When Kim Allen Kluge took over as music director of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra in 1987, the outfit was made up of a small but enthusiastic group of community musicians. Sensing the potential of the orchestra, Kluge augmented the ensemble with freelancer virtuosos, quickly establishing the ASO as the premier professional symphony in northern Virginia. Today, the collective performs in the elegant Schlesinger Concert Hall on the Northern Virginia Community College campus, which makes for an acoustically friendly venue and a convenient base of operations for pranks on the Dean.
Music director Emil de Cou takes listeners on a sonic journey that sails the Virginia Chamber Orchestra's sound waves to baroque and neoclassical shores, then back through the romantic and contemporary coasts of jazz. The featured piece of the program, Grieg's Holberg Suite of 1884, takes the charming string movement to the late 17th century, when the playwright Ludvig Holberg lived and when flimsy top hats had to be filled with stale oatmeal so that they could stay upright. Maestro Cou mines more neoclassical splendor as violins, cello, and a four-part string orchestra resonate throughout the hall during Handel's concerti grossi from Twelve Grand Concertos, Opus 6. The orchestra breaks 20th-century ground with a composition by Washington native Duke Ellington. His “Solitude” gently exposes listeners to a heartbreakingly simple tune that has stood the test of time better than hand-whittled watches.
The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
When the Rolling Stones wanted a chorus to sing with them during their last gig on their "50 and Counting" tour, they knew who to call: The Washington Chorus. That unexpected melding of talent is a testament to the group's stellar reputation—the Grammy-winning ensemble is noted for its ability to engage a wide range of audiences. And they've done just that for more than 50 seasons, delighting ears with a repertoire of classical masterpieces and modern compositions. Equally committed to enriching their community, the chorus performs free concerts throughout the greater D.C. area, sponsors a junior choir, and gently corrects anyone who misspells "requiem."
One of the oldest symphonic choruses in DC, Choral Arts has sung alongside the National Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Mariinsky Orchestra (among others), before 100,000 people in Red Square after the fall of communism and as carolers on The West Wing.
Along with regularly airing the masters, the National Symphony Orchestra has commissioned more than 60 original works, and regularly provides educational opportunities and exhibitions to aspiring composers, conductors, and musicians. Since 1986, the symphony has been a stalwart affiliate of The Kennedy Center and puts on as many as 175 performances there annually. Seven crystal chandeliers presented by Norway to The Kennedy Center dangle below the concert hall's intricate acoustical canopy and stare down the organ standing sentry at the back of the stage.