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Galas are an important part of performing arts programming

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We all are mesmerized by the actual performances of the performing arts organizations on the Washington cultural scene, but gala events play an important part in making those presentations come to life. As the year comes to an end and arts organizations look toward a light rest during the summer months, galas are in full swing. Just recently, The Cathedral Choral Society hosted a an Edwardian Gala at the elegant Fairfax Hotel at Embassy Row. The event was inspired by the somewhat impart by the hit television show Downton Abbey. Period dress, décor and beautiful decorations transported the guests to age old England. Cathedral Choral Society music director J. Reilly Lewis chatted about their recent gala and how these type of events support the day to day operations of arts organizations.

"With every gala you have to have some sort of spin. This one seems to be particularly fun and this is such an elegant location. My wife Beth loves Downton Abbey so it all seems to make sense. As you can see, some of the people are taking it very seriously "dressed to the nines." When people are smiling and having fun, that's important."

The Cathedral Choral Society is sometimes mistaken as the official cathedral choir, but is actually the resident performing ensemble housed at Washington National Cathedral. Lewis gave a little more explanation behind the origin of the group and the level of support that it receives.

"The Cathedral Choral Society started out being a part of the cathedral. Its organist/choirmaster was Paul Calloway. When the cathedral was completed in 1976, a lot of debt was incurred and the choral society was one of those things that was expendable.There were some visionary people that realized that this could be a good thing for us to be a separate, independent 501c3 organization based in the cathedral. Our identity is very much with the cathedral, but it is not officially a part of the cathedral's ministries. That opens up all kinds of possibilities, not only in terms of financial supporters but singers as well who may not necessarily want to be connected to a church."

Gala events are in full swing. The Washington Chorus celebrated a Verdi blowout at The Italian Embassy, which culminated with a huge concert of the composer's music conducted by Julian Wachner. Celebrating it's 10 years of "bringing color to the classics" The Coaltion for African Americans in the Performing Arts has hosted a series of receptions leading up to its June Gala. Upcoming is "Rossini On the Rooftop" a reception at the National Harbor featuring the music of Rossini sung by African American opera singers. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS .

The Kennedy Center just honored Michael Kaiser at its spring gala for his years of service as the center's President. Rounding out gala arts season is the Washington Performing Arts gala at the Wardman Park Marriott. President and CEO Jenny Bilfield will preside over her second gala as president of the esteemed arts presenter.


Supporting the arts often can be done in a variety of ways beyond simply attending a concert. Festive galas and auctions are fun ways to give back. Many of the local arts organizations have gala events that support the missions of their organizations. Connect with an organization of your choice and celebrate giving back to the arts!