Chorworks Annual Summer Workshop
Music for the Court, Chamber and Chapel from William Byrd to Orlando Gibbons
July 7 - 12, 2009
Washington National Cathedral - Washington, D.C.
Historic St Alban's Episcopal Church - Washington, D.C.
A Retrospective by Anne Carr Bingham
Atop the highest geographical point in Washington, D.C. – Mount St. Alban, at the juncture of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues – rise the lofty towers of the National Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. This Gothic structure (the sixth largest cathedral in the world), which is constructed of Indiana limestone, is flanked on the south by St. Alban’s Church and St. Albans School for Boys and on the north by the National Cathedral School for Girls.
The Cathedral’s magnificent exterior and interior, begun in 1907 and completed in 1990, fill the visitor with awe. Moving eastward from the massive jewel-like rose window over the West Gallery, representing creation, past the clerestory and triforia lining both sides of the nave, beyond the Crossing and the Great Choir, to the High Altar revealing Christ-in-Majesty surrounded by iconic Christian figures from history, one passes through the progression of humanity and of Christianity, from the birth of the cosmos to the final redemption of creation by God-in-Christ.
But any written description of the National Cathedral is a poor substitute for the reality of the place. This must be experienced.
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It was on St. Alban Mount that the Chorworks Summer Workshop, under the direction of Philip Cave, convened from July 7th-12th. Representing The Anglican Singers were Susan Bainbridge, Anne Bingham, Kim Bingham, Anne Bourne, Katherine Brighty, John Demlein, Donna Miller, and Marty Minich. Several had participated in Chorworks summer workshops in past years when it was held at the Episcopal High School across the Potomac River in Alexandria, VA.
Overall there were scores of participants, some of whom had traveled from as far away as California. The group included a number of Mr. Cave’s former music students from Grinnell College in Iowa.
The title of this summer’s workshop was “The Elizabethans,” featuring music of 16th and early 17th-century composers Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Morley – all familiar names to The Anglican Singers.
Our faculty consisted of Philip Cave, Sally Dunkley, Jacqueline (Jackie) Horner-Kwiatek, Michael McCarthy and Steven Rickards. Representing the U.K. and the U.S.A., each has a resume of accomplishments that would take many pages to outline; I include below a brief synopsis of their principal achievements.
Tenor Philip Cave, a musician from the age of seven, was a member of the eminent Tallis Scholars; the founder and conductor of the vocal ensemble Magnificat; and a performer, with numerous other groups and as a soloist, in the U.K. and the U.S.A. In addition, he is the founding director of Chorworks.
Sally Dunkley, soprano, has enjoyed a distinguished career as a singer, scholar, vocal teacher, and musical editor. She has sung all over the world as a member of the Tallis Scholars. Her specialty is the music of the English Reformation (and counter-Reformation), in particular the 16th and early 17th composers of the Henrican, Edwardian, Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.
Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, soprano, is a young musician of astounding musical prowess and versatility. A prolific performer, she joined the famous a cappella group Anonymous Four in 1998. In addition to performing, she teaches voice in NYC, Washington and elsewhere.
Michael McCarthy, bass, is director of music at the National Cathedral, which involves overseeing the Cathedral’s ongoing music program and serving as principal choirmaster. His extensive experience and achievements include founding the London Oratory School Schola and performing both live and in the recording studio. Mr. McCarthy’s rich, deep bass voice resonates like Paul Robeson’s.
Countertenor Steven Rickards is one of America’s finest countertenors who has performed as a soloist and with Chanticleer and other distinguished a cappella ensembles. He also teaches voice at two universities in Indiana.
All of the participants had the benefit of working with each of these gifted individuals; those who had signed up to do so had private voice lessons with one of them.
We were assigned to one of several choruses. There was an un-auditioned full choir; a group of auditioned singers referred to as the consort; the faculty quartet + one – and sometimes two; and a “schola” (ecclesiastical choir) of talented young singers. The latter consisted of Philip’s Grinnell students, students from Christopher Newport University and several current or former choristers and soloists from the D.C. area.
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After workshop participants had settled into a nearby hotel, the charming and convenient Savoy Suites on Wisconsin Avenue, we had our first meeting and rehearsal in St. Alban’s Church. It soon became apparent that we would not be guaranteed much down-time. Philip outlined the schedule for the week: full rehearsals, separate ensemble rehearsals, lectures, and performances. A brimming cup of learning, preparation, and perfecting was to be our portion.
Because the week was so packed with activity, it will make for less turgid reading if, rather than specifying our daily regimen, I summarize preparations for various performances, highlight music-history lectures given by members of the faculty, briefly describe the performances themselves, offer a few reflections on the value of the workshop, and provide at the end of this report a catalogue of the music we were presented. [To see a listing of all the music performed during the workshop see page 5.]