Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a special use permit authorizing four hours of daily acoustic classical musical performances at The Rectory at 711 Princess Street in Old Town.

Since last year, Classical Movements and musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra have performed at the venue to outdoor audiences. The Sounds of Hope and Harmony performances have been held with socially distant crowds, and the new approval allows for up to 50 guests to enjoy the music.

Maestro James Ross, music director of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, said that the context in which Council decided the fate of the outdoor concert series played out on a silent background of worldwide cataclysmic devastation for the performance industry. 

“Last year the ASO and Classical Movements were among the very first groups in the whole country to start performing live outdoor concerts again,” Ross said. “The ASO’s first COVID year concert took place on May 7 in the open courtyard of Goodwin house, and we then continued to offer free concerts in retirement communities in parks street fairs and backyards throughout the summer and fall. I have to say, everywhere we went we were welcomed as a vital source of joy in fraught times.”

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker said that the concerts have been a bright spot.

I think the arts are important in any circumstance, especially now as we’ve had a number of residents in Old Town testify to the joy these concerts brought them in an otherwise difficult a depressing time,” Bennett-Parker said.

Image via Classical Movements

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Morning Notes

Independent Investigation Clears ALX Chamber CEO of Wrongdoing — “The Chamber will be immediately scheduling workplace professionalism training for all staff and Chamber leadership and the Chamber’s Code of Conduct will be updated and clearly communicated to staff and members.” [Alexandria Living]

Beyer Votes ‘YES’ as House Passes Equality Act — “The House just passed the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in receiving health care, and more. I voted YES; this is the final vote:” [Twitter]

Council Approves Stormwater Fee Increase — “City council unanimously passed an ordinance doubling the stormwater utility fee from $140 to $280 during Saturday’s public hearing. The increased fee will add $155 million into the city’s coffers over the next 10 years and will help fund an ambitious new flood mitigation action plan, according to city staff. The plan includes various capacity and spot improvement projects meant to overhaul Alexandria’s crumbling stormwater infrastructure.” [Alex Times]

Single Complaint, Lengthy Permitting Process Jettison Classical Concert Series — “There is a noise ordinance in the city – I totally respect it – but our musicians are softer than the birds that chirp along with us, way softer than the airplanes that fly overhead, way softer than the cars and the motorcycles and all the traffic that moves around us.” [Alex Times]

Councilman John Chapman’s Campaign Kickoff Event is March 7 — “Excited to announce my official re-election campaign kickoff event on Sunday, March 7, at 3pm. Check out my website or FB page for more details. chapman4council.com” [Twitter]

Community Invited to Give Feedback on Colasanto Pool Redesign — “The City of Alexandria has hired LSG Landscape Architecture for the project, which will build on recommendations from a 2016 community survey and the city-sponsored 2012 Aquatic Facilities Study. Funding for the project is made possible by Alexandria’s Capital Investment Program as well as a Community Matching Fund through a partnership with the Del Ray Gateway Project.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “A mix of clouds and sun in the morning followed by cloudy skies during the afternoon. High 51F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph…. Cloudy with periods of rain. Low around 40F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Staff Member –“We are seeking dedicated professionals who are reliable, hardworking, and passionate to join our wait staff here at Il Porto Ristorante. Should have at least one year of experience working in high volume dine in restaurant. Compensation is $800-$1200 a week. We will be accepting application’s daily Starting March 1, 2021 between 2-4 p.m.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Images of Capitol Siege Should be Viewed by Everyone — “These images of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history are disturbing. But these things happened, and we cannot erase these events, their causes, or their meaning. Everyone should watch this.” [Twitter]

Pat Malone, Cancer Survivor to ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ for 24 Hours Straight — “Patrick J. ‘Pat’ Malone, a seven-year cancer survivor, and 20-year Air Force veteran will ‘stand up to cancer’ for 24-hours straight, during his Seventh Annual Stand Up To Cancer.” [Zebra]

City Says There Was Error in Vaccine Scheduling — ” AHD has recently identified an internal process error that resulted in several hundred people within the 65-74 age group receiving appointment phone calls out of order. To ensure that no one was skipped due to this error, AHD sent emails for appointment scheduling on Sunday, February 7. Many people who have already scheduled appointments or received vaccines were contacted, and those who received the email unnecessarily should ignore it. The link cannot be used to schedule second doses and it cannot be used by others. As of February 8, AHD has contacted everyone ages 65-74 who pre-registered for their first dose by 7:30 a.m. on January 12.” [City of Alexandria]

South Alex Construction Moving Along One Year After Fire — “One year ago on Monday, a large fire caused $48 million in damages to the South Alex development, which was under construction at the time. Now, developer Combined Properties and architect, Hord Coplan Macht, are getting closer to opening, despite the setback.” [Alexandria Living]

Former Mayor Kerry Donley Endorses Alyia Gaskins for City Council — “I am happy to support Alyia as she launches he campaign for City Council. Alyia has a solid background in public finance and community activism, which will be important as she serves Alexandria on City Council. Alyia represents the enthusiasm of a new age of the Alexandria community which will be important for years to come.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy skies in the morning will give way to cloudy skies during the afternoon. A few flurries or snow showers possible. High 43F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy with snow (in the evening). Low 32F. Winds light and variable. Chance of snow 80%. Snow accumulating 1 to 3 inches.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Private Piano Teacher — “Old Town Music School, an old fashioned preparatory Music School in Old Town Alexandria for over 20 years, is expanding and hiring a community of professional musicians/teachers who offer a nurturing, positive and personal approach to piano lessons. Students are beginning through advanced intermediate levels. Seeking out-going, motivated and fun teachers to join our faculty.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls for Accountability in Wake of Capitol Siege — “The idea that we would just move on and not hold those responsible for this accountable is immoral.” [Twitter]

Stonebridge Sells Piece Of Oakville Triangle Site To Townhouse Builder — “Stonebridge is under contract to sell a 3.5-acre piece of the site to Winchester Homes to build an 84-unit townhouse project, Stonebridge principal Doug Firstenberg tells Bisnow.” [Bisnow]

City Warns Against Icy Roads — “With potential winter weather in the morning, roads may quickly turn icy. If you’re commuting Thursday morning, plan for extra travel time and use caution.” [Twitter]

Emergency Utility Assistance is Available — “If you were unable to pay your Virginia American Water or Washington Gas bills between March 1 and October 31, 2020 as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for assistance. Deadlines to apply are Jan 29 for water bills and Jan 31 for gas.” [Twitter]

Italian War Bride Turns 100 in Alexandria — “For Ada’s 100th, a few close friends and family, including daughter Daria, granddaughter Nathalie, and friend Betty, socially-distanced at The Hermitage. The party ensued with a sheet cake, flowers, gifts, a myriad of birthday cards from friends unable to attend, and video-chatting with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson.” [Zebra]

City Seeks Feedback on Old Cameron Run Trail — “Ending Sun. Jan. 31: the feedback period to provide input on the proposed design for the Old Cameron Run Trail: alexandriava.gov/116739 The 0.53-mile shared-use path btwn Hooffs Run Dr. in Eisenhower East & S. Payne St. in the Southwest Quadrant. The City wants to hear from you!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Windy. Cloudy skies will become sunny in the afternoon. High 36F. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph. Higher wind gusts possible… Mainly clear early (in the evening), then a few clouds later on. Low 23F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.”[Weather.com]

New Job: Private Piano Teacher — “Old Town Music School, an old fashioned preparatory Music School in Old Town Alexandria for over 20 years, is expanding and hiring a community of professional musicians/teachers who offer a nurturing, positive and personal approach to piano lessons. Students are beginning through advanced intermediate levels. Seeking out-going, motivated and fun teachers to join our faculty.” [Indeed]

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Last year was a particularly rough time to be a travel agency, but one local company is trying to reinvent themselves.

Classical Movements, a wing of travel management and tour company Blue Heart Travel at 711 Princess Street, is a local tourism agency that specializes in travel focused on international classical music venues from South Africa to Prague. But with the pandemic effectively killing their industry over the last year, Classical Movements has filed an application to adjust the Old Town business into a live music venue.

“The past seven months have been perhaps the most difficult in our 28-year history,” the company said in the application. “Our business has come entirely to a halt. As we straddle the travel and live music industries, two of the hardest-hit by the COVID shutdown, we are facing a total loss of revenue for the foreseeable future. All of our business (concerts tours and festivals) was cancelled this year and we do not have any contracts for our core business in the future. There will be a longer delay for our business to return to normal because full choirs and orchestras will need to be able to meet for rehearsals and concerts, domestic and international travel restrictions will need to be lifted, and most of them will require a vaccine in order to go on concert tour or attend one of our festivals.”

Classical Movements said core business will likely not return until late 2021 or, more likely, 2022. The company had to lay off two employees permanently and nine more were furloughed, but eventually returned with reduced salaries.

“Despite all this, we have reinvented ourselves to pull through this crisis and lead the charge for the return of live classical music,” the company said. “We launched a new virtual education division that includes virtual festivals, individual and group workshops, instrumental master classes, and we are planning more virtual events such as a big sing with guest conductors. Unfortunately, none of these virtual events have brought in much income.”

Now, the group is hoping to convert the 711 Princess Street headquarters into a small live music venue.

“Since our property at 711 Princess Street has been empty since everyone started working remotely, we came up with the idea of having small live concerts, which have been the only source of regular income for us,” the company said. “Our small live concerts and other ventures act as both a stopgap for our company, but also to play a leading role in reviving the classical music industry. Until touring and travel returns, we are committed to doing the best we can to keep artists and audiences engaged. We are continually developing projects that help out-of-work musicians. Through this, we also hope to lead the way in helping the performing arts industry to revive and return as soon as possible.”

The building has a total of 8,491 square feet, and the company is hoping to use both the indoor and outdoor space included in that total for small concerts. The building is known as The Rectory and was built around 1785, according to the application. It was originally the church rectory for the nearby Christ Church, but has been a commercial space since the 1960s.

Classical Movements said it would require temperature checks for all those attending and both audience members and staff would be required to wear face covering. Chairs would be six feet apart with assigned seating.

The company said it would expect to host concerts four days per month, six months of the year. In the application the company said it would attempt to find other solutions to the income problem if the permit is denied, but said that they would likely end up selling the property.

“These are extremely difficult and unprecedented times for all of us,” the company said. “We are trying to do the best we can for our employees, local music organizations and musicians, and other local businesses out of work or with reduced income, and the community. Our hope is to return to our core business as soon as we are able.”

Image via Classical Movements

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A concert tour company that started giving live classical music performances last spring wants official city approval to keep the music playing.

Representatives from Classical Movements asked the city for approval last April and May to allow musicians to perform at The Rectory at 711 Princess Street in Old Town. After not hearing back, they decided to start putting on shows anyway at the property’s secret garden with small live concerts. The Sounds of Hope and Harmony performances have been held with socially distant crowds, and have featured musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra.

Performances included a Sounds of Joy and Light series, in addition to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa performances. Now, however, the organization is asking the Planning Commission to allow the space to be rented to musicians for such performances. The application will go to the commission at its meeting on March 2, and all future events have been canceled pending city approval.

“We hope to offer our outdoor Secret Garden to other local music organizations to have concerts outdoors,” wrote Classical Movements President Neeta Helms in the application. “As you know, they are also without any income during COVID-19.”

Helms wrote that the live music industry has been ground to a halt by the pandemic, and that her business has faced a total loss going into the foreseeable future.

“There will be a longer delay for our business to return to normal because full choirs and orchestras will need to be able to meet for rehearsals and concerts, domestic and international travel restrictions will need to be lifted, and most of them will require a vaccine in order to go on concert tour or attend one of our festivals,” Helms wrote. “Our core business may not come back until late 2021 or, worse and more likely at his point, 2022. Despite all this, we have reinvented ourselves to pull through this crisis and lead the charge for the return of live classical music.”

The concerts typically last one hour, and future use would allow performances to be held inside the building, which includes a large ballroom.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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The Birchmere’s rundown for the next few months is full of as many 2021 rescheduling as upcoming shows, but there’s still plenty on offer at Alexandria’s historic music venue.

One of the most high profile acts scheduled for the rest of 2020 is KT Tunstall, scheduled for Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” was a 2005 earworm that became a hit and featured in everything from The Devil Wears Prada to the 2008 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Coronavirus is on the rise in Virginia again, and the director of Alexandria’s Health Department warned locals to choose lower-risk activities. For its part, The Birchmere is operating at around 40% capacity, or 200 attendees, along with other safety precautions listed on the venue’s website.

Photo via kttunstall.com

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Alexandria’s course toward social justice might be long, but hope remains for a better future. That’s the message behind the Alexandria Choral Society’s (ACS) Refuge project, and if all goes as planned the five-movement piece will be performed live next May by members of the T.C. Williams High School choir.

“There’s a lot of mileage that you have to go on that journey for a better future,” Refuge composer Jonathan Kolm told ALXnow. “There’s an uplifting arc of hope, but one that is tempered by difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in.”

ACS Artistic Director Brian J. Isaac said that the piece has been labeled a “crowdsource commission,” because portions of the texts that will be sung by the choir have been chosen by the ACS members and fans in Zoom chats. The texts from the fifth movement will be chosen next month.

“Right now, we plan to present this live in May,” Isaac said. “But if it’s not safe to do so, we will likely release a portion of this and maybe a teaser of one movement or a portion of one movement in a virtual format, and then perform the entirety of this work with T.C. Williams as soon as we possibly can.”

A portion of ticket revenue from the concert will be donated to a social justice charity in Alexandria.

The first four movements will include the following texts:

Photo via Alexandria Choral Society/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Trump Only Cares About Himself — “Trump doesn’t care about legal principles or the law. Trump doesn’t care about fair counts, and he doesn’t care about our democratic norms. Trump doesn’t care about his oath to protect the Constitution. The only thing Donald Trump cares about is Donald Trump.” [Twitter]

Mas Seafood to Open Retail Space in Old Town — “From the previous North Henry Street location, they supplied restaurants in Alexandria and Arlington, including Daniel O’Connell’s Pub, Fontaine Caffe & Creperie, Alexandria Pasty Shop and Belle Haven Pizzeria. While they had always been interested in doing retail sales, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic upended their market that they were able to make the shift — almost by accident.” [Alexandria Living]

Outcasts Brass Band Jazzes Up Old Town — “Band members who can wear masks while playing wear their masks, and all band members wear masks in between songs. They also stand farther apart from one another and encourage audiences to practice social distancing and wear masks.” [Alex Times]

Alexandrian Sending Space Cube to Moon — “Alexandria’s Hudson Merrick is going to take a selfie in space. At least that is part of what he what he and 19 other carefully selected students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are attempting in the latest space mission, the EagleCam CubeSat camera system. The first-of-its-kind student-led project aims to snap a third-person ‘selfie’ of a lunar lander touching down on the moon.” [Zebra]

DCHS Helping Residents with Medicare Open Enrollment — “Do you or someone you know need assistance with Medicare Open Enrollment? The Department of Community and Human Services can help. The Medicare health insurance program–for people age 65 or older, or under age 65 with certain disabilities or disease–encourages all enrollees to review their plans  to ensure the plans meet their needs. Open enrollment ends December 7.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s Weather — “Some clouds in the morning will give way to mainly sunny skies for the afternoon. High 72F. Winds light and variable. A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 46F. Winds light and variable.”[Weather.com]

New Job: Ministry Program Associate — “This is a full-time position at the Alfred Street Baptist Church (ASBC) located in Alexandria, Virginia. The incumbent is under the day-to-day supervision of the Liaison for Ministries and serves as Ministry Program Associate. This role is primarily responsible for providing direction and leadership to ministry leaders and staff in the areas of ministry program development, volunteer and event management and new ministry development.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

U.S. Secretary of Education Commends ACPS Superintendent for Sending Child to Private School — “How great that Superintendent Hutchings is able to make this choice for his child. Every family in Alexandria, VA, and across the entire country, should have the same freedom to choose where, when and how their kids learn.” [Twitter]

Beyer Says Trump Lying About Health Care Plan — “rump has no health plan. He’s been lying for five years, always saying there’s this amazing plan just around the corner. Meanwhile he’s suing to get the health law that protects Americans with preexisting conditions struck down by the Supreme Court.” [Twitter]

City Wins Grant to Add WiFi and Seating to Four Mile Run Park Plaza — “Alexandria was one of just 10 cities to receive the award.” [City of Alexandria]

City Releases Guidance for Trick-Or-Treaters — “The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) strongly urge residents to choose lower risk Halloween and Dia de los Muertos activities this year to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks. There are many alternative options to celebrate Halloween and Dia de los Muertos while also maintaining a lower level risk of spreading COVID-19.” [City of Alexandria]

Virtual Fundraiser for Artists on October 24 — “ACT 4 #ArtsALX was inspired by the need for artists to share their work given the difficulty of performing, teaching and holding exhibits in the time of COVID-19. The lack of revenue from performances, classes and exhibitions has led to critical financial problems for the arts. Most artists and organizations have had to cancel seasons and indoor events for the foreseeable future, transitioning to smaller, outdoor events and virtual presentations.”

Today’s Weather — “Mainly sunny (during the day). High 73F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph. A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 54F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Keyboards/Guitar Teacher — “3+ years teaching experience on keyboards/guitar. Multi-instrumentalist a plus. Experience working with children as young as 6 years old. Ability to pass a standard background check and sign a code of conduct.” [Facebook]

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