75 Years

Celebrating 75 Seasons



December 1: The first Cathedral Choral Society rehearsal takes place.


May 13: Inaugural concert, Verdi, Requiem with founding Music Director, Paul Callaway.


December 18: CCS presents its 2nd concert, Mendelssohn, Elijah with William Strickland as guest conductor.


November 18: Leo Sowerby’s Throne of God is premiered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the laying of the Cathedral’s foundation stone.


Paul Hindemith conducts his Walt Whitman’s elegy, commissioned by Robert Shaw after the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945.


November 26: Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis is performed in memory of John F. Kennedy.


March 31: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion takes place three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King.  Music Director Paul Callaway makes cuts in the music to abide by curfews.


Leonard Bernstein conducts the Concert for Peace. CCS is part of the mass choir and Paul Callaway performs the organ prelude.


The first Joy of Christmas concerts are performed.


October 20: CCS welcomes J. Reilly Lewis as its new Music Director in an all-Handel program.


June 11/12: CCS presents jazz pianist Dave Brubeck.


March 30: In remembrance of the 30th Anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Bach St. Matthew Passion is performed. Loretta Scott King is in attendance.


CCS celebrates and recognizes J. Reilly Lewis on 25 seasons as Music Director.


In November, CCS performs Bernstein, Chichester Psalms with the Baltimore Symphony and Music Director, Marin Alsop.


2016/17 Season: Our 75th Anniversary

Exhilarating. Inspiring. Uniquely beautiful. For the over 75 years, audiences have witnessed our musicians perform and sing with passion and joy.

Washington, DC's oldest symphonic chorus, the Cathedral Choral Society is the resident symphonic chorus of Washington National Cathedral.

Founded in 1941 at the beginning of US involvement in World War II, the chorus was the dream of two men - Very Rev. ZeBarney Thorne Phillips, Dean of the Cathedral, and Paul Callaway, the Cathedral's organist and choimaster - whose vision was for "a large chorus to sing the great religious music in temple." 

Throughout it's 75 years, the chorus has helped the nation mark important moments in its history. Check out the timeline to the right to discover more. The chorus has celebrated American music and championed new work, including nine major commissions for new symphonic choral works and an annual commission for a new Christmas carol. 

At the time of this anniversary, the chorus had been led by two Music Directors. Founding Music Director Paul Callaway, and J. Reilly Lewis, who served as Music Director from 1985 until June 2016. The Cathedral Choral Society presents a concert series with four programs at Washington National Cathedral and has appeared as a guest chorus at the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, and Strathmore with The Washington Ballet, the Juilliard Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and more.

75 Stories

In celebration of our 75th season, we launched a project called 75 Stories, collecting first-hand accounts from singers, audience members, donors, and staff about their past and present experiences with the Cathedral Choral Society.

Interested in being interviewed by a member of our volunteer team? Contact Lindsay at lsheridan@cathedral.org. Interested in recording your own story at home? Check out the resources below.

Interview Tips

How to Record


In celebration of our 50th season, the documentary "Music in a Grand Space" was created. To learn more about our history, check out the video here:

50th Anniversary Video