The incoming musical director of the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic — an Alexandria-based non-profit — says that future concerts will feature women composers and composers of color.
Anna Binneweg was recently announced as the new musical director, beating a pool of 50 other candidates for the position. She will replace Alexandria Living Legend Ulysses James, who has been at the head of WMP since for 39 years and is retiring in May.
“I am thrilled and deeply grateful to the musicians, staff, and Board of WMPA (Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association) for choosing me to be WMP’s next musical leader in its 52nd season,” Binneweg said in a statement. “I want to also recognize the immense impact of outgoing Music Director Ul James, whose artistic vision shaped WMPA for almost four decades and paved the way for exciting new growth in the future.”
Binneweg guest conducted the 65-person orchestra in 2022, and said she is “looking forward to the powerful, transformative work we will do together in the coming seasons.”
For the last 15 years, Binneweg has been the musical director of the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra in Annapolis, Maryland. She has a doctorate in music and orchestral conducting from Northwestern University, teaches music at Anne Arundel Community College and was on the conducting faculties at Loyola University, the Sherwood Conservatory of Music and American University.
Binneweg’s last concert with the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra is on June 10.
“As music director it will be my goal to choose programming which serves the entirety of the VA/DC/MD area,” Binneweg said. “That means programming works by composers of color, female composers, creating new collaborations with local creative professionals, engaging high-quality guest artists while also promoting both WMP principal musicians and the Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra talent who will one day shape the future of our industry, and offering audiences a healthy dose of the ever-relevant ‘classics’ while also celebrating and cultivating the work of living composers.”
WMPA executive director Caroline Mousset said that the 2023/2024 season will be announced this June.
“I couldn’t be happier that we’ve found Anna to join WMPA,” says Executive Director Caroline Mousset. “During her concert in December 2022, I could already tell what a great match Anna would be for WMP. I’m convinced of her knowledge and confidence as a conductor and communicator, and her inherent understanding of musicians’ needs and experience. Anna has a wealth of inspiring ideas to take us forward, is enthusiastic about music education and WMPA’s role in the community, and has a true love of Alexandria. We are so excited to start working together!”
The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association, a nonprofit, was founded in 1971 and 1972 as the Mount Vernon Youth Orchestra and Mount Vernon Orchestra, respectively. James became director of both orchestras in 1984 after founder H. Stevens Brewster died in a car crash. The orchestras, which perform at the Lyceum and at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, were rebranded in 2004 to their current names — the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic and Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (for high school kids). The Washington Metropolitan Concert Orchestra for middle school kids was added in 2008.
James will be honored by WMP at its season finale concert on May 20 at 3 p.m. at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. The program includes a selection from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” and Anthony Iannaccone’s “Waiting for the Sunrise on the Sound.”
Old Town was packed on Monday, as thousands of revelers and marchers celebrated the George Washington Birthday Parade.
More than 2,000 freemasons from all over the country marched in the 100th annual parade, which is the largest annual celebration of Washington in the world.
This year’s event saw a rare route change for the parade, which is traditionally held east of Washington Street near City Hall in the Old Town Historic District. This year, the parade made its way from Old Town North to King Street and near the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue.
This event commemorated the construction of the Memorial in 1923, which saw then-President Calvin Coolidge, Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Virginia Governor E. L.Trinkle lay the cornerstone.
Alexandria’s next parade is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town on Saturday, March 4.
Updated at 6 p.m. Old Town residents and business owners are up in arms for not being officially notified of a route change for the George Washington Birthday Parade on Feb. 20 (President’s Day).
The parade will shut down large sections of Old Town North and Old Town near the King Street-Old Town Metro station, restricting parking and vehicular access for residents and businesses. The parade will start at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Pendleton Street and Fayette Street, and marchers will walk south down Fayette Street, hang a right on King Street and then end at the foot of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue.
The new route was chosen by the volunteer-led the George Washington Birthday Parade Committee to recognize the 100th anniversary of the parade, which is the biggest annual parade celebrating George Washington in the world. The parade is traditionally held east of Washington Street near City Hall in the Old Town Historic District, but this year’s event will commemorate the construction of the Memorial in 1923, which saw then-President Calvin Coolidge, Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Virginia Governor E. L.Trinkle laying the cornerstone.
In November, the Committee submitted a request to the city to change the route. That request was approved on Jan. 24, and two days later parade organizers publicly announced that the parade will happen on Feb. 20, and that a number of side streets will also be closed.
“As with any large-scale event of this magnitude, a months-long process was necessary to assess the best approach,” Ebony Fleming, the city’s director of the Office of Communications and Public Information, told ALXnow. “While we are honored our city is home to such notable celebrations, we recognize how changes, and even temporary road closures, can be an inconvenience to our residents and business owners, especially on a holiday weekend. We will continue promoting the new parade route and ask impacted Alexandrians for their grace and flexibility as we prepare to welcome excited visitors for this historic occasion.”
The parade will be held between 1 and 3 p.m., and parking restrictions and access will be lifted no later than 5 p.m.
“If it’s such a big deal — the 100th anniversary — don’t you want to let people know?” said an Old Town resident who will be affected by the parking. “I haven’t heard anything about this parade at all.”
Parade spokesperson Bud Jackson said that the new route is a one-time experience, and acknowledged the inconvenience for residents and businesses. Jackson said that parade volunteers will soon be going door-to-door to inform those affected about the change.
“Like most parades, the George Washington Birthday Parade has always included portions of residential neighborhoods and inconvenienced some businesses,” Jackson told ALXnow. “We acknowledge that this year’s one-time only parade route change will inconvenience some residents and businesses.”
But many residents and business owners are either unhappy about the late notice or unaware of changes to the route.
“Certainly the organizers knew it was the 100 anniversary of this event for quite some time,” a business owner told ALXnow. “Perhaps even for the last 100 years. Why did the City allow them to change the route well after event permits were submitted and approved? Why were impacted residents and businesses not notified? Would a for profit organization like Pacers be given the same leniency? I don’t think so.”
The parade will also restrict vehicular access to a number of housing complexes, including The Asher (620 N. Fayette Street), The Henry (525 N. Fayette Street), The Prescott (1115 Cameron Street), 1111 Belle Pre Apartments (111 Belle Pre Way), as well as Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties.
“I didn’t know about (the new parade route) and none of the residents that I spoke with knew about it either but I haven’t heard any complaints,” said Kevin Harris, president of the ARHA Resident Association.
Another Old Town business owner said they will be losing up to $7,000 in business.
“We already have events and staff scheduled for February,” the business owner said. “Federal holidays are typically huge retail sales days. This will be a $5,000-to-$7,000 hit on our business. This is why notifying impacted businesses is required in the permitting process.”
Parade traffic and parking restrictions
While the parade starts at Pendleton and N. Fayette Streets, all parking on nearby side streets will be cleared by 9 a.m., according to organizers.
- The bridge at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue will be cleared by 5 a.m.
- All vehicles parked on the street will be towed between the 100 and 900 blocks of N. Fayette Streets (at the intersection with Braddock Place)
- All vehicles parked on N. Payne Street will be towed
- All vehicles parked on N. West Street from the intersection at King Street to Princess Street will be towed
- All vehicles parked on Queen Street and N. Fayette Street
- All vehicles parked on Princess Street, starting at the intersection with N. Fayette Street and going down to the intersection with King Street
- Traffic will be shut down (except for residents) on King Street to Janneys Lane
- Traffic will be shut down on Callahan Drive (except Amtrak station traffic and buses)
- Traffic will be shut down on Diagonal Road and portions of Daingerfield Road (except buses and local traffic)
- Traffic will be shut down on Sunset Street, Russell Road and Cedar Street near the intersection of King Street and Commonwealth Avenue
The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s holiday program promises to bring an eclectic selection this weekend.
ASO will take the stage on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, followed by a 3 p.m. performance at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.
“Our special guests include both BalletNova creating some Nutcracker magic on the lip of our stage on Saturday, and the fabulous non-binary soprano of Salvadoran heritage, Helena Colindres, a recent graduate of the Peabody Institute and a rising superstar,” said ASO Music Director James Ross.
Dancers with the BalletNOVA Center For Dance will perform pieces from The Nutcracker suit and soprano Helena Colindres will sing a Swedish carol, a selection from Handel’s Messiah and more.
Tickets run $5 for kids 18 and under and up to $90 for adults.
At only 15 square miles, Alexandria’s open space is in relatively short supply.
On Monday (Nov. 28), city leaders and experts will take the stage with Agenda Alexandria to discuss the city’s goal of increasing the city’s open space from 7.3 acres to 7.5 acres for every 1,000 residents.
“Today Alexandria meets this goal,” Agenda Alexandria said. “But, on the City’s current population growth trend Alexandria is in danger of falling short of community needs and environmental benefits as early as 2025.”
By 2040, Agenda Alexandria says that the shortage of publicly accessible open and green space will “likely” be acute by 2040. The city’s Open Space Steering Committee is tasked with presenting City Council with a proposal by the end of this year.
The Agenda Alexandria discussion will begin at 7 p.m. at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial (101 Callahan Drive), and include Jack Browand, the city’s deputy director of park services; Kurt Moser, co-chair of the Alexandria Open Space Steering Committee and president of the Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation; and land use attorney Mary Catherine Gibbs.
In last month’s Agenda Alexandria panel, city leaders discussed trading building heights for affordable housing.