The Master Chorale of Washington
Founded in 1967 by the late Paul Hill and previously called the Paul Hill Chorale, the Master Chorale of Washington was featured in the inaugural concert of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1971 and has been performing in the Concert Hall ever since on an average of eight to ten times annually in its own subscription series and as a guest chorus for other arts organizations. The Master Chorale of Washington has been the only one of Washington's major symphonic choruses to follow the model of the world's finest choruses by employing a complement of professional singers within its rigorously auditioned and extremely talented volunteer base.
In 1969, National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) conductor Howard Mitchell was suddenly confronted with a problem—the organization that was contracted to be the featured chorus in an upcoming NSO concert was no longer available—so he called upon Paul Hill for help.
In a matter of two short weeks, Hill recruited 44 new singers to expand a small, informal singing group of 36 with whom he had been rehearsing "...for fun, with no real plans of performing" and prepared them to perform Beethoven's demanding Fidelio with the NSO. That was the beginning of what was then called the Paul Hill Chorale and today is known as the Master Chorale of Washington.
Over the past 42 years the National Symphony Orchestra has invited the Master Chorale to perform in a guest chorus role under such notable conductors as Maestros Mitchell, Dorati, Kabalevsky, Rudel, Frühbeck de Burgos, Marriner, Rostropovich, Slatkin, Fischer, and Goodwin. Most recently, MCW appeared with the NSO in June 2008 to perform Grieg's Peer Gynt under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy and in December 2008 to perform Handel's Messiah under the baton of Martin Haselböck. The Chorale's last appearances with the National Symphony Orchestra are these concerts of April 9, 10, and 11, singing Brahms' German Requiem under the baton of Kurt Masur.
Under the direction of Donald McCullough, the Master Chorale has performed fourteen world premieres, produced three nationally distributed CD's, and received several prestigious honors and awards, including the Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence in North America. As a part of its educational outreach, the Master Chorale, in partnership with the Kennedy Center and the District of Columbia Public Schools, produced the Partners In Peace All City Honors Chorus, a choral program for the public school's most talented middle school students that culminated in a performance each year on the Kennedy Center Concert Hall stage.
MCW has also been honored as a featured chorus at numerous national and regional choral conventions including most recently the American Choral Directors Association's National Convention in New York City performing in Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, the American Guild of Organists Regional Convention and the American Choral Directors Association Eastern Regional Convention in Pittsburgh. MCW also toured internationally, including a recent tour of Germany and Poland in 2005 and a tour of Central Europe in 2000.