About Us

"genuinely beautiful...rapturous musicmaking"

The Washington Post

The Suspicious Cheese Lords strive to broaden the global repertoire and listenership of choral music by unearthing forgotten works, breathing new life into familiar pieces, and by creating new compositions of their own. Specializing in early music, this unique brotherhood’s recordings, concerts, workshops, and liturgies provide a scholarly yet accessible interpretation of music from all ages, educating and inspiring fans and future musicians alike. Based in Washington, D.C., their performance venues have included the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, and the Library of Congress.

The Washington Post has described their performance as “genuinely beautiful…rapturous musicmaking.” The Cheese Lords have been awarded two of the Washington Area Music Association’s “Wammies,” for Best New Artist and Best Choral Group. They have participated in workshops with Tallis Scholars founding member Philip Cave, and have given private performances for the Kennedy Center’s Board of Trustees, and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and a group of national interreligious leaders. They have participated in concert series and educational programs from the Midwest to the Atlantic Seaboard, including two fringe concerts at the Boston Early Music Festival (2015 and 2023).  The Cheese Lords have released five world-premiere CDs, and been broadcast by early music programs Millennium of Music and Harmonia.

Current Members

Aurélien Billot

George P. Cervantes

Guillaume Cléaud

Ryan Dolan

Kevin Elam

Cole R. Milliard

David Okun

Christopher G. Riggs

Anthony Smitha

Jonathan Wanner

Clifton N. West, III

Stephen White

The group that would eventually become the Cheese Lords first met in 1996, when Clifton “Skip” West, III, invited a group of friends over for a savory gourmet meal in exchange for singing Thomas Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah. The combination of song, friendship, and Skip’s cooking soon became a regular event. To this day the Cheese Lords continue to have dinner together before their regular rehearsals.

The Suspicious Cheese Lords’ unconventional name is derived from the title of a Tallis motet, Suscipe quaeso Domine. In a playful translation of the title, it was observed that Suscipe could mean “suspicious,” quaeso resembles the Spanish word queso meaning “cheese,” and Domine is, of course, “Lord.” Hence, the title of the motet was clearly “Suspicious Cheese Lord” – which in time became adopted as the group’s name. Although their name is humorous, the group appreciates the more accepted translation of Suscipe quaeso Domine, which is, “Take, I ask Lord.” Suspiciously, the Cheese Lords have yet to perform this motet.