NEW SEASON ANNOUNCED: Leading the way with ambitious virtual programming during the pandemic, Washington Performing Arts recently unveiled its return to live performances with the announcement of its 2021-2022 season.
FROM THE VAULT (2011): Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato joined Terri Allen-(L) Executive Director of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts and Music Journalist Patrick D. McCoy for a photo following her 2011 recital in the Kennedy Concert Hall co-presented by the Vocal Arts Society of Washington (now Vocal Arts DC) and Washington Performing Arts Society (now Washington Performing Arts)
by Patrick D. McCoy
When Washington Performing Arts recently announced its new season, I felt a nostalgic flutter in my heart. The last time that I heard mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in recital in DC was in a 2011 co-presentation with then Vocal Arts Society of Washington and then Washington Performing Arts Society celebrating Vocal Arts’ 20th Anniversary Season. Since then, both organizations dropped ‘society’ from their names in an effort to reach an even broader audience. This recital was one of the first major programs that I covered on the DC scene as a writer. I have long adored Ms. DiDonato and already had many of her recordings. From what I pleasantly remember, she sang a glorious program with pianist David Zobel in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Despite an outstanding evening of music, I also recall the considerable amount of empty seats and prayed for another opportunity to see her again. That day has come! This time around she will perform her new program “Eden” with il Pomo d’Oro on Sunday, April 24, 2022 at the Music Center at Strathmore.
Famed for a “presence felt with immediacy—vocally, viscerally, and with virtuosic impact” (Opera Today), Joyce DiDonato returns to Washington Performing Arts with a new, visionary passion project: Eden. Weaving together elements of theater and music—including works by Handel, Ives, Gluck, Mahler, and others—DiDonato explores both humanity’s essence and the majesty, might, and mystery of Nature. Joining her on stage is il Pomo d’Oro, an acclaimed, 20-member chamber orchestra specializing in historical performance. As DiDonato herself said of the project, “I want to use my voice and my vision now to go straight into the hearts of my listeners, and make them feel how precious our lives are, how wondrous our vast Earth is, and how absolutely vital our connection to one another is.”
Amplifying the credo of its founder Patrick Hayes: “Everybody in, nobody out” the 2021-2022 season continues in that spirit, reaching across genres, cultures and geographic lines.
Setting the tone for the season is a pre-event, in tribute to the 20th Anniversary of 9/11. This free event will feature members of the Washington Performing Arts Gospel Choirs under the direction of Michele Fowlin & Theodore Thorpe III, artistic directors.
Saturday, September 11, 8:30 a.m.
The REACH Plaza at the Kennedy Center
The array of offerings of the season officially begin with the season opener, featuring the Matthew Whitaker Quartet with special guests: The Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir.
“A former child prodigy, profiled on 60 Minutes and The Today Show, 20-year-old jazz pianist-organist Matthew Whitaker has wowed audiences from L.A.’s Playboy Jazz Festival—where he “inspired spontaneous dancing and a standing ovation” (L.A. Times)—to the Apollo Theatre and a (pre-COVID) 2020 Washington Performing Arts performance. ”
With special guests Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir-Michele Fowlin, artistic director.
Friday, October 15, 8 p.m. at The Lincoln Theatre.
A former child prodigy, profiled on 60 Minutes and The Today Show, 20-year-old jazz pianist-organist Matthew Whitaker has wowed audiences from L.A.’s Playboy Jazz Festival—where he “inspired spontaneous dancing and a standing ovation” (L.A. Times)—to the Apollo Theatre and a (pre-COVID) 2020 Washington Performing Arts performance. He brings his irresistible virtuosity back to D.C. this fall, with a special guest appearance by our own Children of the Gospel Choir.
Wednesday, November 3, 8pm
Tomorrow I May Be Far Away
Lara Downes with
Rita Dove, poet
Thalea String Quartet
Wednesday, November 3, 8 p.m.
Sixth & I
Hailed for her “luscious, moody, and dreamy” playing by the New York Times, pianist Lara Downes is equally celebrated as a musical innovator and cultural investigator—as heard most recently and widely on her NPR interview series, Amplify with Lara Downes. In this performance, she presents a kaleidoscopic evening of music and poetry inspired by myriad stories of migration and transformation, joined in special-guest appearances by Pulitzer-winning poet Rita Dove and by the vibrant and innovative Thalea Quartet, Graduate String Quartet in residence at the University of Maryland School of Music. The program includes works by William Grant Still, Duke Ellington, Florence Price, Nina Simone, Alvin Singleton, Carlos Simon, and Quinn Mason.
Sunday, December 12, 2 p.m.
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Hayes Piano Artist
“The phrase “something old, something new” comes to mind when considering the career to date of 24-year-old Hong Kong–born pianist Tiffany Poon. Steeped in classical tradition as a onetime student of Emanuel Ax and Joseph Kalichstein, she is also devoted to demystifying and building new audiences for classical music via her YouTube channel, where nearly 300,000 subscribers follow her concert videos, vlog entries, and “Classical Chats.” She devotes her Hayes Piano Artist recital to works by Clara and Robert Schumann.”
Sunday, January 30, 2022, 7:00 p.m.
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Washington Performing Arts Gospel Choirs
Michele Fowlin & Theodore Thorpe III, artistic directors
The Choral Arts Society of Washington
Scott Tucker, artistic director
“The long-running, ever-popular tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. returns to in-person performance, as the combined choirs of Washington Performing Arts and Choral Arts celebrate the power of music, collaboration, and the human spirit.”
Co-presented with the Choral Arts Society of Washington
Tuesday, February 1, 8 p.m.
Sphinx Symphony Orchestra-Tito Muñoz, conductor, Exigence Vocal Ensemble and Members of The Washington Chorus-Eugene Rogers, music director with mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges.
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
“Celebrating the 25th anniversary of its parent Sphinx Organization, the 55-member Sphinx Orchestra, an all-Black-and-Latinx ensemble of top professionals from around the country, is joined by Sphinx’s own Exigence Vocal Ensemble and by D.C.-based guests The Washington Chorus, along with a special guest appearance by Met Opera star J’Nai Bridges. The program includes Joel Thompson’s powerful Seven Last Words of the Unarmed (which a Washington Performing Arts audience last heard in the March 2020 I Am a Man concert) plus additional works by Coleridge-Taylor, Carlos Simon, and others.”
Co-Presented with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in cooperation with The Washington Chorus
For information about the new season, concerts and how to secure tickets, CLICK HERE.
A native of Petersburg, VA, Patrick holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Virginia State University and a MM in Church Music from Shenandoah Conservatory. Formerly the Performing Arts Columnist for Washington Life Magazine, he currently is a freelance writer, publishing articles for several noted publications, including The Washington Post, Early Music America Classical Music Voice North America, The Afro-American Newspaper, CBS Washington and Examiner.com. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America, National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., The American Choral Directors’ Association, a member of the Shenandoah University Alumni Board of Directors and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish in Beltsville, MD and as an adjunct instructor of music at Virginia State University. Visit http://patrickdmccoy.com. Follow him on twitter @PatrickDMcCoy and IG: PDM06.