Honoring the centennial of the most momentous achievement during the struggle for women’s rights in American history, Classical Movements’ 10th annual Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival (July 15—July 21, 2020) will again look globally with “World Voices for Women: Pioneers, Progress, Purpose”—inviting vocal ensembles of all kinds to celebrate the many international triumphs that women have achieved, while acknowledging how much more remains to be accomplished. 

Our own Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program will feature newly commissioned  choral works celebrating the legacy of five key suffragists.

The latest in our ongoing, conscious efforts to amend the canon by giving voice to composers too long excluded from the repertoire, with the 2020 Serenade! Choral Festival’s “World Voices for Women: Pioneers, Progress, Purpose,” we look forward to what higher mountains we will climb, deeper rivers we will cross and future glass ceilings we shall shatter.

Choirs will get to work with guest conductor, Valérie Sainte-Agathe, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

For more detailed information on Classical Movements’
2020 Serenade! Choral Festival, please call or email:
(+1) 703-683-6040

Watch a preview of Classical Movements’ Serenade!Choral Festival


In countries like Iran the public appearance of female singers is characterized by largest difficulties. Only for religious rituals, called Tazieh, it is allowed o make and to listen to music. For men it is forbidden to listen to the singing of women. Therefore singing is possible only in private sphere, where women are alone or among themselves: at the cradle, doing housework, working in the fields and women’s celebrations.

Maryam Akhondy made it her business to bring traditional women’s songs back to life. Therefore, in 2000, Maryam Akhondy created an all-female a capella group, Banu, named after the Persian word for “noble lady” or “distinguished lady”. The choir’s program is a kind of musical expedition to the different regions and cultures of Iran. It gives an informative view of the singing culture and self-confidence of the Persian women. Most of these songs are full of life and energy, commanded by various percussion instruments. This is quite unusual for Iranian music which is often more serene and melancholic. But these old folk songs are funny, ironic and give a view of Iranian women when they are in private.

Le Cantanti di Chicago (“The Singing Women of Chicago”) is a 20+ member women’s choir based in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, founded in 2014 by Sri-Lankan-born musician Dhilanthi Fernando, who is also its director. We are a diverse group of women ranging in age from teenagers to octogenarians and coming from many backgrounds and nationalities, reflecting our hometown of Chicago. 


The Time Ensemble is a unique phenomena in the a cappella world. With members originating from Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela, their audiences are in for a truly unparalleled performance. The Time Ensemble eagerly draws on their combined knowledge of musical styles and languages, to present an engaging and invigorating musical experience that provides an authentic insider’s look at the diversity of the world’s choral music.

For more than 25 years, the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir (TCCGC), through its soulful interpretation of the African-American gospel music tradition, has moved audiences spiritually and creates community across racial, cultural and economic boundaries.

We strive to perform to the highest musical standards, preserving and educating others and ourselves about traditional forms while exploring new musical avenues with African American gospel music. In this time of division and unrest, we strive to model community and reconciliation. We seek to bring people together with a message of hope and joy through our music.

TCCGC gathers singers of various musical experience, ethnic backgrounds and ages to celebrate the power of music.  For some, TCCGC is a first foray into gospel singing. For others, this music is a way of life.

Since its inception the choir has maintained its commitment to be a community resource, bringing its music and message to urban, suburban and rural communities.

Founded in 1990 by its director José Galván, Voz en Punto is the  a cappella vocal group with the most brilliant international projection in the history of Mexican music. With an original scenic proposal that gives testimony to Mexico’s rich musical heritage, and utilizing the most incredible musical instrument which has always been at human beings’ disposition—the voice—Voz en Punto burst onto the musical scene conquering audiences who they then proceeded to “madden and send into ecstasy and delirium…” as various press critiques attest, from countries as varied as the U.S., France, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Rumania, Austria, Finland, Spain, Greece, Holland, Egypt, and Japan (among others).

SFGC Valerie Sainte-Agathe photo website

Valérie Sainte-Agathe has prepared and conducted the San Francisco Girls Chorus since 2013—including performances with renowned artists such as Jon Nakamatsu, Deborah Voigt, Frederica von Stade, Gustavo Dudamel, The New Century Chamber Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, and Aaron Jay Kernis. In June 2016, she conducted the SFGC alongside The Knights Orchestra and Brooklyn Youth Chorus for the New York Philarmonic Biennial Festival at Lincoln Center, New York. She collaborated again with The Knights for the SHIFT Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, in April 2017.

A native of Martinique, Ms. Sainte-Agathe received her Bachelor of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Universite Paul Valery in Montpellier, France, and her Diplome d’Etudes Musicales in Piano, Chamber Music, and Theory from the Montpellier Conservatory. She holds a Master’s Degree in Management from the University of Montpellier and has also studied Piano Performance at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In 1995, she returned to Montpellier and served as a pianist for the Orchestre National de Montpellier and the Festival de Radio France where she performed in concerts and recordings of works by contemporary composers such as John Adams, Michael Torke, and Steven Reich.

She joined Junior Opera in 1997 and participated in numerous productions of the Opéra National de Montpellier and Opera Junior, first as a vocal coach and then as a choirmaster. In 2000, she was appointed as Artistic Coordinator and Music Director, where she trained young singers between 6 and 25 years old and prepared choirs for the Orchestre National de Montpellier, the Radio France Festival, and the Festival Presence in Paris.

In 2005, she served as Choir Director for the 2nd Biennial of Vocal Arts in Paris and the Festival de Radio France with Armin Jordan for the production of Die Konigskinder and with Emmanuel Krivine and Alain Altinoglu for Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher with the Philharmonic Orchestra. She also produced the world premiere of ¡Libertad!, a jazz opera written by Didier Lockwood, at the Opéra Comédie in Montpellier.

In 2008, she prepared the Junior Opera Chorus in collaboration with the Regional Symphonic Choir led by Hervé Niquet and the Orchestre National de Montpellier for Mahler’s 3rd Symphony conducted by Alain Altinoglu. The following year, she collaborated with the orchestra for Dido and Aeneas, staged by Jean-Paul Scarpita.

In 2010, she participated in les Victoires de la Musique, an annual French award ceremony, where her group performed Pavane by Fauré, accompanied by the Orchestra of Montpellier, and Amahl and the Night Visitors. The performances were broadcast on national French television.

In 2012, she received her Master’s degree in Cultural Project Management from the Paul Valéry University and led the university choir Ecume.

Ms. Sainte-Agathe participated in eight recordings with the Orchestre National de Montpellier and the Festival de Radio France. She is a recipient of Victoires de la musique (equivalent of the Grammy award in France) and she is a two-time recipient of the Orphée d’Or award for Honneger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher and d’Indy’s l’Étranger.

Serenade! 2020 Will Be Celebrating the Legacy of the Following Suffragists:

Mary Burnett Talbert (1866-1923) was a lecturer, educator and activist, involved in a range of causes and particularly committed to voting rights – for both women and African-Americans. Talbert earned a university degree at a time when that was still exceptionally rare for black women and dedicated her considerable talents as a writer and speaker to lecturing persuasively in support of social causes, including suffrage. She served as president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and was involved in the short-lived, but influential Niagara Movement.

“It should not be necessary to struggle forever against popular prejudice, and with us as colored women, this struggle becomes two-fold, first, because we are women and second, because we are colored women.”


Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) was an educator, advocate for civil rights and the founding president of the National Association of Colored Women. Terrell began campaigning for suffrage during her undergraduate studies at Oberlin and continued to be active in the National Association Woman Suffrage Association, where she befriended Susan B. Anthony. Throughout the years leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Terrell pushed for the involvement of black women in suffrage advocacy. In the years after, Terrell continued to draw public attention to injustices, particularly those faced by black Americans.

“What a reproach it is to a government which owes its very existence to the love of freedom in the human heart that it should deprive any of its citizens of their sacred and cherished rights.”


Crystal Eastman (1881-1928) was a lawyer, founder of the ACLU and a lawyer and an active supporter of a range of progressive social causes, including workers’ rights and women’s suffrage. She was a founding member with Alice Paul and others of what would eventually become the National Woman’s Party. Even after the passage of the 19th Amendment, she continued to advocate for women’s rights, drafting with Paul the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment.

“What is the problem of women’s freedom? It seems to me to be this: how to arrange the world so that women can be human beings, with a chance to exercise their infinitely varied gifts in infinitely varied ways…”

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) was a groundbreaking journalist, whose investigative reporting exposed some of the most egregious injustices faced by African-Americans. Wells’s campaigning for women’s suffrage was deeply tied to her continued efforts towards the rights of African-Americans; Wells founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in 1913 and was fiercely critical of racism within the broader suffrage movement.

“I am not taking this stand because I personally wish for recognition. I am doing it for the future benefit of my whole race.”


Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896-1966) was an activist, writer and religious leader, particularly known for mobilizing support for women’s suffrage among New York’s Chinese immigrant community. Lee was outspoken in her support for women’s rights throughout her undergraduate and graduate career; Lee became the first woman to receive a PhD from Columbia University and soon after assumed leadership of the Baptist mission in Chinatown, to which she dedicated herself for the rest of her life.

“…the feministic movement is not one for privileges to women, but one for the requirement of women to be worthy citizens and contribute their share to the steady progress of our country toward prosperity and national greatness.”

Serenade! Testimonials:

It was a very special pleasure for us to have been involved in Serenade! It was an enjoyable, instructive and educational experience for us all. The physical, cultural and psychological distance travelled by the women and men of the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir from the dust of Central Australia to the world’s most powerful capital and its prestigious stages was monumental, mind stretching and historic, expanding their horizons, enhancing their skills, and widening their friendship circle.

“Absolutely magical…you have created something truly special with the Serenade! Festival.”

Grant Gershon | Artistic Director, Los Angeles Master Chorale

“Laced with precision, care, passion, variety and excitement,
Classical Movements is the go-to company to organize a festival such as Serenade!”

Madras Youth Choir (India)

“The high-class of [Serenade!] is exceptional.”

Philippe Ostiguy | Artistic Director, Les Voix Boréales (Canada)

“With all the many different musical experiences we had,
it is impossible to put into words how amazing Serenade! was.”

Laura Jēkabsone | Latvian Voices

Serenade! Press:

“The most genuinely international ensemble I’ve ever heard, apart from the Olympic Games.”

Anne Midgette, Washington Post

“Bringing together top-tier choirs from a dozen countries in a bid to show music’s universality—
how the joy of singing transcends cultures.”

Agence France Presse, 2017

“A majestic showcase of what can be achieved through collaboration, and a most welcome reminder that
we all have a voice, and that the glory of song can resoundingly reaffirm a
common sense of humanity, the world over.”

Songlines Magazine (U.K.), 2017

“Serenade! will fill this region with a rich diversity of sounds and will promote cultural interaction.”

Tim SmithBaltimore Sun

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