The Washington Chorus marked the beginning of its 50th anniversary with a special reception, Nov. 9, at La Maison Francaise at The Embassy of France. This special reception honored 12 great chorus founders in the District of Columbia.

Among the honorees were two well-respected conductors in the African-American community: Joyce Garrett, minister of music at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., also celebrated for her dedication to the famed Eastern High School Choir and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of award-winning ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock also noted for her commitment to the performance and preservation of African-American music traditions.

Under the leadership of Musical Director Julian Wachner and Executive Director Dianne Peterson, The Washington Chorus continues to make meaningful contributions to the community through such thoughtful recognition.

The remaining 10 choral giants recognized were Tom Beveridge, founder of The New Dominion Chorale and The National Men’s Chorus; Paul Callaway (1909-1995)-who most notably served for 38 years as organist/choirmaster at The Washington National Cathedral; Joan Gregoryk, founder and artistic director of the Children’s Chorus of Washington; Hugh Hayward (1930-2008), founding conductor of the Oratorio Society of Washington that would later become The Washington Chorus; Paul Hill (1934-1999), founder of the Paul Hill Chorale; Jack Langstaff, (1920-2005) music director of The Potomac School, world-renown for his Christmas Revels; J. Reilly Lewis, founder and conductor of The Washington Bach Consort; Norman Scribner, founder of The Choral Arts Society of Washington; Robert Shafer, founder of the City Choir of Washington and formerly music director of The Washington Chorus for 36 years and Paul Traver, founder of The University of Maryland Chorus.

Patrick D. McCoy is an arts columnist and musician residing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. His online column can be read at