group founded by Paul Hill in 1967 and based in Washington, D.C. They debuted at the National
Cathedral with a performance of Jesu, meine Freude by Johann
Sebastian Bach. In 1971, they joined
forces with the Choral Arts Society to help christen the Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts with “A Free Song”, composed by William
It was the
first of hundreds of performances they would give in that hallowed venue. They started a perennial Christmas
tradition there with the Messiah
Sing Along, which culminated with the audience taking part in the “Hallelujah
Chorus”. Their success
led to the establishment of an offshoot ensemble, The Washington Singers.
The Paul Hill
Chorale also served as a guest chorus with the National Symphony Orchestra
on a number of occasions, which led to collaborations with conductors such
as Antal Dorati, Dmitri Kabalevsky,
Erich Kunzel, Neville Marriner,
Howard Mitchell, Mstislav Rostropovich, Julius Rudel, and Leonard Slatkin.
and groups with whom they worked included Victor Borge,
the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, the Joffrey Ballet, Garrison Keillor,
the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Christopher
Plummer, the Richmond Symphony, the Royal Ballet, Peter Schickele
(a.k.a. P.D.Q. Bach), Danny Thomas, the Washington Opera, and Julian Lloyd
Paul Hill was
diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s
Disease) in the 1990s and presided over his last Messiah Sing Along in December 1993. In attendance were President Bill
Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea. Two thousand and seven hundred
voices were raised in his final “Hallelujah Chorus”.
which the chorale appeared comprise Gian Carlo
Menotti: The Unicorn, the
Gorgon, and the Manticore, A Paul Hill Chorale Christmas, Russia!, Unequaled Praise, and Vivaldi: Beatus Vir.
They even issued The Paul Hill
Chorale Cookbook in 1987.
In 1996, they served
up the world premiere of “Pied Beauty” by Mark Amado, with
poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
McCullough took over the reins in 1997 after Paul Hill was too ill to
conduct. On 27th September
1999, Paul passed away.
death, the group was renamed the Master Chorale of Washington and enjoyed twelve successful
years before dissolving in 2009.
Their last performance took place at Kennedy Center
on 17th May 2009 and consisted of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff and Frostiana by
In 2011, the
National Master Chorale, which consisted of many alumni of the Master
Chorale of Washington,
changed their name to the Washington Master Chorale.
Paul Hill Chorale recordings
O Come All Ye Faithful (Frederick
Oakeley/John Francis Wade)
Arranger – Jackson Berkey
Conductor – Paul Hill
Organist – Sondra Proctor
Capital Brass and Percussion Ensemble