Perfect Pitch: A Round of Applause

by patrickmccoy

A special evening recently celebrated the rich talent of the Washington choral music scene.

By Patrick D. McCoy


Past winners Mark Ohnmacht, J. Reilly Lewis and Pamela Lassell flank the 2015 Ovation Award recipient Joan Gregoryk (left center) joined by event chairwoman Claudia H. Dulmage (far right). (Photo by Wayland Lee)

We have all heard of the Grammys, the Emmys and the MTV awards, but how many places can boast that they have an awards program modeled after these popular shows? There were no television cameras rolling, but the evening orchestrated by local choral group Choralis  shined a bright light on some of the most talented vocal groups in the area. The Greater Washington Choral Excellence Awards was held at the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington, Virginia, and it was a wonderful feeling to attend an event where the performing arts were given such elegant recognition. A cocktail reception preceded the sit-down dinner program, where we spotted Choralis music director Gretchen Kuhrmann sporting a new hair cut.

Like any awards show, you have to have nominees. There were three categories in which three of the area’s vocal ensembles took home the prize. The Cantate Singers took home the award for Most Creative Programming, Fairfax Choral Society won Best Youth Programming and the Washington Men’s Camerata rounded out the evening with Best Men’s Ensemble. The Washington arts scene was represented by several leaders in the community, including Washington Performing Arts‘ Assistant Director of Education and Gospel Choir Programming, Kathy Brewington and Chase Maggiano, executive director of The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.

The honoree of the evening was the legendary conductor of The Children’s Chorus of Washington, Joan Gregoryk. After many years of conducting her talented choir in performances as close as The Kennedy Center or as far away as their recent trip to France, it was just announced that she would retire as the ensemble’s conductor, a position she has held since she founded the organization in 1996. The late Norman Scribner once remarked, “the Children’s Chorus of Washington is the shining jewel in our cultural life here in Washington, and spreads a light that shines around the world.” Upon receiving the 2015 Ovation Award, Gregoryk was accorded praise and applause by her friends and colleagues. Her supporters included noted conductors J. Reilly Lewis and Robert Shafer, who were both in attendance.

What would an evening celebrating choral music in Washington be without the mention of Scribner? With glasses uplifted, there was a wonderful toast in memory of the noted conductor. The spirit of musical excellence was certainly alive and well at the Clarendon Ballroom that evening to showcase the vast richness of Washington’s choral music scene.

After earning degrees in music from Virginia State University and Shenandoah University, Patrick D. McCoy has contributed arts pieces to CBS Washington and The Afro-American Newspaper, among others.  He also writes the magazine’s monthly performing arts column “Perfect Pitch.”  McCoy may be reached via email at and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy

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