History of the Maryland Choral Society

The Maryland Choral Society (MCS) is a community choral group dedicated to quality performance for music enthusiasts in the Greater Washington area. A mixed chorus of approximately 40 members, MCS is based in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but has members from throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. Through active recruitment and creative programming, MCS attracts singers and audiences from diverse backgrounds who are drawn to the organization for both its commitment to high musical standards and its welcoming spirit. It performs a wide repertoire of musical styles and periods to attract as broad an audience as possible. It strives to nurture an appreciation for the choral arts among both novices and seasoned listeners.  

The organization was formed in 1971 under the direction of Mr. Paul Bley. Initially, the group called itself the Greater Southeast Community Choral Society. In 1975, Dr. Sandra Willetts became artistic director and the name was changed to the Southern Maryland Choral Society. Under Dr. Willetts' direction (1975 - 1981), the group earned the reputation as one of the more accomplished choral groups in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. For the next three decades, the choral society sang under the direction of a series of outstanding artistic directors: Dr. Craig Jessop (1981 - 1987), Dr. Samuel Gordon (1987 – 1995), Julianne S. Turrentine (1995 - 1997), Ernest Johnson (1997 - 2001), James Holloway (2001 - 2005), Dr. Don Armstrong (2006), Jeanne Kelly (2007-2008), Dr. Richard Giarusso (2009-2014), and Dr. Stephen Caracciolo (2014-2015). In 2015, MCS welcomed Dr. Douglas Buchanan to the role of artistic director.  MCS also gratefully recognizes Serena Moore, who faithfully served as the accompanist from 1977 to 2014.

Since its founding, MCS has performed over 600 works spanning five centuries and six languages. At least one masterwork concert each season features the participation of a full orchestra and has showcased a number of distinguished vocal and instrumental soloists.  MCS is developing a reputation for its varied and eclectic musical fare, encompassing a range of styles from classical, to new age, world, pop, and gospel.

Meet the Artists of MCS

Douglas Buchanan  |  artistic director 


Hailed for his “sense of creative imperative” (The Philadelphia Inquirer) and “ability to get under the skin of [the music’s] core material” (The Scotsman), Douglas Buchanan’s conducting has been noted for his “keen sense of mood, dynamics, and pacing” and eliciting “assured, nuanced singing” from the ensembles he leads (The Baltimore Sun). His conducting and compositions have been broadcast on numerous programs, including Music in Maryland and The WBJC Choral Hour (WBJC Baltimore), Choral Arts Classics (WYPR Baltimore), Christmas with Choral Arts (WMAR ABC-2), and Encore! (WRTI Philadelphia).

Buchanan resides in Baltimore, Maryland, where he serves as Director of Music Ministries at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Music Theory and Musicology Faculty at the Peabody Conservatory, Composition Faculty at Dickinson College, in addition to serving as Artistic Director of the Maryland Choral Society. Buchanan’s compositions, which have been noted for being “filled with terrific orchestral color and weight, not to mention feeling” (The Baltimore Sun) have been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Presser Award, an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Award, and a Pi Kappa Lambda Performance Award. He was selected as a member of the 2012 Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Student Composer Readings for his work Malleus, which subsequently won the 2012 Macht Competition for Best Orchestral Score as well as the 2013 Symphony in C Young Composer’s Award. From 2016-2018 he will serve as Composer-in-Residence of the Dallas Chamber Symphony, and is excited to work with an organization from his hometown to bring new music to underserved audiences.

An active scholar, Buchanan presents regularly at regional, national, and international conferences, including the 2016 National College Music Society Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico (on utilizing games and game theory in the collegiate music classroom), the 2015 International College Music Society Conference in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland (on the timbral and orchestrational structure of Sibelius’ Symphony no. 4), the 2014 Ecomusicologies conference (on the concept of the absent referent in cetacean musics), and was a recipient of the 2013 Lowens Award for Outstanding Graduate Research from the American Musicological Society, Capital Chapter. As a recitalist, Buchanan has performed solo organ and piano concerts throughout the country, including at the Washington National Cathedral and the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art. In 2017, Douglas and his brother Benjamin will work with Johns Hopkins University in a pilot program called Side-by-Side Singing, offering opportunities for dementia patients and their caregivers to make music together. Having received a Dean’s Incentive Grant from the Peabody Conservatory, the two brothers will also be working with St. David’s Episcopal Church, Paul’s Place Outreach Center, and Peabody to found the Baltimore Street Choir, a musical outreach program for low-income and homeless individuals in Baltimore.

Buchanan is fortunate to have many opportunities to make music with his wife, Kelly, and also enjoys micro-tonal inter-species improvisation with his black lab, Grover. You are invited to visit www.dbconductor.com to learn more.

Ben Buchanan Headshot.jpg

Benjamin Buchanan  |  accompanist

In addition to his work with the Maryland Choral Society, Benjamin Buchanan can be seen performing as a beatboxing toy-instrumentalist and performance artist throughout the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas, as well as at St. Marks-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church where he serves as Director of Music and Organist. After receiving a Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Tulsa, he moved to Baltimore to study with the world-renowned composer Michael Hersch at the Peabody Conservatory, where he has received a Masters of Music degrees in both Music Composition and Music Theory Pedagogy.

His compositional work has merited him the praise as being the “most quickly enflaming young composer” by the three-time Nobel Prize nominated poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, as well as being performed in Sweden by the violinist Peter Sheppared Skærved, in Hungary by flutist Gergely Ittzés, in Italy by Ensemble 5.9, and throughout the United States. A collection of his collaborations with the sculptor Sara Dittrich, titled Symphony of Gestures, was recently exhibited at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan for ArtPrize 7 and earned a Top 5 ranking in the Time-Based Art category through the public vote.

Board Officers

James Tiefel, President
Glenn White, Vice-President
Nancy Ernest, Treasurer
Carolyn Vaughn, Secretary
Chris Thorn, Historian/Librarian
Pat Myers & Lucille Belgrave, Members-at-Large


Pete Perry, Facilities
Dick & Gayla Bergren, Hospitality
Sandra Hawkins, Concert Attire
Brian Ernest, Website Manager

MCS Gratefully Acknowledges:

The Maryland Choral Society is supported in part by grants from the Maryland States Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Prince George's County Council.