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September 11 Commemorative Classical Concerts in the Washington Area

A selection of local concerts will memorialize the tenth anniversary of attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with speeches by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and President Barack Obama

Cover art for Steve Reich’s “WTC 9/11, Mallet Quartet, Dance Patterns.” Photograph courtesy of Nonesuch Records

Classical music may be on the decline, or at least contracting, as a commercially viable form of entertainment, but when it comes time to observe something formally or ceremonially, nothing else fits the bill quite like an orchestra, chorus, and classical music. So it is hardly surprising that the concert tributes to the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks are piling up in the Washington area. Even ten years later, how those events are commemorated is controversial, as the recent flap over the proposed cover art for a recording of Steve Reich’s piece WTC 9/11, showed. As previewed a couple weeks ago, the World Doctors Orchestra will mark the day with one of the obvious choices for the occasion, Mahler’s “Resurrection” symphony, with proceeds going to benefit Whitman-Walker Health. What other concerts are planned for our area?

Settings of the Requiem Mass, or works that similarly pray for the repose of the dead like Mahler’s second symphony, make the most sense. Washington National Cathedral’s three-day commemoration of the anniversary begins this Friday, September 9, with a performance at 7:30 PM of the German Requiem of Johannes Brahms by Cathedral musicians and guest artists, including soloists Christine Brandes and Eric Owens. This free concert (but tickets must be obtained in advance) “will honor the 9/11 victims and survivors, their families, and emergency response personnel, as well as the nearly 6,000 fallen military service members whose lives have since been lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will speak during the event.

On September 10, there is a family (non-classical) concert at 1 PM, also free and requiring tickets, with Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ocho de Bastos, and Humayun Khan.

On the morning of September 11, there will be an interfaith religious service, including the tolling of the cathedral’s funeral bell at the times of the four plane crashes on September 11, 2001. The main event is that evening, a Concert for Hope at 8 PM featuring Patti LaBelle, Alan Jackson, and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. President Barack Obama, after a day spent visiting all three sites attacked on September 11, will speak at this event.

Many other venues will host events on the day, too. At 11 AM, the choir of St. John’s, Lafayette Square, will perform Herbert Howells’s setting of the Requiem Mass at morning services. At noon, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, will celebrate a memorial Mass, with professional choir and musicians, in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (4th Street and Michigan Avenue, Northeast). That evening, at 6 PM and 7:30 PM, the Mormon Choir of Washington, DC offers a Memorial Concert at the Washington, DC Mormon Temple in Kensington.

At 4 PM, Choralis will perform a concert called In Search of Peace at National Presbyterian Church, highlighted by the world premiere of local composer Gary Davison’s Shadow Tides. Conductor Edward Maclary leads students and faculty members from the University of Maryland School of Music in a performance centered on Mozart’s setting of the Requiem Mass at the Clarice Smith Center in College Park, at 7:30 PM (free, but requiring a reservation). The same work will be the focus of concerts in Annapolis, featuring the Annapolis Chorale and the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, at St. Anne’s Parish (4 PM) and at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (7 PM). A group called the Washington Korean Symphony Orchestra presents a Peace Concert, also at 7:30 PM, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

On September 24 at 4 PM, the Friday Morning Music Club’s Collegium Musicum will join with singers from Calvary Baptist Church, the new host of its concert series, to celebrate Festival of Hope. The concert combines excerpts from Mendelssohn’s Elijah with other selections, to honor the 125th anniversary of the FMMC, the 150th anniversary of the church, and the tenth anniversary of September 11.

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.