PostClassical Ensemble Begins Residency at National Cathedral

Last summer the PostClassical Ensemble was appointed a residency at Washington’s National Cathedral, as one facet of cathedral music director Michael McCarthy’s goal of making the cathedral a center of community life, as cathedrals were in medieval Europe. The Ensemble recently gave their first official concert as a resident ensemble of the cathedral. PCE was co-founded by musical director Angel Gil-Ordóñez, who is special guest director of our own resident Perspectives Ensemble. The mission of PCE is to work as a “musical laboratory,” which, McCarthy explained to the Washington Post, fits well into his vision of using the cathedral to present “multidimensional” events.

PostClassical Ensemble events are always more immersive educational experiences than mere concerts. Indeed, their concerts are called “immersion events” and often include exhibitions and symposiums that augment their carefully considered musical programs.

PCE’s first official performance in residency was a program called “Music in Wartime,” given on Pearl Harbor Day, and it has received glowing reviews. The program featured music written during WWII, by Shostakovich, Schoenberg, and Hans Eisler, accompanied by a recording of FDR’s broadcast announcing that the country was going to war. Ensemble co-founder Joseph Horowitz said last summer to the Washington Post that PCE uses music to seek “mutual understanding and human betterment.” It is not hard to find echoes of current national anxieties in the “Music in Wartime” program, which features not just wartime music, but music composed by Jewish refugees in America. As the Post writes in their review of the December 7th concert, “the cathedral’s choir, dressed in street clothes and marching up the aisle carrying their own chairs, sent not hymns but songs of proletariat revolution.”