kennedy Center with Leontyne Price, and sixteen performances at the annual Kennedy Center Honors featuring honorees Leon Fleisher, Brian Wilson, Robert Shaw, Mstislav Rostropovich, Stephen Sondheim, Pete Seeger, Marilyn Horne, Neil Simon, and Johnny Cash and others. In the summer of 2004, Choral Arts made their debut performance with the New York Philharmonic under conductor and composer John Adams for the orchestra’s Charles Ives Festival. In 1991, Choral Arts sang Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky with Rostropovich and the National Symphony, which included a performance at New York's Lincoln Center, in celebration of the centenary of the composer's birth.
In addition to regular performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, Choral Arts has appeared with the orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Israel, London, and Paris Opera, under the direction of Adams, Rostropovich, Slatkin, Conlon, Frühbeck de Burgos, Leinsdorf, Rudel, Kunzel, Maazel, Bernstein, Shaw and Dorati both here and abroad. The Chorus has performed in New York City on many occasions, including appearances with the New York Philharmonic, and has toured the Northeast with the Cracow Philharmonic and Krzysztof Penderecki. The Choral Arts Society of Washington is also frequently invited to tour internationally. In July 2008 the chorus performed two sold-out concerts of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus as part of the City of London Festival at St. Paul’s Cathedral under the baton of renowned conductor Valery Gergiev. In July and August of 2005, Choral Arts toured South America, performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at the world famous Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition, the chorus performed Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem with the Orquestra Petrobras Pro Musica at the historic Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Gabriel Faure's Requiem at the Candaleria Church. In July 2002, the chorus embarked on a ten-day tour of England and performed in four major music festivals, including the renowned BBC Proms at the 6,000 seat Royal Albert Hall in London under Leonard Slatkin. The chorus has appeared twice at the Spoleto Festival (Italy). In 1993, the Chorus performed Rachmaninoff’s Vespers under Norman Scribner and was also joined by the Westminster Choir and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, under the direction of Stephen Mercurio, to perform Berlioz’s Requiem for the festival's grand finale. The Chorus was invited to return to Spoleto in 2001 to perform repertoire including the Mozart Requiem at Gian Carlo Menotti’s 90th birthday celebration under Norman Scribner and at the Festival’s grand finale. In the summer of 2000, the chorus performed Verdi’s Requiem at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming under the direction of Eiji Oue. In May of 1996, Maestro Scribner led the chorus on a thirteen-day, six-concert tour of France with performances at the Evian Festival, the Sorbonne, the Festival of Auvers-sur-Oise and Notre Dame. On a historic tour to Russia in 1993, the chorus joined forces with the National Symphony Orchestra and Mstislav Rostropovich, performing in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. The highlight of the tour was a performance of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky in Moscow's Red Square, honoring Tchaikovsky’s death, which was attended by 100,000 people. In October 1994, WETA-TV in Washington, D.C. aired a thirty-minute documentary about the historic tour.
Choral Arts' most recent CD, Voices: A Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was released in 2008 along with a companion book by Dalmatian Press. The organization’s award-winning discography also includes the 2006 release Celebrating Sacred Rhythms, which received the 2007 WAMMIE for Best Classical Recording. This album was released internationally on the Naxos label and features Navidad Nuestra and Missa Criolla by Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez and a Congolese version of the Mass, Missa Luba, arranged by Guido Haazen. On the Naxos label, Choral Arts released A Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – The First Ten Years, There Shall a Star: Choral Jewels for Christmas in 1999 and Thomas Beveridge’s Yizkor Requiem, a world premiere recording, in 2000. The men of the Choral Arts Society and The Washington Chorus are featured on John Corigliano's Of Rage and Remembrance on the RCA Victor Label with Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra, which won the 1996 Grammy for Best Classical Album. Teldec released the album Make Me Drunk With Your Kisses, a world premiere recording of Alexander Knaifel’s Chapter Eight (a work for church, choirs and cello) with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and Norman Scribner conducting for the first time on an international label. In December 1996, the Society released Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, recorded live at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall under the baton of Norman Scribner. On the Erato label are recordings with Maestro Rostropovich, including Rachmaninoff’s Vespers and, with the National Symphony Orchestra, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 (Babi Yar), Learner’s Manual and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. In 1991, Choral Arts released Christmas with The Choral Arts Society of Washington, a critically acclaimed and popular recording of Christmas carols and other Yuletide favorites.
Choral Arts has received the prestigious Mayor’s Arts Award for both Excellence in an Artistic Discipline and Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education, the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming and The Washington Post Award for Non-Profit Excellence. In keeping with Choral Arts’ commitment to the community, the Society has designed and implemented many education and community outreach initiatives, including artsACCESS: Arts for Children Creates Educational Success in Schools, an award-winning national model for using music to teach across the curriculum, now entering its tenth year. Through artsACCESS, The Partner High School Program, Arts Administration Internships and new Curricular Materials (online and printed), Choral Arts reaches K-12 teachers and students as well as young professionals at the university level. Community Outreach programs such as the More than Notes Concert Study Guides and Post-Concert Lectures, The Annual Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Family Christmas Concerts, and partnerships with outside organizations provide unique musical experiences for learners of all ages. Choral Arts strives to strengthen and deepen the artistic excellence of its programming, build upon its local, national, and international reputation, and further enhance the impact of its outreach initiatives.