The American organist, conductor, and composer, Norman (Orville) Scribner, studied organ with Paul Callaway and theory with Walter Spencer Huffman at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. He graduated with honor, receiving Batchelor of Music in 1961.
Considered an institution among his choral contemporaries, Norman Scribner was also one of Washington's most versatile and respected musical figures. His musical presence in Washington began immediately after graduating the Conservatory, when he became conductor of the American University Chorale, and assistant organist of Washington Cathedral. In 1960 he was appointed director of music (organist-choirmaster) of St. Albanís Episcopal Church in Washington D.C., a position he still holds. An accomplished pianist, Norman Scribner was the staff keyboard artist for the National Symphony Orchestra from 1963 to 1967.
In 1965 Norman Scribner founded The Choral Arts Society of Washington, an ensemble of 180 singers who perform under his direction at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in regular season subscription concerts. As music director of one of the major symphonic choruses in the USA for over 30 years, Norman Scribner led and prepared the Choral Arts Society for numerous television appearances, recordings and tours, performing the standard repertoire, world premieres, and new works commissioned by the Choral Arts Society. In 1971 he founded the Norman Scribner Choir.
In a 1982 nationwide broadcast on Public Television, Norman Scribner conducted the Choral Arts Society and Leontyne Price in the Choral Arts Society's annual Christmas Music concert for the "Kennedy Center Tonight" series. In other nationally televised broadcasts, Scribner prepared the Chorus for the past six consecutive years for the annual Kennedy Center Honors, the 1993 National Sports Awards, and the 1996 Independence Day performance of "A Capitol Fourth" with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel.
Under Norman Scribner's direction, the Choral Arts Society participated in three international tours. In 1993, Mr. Scribner conducted the Chorus in performances of Sergei Rachmaninov's Vespers at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. In May 1996, he 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.
Norman Scribner served as guest conductor of the Symphony on several occasions. He was a member of the Choral Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1974 to 1976 and produced the annual free Christmas and Spring Festivals at the Kennedy Center from 1972 to 1976. For a season he served as chorus master of the Washington Opera and for eleven years prepared the Handel Festival Chorus. In 1981, Scribner traveled to England to conduct a performance of Alexander's Feast as part of the European Symposium Choral Masterworks Tour.
Norman Scribner was also well known as a composer. His choral symphony, Love Divine, was commissioned by the United Methodist Church and received its premiere performance at the church's 1984 General Conference in Baltimore with Mr. Scribner conducting. The British Institute also commissioned a choral work entitled Song for St. Cecilia, which was performed in concert at the USA Supreme Court in May 1988.
Norman Scribner taught at American University (1960-1963), George Washington University (1963-1969), and the College of Church Musicians of Washington National Cathedral. For his many outstanding achievements and contributions to the life of the city of Washington, Norman Scribner was named a 1984 Washingtonian of the Year. In October 1998, Norman Scribner received the Mayor's Arts Award for excellence in an artistic discipline.
In recordings, the Choral Arts Society won their first Grammy for Best Classical Album of 1996 performing John Corigliano's Of Rage and Remembrance with the National Symphony Orchestra led by Leonard Slatkin on RCA Victor Red Seal. Scribner is credited for preparing the Choral Arts Society in recordings, including S. Rachmaninov's Vespers and Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 ("Babi Yar") with conductor Mstislav Rostropovich for Erato Records. In 1991, Norman Scribner conducted the Choral Arts Society in the popular release Christmas with the Choral Arts Society of Washington, a critically acclaimed selection of Christmas carols and other yuletide favorites. In December 1996, Scribner led the Chorus in a performance of Johannes Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem, recorded live at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. The 1997 release on Teldec is the album Make Me Drunk With Your Kisses, which features Alexander Knaifel's Chapter Eight, a world premiere recording for cello, four choruses and cathedral with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and Norman Scribner conducting for the first time on an international label. The 1998-1999 season contained two live recordings. The first was Yizkor Requiem by Thomas Beveridge with Norman Scribner conducting the Choral Arts Society and members of the National Symphony Orchestra with soprano soloist Christine Poretsky, tenor Alberyto Mizrahi, and mezzo-soprano Susanna Porestsky. The second was the 1998 10th Anniversary Commemorative CD of the Annual Choral Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This live recording features the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork's Stages.