A Star-Spangled weekend!


Soundcheck at Natl Museum of American History


On Flag Day, Saturday June 14, Handel Choir singers were honored to take part in Raise It Up!, the opening celebration of the Star-Spangled Banner's 200th birthday!

Click here to watch the full concert video. (Pull the slider back to 1:35:15 to hear the opening piece, Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man.")

On the National Mall in front of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., 18 of us performed with more than 400 singers from 48 states: America the Beautiful, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Lift Every Voice and God Bless America, all with the extraordinary U.S. Air Force Band and the Singing Sergeants.

For our grand finale performance of the National Anthem, we were joined by singers all across the country in the world's largest-ever Star-Spangled Banner singalong, from sea to shining sea!

Many thanks to our own Thomas Hetrick, Handel Choir's associate conductor and accompanist, for preparing us for this experience earlier in the week, and to our Choir Manager, Leroy Ludwick, for making our bus arrangements and keeping everyone on track, on schedule and in the right place at the right time!

Visit the National Museum of American History's Raise It Up! homepage to learn more about the June 14 celebration and the other artists, speakers and special Flag Day events.

***Now through July 6 only,*** visit the Smithsonian American History Museum's special exhibition of the original Star-Spangled Banner, on display side-by-side for the first time ever with the original manuscript of the poem it inspired, Francis Scott Key's The Defence of Fort McHenry, which became our National Anthem. Key's manuscript is on loan from Baltimore's own Maryland Historical Society.

Keep reading for behind-the-scenes details about this once-in-a-lifetime concert.


Whitacre Lang Nunez photo credit Classical Movements


Behind the scenes

From left to right: Our illustrious conductors: Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre; Col. Larry Lang, conductor and commander of the United States Air Force Band; and conductor, composer and 2011 MacArthur Fellow Francisco Nuñez. The three all shared rehearsal and conducting duties.

After initial preparations with Tom Hetrick earlier in the week, we got underway Friday night with a chorus-only rehearsal with Mr. Nuñez at a church in D.C.'s Chinatown.


Kennedy Center Concert Hall


Then we met Saturday morning at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall (left) for a dress rehearsal with Col. Lang and the USAF Band, then with Mr. Nuñez and Mr. Whitacre, who also took questions from choristers when the rehearsal was over.


Handel Choir singers at Kennedy Center


On the steps in front of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall after rehearsal on the morning of the concert.

Then it was time to get on the buses for a ride to the National Mall for our soundcheck (below)!


Soundcheck at Natl Museum of American History


After lunch we put on our sunscreen and hats (made specially for the event by Ralph Lauren, no less!), found our seats and the concert began.


Post concert smiles at Natl Museum of American History


Post-concert smiles from Jason, Carolyn and Dawn.


Here's what Handel Choir members said after returning home:


What a wonderful experience!!! It was a joy being a part of this.
Choir Manager Leroy Ludwick


I feel so honored to have been part of this beautiful celebration of American culture.  The incredible selection of songs representing our magnificent variety of styles to remind us all how much music reflects America's rich and diverse history.
Susan Boyd


The sunburn (and swollen ankle) was worth it :-)  … it was a lot of fun participating and being able to 'rub elbows' with the likes of Eric and Francisco and the Air Force members. … a wonderful experience.
Dawn Richards


When it was all over, I felt completely exhausted, but gratified and proud (as always) of what Handel Choir brings to a performance.
Cathy Koch



Special thanks to Preston and Nancy Athey for their sustaining support of Handel Choir's 2013-2014 subscription concert series.


Maryland State Arts Council Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences William G. Baker, Jr Memorial Fund GuideStar logo


Handel Choir of Baltimore's 2013-2014 concert season is made possible by support from Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and National Endowment for the Arts; the Citizens of Baltimore County; and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, creator of the Baker Artist Awards