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We are the 21st Century Consort

21st Century Consort Members 2019-2020 SeasonFounded in 1975 as the 20th Century Consort, the group became the resident ensemble for contemporary music at the Smithsonian Institution in 1978. In its annual series at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Consort presents finely balanced concerts frequently related to the museum’s exhibitions, featuring music by living composers - often world premieres - along with 20th century classics. In 1990, the Consort was awarded the Smithsonian Institution’s Smithson Medal in honor of their long, successful association.

Under the direction of its founder and conductor, Christopher Kendall, the Consort’s artists include principal players from the National Symphony Orchestra, along with other prominent chamber musicians from Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

For over forty years live concerts by the 20th/21st Century Consort have been professionally recorded. In 1995 the Consort initiated a project to create a permanent archive of these recordings. As of this year 40 seasons, 170 concerts, 570 compositions by 232 composers, in 706 performances were presented for permanent preservation to the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library of the University of Maryland. The physical media include over 900 DVDs and CDs.

Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts you can listen to any of these recordings, today, here, free. You can read the printed programs for each concert and experience what happened on that day and in that place. Visit our archive page to search the entire archive and listen to any concert, composition, or composer.

Who we are…


Director's Corner

Following a leadership succession and surprise change of direction at the Smithsonian American Art Museum last spring, the 21st Century Consort found itself “out on the street” after four decades in residence at the Smithsonian Institution. It remains difficult to understand how a program like the Consort’s, in which we offered exhibition-related program content at minimal cost to the institution (we raised the funds ourselves to support of the concerts) could suddenly have seemed uninteresting to the museum. WE (and our audiences and the press) certainly thought it was cool!

Nevertheless, with the generous cooperation of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, where the Consort has sometimes performed (and produced Paul Moon’s film of Jon Deak’s “The Passion of Scrooge”), we are mounting our 2019-2020 season - “It’s About Time” - in the marvelous acoustics and beautiful ambience of that historic space.

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