About the Choir

Photo credit: Arts Laureate

Photo credit: Arts Laureate


“In just a few seasons, artistic director Robert Shafer has shaped the City Choir of Washington into another of the area’s first-class choruses.” – The Washington Post

The City Choir of Washington, which is celebrating its 13th season under the artistic leadership of Robert Shafer, is known for its beautiful choral sound, attention to musical detail, and moving performances.  Maestro Shafer, an accomplished life-long educator and conductor, is a master at preparing his singers, giving careful attention to vocal technique and musical style to communicate each composer’s vision.  Shafer challenges his singers and audiences by creative programming, breathing new life into old masterworks, such as Handel’s oratorio Solomon, and pairing them with stunning renditions of new or under-performed works, such as Arvo Pärt’s Te Deum, Benjamin Britten’s Cantata Misericordium, and Tarik O’Regan’s Triptych.

The City Choir of Washington begins its 2019-2020 season with Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and works by Benjamin Britten and Arvo Pärt.

In January, City Choir Twelfth Night concert will continue our tradition of showcasing a talented high school choral ensemble.  The 2019-2020 “Partner in Song” will be the Freedom High School Chamber Choir from Chantilly, VA, directed by Laura Lazarevich.

Part of the celebrated “Music in McLean” concert series, the City Choir will perform a program of all-French music in March. Featuring the Duruflé Requiem, and Poulenc’s Litanies of the Black Virgin, City Choir will collaborate with the West Springfield High School Madrigals and the Shenandoah University Cantus Singers.

The season concludes in May with a performance of Bach’s greatest masterpiece, the Mass in B minor.

Besides performing to capacity audiences in its own yearly subscription series, City Choir has sung with The National Symphony Orchestra and The Washington National Opera Orchestra at The Kennedy Center and at Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts. The chorus has sung under the batons of such noted conductors as Stephen Lord, Randall Craig Fleischer, Ludwig Wicki, and Marvin Hamlisch.  City Choir has also been honored to join with The Defiant Requiem Foundation and Maestro Murry Sidlin to present performances of The Defiant Requiem at the Kennedy Center, Strathmore Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center.

The City Choir of Washington began its 2018-2019 season on the centennial of the Armistice ending World War I with a moving rumination on the nature of war and peace, featuring the great Dona Nobis Pacem of Ralph Vaughan Williams. In January City Choir premiered a new tradition of Twelfth Night concerts, and in March we performed the delightful Gloria of Poulenc. The season concluded in May with a performance of the Mozart Requiem, and works for double choir by the baroque composers Giovanni Gabrieli and Heinrich Schütz.

Additional memorable orchestral performances by City Choir during its first twelve seasons under Maestro Shafer’s baton include Bach’s Magnificat, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Fauré’s Requiem, Monteverdi’s Marian Vespers of 1610, Vivaldi’s Gloria, the world premiere of Lux Aeterna by Robert Shafer, Maestro’s Shafer’s re-orchestration for chamber orchestra of Bruckner’s Mass in F minor, and an innovative French baroque program in May 2018 that included Charpentier’s Te Deum, and a ballet solo, to Lully’s Entrée d’Apollon, by dancer Brynt Beitman. The City Choir of Washington commemorated the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II with a concert of British choral music that featured the world premiere of John Tavener’s Three Hymns of George Herbert, written specifically for the Diamond Jubilee festivities.  The composer was present for the program, which was given at the Washington National Cathedral.

City Choir embarked on its first tour, to England, in July 2018. Singing a program that included Fauré’s Requiem, and works by John Tavener and Robert Shafer, the choir performed at the cathedrals of Gloucester and Ely, at Keble College, Oxford, and at Temple Church, London.

In the spring of 2014, the Choralis Foundation nominated The City Choir of Washington for an Ovation Award for Most Creative Programming. Maestro Shafer feels that “our great affinity for and dedication to the music of our time is what really sets us apart.  We have given many premiere performances, including several of the final compositions by one of England’s greatest composers, Sir John Tavener.”

The City Choir roster is composed of 120 experienced, professional-caliber volunteer singers who hail from throughout the greater Washington metropolitan area, even extending out to Annapolis and Frederick, Maryland, south to Springfield, Virginia, and sometimes into Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  The singers state enthusiastically that it is worth the drive to have the privilege to sing with Maestro Shafer.

The City Choir of Washington seeks to inspire singers, audience members, and the community at large to discover the rich musical and cultural heritage of choral music and, in the words of Maestro Shafer, “to create beauty and give our audiences an escape from our deeply troubled world and a vision of a new world truly at peace and filled with love.” Also, through performances and educational and community outreach programs such as The City Singers, the high school Partners in Song, and commitment to spotlighting emerging American soloists, The City Choir of Washington aims to nurture the next generation of performers and audience members.