Established in 2011 and hailed this summer by the Washington Post‘s Anne Midgette as “the most genuinely international ensemble I’ve ever heard, apart from the Olympic Games,” Classical Movements’ Serenade! Choral Festival is an exuberant celebration of choral music from around the world, offering unforgettable, life-changing experiences for both singers and audiences alike.

Presented free to the public—with freewill donations collected for local non-profit charities—Serenade! has showcased more than 85 choirs from some 33 countries to enthusiastic audiences at prestigious venues throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Once again co-presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the 8th annual Serenade! Choral Festival will honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of South African revolutionary, politician and philanthropist, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

From June 25—July 2, 2018, professional vocal ensembles hailing from nations sharing President Mandela’s prized notions of “Hope, Justice & Unity” will perform collaborative concerts and exchange cultures through shared workshops and side-by-side rehearsals with select community choral groups and youth choirs alike, all while participating in outreach and service projects across the Greater Washington region.

Featuring five multi-choral performances on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage—as well as the always anticipated Serenade! mass choir concert inside the Concert Hall—Serenade! ensembles will perform 12 additional concerts at stunning and historic venues in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

On Sunday, July 1, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. on the stage of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, the Serenade! Choral Festival’s “Mandela at 100: Songs of Hope, Justice & Unity” celebration concludes with a truly grand finale, highlighted by individual performances from all participating ensembles, as well as two world premieres commissioned by Classical Movements’ own Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program for the entire 2018 Serenade! mass choir, conducted by Scott Tucker, Artistic Director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington: Ibn Arabī Recitation by Classical Movements’ Composer-in-Residence Kinan Azmeh and decorated South African composer Qinisela Sibisi’s brand-new setting of Nelson Mandela’s most famous words, Let the New Age Dawn.

See All of Our Serenade! in D.C. Ensembles

(Serenade! 2019: July 3-8; Serenade! 2020: July 8-13)

Serenade! Mandela at 100 in D.C., Maryland and Virginia: 

Silver Spring, MARYLAND | Grace Indonesian Christian Reformed Church 

Date:               SUN, JUNE 24
Time:              4 p.m.
Tickets:           FREE, with Eventbrite registration
Featuring:      Indonesian Children and Youth Choir – Cordana (Indonesia)

Alexandria, VIRGINIA | St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Date:               TUES, JUNE 26
Time:              7:30 p.m.
Tickets:           FREE, with Eventbrite registration
Donations:      United Community Ministries
Featuring:      Ensemble Tyva Kyzy (Tuva Republic); Tiharea (Madagascar); Chennai Children’s Chorus (India); Indonesian Children and Youth Choir – Cordana (Indonesia)

Chevy Chase, MARYLAND | St. John’s Episcopal Church, Norwood Parish

Date:               WED, JUNE 27
Time:              7:30 p.m.
Tickets:           FREE, with Eventbrite registration
Donations:     St. John’s Refugee Ministry
Featuring:      Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir (Australia); Ensemble Tyva Kyzy (Tuva Republic)

Baltimore, MARYLAND | Second Presbyterian Church

Date:               THURS, JUNE 28
Time:              7 p.m.
Tickets:           FREE, with Eventbrite registration
Donations:      Peace Study Center
Featuring:      Olga (Netherlands); Countermeasure (Canada); Singing Sensations Youth Choir (U.S.A.); Tiharea (Madagascar)

WASHINGTON, D.C. | Church of the Epiphany

Date:               FRI, JUNE 29
Time:              7:30 p.m.
Tickets:           FREE, with Eventbrite registration
Donations:      Welcome Table Homeless Choir
Featuring:      Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Canada); Countermeasure (Canada); Betsayda Machado & Parranda El Clavo (Venezuela); Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir (Australia) 

WASHINGTON, D.C. | Phillips Collection

Date:               SAT, JUNE 30
Time:              11 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Tickets:          FREE, with museum admission
Featuring:      Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir (Australia)

Castleton, VIRGINIA | Castleton Festival

Date:               SAT, JUNE 30
Time:              4 p.m.
Tickets:           $10-20 (Orchestra & Balcony)
Featuring:      Olga Vocal Ensemble (Netherlands); Tiharea (Madagascar)

Alexandria, VIRGINIA | Alfred Street Baptist Church

Date:               SAT, JUNE 30
Time:              5:30 p.m.
Tickets:           FREE, with Eventbrite registration
Featuring:      Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Canada)

Baltimore, MARYLAND | Patterson Park

Date:               SAT, JUNE 30
Time:              6:30 p.m.
Tickets:           FREE, with Eventbrite registration
Featuring:      Chennai Children’s Choir (India); Ensemble Tyva Kyzy (Tuva Republic); Betsayda Machado & Parranda El Clavo (Venezuela)

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Concert Hall


Betsayda Machado & Parranda El Clavo (Venezuela)
Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir (Australia)
Chennai Children’s Choir (India)
Countermeasure (Canada)
Ensemble Tyva Kyzy (Tuva Republic)
Nai Syrian Children’s Choir (Canadian-Syrian refugees)
Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Canada)
Olga Vocal Ensemble (Netherlands)
Tiharea (Madagascar)

Castleton, VIRGINIA | Castleton Festival

Date:               MON, JULY 2
Time:              6 p.m.
Tickets:          $10-20 (Orchestra & Balcony)
Featuring:     Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir (Australia)

Serenade! Mandela at 100 on Millennium Stage:

All Kennedy Center Millennium Stage concerts are free and start at 6 p.m.

Date:               TUES, JUNE 26
Featuring:      Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir (Australia); Indonesian Children and Youth Choir – Cordana (Indonesia)

Date:               WED, JUNE 27
Featuring:      Olga Vocal Ensemble (Netherlands); Chennai Children’s Choir (India)

Date:               THURS, JUNE 28
Featuring:      Ensemble Tyva Kyzy (Tuva Republic); Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Canada)

Date:               FRI, JUNE 29
Featuring:      Tiharea (Madagascar); Betsayda Machado & Parranda El Clavo (Venezuela)

Date:               SAT, JUNE 30
Featuring:      Howard University Gospel Choir (U.S.A.); Countermeasure (Canada)

Serenade! Mandela at 100 World Premieres: 

In addition to the two works for the 2018 Serenade! mass choir, Classical Movements’ Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program has commissioned eight more works by composers from the festival’s featured countries, each piece inspired by the ideals Mandela, himself, championed.

A 2012 alumni of the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program, back by popular demand, award-winning composer Aaron Jensen returns to Serenade! with a new work for the ensemble he founded, those cool Canadian chanteurs of Countermeasure. Inspired by Mandela’s 1994 autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Jensen has titled his tribute Long Road to Freedom.

Dutch composer Anne-Maartje LemereisA Requiem in Quotes was written explicitly for Olga Vocal Ensemble, the female-identifying a cappella quintet formed in 2012 at Utrecht Conservatory by five guys named Jonathan, Philip, Pétur, Matt and Arjan (and “Ketill,” their red, cast iron mascot). Meanwhile, fellow Dutch composer Carlijn Metselaar’s Well, Actually for this woke quintet of Dutch, Icelandic, Russian and English men takes its inspiration from one of the newest additions to the Oxford English Dictionary: mansplaining. Explains Metselaar,“I thought that a piece which plays up to Olga’s witty performance style—with big lush chords, barbershop harmonies and driving rhythms—would be the best way to approach it.”

Hailing from a small coastal village in Barlovento, Betsayda Machado has been dubbed “the voice of Venezuela.” Fronting her band Parranda El Clavo for some three decades now, she remains the most expert exponent of the especially infectious Afro-Venezuelan tambor genre—a spirit-shaking fiesta guaranteed to have every last person in D.C. up and moving with Arriba Mandela, her brand-new song for Serenade!

Having mastered the forbidden-for-women art of Tuvan throat-singing, southern Siberia’s Ensemble Tyva Kyzy is literally a one-of-a-kind ensemble—the only all-female group in the Tuva Republic that dares to publicly perform the five main styles of traditional khöömei song. Heading to Washington with a new arrangement of the traditional tune Дагын катап дарлатпас бис (“We Will Not Fall”) by founder Choduraa Tumat, these women accompany themselves on a range of folk instruments, such as the chadagan, a beguiling, zither-like instrument of their own making.

Founded in 1997, the name of this singing, dancing and percussion-playing trio of sisters from the Androy region of southern Madagascar couldn’t be more apt. Translated from Malagasy, the national language of their homeland, Tiharea means “wealth,” and hearing their virtuosic stylings live and in-person on co-founder Talike Gellé’s Serenade! commission Heagnen-Tsy Tratse (“Heaven’s Treaty”) is sure to make for an embarrassment of riches, indeed.

An inspirational ensemble consisting of orphaned, blind and differently-abled Tamil kids, the Chennai Children’s Choir sings with perfect diction in Telugu, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Kannada and English, including a new work for Serenade! by Vedanth Bharadwaj and Manjula Ponnapalli called நம்ம பாடு (“Let’s Sing”) that acknowledges humanity’s interconnectedness, as well as the ongoing need to make our world, and especially the environment, a better place.

Meaning “sound of the flute” in Arabic, Nai Syrian Children’s Choir provides a unique space for young refugees to learn to express their grief, yearning, love and hope through singing in their mother tongue and in the official languages of their new home, Canada. Nai will present the world premiere of Canadian composer Hussein Janmohamed‘s new multilingual work, Rise Children, Let’s Rise to Peace, via livestream from the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

Also notable among the 2018 Serenade! international ensembles: the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir, who recall Mandela’s exhortation to their nation to confront Australia’s history of oppression in the same way South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission had; Nathaniel Dett Chorale, who performed for Madiba during his iconic 2001 “Mandela and the Children” concert in Toronto; and Indonesian Children and Youth Choir – Cordana, whose glorious combination of song and movement recalls Mandela’s joyful declaration, “It is music and dancing that make me at peace with the world.”

The two American ensembles invited to perform during the 8th annual Serenade! Choral Festival have both local and Mandela ties, too. The Howard University Gospel Choir of Washington, D.C. represent that institution where the recently elected President of South Africa delivered 1994’s convocation speech. And while participating in Classical Movements’ 2013 Ihlombe! South African Choral Festival, the Singing Sensations Youth Choir of Baltimore, Maryland serenaded the ailing Nobel Peace Prize-winning icon outside his hospital room, mere months before his passing.

Under Scott Tucker’s artistic leadership, the acclaimed Choral Arts Chorus has expanded to over 190 singers, launching the Choral Arts Chamber Singers and the Choral Arts Youth Choir. Maestro Tucker maintains Choral Arts’ strong connection with the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as continuing the choir’s reputation as sought-after collaborators, receiving invitations from a wide range of guest contracts. Tucker has prepared the Choral Arts Chorus for such conductors as Christoph Eschenbach, Emil de Cou, John Mauceri and Rossen Milanov. Tucker prepared the chorus to perform Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand” for Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra on the 100th anniversary of the U.S. premiere with the orchestra and Verdi’s Messa da Requiem for Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony. Most recently, Tucker prepared the choruses for NSO performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Christoph Eschenbach and for Carmina Burana with incoming music director Gianandrea Noseda. Deeply committed to supporting new music, Tucker continually programs world premieres, Choral Arts commissions and performances of recently composed works. Prior to his tenure with Choral Arts, Tucker commissioned and premiered more than 30 works from composers such as Ernani Aguiar, Bernard Rands, Steven Stucky, Augusta Read Thomas, Carol Barnett, David Conte, Libby Larsen and Chen Yi. Prior to his engagement with Choral Arts, Tucker was the P.E. Browning Director of Choral Music at Cornell University.

Hailed as a “virtuoso” and “intensely soulful” by the New York Times and “spellbinding” by the New Yorker, Syrian-born Kinan Azmeh, Classical Movements’ inaugural Composer-in-Residence, was the first Arab to win the premier prize at the 1997 Nicolai Rubinstein International Competition, Moscow. A student of Charles Neidich, Azmeh is a graduate of the Juilliard School and both the Damascus High Institute of Music, where he studied with Shukry Sahwki, Nicolay Viovanof and Anatoly Moratof, and Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering. In 2013, Azmeh earned his doctoral degree in music from the City University of New York. Having appeared as a soloist, composer and improviser in the most prestigious concert halls in the world, he has also shared the stage with Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim, John McLaughlin and Djivan Gasparian, among others. Azmeh is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, with whom he won a Grammy in 2016, and leads two of his own bands: Hewar and Kinan Azmeh CityBand. 

South African composer Qinisela Sibisi is a versatile musician, equally at home in various genres: classical, jazz, soul, gospel and traditional African styles. With his music degree and a post-graduate teaching qualification from the University of Zululand, Sibisi has been an educator, choirmaster, conductor and adjudicator since 1984. Currently, he serves as a senior music lecturer at Esayidi TVET College in KwaZulu-Natal. In addition to the world premiere of Let the New Age Dawn at Classical Movements’ Serenade! Choral Festival, 2018 will see the staging of his first opera, Uqomisa Iliba.

Serenade! Testimonials:

“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! is the best choral event I have ever attended.”

Jim S., audience member

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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