Under the direction of Artistic Director Christopher Bell, The Washington Chorus (TWC), now in its 59th 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 160-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.
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 with education and innovation at the forefront of his programs.
TWC’s commitment to the greater Washington community is evidenced by its Connections Programs, including the Side-by-Side high school program; the DC Honor Chorus in partnership with DC Public Schools; and its new partnership with Arts for the Aging, offering therapeutic life enrichment interventions for memory-loss patients in Washington, D.C.
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 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 300 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, Kent Nagano, Marin Alsop, Gustavo Dudamel, 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 in 2013 and 2014 for the President and First Lady.