Under the direction of Christopher Bell, The Washington Chorus (TWC), now in its 57th 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 200-voice Washington Chorus presents an annual subscription series at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, regularly performs at the invitation of the National Symphony Orchestra, and is frequently featured in other venues such as the Music Center at Strathmore in Maryland and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia.
TWC has the distinction of being the first major Washington area chorus to be founded independent of a church or college. Hugh Hayward—a medical doctor, NIH research scientist, and classically trained musician—founded the chorus in 1961 as the Oratorio Society of Montgomery County. This ensemble, which became known as the Oratorio Society of Washington, is now celebrated under the name of The Washington Chorus. In 1971, Robert Shafer succeeded Hugh Hayward as music director, and he led the chorus for more than three decades with great distinction, including Grammy Awards in 1996 and 2000.
From 2008-2017, Julian Wachner led the organization with education and innovation at the forefront of his programs. In June 2016, Chorus America, the national association for choruses, honored The Washington Chorus with the prestigious Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence.
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. The Chorus is also known for innovative programs that focus on contemporary composers with award winning New Music for a New Age concerts and composers of earlier times with The Essential concerts of classic masters.
TWC is committed to the performance of contemporary music and was proud to receive Chorus America’s 2011 ASCAP Alice Parker Award, recognizing a chorus programming significant, recently-composed music that expands the mission of the chorus and challenges the chorus’ audience in a new way. Other awards include the 2000 Grammy Award for “Best Choral Performance” for the live-performance recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Additional recordings include Christmas with The Washington Chorus, Glorious Splendor, Sing Noel!, and the Berlioz Requiem (Gothic Recordings); Dvorák’s Stabat Mater and Psalm 149 (Naxos International); Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (nominated for a Grammy Award in 1988); and the Grammy Award–winning Of Rage and Remembrance by John Corigliano with the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.
TWC has appeared at the invitation of leading orchestras including the National Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. TWC is proud to have sung with the NSO in more than 250 performances, under the direction of many of the world’s greatest conductors, including Christoph Eschenbach, Leonard Slatkin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Neville Marriner, Charles Dutoit, Kent Nagano, Marin Alsop, and many others.
In February 2015 the Chorus traveled to Carnegie Hall for a special performance of Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam by Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera, in partnership with Choirs of Trinity Wall Street, the Washington National Cathedral Choir of Boys and Girls, and NOVUS NY. In the summer of 2013 the Chorus sang with the legendary Rolling Stones in the final concert of their “50 and Counting Tour.” TWC has sung for numerous prestigious events throughout its history – for inaugurations, for papal visits, and at the White House for the President and First Lady.