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Washington, D.C.: Classical Music

Alive with opportunities for both listening and playing, the theme of Washington D.C.’s classical music scene is, above all, outreach. Starting at the top, the National Symphony Orchestra serves as the representative of D.C. both locally and internationally; it plays for official ceremonies and Heads of State around the world. It also sets the standard for reaching out to the local community, drawing listeners in and making classical music accessible via a variety of programs, from traveling residencies to instrument workshops for youngsters.

The D.C. classical music scene branches out beyond the banks of the Potomac with top quality area groups that serve as vehicles for professional musicianship. These include internationally-renowned orchestras such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as well as professional regional groups such as the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra. Each group does its own educational outreach in the local community through outdoor summer concert series and workshops in the public school systems.

Cosmopolitan D.C. also expands the boundaries of the classical music model. With international communities from around the world, classical music groups – as they are defined from different perspectives – are plentiful. The Pan American Symphony Orchestra, for example, focuses on Latin American classical music and development of the arts in Latin America, while the American Balalaika Symphony merges the sound of a full orchestra with traditional Russian instruments.

There is also an active choral scene. The Cathedral Choral Society, the resident chorus of the National Cathedral, puts together concerts and outreach programs – even sing-alongs! There’s also the Choral Arts Society, which collaborates with the National Symphony to create programming, including an annual Martin Luther King tribute. Plenty of professional and regional groups exist as well, like the Washington Chorus, the Alexandria Choral Society, the Capital Hill Chorus, the Fairfax Choral Society and the Master Singers of Virginia.

The D.C. area is also a haven for community arts and research centers, many of which sponsor resident artists. The National Chamber Ensemble, for example, is the resident group of the Artisphere urban arts center, while the Folger Consort is an early music group based out of the Shakespeare Library.

These ensembles are only a starting point for delving into the rich classical music scene in Washington D.C. With such a variety of professional, regional and local groups, it’s possible to hear a different concert each day of the week. (Jenna Makowski)

Washington DC Classical Music: Classical Music Around Washington DC

Below are our Washington DC Classical Music recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, ensemble/venue history and other points of interest in Washington DC Art.

Alexandria Choral Society (Alexandria, VA)

Alexandria Choral Society Information

Venues: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (8009 Fort Hunt Road); Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center (3001 North Beauregard Street); The Carlyle Club (411 John Carlyle Street); Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (100 West Luray Avenue); T.C. Williams High School (3330 King Street); National Gallery of Art (4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington D.C.); and more
Public Transportation: Varies by venue
Handicapped Accessibility: Depends on venue, but generally good
Performances/Programs: …more…

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (Alexandria, VA)

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Information

Other Venue: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (228 South Pitt Street, Alexandria)
Public Transportation: Very good (easily accessible by several Dash Bus and Metro bus routes at Northern Virginia Community College-Alexandria Campus)
Handicapped Accessibility: Good at both venues
Performances/Programs: Approximately 5 concerts per season, with a total of 8–10 performances
Ticket Prices: Adult ($35–$80); Senior ($30–$80); Student ($10–$80); Youth ($5–Sundays only), with prices varying by seat selection. Groups of 10 or more …more…

American Balalaika Symphony (Alexandria, VA)

American Balalaika Symphony Information

Public Transportation: Very good (easily accessible by several Dash Bus and Metro bus routes at Northern Virginia Community College-Alexandria Campus)
Handicapped Accessibility: Good
Performances/Programs: Approximately 5 concerts per season
Ticket Prices: $20 ($25 at the door); $15 for Seniors, Students, and Groups of 5 or more
Membership: Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated.

Capitol Hill Chorale

Capitol Hill Chorale Information

Venues: Lutheran Church of the Reformation (212 East Capitol Street); Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church (201 4th Street SE)
Public Transportation: Good for both. Lutheran Church of the Reformation (steps from buses 96, 97, and 922 at East Capitol Street/2nd Street; and a 9-minute walk from the Blue and Orange Subway lines at the Capitol South Metro Station). Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church (a short walk from buses 32, 34, …more…

Cathedral Choral Society

As the oldest performing chorus in our nation’s capital and the resident symphonic chorus of the Washington National Cathedral (an Episcopal church), The Cathedral Choral Society is a bona fide cultural mainstay with a well-respected national reputation. Founded in 1941, the chorus of 160 voices frequently collaborates with the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington Ballet.

The Washington Choral Society’s sacred repertoire runs a wide range of stylistic time periods and international …more…

Choral Arts Society of Washington

The symphonic chorus known as Choral Arts continues its performance and community outreach under the artistic direction of founder Norman Scribner. Performing regularly each season at the renowned John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the chorus boasts the sonic potency of 160 volunteer singers and a professional pedigree of collaboration. The ensemble’s jaw-dropping résumé bears mentioning.

Choral Arts has performed under the direction of such esteemed conductors as John …more…

Folger Consort

Folger Consort is an esteemed chamber music group featuring Robert Eisenstein and Christopher Kendall, who are frequently joined by internationally renowned early music specialists such as The Tallis Scholars, Trio Mediaeval, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Zajac. The Consort’s focus is the performance of music dating from the 12th through the 18th centuries. Perhaps most importantly, the group executes its distinctive …more…

National Symphony Orchestra (NSO)

Founded in 1931, the National Symphony Orchestra regularly performs for official state occasions, presidential inaugurations, and other events of national and international importance. With a strong commitment to music education, the NSO offers many educational concerts and activities for both children and adults. Sunday afternoon family concerts are designed for parents and children (ages 7+); Kinder Konzerts are …more…

The Washington Chorus

Since its inception in 1961 as the Oratorio Society of Washington, the ensemble now known as The Washington Chorus has been committed to the performance of classical choral works at the highest professional level in the D.C. community and abroad.

The ensemble, which won Best Choral Performance of the Year at the 2000 Grammy Awards for its live recording of Benjamin Britten’s …more…

Vocal Arts DC

Vocal Arts DC Information

Venues: Terrace Theater (The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street); Marvin Center Theatre (800 21st Street)
Public Transportation: Very good for both. Kennedy Center (easily accessible via bus or Metro, with free shuttle service between Metro stop and the Kennedy Center). Marvin Center Theatre (within a 5-minute walk from several buses and the Blue and Orange Metro lines at the Foggy Bottom Metro …more…

Washington Early Music Festival

Founded in 2004, this well-rounded biennial festival features music ranging from the Medieval to Baroque periods alongside lectures, workshops, and other events concerning dance and visual art. Each festival, a different country or cultural tradition is celebrated, with emphasis placed on performances by such local early music performers as the Folger Consort, Armonia Nova, the National Gallery Chamber Players, The Vivaldi Project, the Washington Bach Consort, and Opera Lafayette.

Although the …more…