The Fairfax Choral Society kicked off its 55th season with some big news—the Arts Council of Fairfax County presented the organization with the 2016 Arts Education Award on Oct. 14.

“Music education is incredibly important and this award affirms what we are doing, and the idea of making our kids musically literate at a young age,” said Patrick Vaughn, who leads the FCS Youth Choruses. “We’ve been teaching sight reading and theory for over a decade, and we are reaping the benefits of kids starting early on complicated music, and they are developing into something very special.”

The Youth Chorus consists of approximately 250 singers from three campuses located in Annandale, Centreville and Vienna. Over the years, the FCS Youth Choruses have won numerous competitions and awards, including the 2015 Greater Washington, D.C., Choral Excellence Award for Best Youth Programming.

Vaughn also conducts the Concert Choir and the Master Singer, and is the Director of Choirs at Annandale High School.

In other news, the FCS will officially open its concert season on Oct. 29, with “Feast Your Ears! An Evening of Choral Classics,” an evening of some of the greatest and most popular masterworks for chorus and orchestra composed throughout history. The event takes place at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center in Alexandria.

“It’s a gourmet meal of all the great choral and orchestral pieces,” said Doug Mears, the director of the FCS Symphonic Chorus. “We’ll have 120 singers with a full orchestra playing. It will be a great night of music.”

Included in the performance will be works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, just to name a few.

“We actually had to put this together at the last minute because something else fell through, but it turned out to be a really great program,” Mears said. “We came up with this concert of masterworks from every period of music history, starting with the very first known composer in all of history for Western music—Hildegard Von Bingen.”

There will also be composers through the centuries, including many 20th century favorites like Leonard Bernstein and Lawrence Morton.

“Our finale will be one of the biggest ever written for choral and orchestra, the finale from Mahler’s ‘Second Symphony,’” Mears said. “We’ll be working with professional musicians from throughout the Metro area, some who play for the Fairfax Symphony or Alexandria Symphony.”

All the performers in the FCS Symphonic Chorus are volunteers and take great pride in singing such classical gems.

“When these people come to rehearsal—we’re talking doctors, lawyers, servicemen, teachers—they come together and do something that’s far greater than they can do by themselves,” Mears said. “A musical piece is not completely finished when a composer puts his pen down. It has to be recreated and every Monday night we get the privilege to join together with Bach or Handel and help to recreate the music.”

With 11 ensembles and more than 15 musicianship classes, the Fairfax Choral Society is one of the largest choral groups in Northern Virginia and the only organization providing opportunities to nearly 400 choral singers from preschool through adult.

Other concerts scheduled early this season include Christmas with FCS on Dec. 3 at the Grand United Methodist Church in Manassas; “Softly Falls the Winter Snow,” a Youth Chorus performance on Dec. 6 at the Annandale United Methodist Church; “This Joy,” a Youth Chorus performance at the Vienna Baptist Church on Dec. 10; and “Christmas in Fairfax,” a performance by the FCS Symphonic Chorus at Fairfax High School on Dec. 17.

“We’re excited to be celebrating our 55th anniversary season, and look forward to a season of great concerts,” Mears said. “On March 4, we will present ‘Hollywood Goes Choral IV,’ music from the movies arranged for chorus and big brass ensembles, singing with the Washington Symphonic Brass Band—some of the most smoking brass players you’ll ever hear.”

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