David Simmons, the choruss artistic director, leads a rehearsal. When Simmons started, the group had just 25 members and performed only two shows a year.
“It used to skew toward people in their 40s,” Simmons said. “Now, our youngest are 8 years old, and our oldest member is maybe 80.”
Simmons added that as the chorus has opened itself up to singers outside the Capitol Hill community, perhaps “Congressional” Chorus isn’t the right title anymore. Only about 20 percent of its members are Capitol Hill staffers.
“We’ve talked about it,” he said, but the desire to continue acknowledging the chorus’s roots won over.
“I’m thrilled that it’s opened up to a larger group,” Cape said. “I keep saying to [Simmons], ‘What’s in a name?’ I don’t think it matters. It doesn’t bother me, but I don’t think there’s a need to change it.”
The Hill Singers
For many of the Capitol Hill staffers who found their way into the Congressional Chorus, the extracurricular activity holds a special place in their hearts — and busy work schedules.
Jim Forbes is the communications director for Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.).
A lifelong singer who was about a decade out of practice, Forbes learned about the Congressional Chorus several years ago during his stint in the office of former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) but never auditioned. When he recently returned to Washington, D.C., for his new job, he sought out the chorus just in time to participate in the 25th anniversary concert.
“It is truly a way for me to relieve stress because I enjoy it so much,” Forbes said. “And this is the best choir by far I’ve ever been with.”
Forbes has also enjoyed getting to know some friends on the other side of the aisle: “The guy I travel home with, he’s a Democrat on the Hill, and we’ve had some good talks.”
Beau Brunson joined the Congressional Chorus during his tenure as an aide for Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) four years ago. He found out about it through a colleague who wanted to audition; she didn’t make the cut, but he did.
Brunson says he joined the chorus, in part, for the challenge, but an additional challenge is getting to rehearsals on time — the House floor schedule often includes a series of votes at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays.
“But he’s very supportive,” Brunson said of his boss, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), for whom he is the legislative director.
And Michael Brewer, a staff assistant for Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), gushed over what the Congressional Chorus has meant to him since arriving on the Hill and Washington, D.C., itself last June.
“It has been amazing,” he said. “Such a great conglomerate of folks who are all interested in the same thing, and being new to D.C., it’s been a place for me to make friends while exploring my passions.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.