My Washington: Glen S. Howard

The singer and theater fan talks about performing for presidents, emcee’ing the Helen Hayes Awards and relishing “faux gras.”

With a Harvard B.A. and a U. of Chicago J.D., Howard played private practice lawyer for 20 years. In 1996 he moved from representing Fortune 100 corporations to counseling national not-for-profits. In his spare time, he’s contributed expertise to causes ranging from Goodwill and Americans for the Arts to distributing funds in the wake of September 11th. In 2013, he retired as Managing Director, Legal Affairs & General Counsel at The Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Howard is a longtime member (and past president) of the 180-voice Choral Arts Society of Washington and also a member of the Washington Performing Arts’ gospel choir. He sings with the National Symphony Orchestra and has performed in more than 400 concerts at the Kennedy Center, on many network TV and radio broadcasts and on 12 CDs, one a Grammy Award winner.

You emceed the Helen Hayes Awards nominations at the National Theatre?

Yes, those annual awards [Washington’s answer to the Tony Awards] honor actors and theater pros. The awards name honors the American theater’s “first lady,” who saw her first show from the National Theatre balcony.

Helen Hayes Awards nominations

What are some of your memories as a singer?

The Choral Arts Society sang in Red Square, in the shadow of the Kremlin, for about a quarter million Russians, and our gospel choir performed with Wynton Marsalis at the opening of Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center. Of course, it’s a thrill for me, as an amateur, to perform for six U.S. presidents. Once we sang on the White House South Lawn for an Olympic torch ceremony. (I was trying to record the performance, and “W” almost stepped on my cell phone in the grass.)

How many nights do you spend in the theater?

My wife Lauren and I see 60 to 70 plays and musicals, dozens of concerts and dance performances each year. Even so, at the Hayes Awards, I kick myself for missing other outstanding shows. With 90-plus professional theaters here, there’s so much to experience.

What makes D.C. a great theater town?

Excellence and variety! It also helps that theater professionals can afford to work in and near the city and raise families here.

How can visitors select shows and buy tickets in advance?

Type in what you want to see at theatrewashington.org/find-a-show.

What travel is next?

Chile and Israel. Then the Choral Arts Society joins the Qingdao Symphony Orchestra for a May 2015 tour from Beijing to Hong Kong. Years back we performed “Porgy and Bess” with that orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Your travel necessities?

My ear buds, a charger for my Kindle Fire and Surface tablet and, of course, earplugs and eyeshades!

Howard’s Perfect Day in D.C.

Morning: Walk off the Carbs

I’d head to Capitol Hill for blueberry buckwheat pancakes at Market Lunch in Eastern Market, then stroll through the Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress. For old times’ sake, maybe stop next door to hear a Supreme Court argument.
American Art Museum

Midday: Penn Quarter  

I’d take Metro to Gallery Place and the American Art Museum, then cross the street for a lamb burger and chickpea fries at Proof.

Afternoon: Parks & Rec

Head out by car or bicycle along the C&O Canal to Great Falls, Maryland, and stop to watch the Potomac River squeeze through Mather Gorge.

Evening: Show Biz

Take in a free music, dance or theater performance (6 p.m., 365 days a year) at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. It happens in the Grand Foyer with views of the Potomac River.

Central Michel Richard

Nighttime: Curtains Up

Head to Ford’s Theatre which has a downstairs museum devoted to the tragic event that took place there—Lincoln’s assassination. Ford’s holiday production of “Christmas Carol” has become a Washington tradition. After a play or musical here, we’d walk to Central Michel Richard at 11th and Pennsylvania Avenue for supper—wonderful bread, “faux gras“ pate and upscale (but worth it!) hamburger. On the way home, we pass Lincoln’s illuminated memorial, a sight I never tire of seeing.

Jean Lawlor Cohen
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