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

The City Choir of Washington is excited to present a concert of remembrance on the centennial of the Armistice of WWI. Please join us for

A Farewell To Arms: A World War I Centennial Concert

a multimedia experience complete with color guard  

featuring the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi, John Ireland, and Hubert Parry

come early to see a special exhibit of artifacts from the Great War

stay after the concert for a question and answer session with Guest Conductor Gretchen Kuhrmann and historian Andrew Woods, of the First Division Museum

November 11, 2018
National Presbyterian Church
free parking

TCCW Welcomes Guest Conductor Gretchen Kuhrmann!

Bob and Gretchen at a recent Season Underwriters Event

The City Choir of Washington is honored to be singing under the baton of Maestra Gretchen Kuhrmann for our November 11, 2018 concert. Ms. Kuhrmann, a mainstay of the Washington choral scene and long-time friend of Bob Shafer, is the founder and director of Choralis. A true advocate for choral music in all schools and communities, she has spent her career honing choral ensembles into musically sensitive performers and encouraging singers of all ages to develop their skills. In addition to being a sought-after conducting and choral clinician, Ms. Kuhrmann has shown great success with building choral organizations and is in demand as a speaker and consultant on the topic around the world for choral conventions and workshops.

Ms. Kuhrmann is an especially sensitive interpreter of English choral music, and worked closely with British composer Bob Chilcott when he was composer-in-residence with Choralis. This relationship culminated in the world premier of Chilcott's Gloria; in April 2017 Ms. Kuhrmann and Choralis recorded "In Winter's Arms: Seasonal Music by Bob Chilcott."

One City Chorister who has had the pleasure to sing for Ms. Kuhrmann before says, "Gretchen's approach is to focus on the line and phrasing. She has a knack for getting a range of tonal colors from the choir to create a performance that packs an emotional punch. "

Maestra Kuhrmann says of her opportunity to work with City Choir, "I am honored that Bob asked me to take this concert; they are huge shoes to fill, but I know we will make music he will be proud of."

Support City Choir by becoming a Season Underwriter    
We are still accepting season underwriter sponsorships for City Choir's 2018-19 season! Just sign a committed pledge form by December 31, 2018 offering a tax-deductible, unrestricted infusion of new money at the $5,000 level or above and complete your donation no later than April 15, 2019.  Please note, it is possible for two unrelated individuals to "share" a sponsorship by pledging $2,500 each. 

Our generous season underwriters account for fully a third of our operating budget.  Their names are listed in every concert program booklet with our thanks.  A Spring gathering with Bob and Sharon Shafer is scheduled for April 7, 2019 at the Annapolis Yacht Club. I f you want to join in, contact season underwriter liaison to the Board, Barbara Greene, at and she will email you a pledge form and additional information about sponsorships.  

There is still time to buy subscriptions for The City Choir of Washington's 2018-2019 season!

A Farewell to Arms: A WWI Centennial Concert, November 11, 2018

A Twelfth Night Concert, January 6, 2019

The Glory of France, March 10, 2019

An Ode to Spring, May 19, 2019

Subscribers to the four-concert series receive approximately 15% off single ticket prices.

New this year: "30-And-Under" tickets for just $15 each!
Additional single tickets can be purchased with your subscription at the discounted rate.

Contact Leslie Hall, , call the box office at (571) 206-8525, or visit our website at to order your subscription today!

World Bank Community Connections Campaign

Once again, the City Choir of Washington is one of a small group of nonprofits which has been accepted into the World Bank Community Connections Campaign, which runs from Nov. 1-Dec. 31. If you are a World Bank employee or retiree, please consider designating the City Choir of Washington in your donations to the Campaign.  Your donations to the City Choir will be eligible for matching funds from the World Bank!

Special Exhibit of WWI artifacts will be on display for TCCW's Armistice Day Concert!   

Make sure to stop by the parlor at National Presbyterian Church to see a unique display of historical artifacts curated by Michael Bigelow from his own collection.

Mike is a military historian and the husband of City Choir's own Alto II section leader, Audrey Bigelow. After a career as an active duty Army officer, Mike returned to his first love, history. He is the Command Historian for the Army Intelligence and Security Command, and has an extensive personal collection of artifacts and memorabilia from the Great War. With a wife who is a singer and a son who is a middle school band director, Mike is especially interested in the role of music in the military. He has acquired bugles, U.S. Army band uniforms, photographs of military bands, and many first editions of popular songs as well as songbooks for bugle, fife, and drum that were part of the WWI military musician's accoutrements. You can see some of these, as well as much more, in the parlor on November 11!

TCCW is thrilled that Mike has volunteered to display part of his collection, and will be on hand to answer questions, during our Armistice Day concert.  

"In England's Green and Pleasant Land"

This July seventy-two City Choir singers and friends embarked on a tour to England. Aboard a double-decker bus we visited iconic sites like Stonehenge and Bath, made pilgrimage to the temple of choral singing that is King's College, Cambridge, sang at the great cathedrals of Gloucester and Ely, participated in the Music at Oxford concert series, and competed with World Cup fans for an audience in London. (England lost in the semi-finals, but we had a good crowd!) England and the English choral tradition holds a special place in Maestro Robert Shafer's heart. He writes: "The great tradition of British choral singing must be considered one of the singular glories of music history. The enormously high standard set by British conductors and composers has influenced and inspired most if not all northern European countries. Certainly this has had an enormous impact on American choral singing and composition."  

When the opportunity came for TCCW to perform a concert in remembrance of the centennial of the Armistice, Shafer was immediately drawn to the idea of a program by British composers who were alive during WWI, all of whom were directly involved and intensely impacted by the war. Ralph Vaughan Williams, although in his forties, immediately enlisted as a private and was sent to the front to drive ambulances. We will be performing his great meditation on war and peace Dona Nobis Pacem. His teacher, Sir Hubert Parry, contributed to the war effort by writing the patriotic song "Jerusalem": it was commissioned in the darkest days of 1916 to give hope to soldiers and those at home that England would prevail and return to peace. John Ireland wrote "Greater Love Hath No Man" in the prewar days of 1912, but with its sentiment: "greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends," it soon became an unofficial anthem of the war-and perhaps a recruiting tool. Gerald Finzi, although too young to fight, lost all three of his brothers and his music teacher to the war. He began his song "Farewell To Arms" in the aftermath of the first world war, and completed it in 1944 during the second world war. Its title invokes Hemingway's great novel of WWI; its subject, taken from two 16 th -17 th century poems, is an elderly warrior who has laid down the tools of war. Finzi's choral work In Terra Pax was inspired by a New Year's Eve visit to Chosen Hill in Gloucester; in the cold starry midnight he heard the chiming of the church bells and the angel's promise of "on earth peace, good will toward men."

So the legacy of the Great War was on many singers' minds as we toured and sang. Gloucester Cathedral is home to memorials to Sir Hubert Parry, composer of "Jerusalem," Gerald Finzi, and the troubled poet, composer, and veteran of WWI Ivor Gurney, who was a chorister there as a boy. Gurney was fervently admired by Finzi (although the two never met, Finzi acquired Gurney's manuscripts and was instrumental in keeping his legacy alive). 

Window embodying the spirit of Finzi's "In Terra Pax," Gloucester Cathedral
He suffered from mental illness and eventually died in an asylum, but his war years were ironically his happiest-perhaps the chaos
raging around him kept his inner demons at bay. Gloucester  Cathedral commissioned sets of stained-glass windows embodying each composer's great works, a beautiful and moving tribute.  The inscription on Parry's memorial was written  b y Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate and author of "Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913," the text of the baritone solo in In Terra Pax

Hubert Parry Memorial, Gloucester Cathedral

Memorials to the fallen of WWI abound throughout Britain.

WWI memorial in Bath

We saw wild poppies growing by the roadside and paper poppies on war memorials.
WWI memorial, Salisbury Cathedral
War memorial at Pembroke College, Cambridge

The memorial wall at King's College, Cambridge is inscribed with the names of the dead, the great poet Rupert Brooke who wrote,"If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England," among them .

WWI memorial wall at King's College Chapel, Cambridge

At Trinity College, Cambridge, we saw the courtyard of the Wren Library which had been turned into a makeshift hospital during the War

Trinity College, Cambridge, courtyard that was a makeshift hospital during WWI
We hope to bring some of these moving experiences home to our audience as we perform this Armistice Day.

The City Choir of Washington is excited to present a concert of remembrance on the centennial of the Armistice of WWI. Please join us for this unique concert on Sunday, November 11, 2018, at 4:00pm at National Presbyterian Church. 

October 2018