Inside National City

Holy Week was a fairly busy time, especially musically: church choir was singing for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course lots of Hallelujahs for Easter Sunday. Good Friday was the climactic musical event for me, when we sang with the National City Christian Church choir in a joint performance of Theodore Dubois’ “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” a late 19th Century Passion cantata, sung in the National City sanctuary in their church building. I’d been wanting for a while to see the inside of their church and hear the grandeur of their pipe organ, and did, through the course of two rehearsals and the performance itself.

National City Christian Church sits on Thomas Circle NW in DC, notable for its neoclassical architecture, designed by John Russell Pope in the 1920s.

National City Christian Church

It’s worth noting that the main doors to the church are usually closed, necessitating entry through the attached office building on the right. I found this out the hard way, but got a nice elevated photo of Thomas Circle from the top of the stairs.

Thomas Circle

Inside, you can drop by (but not sit on) the James Garfield family pew:

National City Christian Church

The sanctuary itself is standard neoclassical, with the dome over the chancel echoing other similar structures by John Russell Pope, like Jefferson Memorial or the National Gallery West Building. Note in this photo the damage on the capitals topping the pillars; that was from last year’s earthquake.

National City Christian Church

And oh, the National City organ. Gloriously, swellingly powerful yet at the same time delicate in its nuance of tone — even as its lowest, deepest notes literally shook me in my choir seat and rattled the structure above me. Lon Schreiber, our esteemed church organist at First Baptist DC, played this very organ for years, including at LBJ’s funeral service.

Here’s a panoramic stitch of the sanctuary and chancel I took during rehearsals, for an idea of the view I had while I was singing:

National City Christian Church

The Dubois cantata came out nicely.