Connect with us

Music & Concerts

D.C.-area native returns to region for Chanticleer tour

Zachary Burgess says singing with classical group is a joy



Zachary Burgess, gay news, washington blade

Zachary Burgess says he had a strong connection with music at a young age. (Photo by Sanaz Fahimi; Butterfly Photography)


A Chanticleer Christmas

Saturday, Nov. 25

George Mason University’s Center for the Arts

Fairfax, Va.

Sunday, Nov. 26

Hylton Performing Arts Center

Manassas, Va.

Tuesday, Nov. 28

Weinberg Center for the Arts

Frederick, Md.

Full details at

There were strong signs that the music bug had bitten a young Zachary Burgess years before he knew what was happening or thought anything of it.

A family story his mother likes to tell is how a young Zach joined Vanessa Williams full-throttle in the movie theater for “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s “Pocahontas.”

“I could have cared less if anyone was listening or if I was annoying anyone,” Burgess, 30, says. “I was having the time of my life. It’s so funny. There are other similar stories. Things I don’t even remember. I’d be 4 and would make them gather around in the living room of my grandma’s house. It really has been in my DNA since I was little.”

In July, Burgess, a McLean, Va., native, moved to San Francisco to accept his big break — one of the coveted 12 slots in the male classical vocal group Chanticleer, an a cappella, Grammy-winning ensemble celebrating its 40th season. The choir is just starting its Christmas tour which has performances in Fairfax, Manassas and Frederick in the coming days.

Joining, he says, was an honor. He has a one-year contract with the group.

“I was relieved that the hard work I had put into my musical journey was starting to pay off,” he says.

It came at an interesting time, Burgess says. A 2013 graduate of the Eastman School of Music, the bass-baritone returned to the Washington area and was balancing a burgeoning local music career with his work at the Apple Store in Tysons Corner. Both careers were going fairly well. He’d been promoted from the Genius Bar at Apple into working as an inventory specialist and says there was potential there with a job he says he loved.

Simultaneously, he’d gained some traction in the music world, too. He took first prize in the Vocal Arts D.C. Art Song Discovery Competition, gave solo recitals at the Phillips Collection and the Kennedy Center, made multiple appearances with D.C. Public Opera, the Alexandria Choral Society and more.

But there were also a few bumps in the road. After a particularly dry year musically in 2015, Burgess says he “hit a fork” and decided to give music another full-on pursuit by finding a voice teacher (Elizabeth Daniels), a coach (Joy Schreier) and performing as often as he could.

“That’s really what has propelled me to now,” he says. “From then to now, the trajectory has just been up, up, up, up, up. Which is interesting because I’d just started to feel I’d kind of found my voice in the D.C. area and was starting to get some traction there.”

He’d auditioned for Chanticleer in February, 2016 but didn’t get the call until about a year and a half later. Some singers stay in the group a few seasons. Another is in his 28th (and final) season. The group performs everything from Renaissance, baroque, spirituals and contemporary compositions in configurations ranging from simple SATB harmony to complex arrangements where each of the 12 singers might be singing a different part.

Burgess says he wasn’t sure initially if his voice would blend well with the ensemble since he was more on a solo singing type of path, but he says so far, it’s been satisfying and he’s learned a lot about when to project and when to hold back depending on the performance space.

Upon moving to the Bay Area, Burgess had five weeks of rehearsal to learn two programs’ worth of repertoire. He went from an average of singing about 90 minutes per day to four-hour, MondayFriday rehearsals with the group, which he says was “the biggest shock” to his voice.

After a summer tour that took him to Spain, Germany, Poland, France and more and a busy fall with many U.S. concerts, it’s time for the Christmas tour. He was surprised to learn later that his mom had some Chanticleer Christmas CDs in her collection. They’d been there for years and he’d heard them but didn’t make the connection that this was the group he’d auditioned for.

“Now that I’ve stepped up to this big platform and seen this reaction, you now, you’re touching another person and that’s why I do this,” Burgess says. “It’s not about me, it’s not about fulfilling my own destiny. Now I get to enjoy just sort of delivering that talent and that passion and taking someone out of their world for a minute. When you know you’re emotionally connecting with a total stranger, you’re so vulnerable and you’re putting yourself out there, but to have that connection is really amazing.”

Burgess, who came out at 14 (“I was the flyest kid in the neighborhood rolling out of my parent’s driveway in my Barbie jeep as a toddler”), says there is a “healthy mix” of gay members in Chanticleer.

Burgess is single and says he’s enjoying navigating San Francisco gay life.

So far, what stands out most about San Francisco living versus D.C.?

“Everybody here is young, everybody has a tech job and nobody asks what you do, which is like the second question you get asked always in D.C.,” Burgess says. “I didn’t really know what to expect moving to what is probably the gayest city in America. … I’m such an East Coast person, very structured, very type A, so it’s been interesting getting used to a lot of people who are more laid back with their time.”

Zachary Burgess, gay news, washington blade

Zachary Burgess (Photo by Sanaz Fahimi; Butterfly Photography)


Music & Concerts

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade