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We are the 21st Century Consort

21st Century Consort Members 2016-2017 SeasonFounded in 1975 as the 20th Century Consort, the group became the resident ensemble for contemporary music at the Smithsonian Institution in 1978. In its annual series at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Consort presents finely balanced concerts frequently related to the museum’s exhibitions, featuring music by living composers - often world premieres - along with 20th century classics. In 1990, the Consort was awarded the Smithsonian Institution’s Smithson Medal in honor of their long, successful association.

Under the direction of its founder and conductor, Christopher Kendall, the Consort’s artists include principal players from the National Symphony Orchestra, along with other prominent chamber musicians from Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

For over forty years live concerts by the 20th/21st Century Consort have been professionally recorded. In 1995 the Consort initiated a project to create a permanent archive of these recordings. As of this year 40 seasons, 170 concerts, 570 compositions by 232 composers, in 706 performances were presented for permanent preservation to the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library of the University of Maryland. The physical media include over 900 DVDs and CDs.

Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts you can listen to any of these recordings, today, here, free. You can read the printed programs for each concert and experience what happened on that day and in that place. Visit our archive page to search the entire archive and listen to any concert, composition, or composer.



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Director's Corner

Before commencing on the good news about the coming season, I want to convey, on behalf of the Consort, great sadness at the loss of a wonderful colleague. When the Consort was launched back in 1975, one of the first to join and contribute his distinguished voice was Loren Kitt, then in his fifth season as principal clarinetist of the National Symphony Orchestra. None of us who worked with Loren during his long tenure with the Consort will forget the experience or what we learned from Loren; he was truly a great artist.

The character of Loren's amazing musicianship was established immediately, in that first season, during a Consort rehearsal of a particularly demanding work, in which, during the initial reading, everybody involved was falling by the wayside one by one....except for Loren, who seemed utterly unperturbed by the piece’s difficulties and continued to play with evident ease. Basically, he could play absolutely anything without breaking a sweat.