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We Love Music: A Q&A with Benjamin Wallace of The 18th Street Singers

Photo Courtesy of The 18th Street Singers

Photo Courtesy of The 18th Street Singers

There’s this (nearly) perfect moment in vocal music when a chorus of individuals come together to not only sing four-part harmonies broken up into individuals parts but rather a moment when the group creates a pure tone of unadulterated sound on pitch. This is not only a goal for the 18th Street Singers, this is what they do.

Earlier this fall, I spent some time watching the 18th Street Singers in their natural habitat — their rehearsal space at First Trinity Lutheran Church — and I was quick to learn that this group is comprised of passionate voices from many different walks of life all coming together for a common purpose.

The 18th Street Singers’ Executive Director Benjamin Wallace took some time to speak with us one-on-one via e-mail to answer our questions regarding the group and their upcoming performances on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25.

Tell us a bit about how you originally got involved with the 18th Street Singers? How do you fit into the overall puzzle?

I have been involved with the 18th Street Singers since its founding in 2004, and let me tell you, my participation was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. I was living in a group house with a talented conductor (our musical director Benjamin Olinsky) when a tenacious young woman and college classmate of ours approached us saying she missed singing. While there were other choirs in D.C. none of them were exactly what we were looking for. We wanted a younger, hipper, more personable group, so we started brainstorming names and advertising on alumni list, in the paper, and on Craigslist.

It was a pretty humble beginning: I think our first season we had 14 people singing simple four-part harmony. We knew we would need a place to rehearse and perform, and having no money, we were shocked and delighted when the First Trinity Lutheran Church offered to host us. We have had an incredible partnership with the First Trinity ever since and are so thankful for their support for us and the arts. The group grew quickly up to our current size around 45 people, and as we had greater and greater success, we attracted ever more talented members. For me, much of the early days was spent working on fundraising and helping build the kind of social environment we were hoping for. After leaving D.C. for a few years, I was delighted to rejoin the group in 2012, and to start working with our board of directors to keep fulfilling the same aspirations we had in the early days: making music and friends with a fun, talented collection of young people from all walks of life.

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