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 2019-2020 Season

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’s Twelfth Night concert will continue its 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.

In March, the City Choir will perform a program of all-French music as part of the celebrated “Music in McLean” series. 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.

Continuing a Tradition of Excellence and Beauty

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 lifelong 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 through 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. In 2014, the Choralis Foundation nominated The City Choir of Washington for an Ovation Award for Most Creative Programming.

The City Choir of Washington is composed of 120 experienced, professional-caliber volunteer singers from throughout the greater Washington metropolitan area. Singers come to rehearse from as far north as Annapolis and Frederick, Maryland, as far south as Springfield, Virginia, and sometimes from 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 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.

Notable Past Performances

The City Choir of Washington showcased its innovative programming by beginning the 2018-2019 season with a moving rumination on the nature of war and peace, featuring Ralph Vaughan Williams’ great Dona Nobis Pacem. Marking the centennial of the 1918 Armistice, the concert featured a color guard, a collection of vintage photographs from the trenches, and a special exhibition of World War I music-related artifacts.

Other memorable performances during City Choir’s 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, Maestro’s Shafer’s re-orchestration for chamber orchestra of Bruckner’s Mass in F Minor, and a unique 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.

In 2013, 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 Sir John Tavener’s Three Hymns of George Herbert, written specifically for the Diamond Jubilee festivities. The composer was present for the performance, which took place at the Washington National Cathedral.

In addition to the Diamond Jubilee concert at the National Cathedral, The City Choir of Washington has performed at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, where the choir sang the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. City Choir has also been honored to present performances of The Defiant Requiem at the Kennedy Center, the Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts, and Avery Fisher Hall.

In 2018, City Choir embarked on its first tour, to England, where the group performed Fauré’s Requiem, and works by Sir John Tavener and Robert Shafer at the cathedrals of Gloucester and Ely; at Keble College, Oxford; and at Temple Church, London.