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Music & Concerts

FALL ARTS 2019 CLASSICAL: Hands and feet

Classical performers — especially organists! — put all appendages to use for the sake of music



Classical, gay news, Washington Blade
Openly gay organist Christopher Houlihan returns to Washington for a recital Oct. 1. He doesn’t play in bare feet, but his recitals always feature tons of fancy footwork on the organ pedals. (Photo by Aleks Karjaka)

Washington National Opera presents Verdi’s “Otello” Oct. 26-Nov. 16 in the Kennedy Center Opera House (2700 F St., N.W.) in a production the company hasn’t performed in nearly 20 years. Libretto by Arrigo Bolto, based on Shakespeare’s “Othello” in Italian with English titles. Adapted from an English National Opera production. Tickets range from $45-299. The WNO performs Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (Nov. 2-23).

The NSO Pops performs with R&B singer Maxwell Sept. 18-21 and “Nat King Cole at 100” Oct. 17-19.

The National Symphony’s season-opening gala concert is Sept. 28 with Gianandrea Noseda offering a jazz-influenced program. Tickets are $65-199.

Among other NSO fall highlights are “Carmina Burana” (Oct. 3-5), Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 (Oct. 10-12) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 (Oct. 31-Nov. 2).

Full details at

Washington Performing Arts presents Pink Martini with Meow Meow Sunday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Pianist Drew Petersen performs Saturday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Kennedy Center and the Spektral Quartet performs “Looking Skyward” Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m., also at the Kennedy Center. 

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis performs Oct. 16 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. The String Queens play Saturday, Nov. 2 at Republic Restoratives (1369 New York Ave., N.E.), the Taipei S.O. Chamber Ensemble performs Nov. 14 at the Freer Gallery Meyer Auditorium (1050 Independence Ave., S.W.), the Taipei Symphony Orchestra performs Friday, Nov. 15 at The Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, N. Bethesda, Md.) and pianist Zoltan Fejervari performs Nov. 17 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, Kian Soltani (cello). The WPA season continues into the new year. Full details at

Vocal Arts D.C. presents Brenda Rae (soprano) and Jonathan Ware (piano) Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Christian Gerhaher (baritone) and Gerold Huber (piano) will perform Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Details at

Openly gay organist Christopher Houlihan returns to Washington for a recital on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at St. Ann Roman Catholic Church (4001 Yuma St., N.W.). He’ll be joined by orchestra for a performance of Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante.” Details at

South Dakota Symphony Orchestra’s Lakota Music Project is in residence in Washington Oct. 16-21 culminating with a performance at Washington National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. as part of PostClassical Ensemble’s Native American Festival. This is the first time they’ve performed outside their home state. Details at Tickets for the Oct. 21 concert at

Washington Concert Opera opens its fall season with Ambroise Thomas’ “Hamlet” on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. at The G.W. Lisner Auditorium (730 21st St., N.W.) with Jacques Imbrailo, Lisette Oropesa and Eve Gigliotti singing the leads. Tickets are $15-110. 

Its “Opera Outside” event is Saturday, Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park. Various singers will perform. It’s free. 

Festejo de Dia de los Muertos” is Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. at the Mexican Cultural Institute (2829 16th St., N.W.) featuring the performance of a Brahms requiem by Laura Choi Stuart, Brian Mextorf and the Choral Arts Society Chamber Singers. Tickets are $95. Details at

The New Orchestra of Washington (NOW) presents “Chiaroscuro” on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. at Live! at 10th & G (945 G St., N.W.). On the program are Grieg’s “Holberg Suite,” Bacewicz’s “Concerto for String Ochestra,” film composer Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho: a Suite for Strings” from the classic Hitchcock thriller, and Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto. Details at

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 37th season Saturday night (Sept. 14) at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (1212 Cathedral St., Baltimore). The program includes works by Mozart, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Beethoven and more. It’s free — just show up, no tickets required.

The BSO performs the score of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” Sept. 19-21, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 Sept. 27-29, “Symphonic Fairy Tales” Oct. 3-5, “Music Box: Autumn Colors” Oct. 5, “The Nat King Cole Songbook” Oct. 10-13, Brahms “Symphony No. 4” Oct. 17-20, a Mozart violin concerto Oct. 26-27, Leslie Odom Jr. with the BSO Nov. 1 and more. The orchestra splits its time between the Meyerhoff (1212 Cathedral St., Baltimore) and the Strathmore. Details at

Baltimore Concert Opera, founded in 2009, opens its season with Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” (Sept. 20/22) and continues with Menotti’s “The Consul” (Nov. 22/24) at the Engineers Club Grand Ballroom (11 W. Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore). Tickets are $21.50-71.50 at

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington presents a cabaret show “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” Sept. 21 at 5 and 8 p.m. City Winery (1350 Okie St., N.E.), its small ensembles showcase night Oct. 26 at 5 and 8 p.m. at Live! at 10th and G and its annual holiday extravaganza Dec. 7-15 at Lincoln Theatre (1215 U St., N.W.). Details at

The Washington Bach Consort presents “A Royal Occasion” with works by Handel and Bach on Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. at National Presbyterian Church (4101 Nebraska Ave., N.W.). The concert will feature soprano Margot Rood, alto Sarah Davis Issaelkhoury, tenor Aaron Sheehan and bass Jonathan Woody. Tickets are $10-69. Artistic Director Dana Marsh is gay. 

The Consort’s Chamber Series will continue with “At Home With Bach” Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at Live! at 10th & G. The Noontime Cantata Series continues Sept. 30 (BWV 109 at St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill), Oct. 1 (BWV 109 at Church of the Epiphany), Nov. 4 (BWV 26 at St. Peter’s) and Nov. 5 (BWV 26 at Church of the Epiphany). Noontime performances are free. Details at

The Hylton Performing Arts Center at George Mason University in Manassas, Va., (10960 George Mason Circle) has several classical music offerings for fall including “Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel: Spellbinding Bach” (Oct. 5), Matt Haimovitz with Simone Dinnerstein on cello and piano (Oct. 13), Terra Voce (flute/cello) featuring Maria Yefimova (Oct. 22), the Manassas Chorale: Broadway’s Best (Oct. 12) and the Manassas Syphony Orchestra: Innovative Brilliance (Oct. 26). Tickets, times and prices at

The Washington Sinfonietta will perform “A New Voice for Our Time” on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at The Falls Church Episcopal Church (115 E. Fairfax St., Falls Church, Va.). The program will feature works by Busconi, Elgar and Mozart. Cellist Eddie Adams will perform. Tickets are $20. Details at

LGBT-affirming First Baptist Church of Washington (1328 16th St., N.W.) continues its First Sunday Virtuoso Organist Concert Series with Eileen Guenther (Oct. 6 at 2 p.m.) and Marvin Mills (Nov. 3 at 2 p.m.). Recitals are free. Details at

The Kennedy Center’s REACH Opening Festival continues through Sunday, Sept. 22 with a bounty of events in all disciplines. All are free. Details at  

The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performs “Imaginary Symphony,” a program featuring works by Wagner, Beethoven, Walton et. al. Oct. 5-6 and “Autumn Cello and Dvorak” Nov. 16-17. Performances are held at various venues. Tickets range from $5-85. Details at

The D.C. Different Drummers Capitol Pride Symphonic Band has its fall concert “For the Children!” on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St., N.W.). Its holiday concert will be Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., N.E.). The Marching Band will perform at the AIDS Walk (Oct. 26) and High Heel Race (Oct. 29). Details at

Virginia Opera performs Puccini’s “Tosca” Oct. 4-8 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts (4373 Mason Pond Dr., Fairfax). Tickets are $54-110. The company returns with “Il Postino” Nov. 8-12. Ticket prices vary and packages are available. Details at

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson doc premieres this weekend

Remembering 10 times iconic singer was there for LGBTQ community



Janet Jackson’s two-part, four-hour documentary debuts this weekend. (File photo by Shilla Patel)

Iconic singer Janet Jackson, a longtime LGBTQ ally, unveils her long-awaited documentary simply titled “Janet” on Friday, Jan. 28. It concludes the following night; each installment is two hours long. 

Jackson has said she spent five years compiling footage and creating the documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. both nights on A&E and Lifetime networks. It was produced by Jackson and her brother Randy Jackson and it’s timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her 1982 debut album. 

An extended trailer for the film reveals Jackson will talk candidly about her brother Michael and the 2004 Super Bowl incident, including the news that Justin Timberlake reached out and asked her to join him during his widely panned 2018 Super Bowl return performance. 

Prior to the pandemic, Jackson announced a new studio album and tour titled “Black Diamond,” but both were postponed due to COVID. No official word about the status of either, but speculation is rampant that she will finally release the new album once the documentary airs.

“Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy and Terry, I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation,” Jackson tells Allure magazine in a new cover story this month. “I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

As Jackson’s legion of queer fans awaits this weekend’s premiere, the Blade takes a look back at 10 times Janet was there for the LGBTQ community. 

1. “The Velvet Rope” project. In 1997, Jackson released her critically acclaimed sixth studio album “The Velvet Rope,” an introspective and deeply personal collection of songs that touched on her depression, but also tackled LGBTQ issues. On the track “Free Xone,” she spoke out forcefully against anti-LGBT bias. She also covered Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” without changing the pronouns in the love song, prompting speculation about her sexual orientation. But it was her international No. 1 hit “Together Again” that continues to resonate with LGBTQ fans. An upbeat, joyful dance song, it was conceived as a tribute to Jackson’s friends who died of AIDS.

2. GLAAD award. In 2008, Ellen DeGeneres presented Jackson with the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD’s president said, “We are delighted to honor Janet Jackson at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles as such a visible, welcoming and inclusive ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”

3. Ebony magazine interview about her sexuality. In 2001, Jackson gave an interview to Ebony magazine in which she was asked about her sexual orientation. “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay,” she said. “People are going to believe whatever they want. Yes, I hang out at gay clubs … I go where the music is good. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race. No, I am not bisexual. I have been linked with dancers in our group because we are so close. I grew up in a big family. I love being affectionate. I love intimacy and I am not afraid to show it.”

4. Video support for It Gets Better, Trevor Project. In 2010, Jackson recorded a video for the Trevor Project and later appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” to promote awareness of youth suicide. “If you’re LGBT you’re probably thinking you’re all alone, but you’re not,” she said in the video. “I can relate because I was one of those kids who internalized everything.”

5. “State of the World Tour.” Jackson’s LGBTQ support continued in 2017. Her tour’s opening sequence highlighted a range of problems facing the world, from famine and war to police brutality and included a call for justice and for LGBTQ rights.

6. “The Kids.” Jackson has always employed a diverse crew of professional dancers for her videos and tours. Some of her closest friends and collaborators over the years have been prominent out gay and lesbian choreographers, singers, dancers, makeup artists and designers. She lovingly refers to her backup dancers as “the Kids.”

7. NYC Pride performance. In 2004, Jackson performed for a packed audience at Pride Dance NYC at Pier 54.

8. “Will & Grace” cameo. In 2004, Jackson made a memorable cameo on “Will & Grace,” judging a dance-off between Jack and another dancer.

9. HRC, AIDS Project Los Angeles awards. In 2005, Jackson was honored by both the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles for her work raising money for AIDS charities.

10. Janet’s Blade interview. In 2006, Jackson granted an exclusive interview to the Washington Blade. It was one of the rare times she touched on the Super Bowl controversy and her brother Michael’s acquittal on child molestation charges, telling Blade Editor Kevin Naff, “I got all of that out of my system, that’s not what I’m feeling right now. I wrote about [those controversies] but I didn’t choose to put it out there on the album.” In the interview, Jackson also reiterated her support for marriage equality, said she’d never had a sexual relationship with a woman and revealed that she’d never met Madonna.

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Music & Concerts

BETTY holiday show rocks D.C.

Queer band returns home



BETTY (Photo by Gene Reed, 2021)

D.C. native band BETTY kicked off its “Holly Jollypocalypse” tour with a show at City Winery on Dec. 5. 

The trio, including ally Alyson Palmer and queer sisters Elizabeth and Amy Ziff, debuted several new songs at the show like “Snow,” “Choose You” and “Mistletoe.” 

“Half this set is brand new for you people. You know why? Because we knew we were coming home,” Palmer said at the show. 

The group also played long-loved songs by their fans, like “Xmas Ain’t Coming This Year” and “Miracles Can Happen.” After many requests from the audience, the band played one of their most famous songs —  the theme song from the show “The L Word” — as an encore number. 

Throughout the show, the group expressed their gratitude to be able to perform live again, and recognized the loss so many have experienced over the past two years due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“This really has been an unbelievably challenging time, so challenging that we can’t even really wrap our brains around the PTSD,” Palmer told the audience. “A lot of us have lost a lot. In the past two years, we’ve lost all kinds of things. We’ve lost a lot of people. And that’s a horrible, horrible thing. But hopefully those people are somehow still connected to us.”

There was a familial feel to the night — Amy brought her daughter onstage throughout the show and the band performed the song “Saylor,” which is about her daughter. 

“She’s pretty lucky to see a couple of great goddess moms,” Amy told the audience. 

The band also welcomed local queer artist Be Steadwell to perform a mashup of a an original blues tune and “Silent Night.” Steadwell will be performing her show Drummer Bois: Queer Caroling with Be Steadwell at the Black Cat this Friday. To learn more, visit 

The members of BETTY, who proudly label themselves as “rule breakers” and “equality rockers” have been touring, writing, and advocating for social change through their music since 1986. 

“We’ve been together for 35 years as independent artists, which is pretty miraculous when you consider that with a capitalist system and how hard it is to exist as independent musicians and artists,” Elizabeth said in an interview. “We’re really grateful to our audiences, in particular to our queer community, that has really supported us forever and still does.”

BETTY’s first show was at the 9:30 club, and the band was excited to return to their home, the trio said in an interview. 

“D.C. was a great place to be to come together as feminists and as queer people and as political allies,” Amy said. 

Coming back and seeing the same work done by the same people in LGBTQ and feminist spaces in the District is “wonderful,” Palmer said.

“We’ve been politically engaged for so long and socially active for so long,” Palmer said.  “We grew up playing for protests and playing for those huge Gay Pride marches and pro-choice marches. I mean, that kind of thing just stays with you forever.”

The band has been featured in shows like “Encyclopedia,” and created their own off-Broadway show “BETTY RULES.” The group also launched a podcast in 2019 where they discuss how their band came to be, LGBTQ life and current events. BETTY is slated to release a  new album in spring 2022 in honor of the band’s 36th anniversary. 

Next, the band will travel to New York City, Cincinnati, Ohio, and New Hope, Pa. for the tour. Getting back in the swing of touring has been “incredible” but a physical marathon. 

“You forget that it’s very physical kind of show … so it’s really been funny getting back into shape in that way as well.”

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Music & Concerts

Forget streaming, the holiday classics return to area stages

Bring your proof of vaccination and check out a local production this season



A scene from a previous Gay Men's Chorus of Washington Holiday Show. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A year ago, the holiday season was streamed. But now, thanks to various protocols including masks and proof of vaccination, DMV theatergoers can come together and experience – live and in-person — both beloved classics and some promising new works. Here’s a smattering of what’s out there.

At Olney Theatre, Paul Morello is thrilled to bring back “A Christmas Carol 2021” (through Dec. 26), his solo adaptation of Dickens’ ghost story. Concerning returning to a live audience, Morello says, “While this is technically a one-person show, it’s really about the connection and collaboration with an audience, being in the same room, breathing in unison. I can’t do this without an audience and for a story that thrives on redemption, mortality, isolation, the need for community and connection, and the things that matter most, the timing couldn’t be better.”

Olney also presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” through Jan. 2. This musical “tale as old as time” stars out actor Jade Jones as Belle and Evan Ruggiero plays the Beast.

For the holidays, Synetic Theater at Crystal City is reworking “Cinderella” (Nov. 27-Dec. 26). Led by an all-female team of creators, this festive take on the classic fairytale is inspired by Afro-Latino music and dance. Directed and adapted by Maria Simpkins who also plays the title role.

Last year, because of COVID-19, Ford’s Theatre presented “A Christmas Carol” as a radio broadcast, but now the fully produced play returns to the venue’s historic stage through Dec. 27. A popular Washington tradition for more than 30 years, the thoroughly enjoyable and topnotch take on the Dickens’ classic features Craig Wallace reprising the part of Scrooge, the miser who after a night of ghostly visits, rediscovers Christmas joy.

Another D.C. tradition guaranteed to put audiences in a holiday mood is the Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” playing at the Warner Theatre through Dec. 26. Set to Tchaikovsky’s enchanted score, this charming and superbly executed offering takes place in Georgetown circa 1882 and features a retinue of historic figures along with children, rats, fairies and a mysterious godfather. Choreography is by Septime Webre.

The Folger Consort, the superb early music ensemble in residence at the Folger, will be performing seven concerts of “A Medieval Christmas” (Dec. 10-18) at St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill. A streaming version of the concert will also be available to view on-demand.

At Lincoln Theatre, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. presents “The Holiday Show” (Dec. 4, 11, and 12) replete with tap-dancing elves, a dancing Christmas tree, snow, and a lot more. The fun and festive program’s song list includes “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, “The 12 Rockin’ Days of Christmas,” and “Boogie Woogie Frosty.” Featured performances range from the full Chorus, soloists, all GMCW ensembles, and the GenOUT Youth Chorus.

Arena Stage is marking the season with August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” (through Dec. 26), a drama about a small group of friends who gather following the untimely death of their friend, a blues guitarist on the edge of stardom. Directed by Tazewell Thompson, the production features an exciting cast that includes local actors Dane Figueroa Edidi and Roz White.

Creative Cauldron is serving up some holiday magic with “The Christmas Angel” (Dec. 9-19). Based on a little-known 1910 novel by Abbey Farwell Brown, it’s the story of a lonely and bitter spinster who returns to happiness through a box of old toys. The commissioned new holiday musical is a collaboration of longtime musical collaborators and married couple Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith (lyrics and book).

In keeping with the Yuletide spirit, the National Theatre presents two feel-good national tour musicals. First, it’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (through Dec. 5), a musical take on Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas.”

Next up is “Tootsie” (Dec. 7-12), the hit musical based on the 1982 gender-bending film starring Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a woman to land a role on a popular soap opera. The show boasts a Tony-winning book by Robert Horn and a score by Tony winner David Yazbek (The Band’s Visit).

Keegan Theatre presents its annual holiday offering, “An Irish Carol” (Dec. 10-31). Set in a modern Dublin pub, the funny yet poignant original work (a nod to Dickens) tracks the changes in the life of a rich but miserable publican over the course of one Christmas Eve.

At Theater J, it’s the Kinsey Sicks’ “Oy Vey in a Manger” (Dec. 17-25). Blending drag, four-part harmony, and political humor, the “dragapella beautyshop quartet” brings its own hilariously irreverent view on the holidays.

And through Jan. 2, Signature Theatre continues to brighten the season with its production of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” directed by the company’s out artistic director Matthew Gardiner and featuring out actor David Merino as Angel, a preternaturally energetic drag queen and percussionist.

The Music Center at Strathmore, also in Bethesda, is presenting a wide range of musical holiday offerings including “Manheim Steamroller Christmas” (Dec. 3 and 4), a multimedia holiday tradition; Sarah Brightman in “A Christmas Symphony” (Dec. 6 and 7); “A Celtic Christmas with Séan Heely Celtic Band” (Dec. 11); Washington Bach Consort’s “Bach’s Epic Christmas Oratorio” (Dec. 11); the beloved “The Washington Chorus: A Candlelight Christmas” (Dec. 16 and 17); and last but not least “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” (Dec. 20), Tchaikovsky’s classic reimagined with MC Kurtis Blow (“White Lines”).

And finally, something strictly for the kids: Imagination Stage presents “Corduroy” (Dec. 11-Jan. 24). Based on the beloved children’s books by Don Freeman, it’s the heartwarming story of a girl and her perfectly imperfect Teddy Bear. Best for ages 3-9.

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