- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Washington is a singing town, with more choral groups than nearly any other place in the country, musical guru Robert Aubry Davis said in an informal discussion before Sundays full-length presentation of Haydns "The Creation" by the oldest of these groups, the Cathedral Choral Society.
"Its great singable music," remarked J. Reilly Lewis, the societys music director, echoing Mr. Davis upbeat sentiments. "You sing it and feel better about yourself. You always know Haydn was an eternal optimist."
Reaction to the concert led by Leonard Slatkin later that afternoon in the Washington National Cathedral helped show why area vocal ensembles shine.
The music director of the National Symphony Orchestra who might better be known as "Speedy Slatkin" had to beat a fast retreat for a plane just after his two-hour conducting job, thereby missing the evenings benefit gala at the Four Seasons Hotel, for which he and his wife, soprano Linda Hohenfeld, were honorary chairmen.
The crowd mingling at the galas none-too-silent auction preceding the dinner was as optimistic as the oratorio itself, which was the eminent 18th-century Austrians homage to the glories of the universe. "Probably the best version Ive ever heard. And this is one of the best choral groups anywhere, " remarked longtime supporter John Ireland, talking with Virginia Mars, society board vice president, who agreed, "They are wonderful, the best."
"One of the interesting things it tells you is how supportive people are in the community. Because we have incredible artistic and cultural resources," added Dorothy McSweeny, president of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and event co-chairman along with her husband, Bill McSweeny.
Proof of that was the presence of arts patron Gerson Nordlinger, being honored that evening for his record as a vital presence in the life of local arts groups. He and all other past presidents of the National Symphony Orchestra attended the dinner, which attracted a cross section of Washingtons business, cultural, diplomatic, political, and spiritual worlds.
Guests included Ambassadors Sean OHuiginn of Ireland, Juergen Chrobog of Germany and Luis Moreno of Colombia; Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet; Douglass Wheeler, executive director of the Washington Performing Arts Society; NASA head Daniel Goldin; D.C. Council member-at-large Carol Schwartz; and National Cathedral Dean Nathan Baxter.
Asked to explain his own passion and optimism for the arts, Mr. Nordlinger, 85, said, "The secret is to have good friends." Timing was another factor, noted this third-generation Washingtonian, who is a trained classical pianist. "Right after World War II, Washington came alive, and I had energy and time to devote to the cause."


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