St. Mark’s provides numerous opportunities for people of all ages and ability levels to sing in the choir, ring handbells, perform vocal solos or duets, or play an instrument for Sunday services.
Do you love to sing? Whether you live nearby on Capitol Hill or in Maryland or Virginia, you are welcome to join us! The Chancel Choir is composed of approximately 45 adults ranging in age from early 20’s through late 70’s. Some singers are relatively new to choral singing while others could be considered semi-professional. Some are cradle Episcopalians whereas others are agnostic. Regardless, the wide variety of music we sing and the way we rehearse provide singers of all skill levels an opportunity to experience the joy of choral singing within a friendly community.
Choir rehearsals are held in the nave on Thursdays from 7:30-9:30 pm from September through early June. Members typically choose to sing at either the 9:00 or 11:15 am service on Sundays. The choir sings as a combined group at the 11:15 am service approximately once per month as well as for special services – some with instrumentalists – including an annual Advent Lessons & Carols service, 2 Evensong services, a sung mass during Lent, and Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. The group occasionally sings other large choral works (most recently Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah) about once per year.
The types of music the Chancel Choir sings are rather diverse: 16th and 17th century Latin motets, mass settings by composers such as Mozart and Haydn, a variety of 19th century works, a wide range of English anthems, works by 20th century and many living composers, African-American spirituals, and other contemporary music that incorporates elements of jazz and gospel styles. Some repertoire is a cappella and much is accompanied with the organ or piano. The music’s level of difficulty varies from week to week but is always manageable.
Singers vary widely in age and experience. Although the ability to read music is helpful, it is not required. The group regularly works on developing fluency in reading music notation and improving musicianship in general. If needed, the director will work with choir members individually to help them catch up and learn the music adequately.
Please note that new members may join at any time! If consistent attendance at a weekly evening rehearsal is too big of a commitment but you are still interested in singing, please let us know. It is possible for us to make special arrangements.
If you are a more experienced singer looking for a challenge, consider auditioning to be on the roster of the Chamber Ensemble. At least once per month there are opportunities to sing more challenging repertoire as part of a smaller group of singers. The ensemble takes on various forms depending on the music and people’s availability, with some repertoire for women only, some for mixed quartets or octets, and some for slightly larger groups. Note that singers need to be part of the Chancel Choir in order to participate in the Chamber Ensemble.
Boys & Girls Choir
The Boys & Girls Choir includes children in grades 1 through 8 and sings for most Family Services (9:00 am every second Sunday of the month) from September through early June as well as for other special services throughout the year. No prior musical experience is required, but children do need to be able to read. Choir members have the opportunity to participate in the Washington National Cathedral’s Sacred Music Festival Choir as well as a Royal School of Church Music summer camp. The group rehearses approximately every other week from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm downstairs in the Elders’ Room. We are in the process of hiring a new director soon! Note that children whose families do not formally belong to St. Mark’s are entirely welcome to participate.
St. Mark’s has a 3-octave Handbell Choir that rehearses in the Elders’ Room every other Wednesday from 6:45-8:00 pm. No prior experience is necessary, although the ability to read rhythm is helpful. This group is self-directed by parishioners Sarah Headley and Katherine Anderson. The Handbell Choir thinks of itself more as a club and a way for people to come together and have fun ringing handbells than as a performing ensemble, though it does play at the morning and 5 o’clock services a few times each year. There are additional opportunities for small groups of 2-4 to ring with the Chancel Choir. New members are always welcome!
The Teen Choir is open to children ages 13 and up as well as boys with changed voices. All are invited to participate, including teens with no formal ties to the church, as long as there is a willingness to sing sacred music. Through Spring 2017 this ensemble was a trio of teens that rehearsed with Nadine Hathaway on a weekly basis. For a variety of reasons, the group is currently on hiatus. Please e-mail Jeff Kempskie if you are interested in singing with this ensemble when it starts up again.
Concerts & Events
The beauty and favorable acoustics of the nave make St. Mark’s a much sought-after performance venue for musicians throughout the Washington, D.C., metro area.
Check back soon for a complete list of concerts for the 2019-2020 season! We are excited to host numerous performances by such groups as the Folger Consort, Chiarina Chamber Players, Washington Bach Consort, Cantate Chamber Singers, Carmina & Illuminare, Capital City Symphony, the 21st Century Consort, and others.
Interested in performing at St. Marks?
E-mail Director of Music Jeff Kempskie if you would you like more information or if you wish to be added to our mailing list so that you can find out about future music-related events at the church.
The St. Mark’s Music Studio currently offers voice and piano lessons to students of all ages and levels of experience.
Stephanie Ng has been top solo prize winner in half a dozen piano competitions in addition having experience playing with orchestras and at several music festivals. Stephanie is from San Francisco, she earned her Artist Diploma from the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, and she received her Master’s degree at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Stephanie teaches on Tuesdays and Fridays. Learn more about her and hear her play here.
Jeff Kempskie, St. Mark’s Director of Music, has played piano professionally for 25 years in a variety of contexts – churches, jazz ensembles, musical theater productions, a rock band, and as an accompanist for choirs from elementary school through the college level. He enjoys working with people of all ages and ability levels in his small studio. Read Jeff’s bio on the clergy and staff page.
The Music Studio has room for other music professionals to offer lessons through St. Mark’s! Contact Jeff Kempskie for more information or to arrange a tour of the space.