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The Kennedy Center

The Washington Chorus



Biography

Under the direction of Artistic Director Christopher Bell, The Washington Chorus (TWC), now in its 58th season, is one of the foremost symphonic choruses in the nation. Noted for the superb artistry of its performances and recordings of the entire range of the choral repertoire, TWC is widely recognized as a cultural leader in the nation’s capital. A three-time nominated and two-time Grammy Award winner, the 180-voice Washington Chorus presents an annual subscription series at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, regularly performs at the invitation of the National Symphony Orchestra, and appears annually at the Music Center at Strathmore in Maryland and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia. In addition to its own programming, this season TWC performs Verdi’s Requiem with the NSO, Koyaanisqatsi with the Philip Glass Ensemble, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the LA Phil conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

TWC was the first major Washington area chorus to be founded independent of a church or college. In 1961 Hugh Hayward, a medical doctor and classically trained musician, founded the Oratorio Society of Montgomery County, which became known as the Oratorio Society of Washington, and is now celebrated under the name of The Washington Chorus. In 1971, Robert Shafer succeeded Hayward as music director, leading the chorus for more than three decades with great distinction, including two Grammy Awards.  From 2008–2017 Julian Wachner led the organization, expanding its profile with education and innovation at the forefront of dynamic programming. In the fall of 2017 TWC welcomed Christopher Bell as its new Artistic Director, beginning a new era that has already met with critical and popular acclaim.

Chorus America, the national association for choruses, has honored The Washington Chorus with the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and the ASCAP Alice Parker Award, which recognizes a chorus programming significant, recently-composed music that expands the mission of the chorus and challenges audiences in new ways. Other awards include the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance for the live-performance recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and a 1996 Grammy Award for John Corigliano’s Of Rage and Remembrance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.

TWC is proud to have sung with the NSO in more than 300 performances, under the direction of many of the world’s greatest conductors, including Christoph Eschenbach, Leonard Slatkin, Gustavo Dudamel, Mstislav Rostropovich, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Neville Marriner, Kent Nagano, Marin Alsop, and many others.

TWC has sung for numerous prestigious events throughout its history— inaugurations, papal visits, with the Rolling Stones during their 50th anniversary tour, and at the White House for the President and First Lady.

TWC’s commitment to the greater Washington community is evidenced by outstanding education and outreach programs, including the Junior Washington Chorus for teens ages 16 to 18; the Side-by-Side high school program; the DC Honor Chorus in partnership with DC Public Schools; and TWC’s Outreach Singers who bring music to underserved groups throughout the area.

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