The City Choir of Washington
"Allegro:" The City Choir Newsletter

Excited about the holiday season? It lasts longer than you think--don't forget that there are twelve days of Christmas!
Celebrate with The City Choir of Washington--
tickets are available now

A Twelfth Night Concert

Featuring: John Rutter's Gloria
Seasonal songs and carols

Our Partner in Song,
The West Springfield High School Madrigals
Dustin Brandt, director
Sunday, January 6, 2019, 4:30 p.m.
National Presbyterian Church
Free parking
Join us for a post-concert reception
downstairs in Stone Hall
Buy tickets at; special pricing available for patrons 30 and under


TCCW Presents a Special Twelfth Night Program

"If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On!" --
William Shakespeare,
Twelfth Night
We are delighted to present our first Twelfth Night program.  January 6 is the "twelfth day of Christmas," and is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany, the day the three wise men came to honor the birth of Jesus. It was the original Christmas Day according to the Julian calendar and is generally the date that Christmas is celebrated in the Orthodox traditions. In addition to the spirited and festive Rutter  Gloria , guest conductor Gretchen Kuhrmann has chosen a special program for The City Choir of Washington tailored to Twelfth Night. "Twelfth Night carols traditionally focus on the life of Christ, often with a focus on outreach and ministry to the poor," Maestra Kurhmann  sa ys. After a successful tour to England this summer and our recent all-British Armistice Day concert, we continue to honor the music of English composers with this special program. 
John Tavener's "Today the Virgin" showcases the Orthodox Christian influence in Tavener's music, especially apropos in an Epiphany concert. TCCW premiered a number of Tavener's works, and Kuhrmann chose this piece in part to recognize the composer's relationship with City Choir.
Bob Chilcott's "Mid-winter," a lovely setting of the Christina Rossetti poem, is evocative of the season. Kuhrmann's chorus has collaborated with Chilcott over many years and she is a gifted interpreter of his music.
An arrangement of "Good King Wenceslas" by British organist Richard Elfyn Jones highlights the English tradition of singing about the benevolent saint on Twelfth Night, and the ravishing carol "Bethlehem Down" has a fascinating origin story. As Kuhrmann tells it, "Two young students at the Royal Academy of Music made a wager in the 1920s--after one too many pints--as to who could write the better carol. To add to the challenge, the text had to have a Twelfth Night theme. Peter Warlock won--to think that a night of drunken debauchery produced this wonderful work of art!"
In Germany, the carol "All My Heart This Night Rejoices" is traditionally sung on Twelfth Night. This arrangement by a gifted local composer, Trevor Manor, a former conducting fellow of Maestra Kuhrmann, is dedicated to her.
Of course, no City Choir holiday concert could be complete without carol singalongs, so join us in celebrating Twelfth Night with carols including "We Three Kings" and, naturally, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"!

The Traditions and Origins of Twelfth Night

Jan. 6, the "twelfth day of Christmas," is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany, the day that the three wise men came to honor the birth of Jesus; it is also associated with the baptism of Jesus, and the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana. It was the original Christmas Day according to the Julian calendar, and is generally the date that Christmas is celebrated in the Orthodox traditions. During the Middle Ages, Epiphany was a more important holiday than Christmas.

As with most Christian holidays, Epiphany piggybacked on pagan ones, in this case the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which was characterized by merrymaking, gift-giving, and social topsy-turvyness (servants were masters for the day); the Egyptian festival of Aion, which celebrated turning water into wine; and the Nordic holiday of Yule.

Western traditions include electing a "lord of misrule" or "king for the day" (generally, whoever found a bean representing the baby Jesus baked into a cake), burning the Yule log, wassail, singing, eating and drinking highly spiced fare (representing the spices brought by the three kings) such as mulled wine, fruit cake, or gingerbread, and eating various types of cakes. In addition, plays and pantomimes are often performed; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was written for the Christmastide season.  
In Spanish-speaking countries, Epiphany is called "Three Kings Day," and in addition to eating cakes (some with a figure of the baby Jesus baked inside), children put their shoes out to receive gifts and leave out offerings of milk, fruit, water, and grass to welcome the kings and their camels. There are often processions featuring the kings on camelback.
Eastern Epiphany traditions are often focused around water (recalling the baptism of Jesus), either blessing it or retrieving a crucifix from icy waters. In all cases, Epiphany and Twelfth Night revolve around the life, not just the birth, of Jesus.  

Welcome to the West Springfield High School Madrigals and its director,
Dustin Brandt!
By Michael Doan
When Robert Shafer talks about a mentor, he often refers to the great Nadia Boulanger. When Dustin Brandt talks about a mentor, he talks about Robert Shafer.
Brandt, whose West Springfield Madrigals will sing with us on Jan. 6, was a student of Shafer's at Shenandoah Conservatory. Says Brandt, "He approached every work as it if was his own, and had a vision for the piece from the perspective of the composer. His work ethic was an inspiration, and he taught us how to work hard for the sake of music."
After graduating from Shenandoah in 2010, Brandt went on to teach music at Thoreau Middle School in Vienna, and then to West Springfield High School, where he leads the Spartan Choir and its Madrigals who will perform with City Choir in the Twelfth Night concert.
Shafer has some good things to say about Brandt, as well. "He was one of the finest students I had during my many years of teaching at the conservatory," Shafer states. "I knew that he would be an outstanding music educator."
At West Springfield High School, Brandt has led his choruses to first place finishes at four of the five national competitions in which they've entered. He also took many chorus members on a two-week tour of Germany and Austria in 2017. Brandt sang with City Choir from 2009-2011.
Brandt is not only a choir director--he is a composer, as well. You may get to hear one of his pieces at our concert.

   "For Everything There Is A Season":
Maestro Robert Shafer to Move to
Artistic Director Emeritus Position in
At the start of rehearsals for our World War I Centennial concert, City Choir members found that our beloved Maestro, Robert Shafer, was unable to join us due to the aftereffects of an automobile accident.

We were hopeful that the healing process might permit his eventual return, but he has made the extremely difficult decision that the time has come for him to retire as a full-time choral conductor and move into artistic director emeritus status.

We have already begun the process of identifying our next artistic director, and will share updates on the process in future issues of 

Join the City Singers at the
Willard InterContinental on Dec. 22

The City Singers are thrilled to begin our Christmas season! We will be spreading holiday cheer at the Armed Forces Retirement Home and Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence  o n Dec. 15.

City S ingers' final Christmas concerts will be our annual performances in the lobby of the historic Willard Hotel on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The concerts are free and open to the public, and we hope you'll join us for a program of fun and festive holiday favorites and singalong carols!


Season Underwriters Still Welcomed

As calendar year 2018 draws to an end, we are especially thankful for the 23 households that have already pledged to underwrite our 2018-2019 season. However, our season does not end until May 19, 2019, and we still need your support, especially as we launch a search for our new artistic director. For information about becoming a season underwriter, please visit our website,  under the Support tab, or contact Barbara Greene  at, our season underwriter liaison to the board .

World Bank Community Connections Campaign

Don't forget to remind your friends and family who are World Bank employees or retirees to designate The City Choir of Washington in the World Bank Community Connections Campaign, which runs through Dec. 20. Even a small donation goes a long way, and can qualify for matching funds. 

November's World War I Concert Sells Out

Playing to a sold-out house, City Choir's Armistice Day concert was a thrilling experience, from the presentation of the colors that kicked off the performance to the final notes of taps.

During the concert, the nave of National Presbyterian Church featured enlarged photographs from the trenches, and musicians and audience members alike wore red poppies to commemorate the lives lost.

Comments from the audience included, "...your concert was breath-taking and life-giving. Absolutely stunning, from the surprise and solemnity of the Colors marching up (and back down) that long nave of the packed church, and everybody joining in singing the National Anthem. Then the music, the Finzi and the Vaughan Williams, was gorgeous, both new to me. All of it. 'And did those feet...' And at the end, people just didn't want to stop applauding, didn't want to leave...did you notice?! And the 'A Farewell to Arms' program is amazing. The poems, the devastating war photos, the layouts, the fonts, the texts, the history...what a piece of work."

"The concert prompted us to reflect on our families' experiences and participation in both WWI and WWII. It was indeed a unique way to honor those who lost their lives in defense of freedom."

"I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your concert on Sunday, from the Color Guard to the taps, which brought tears to many eyes, especially mine. All your powerful voices were so beautiful. I especially enjoyed the selection of Jerusalem and even sang along a little. I have sent the performance booklet to [my Foreign Service officer son] because he is interested in military history and I knew he would appreciate just how special the concert was."

December 2018