- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2014

Three days. Six concerts. Nine choruses. No charge.

Welcome to Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival — the fourth annual showcase of a cappella performers from around the world.

“We believed it was time for America to have exposure to some of the amazing repertories [from] around the world. It’s our way of giving back,” said Neeta Helms, president of D.C.-based concert touring company Classical Movements, which organized the festival. “It’s a rather glamorous way of giving back.”

The series of free concerts opens with two 7:30 p.m. shows Friday — one at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, the other at Damascus United Methodist Church in Montgomery County.

Dressed in traditional Russian clothing, the Konevets Quartet will entertain in Alexandria with ancient Russian monastery music, folk songs and marches, as well as hymns by 20th century composers.

“Many of the songs of the Imperial armies were lost during Soviet times,” said Igor Dmitriev, the Konevets’ bass director.

Also performing in Alexandria: VIVA, a Norwegian youth choir that roared into the finals of the “Norway’s Got Talent” TV competition; and Insingizi, an a cappella trio from Zimbabwe that uses choreography and hand-percussion instruments. The Czech Republic’s Ondrasek Czech Youth and Children’s choir also will perform.

In Damascus, Connecticut’s Fairfield County Children’s Choir will open the show with a range of music, including Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria,” a gospel arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “St. Louis Blues” featuring jazz improvisations.

Classical Movements knows how to put on a great festival,” said Jon Noyes, the choir’s music director. “Washington is such a wonderful destination, and I love that my choir gets the opportunity to interact with the other choirs.”

Following the Fairfield choir, the red-caped folklore ensemble Arishi will sing traditional Georgian and church songs, and Les Petits Chanteurs de Laval, a 125-member chorus of 8- to 18-year-old boys from Quebec, will sing sophisticated French ballads such as “La prise de Calais” as well as Queen’s 1977 hit “We Will Rock You.”

Closing the show will be the first U.S. performance of Wishful Singing, a group of five young Dutch women who have charmed audiences across Europe and Japan. Their repertoire covers over 1,000 years of music, from Renaissance melodies to pop classics.

On Saturday, three churches will host evening concerts — Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, St. Anne’s Parish in Annapolis and the Church of the Epiphany in Northwest, the only venue where donations will be collected.

The Church of the Epiphany is known in the chorale world for starting the Welcome Table Choir, which comprises homeless people.

Hubert Pegues, conductor of the Welcome Table Choir, will open the concert with a song before introducing the Yale Alumni Chorus, whose performance will feature local soprano soloist Anna Patterson.

“I’m so excited to be representing my hometown,” said Ms. Patterson, 25. “The Yale Alumni Chorus is such an amazing group. They all love each other, and it’s like they are still in school together. Makes me wish I could go to Yale now.”

All proceeds will go to the Welcome Table Choir, which will not perform Saturday.

The festival’s final day will kick off with a competition between four of the groups at The Lyceum in Old Town Alexandria from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday and end with a “spectacular performance,” according to Mr. Noyes of the Fairfield choir.

This “Best of Serenade” performance will commence at 4 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore in Rockville. The concert will showcase all of the choirs harmonizing together under renowned composer Grant Gershon, music director of the prestigious Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Their songs will include Aaron Copland’s “Long Time Ago” and Shawn Kirchner’s spiritual arrangement, “Unclouded Day.”

“I love the Copland piece. It has a stunning setting; it’s a very old-style American song,” Mr. Noyes said. “But I’m anticipating Kirchner’s ‘Unclouded Day’ to be the finale. It’s such a big, powerful number.”

To close weekend festivities, a singing dinner — which is exactly as it sounds: a dinner in which diners break out in impromptu singing — will be hosted by Classical Movements at Carmine’s Restaurant in Chinatown.

“Singing is very personal; it’s your own voice, and you’ve been through a lot of training. So singing together creates these personal connections,” Ms. Helms said. “When you put together all of these people who love to sing, a language barrier won’t be a problem. Everyone always has the best time. It is just loads of fun. It is the perfect way to end.”

All concerts are free, however, tickets to reserve preferred seating are available at Classical Movements‘ website.

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