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Capital Hearings Sing Simply for the Joy of It

Courtesy Edward Hoover
The Capital Hearings a cappella group performs almost anywhere they’re needed, including Eastern Market.

On May 14, they’ll sing the national anthem at the DC Rollergirls championship bout, an idea suggested by tenor John Hazangeles, the group spokesman, performance booker and the one holding the danishes at Arts Advocacy Day.

Their most interesting gig is yet to come.

A few weeks ago, a Washingtonian eagerly sought the group’s voices to accompany the upcoming proposal to his intended. The Caps will sing the couple’s song when he pops the question this month.

“Some stuffy chorus groups would scoff at this sort of thing,” said Hazangeles, a self-described “lounge lizard” and Frank Sinatra lover. “I mean, can you imagine a chorus with 150 members singing the national anthem at a roller derby bout?”

The group rehearses every other Wednesday at either music director Srihari’s apartment near Cleveland Park or soprano Carolyn Wise’s Capitol Hill row house on South Capitol Street — more recently the latter since Srihari’s neighbors started complaining about the “noise.”

Members push living-room sofas and coffee tables against the walls, sit in a horseshoe on the floor and sip red wine while practicing their latest tunes. Sometimes they order pizza or nibble cheese cubes to give their vocal cords a break.

Srihari, who oversaw constituent flag requests for then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and left the Hill to pursue a law degree, started the group in early 2010 with Hazangeles and Wise, a former staffer for Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.).

The trio struck up their friendships while performing with the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

“We’ve had the fortune of singing in some world-class music halls with some of our other groups, but it’s important for us to do fun things,” Hazangeles said.

“Not that Choral Arts isn’t fun — it’s just a different type of fun,” Wise added.

Using word of mouth and even Craigslist, they attracted several singers from the District’s symphonic groups, including Choral Arts, 18th Street Singers, Cantate Chamber Singers and Choralis.

Each auditioned in Srihari’s apartment and came from what Hazangeles calls the “classical choral tradition”: raised on Mozart and Bach, well-versed in eight-part singing and not intimidated by sight-reading and notes that skip around the staff.

For most Caps vocalists, singing is an extracurricular activity. They lead separate careers and work at the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, the Government Accountability Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Two teach music to children; one was lead tuba player in the National Symphony Orchestra.

Despite their different careers, however, they’re all united in a love for music and an unwillingness to see their most beloved hobby slide.

“For a while at rehearsals, we can just forget about our busy lives and do something completely different by singing,” Srihari said.

Most Caps sing in at least one other symphonic choir. Matt Schwartz, an attorney, rehearses with the Choral Arts Society on Tuesday nights, the Caps on Wednesday nights and the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday nights — discounting weekend performances.

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