I just realized I described the “Cheeselord” part of Cheeselord Manor, but not the Manor part. The house that Skip and George own is best described as having a crumbling gentility. It’s situated on a corner lot in Northwest DC, measures about 20 x 60 on each floor, and has three floors, a finished basement, and a tower garret room. The “crumbling” part is due to the old roof, which Skip and George recently replaced, though they haven’t had the chance to fix all the interior damage yet.
The house was built in 1912 (as Skip puts it, the year the Titanic sank), and used to be offices for a nonprofit organization. These days, the front room sees a lot of Cheeselord rehearsals, complete with an upright piano that may be older than the house is and wood floors that have a tendency to slope in unpredictable directions (the last is notable as the Cheeselords have been self described as a “drinking group with a singing problem”).
Skip and George have known each other for years since Georgetown. Skip directs a diagnostic lab around the corner, used to be a monk, and sings countertenor; George has more muscles than I’d know what to do with and a deep bass voice, and composes music when he’s not doing medical things. I met the guys in the Cathedral Choral Society when Skip invited me to come over for dinner one night while they sightread the Tallis Lamentations of Jeremiah. As an old Renaissance music buff, I eagerly accepted, little knowing I’d spend some really amazing years with the group. We did a lot of music, from early medieval chant and conductus through Renaissance and Early American to late twentieth century masters like Arvo Pärt and John Tavener (and of course George). Today I’m singing with them at the group’s second home, the Franciscan Monastery in Northeast DC, which is best known for its replicated catacombs under a fairly magnificent sanctuary. I can’t wait.