Statement on the Death of Jessye Norman


The Cathedral Choral Society is saddened to learn of the passing of Ms. Jessye Norman, whose first professional performance was with the Cathedral Choral Society and the National Symphony Orchestra at Constitution Hall.

Paul Callaway, the Cathedral Choral Society's founding music director, first heard Ms. Norman, a 1967 graduate of Howard University, at the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and immediately invited her to sing the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah on December 7 and 8, 1968.

“One among the soloists was truly distinguished: Jessye Norman,” observed the prescient Evening Star music critic of those performances. “[Her] tone and general approach suggest that in a few years she will be one of the finest German-type sopranos before the public.”

Upon hearing the 18-year-old Ms. Norman at the Cathedral with the Howard University Choir, then Washington Post music critic Paul Hume asked: “Who is that?”

Audiences around the world were about to find out.

The Board of Trustees, musicians, and staff of the Cathedral Choral Society are grateful for the opportunity to present Ms. Norman in that 1968 concert, and extend deepest condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues.