Singing A-Z, joined by other area musicians, presents a concert in tribute to the late Betty Buchanan, a musicologist and choral director who was a significant musical presence in Washington, DC, for nearly 30 years.
It was hard to keep Betty Buchanan from singing…or talking about singing…or planning what to sing. In more than 40 years of conducting, Betty took singers and audiences on an exciting musical journey. The ports of call included the classical repertoire, musical theater, jazz, spirituals and gospels. The final stop on the Betty tour was Singing A to Z, through which she took her gift of music into inner city DC elementary schools.
Betty grew up in Birmingham, AL, singing in church choirs, and led her first singing program while a student at Vanderbilt University. After returning to Birmingham, Betty volunteered to direct the choir at Centercrest Baptist Church where she met and eventually married John Buchanan. The Buchanans moved to Washington, DC, in 1964 when John was elected to U.S. Congress. They became active at the new Riverside Baptist Church where they followed a minister whom they admired, partly for his commitment to creating a multi-racial church community. In 1970, Betty became the choir director. While at Riverside, she started the 60-voice Capitol Hill Choral Society and dc al fine, a smaller chamber choir.
One of Betty’s great strengths was putting together a program of both the familiar and the new. For example, she introduced many singers and audiences to the music of contemporary British composer John Rutter. While Betty loved the classical European canon, she also vigorously promoted American composers of both sacred and secular music. While conducting the Choral Society, Betty started a program called “America Sings” with the Jefferson Jr. High School choir. She also began her study of American composer Amy Beach, and commissioned new music for her singers by the late Philip McIntyre, a Washington-based composer.
Seven years ago, Betty embarked on her final musical ministry—she created Singing A to Z for DC grade school children who had limited access to music education and performance. Through classroom teaching and interactive choral concerts in the schools, Betty, with 24 volunteer and professional singers and instrumentalists, strove to demonstrate the fundamentals of music and its role in our diverse cultures…and have a wonderful time together.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, at 4 p.m. at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, musicians from throughout Betty Buchanan's musical life in Washington will join together to present a concert in tribute to their late conductor, friend and musical inspiration with a program of selected works that represent her rich and joyous contribution to the community.