Throughout the history of the church, music has played a central role in the life of All Souls. Whether the All Souls Choir, one of the first multiracial choirs in Washington; the founding of the Jubilee Singers by Sweet Honey in the Rock member, Ysaye Barnwell; the installation of the historic Rieger organ; or our recent world premiere of Scott Gendel’s cantata, “All Souls”; music is at the heart of All Souls Church and its mission. Reflecting the diversity of our community, our city, and our world, our music program draws on a vast repertoire of traditions and a wide collection of performers to bring our worship services to life. Our music staff collaborates with our ministers to tailor the music to the topic of the sermon and to make each service rich in meaning, uplifting in spirit, and full of beauty. Our two adult choirs draw from a rich and diverse range of music, including African-American spirituals, traditional Jewish music, music from various cultures, and hymns from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition. All Souls also regularly collaborates with outside artists, whether in our monthly jazz worship services, or through special partnerships with artists like Evan Christopher, Howard University’s Afro Blue, the Akoma Drummers, the Bokamoso Youth Choir, Ysaye Barnwell, Diana Saez, and Scott Gendel.
All Souls Choir
All Souls Choir was founded as one of the first multiracial choirs in Washington DC. Today, the choir celebrates a half century of musical excellence, singing a repertoire as diverse as our membership. The artistic versatility of our singers allows us to perform everything from ancient church chant to Fauré to spirituals to South African, jazz, and gospel songs. You can enjoy the unique choral sound of the All Souls Choir most first and third Sundays at our 9:30 and 11:15 am worship services.
Join the All Souls Choir! We rehearse each Thursday evening from 7:30 to 9:30 pm, and sing most first and third Sundays of the month. Our season runs from late August through June. No audition is required. For more information, contact Director of Music and Arts Jen Hayman (email@example.com or 202-332-5266).
The choir continued its tradition of recording with the release of its CD, Music From All Souls. And read about "All Souls," the cantata by Scott Gendel premiered by the All Souls Choir in April 2013.
The Jubilee Singers
Jubilee Singers was founded in 1977 by Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, a member of the group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Since that time, we have provided music for the worship service at All Souls Church on the second Sunday of each month. We strive to be a diverse family of individuals that uses music as a vehicle to heal, encourage, and stimulate change while working toward a community and world that is more loving and just.
Our repertoire, which includes African-American spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, anthems, and world music, provides a particular source of inspiration to a congregation that is ethnically and theologically diverse. The Jubilee Singers' outreach ministry includes performances at senior citizen's facilities, as well as at community centers and churches of various denominations in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area.
Join Jubilee Singers! The group is open to all who enjoy singing and want to participate in music that has power to heal and bring about change. We rehearse on Tuesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 pm, September through June. To join, simply notify the director and show up a little early to a rehearsal for a brief orientation and vocal placement. No audition is required. For more information, contact Jubilee Singers' Director Lenard Starks (firstname.lastname@example.org; 301-633-6559).
All Souls Summer Choir
From the end of June to the beginning of September, our regular choirs take a hiatus and our choral music for services operates under a slightly different model. The summer choir is open to all without audition. With a shared leadership by Lenard Starks and Scot Hanna-Weir, the summer choir rehearses at 9:00 am before our single service at 10:15 am. We learn several pieces and tailor the experience to the level of those present. Many of our regular Jubilee Singers and All Souls Choir members continue to participate throughout the summer in this ensemble. But, it is also an excellent way to get involved in music at All Souls in a less formal way. Please consider joining us on any Sunday throughout the summer to be part of this great singing opportunity. For more information, contact Director of Music and Arts Jen Hayman (email@example.com) or Lenard Starks (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Meet our musicians
Read the bios of All Souls' music staff.
The Rieger Organ
You can read much more about our famous organ.
Music at our Sunday services
Please join us on Sunday mornings at one of our two joyful, uplifting, and thought provoking worship services (9:30 and 11:15; 10:15 between Memorial and Labor Days). Here's a little of what you can expect.
Our gathering begins with a time for meditation, accompanied by an organ or piano prelude of music that reflects the diversity of our congregation and of our inspiration. Occasionally another instrumentalist or a jazz combo provides the prelude. During this time, all are welcome to light a candle of joy, sorrow, or memory at the front of the church.
The tingsha, a Buddhist prayer bell, calls us to rise as the choir enters the center aisle to form a circle, signaling that the service is about to start. The service begins in earnest with a rousing processional hymn led by the choir and then the minister's call to worship.
Spirit of Life
After congregational concerns, morning prayer, and a time of silent meditation, a solo voice calls us to sing Spirit of Life. The singing of this song is one of our most intimate moments together as a congregation.
Spirit of Life, come unto me
Sing in my heart, all the stirrings of compassion
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice
Roots hold me close, wings set me free
Spirit of Life come to me, come to me
Anthem, offering of gifts and music, and benediction
At All Souls we celebrate gifts both material and expressive. Our church is unique in that we have a percussionist-in-residence and a dancer-in-residence. The music during the offering of gifts and music varies from week to week: sometimes the choir or a soloist performs; at other times the musical offering is a non-vocal piece played on the organ or other instruments. Occasionally, our percussionist plays improvisations on various rhythms while the dancer-in-residence moves among congregants in the pews.