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 has musical opportunities for children and youth. Our children’s choir regularly performs alone and in collaboration with our other ensembles and guest musicians, and our newest ensemble, Akoma @ All Souls, is a multigenerational West African drumming ensemble.
For more details about each ensemble, please see descriptions below. Contact information for each of our directors is listed on our music staff page. All Souls also regularly collaborates with outside artists, whether in our monthly jazz or bluegrass 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.
Listen to some of our music
All pieces recorded live during various services.
All Souls Choir
Unclouded Day, by Shawn Kirchner
City Called Heaven, by Josephine Poelinitz
Have a Little Faith in Me, by John Hiatt
We Are the Ones, by Bernice Johnson Reagan
Angels, by Richard Smallwood
Festival Choir (combined choirs)
Today, by Kirk Franklin
Akoma @ All Souls
A Thousand Years, by Christina Perri
Shake It Out, by Florence + the Machine
Wholly Earth, by Abbey Lincoln
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother, by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell
Red Clay Halo, by Gillian Welch
Ain't No Grave (Can Hold My Body Down), traditional Appalachian
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, but ability to read music is a plus. For more information, contact Director of Music and Arts Jen Hayman (firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (email@example.com; 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 Jen Hayman, 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lenard Starks (email@example.com).
Akoma @ All Souls is a partnership with West African drumming ensemble, Akoma Drummers. Under the direction of Kristen Arant, the program gives an introduction to a variety of West African percussion instruments and their accompanying polyrhythms and songs.
Drumming is a fully cooperative, team-building, consciousness-raising activity. Not only does it teach students how to play a musical instrument with a rich, indigenous cultural background, but it also provides a creative outlet for emotions and builds skills in listening and cooperation. When delivered through empowerment-based facilitation and instruction (a combination of structure, spontanaeity, and constant encouragement conducted in a safe space), drumming can help manage anger and depression by building self-esteem, often resulting in drastic shifts in confidence and leading to better communication skills, diminished social awkwardness, and strengthened ability to focus.
The program is open to students of all musical abilities, age 12+. For more information, contact Director of Music and Arts Jen Hayman, (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Program Director Kristen Arant (email@example.com).
The Children’s Choir, for children and youth ages 5 to 14, rehearses on Tuesday evenings. 6:15-7:15 pm. Led by Director of Music and Arts Jen Hayman, the Choir has a vast repertoire—including classical, world music, and pop music—and often collaborates with the adult music ensembles at All Souls and other guest musicians.
Recent highlights include a featured selection in our annual Las Posadas service, a collaboration with All Souls Choir on Florence + the Machine's Shake it Out, a group sing with the Bokamoso Youth Choir of South Africa, and involvement in the Reeb Project’s singing flash mob for voting rights on the steps of the Supreme Court. For more information, contact Jen Hayman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our Vespers services take place on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30 pm. Vespers is modeled after the traditional Taizé worship service which uses silence, scripture, prayer, and repetitive singing of short chants and rounds to quiet the mind and promote deep meditation. The Taizé Community, an ecumenical monastic order in France, was founded in 1940 to promote peace and justice through prayer and meditation. This All Souls Vespers service mirrors Taizé-style attention to silence, holy words, prayer, and singing, but has also evolved to include other meditative traditions such as yogic singing and Buddhist chanting. For more information, please contact Michael Milano (email@example.com).
Meet our musicians
Read the bios of All Souls' music staff.
The Rieger Organ
You can read much more about our famous organ.