Now celebrating its thirty-fifth season, The Choral Arts Society of Washington (= CASW), under the leadership of its founder and music director, Norman Scribner, is one of the major symphonic choruses in the USA and a moving force in Washington's cultural scene. Within the Choral Arts organization are two performing groups: the Choral Arts Society Chorus of 180 singers and the Singers for All Seasons, an ensemble of 25 members who present free concerts to special constituencies throughout the metropolitan area. Since the 1971 opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Choral Arts Society Chorus has presented its own season subscription series at the Concert Hall, performing virtually all of the standard repertoire plus numerous world premieres, Washington premieres and new works commissioned by the Society.
The Choral Arts Society has performed special commemorative concerts including the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of Mstislav Rostropovich's American debut and the American premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's Polish Requiem. Nationally televised performances include "A Capitol Fourth" with the National Symphony Orchestra led by Erich Kunzel, "Christmas at the Kennedy Center with Leontyne Price," and for the past seven years, the annual "Kennedy Center Honors" featuring honorees Robert Shaw, Mstislav Rostropovich, Stephen Sondheim, Pete Seeger, Marilyn Horne, Neil Simon and Johnny Cash. In 1991, Choral Arts sang Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky with Rostropovich and the National Symphony, which included a performance at New York's Lincoln Center, in celebration of the centenary of the composer's birth.
In addition to regular performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Society has appeared with such orchestras as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Paris Opera, under the direction of Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin, Frühbeck de Burgos, Erich Leinsdorf, Rudel, Erich Kunzel, Lorin Maazel, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Shaw and Antal Doráti. The Chorus has performed in New York City on several occasions under Leonard Bernstein and Mstislav Rostropovich and has toured the Northeast with the Cracow Philharmonic and Krzysztof Penderecki.
The Choral Arts Society of Washington is frequently invited to tour internationally. Under the baton of Norman Scribner, the Society performed Sergei Rachmaninov's Vespers at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy in July 1993. The chorus joined the Westminster Choir and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, under the direction of Stephen Mercurio, to perform the Berlioz Requiem for the Festival's grand finale. On an historic tour to Russia in 1993, the Society joined forces with the National Symphony Orchestra and Mstislav Rostropovich, performing in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. The highlight of the tour was a performance of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky in Moscow's Red Square, which was attended by 100,000 people. In October 1994, WETA-TV in Washington, D.C. aired a 30-minute documentary about the historic tour. In May of 1996, Norman Scribner led the Society on a 13-day, six-concert tour of France with performances at the Evian Festival, the Sorbonne, the Festival of Auvers-sur-Oise and Notre Dame.
Committed to fostering young audiences, educating and serving its diverse communities in the appreciation and enjoyment of music, The Choral Arts Society of Washington received the 1994 Award for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline at the Mayor's Arts Awards. The award, presented by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, recognizes local individuals and organizations for their contributions to the cultural life of Washington, D.C.