Closing On Point

Dear Friends,

One of the most hallowed places on American soil is the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The list of great military leaders who received their training here is nearly endless - from Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to George S. Patton, Douglas McArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Norman Scwarzkopf. The history oozes from the beautiful campus, which while steeped in tradition, continues to train great leaders today. It was a wonderful place for The Georgia Boy Choir to wrap up its tour of New England.

During their two-night stay there, the members of the Choir stayed in the homes of some of the Academy’s faculty who are regular attenders of the Cadet Chapel. It was not only a remarkable experience to stay there “on Point,” as they say, but behind the military veneer these are some of the most warm-hearted people on the planet, who welcomed the boys in their homes and treated them as if they were their own.

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One of the Colonels took an afternoon of his time and gave the Choir a “backstage” tour of the campus, showing them into places most other visitors never get to see, and regaling them with stories of campus lore. He showed them in to the Mess Hall (which looks like a much larger-scale version of some of the dining halls they saw during their stay at Oxford University two years ago). Here he had arranged for them to meet with some Cadets who told the boys about campus life and their own experiences. He took them into the Thayer Award room, the Library, and out onto the Parade Field. The tour of the cemetery was particularly interesting and moving.

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The Cadet Chapel at West Point is an imposing Gothic structure built of granite, which sits on a hill and towers over the rest of the campus. Its deep nave and vaulted ceiling give it a wonderful acoustic. The Mahller organ it contains is the largest pipe organ in any church in the world. On Sunday morning, The Georgia Boy Choir performed in this phenomenal space during the Morning Worship service. It was marvelous to hear their ethereal tones waft throughout the massive room. When combined with the powerful organ, played masterfully by Scott Atchison, the sound was nothing short of glorious.

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Particularly poignant and moving was their performance of “The Mansions of the Lord” by Nick Glennie-Smith. A video of The Georgia Boy Choir singing this song in the Cadet Chapel can be seen by clicking below:

One of the listeners afterward said, with tears in her eyes, “Please thank these boys’ parents for having them; not just for allowing them to come here, but for birthing them, for clearly while they were still in their mothers’ wombs, God reached down and touched them and blessed them, and now they have blessed us.”

How very true.

And so, The Georgia Boy Choir’s 2013 Carnegie Hall/New England Tour has come to an end. It has been a phenomenal 17 days. The boys are returning home different from how they left. They have made many new friends and learned much about their country, about each other, but mostly about themselves. They gave countless hours of their time for weeks, months, and even years to prepare themselves musically and personally, but they have come away with beauty, joy, character, friendship, honor, work ethic, commitment, understanding, and camaraderie. They have been in the company of their fellows - noble boys who are not ashamed to put forth admirable effort for the sake of beauty. They have worked hard and seen distant shores. They have done beautiful and brave things and they will be stronger in character and mind for it.

They will now enjoy some weeks of well-deserved rest, before resuming their work all over again. Next summer’s tour will be a return to England where The Georgia Boy Choir will be Choir-In-Residence at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. If you have enjoyed these travelogues and videos, please consider a donation to continue the work of The Georgia Boy Choir.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir Team

Beauty At The Crossroads Of Liberty

Dear Friends,

After a week and a half of traveling and concertizing around New England, the 30 boys and young men of The Georgia Boy Choir have earned themselves a day off; and what better place to enjoy such a day than in the remarkable expanse and natural beauty of Maine’s Acadia National Park. On Wednesday, the big green bus carried the singers across the state of Vermont, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and to the coast of Maine, and the picturesque town of Bar Harbor (pronounced, “Bah Hahbbah”).

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No trip to Maine would be complete without a Lobster Dinner, so this requisite was met at the marvelous Lundt’s Lobster Pound Restaurant. The wonderful staff first brought out some live lobsters for the boys to see and touch before boiling the crustaceans for them to eat. Many had never experienced lobster before, and the reaction was mixed. Most of the boys approved heartily, and the gentlemen in the Young Men’s Ensemble ensured that there was not a scrap of delicious meat left on any of the tables.

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After sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely breakfast next morning, the young adventurers were off to enjoy the rarified beauty of Acadia. A two-mile hike along the coast afforded them amazing views of stone cliffs protruding out of the ocean and waves crashing and splashing against the rocks. A drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain allowed them to see for miles around and to gaze down into the sleepy village of Bar Harbor.

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The Choir’s day of rest concluded with a drive down the coast to the bustling city of Boston. Unfortunately, their arrival from the north coincided with Tropical Storm Andrea’s arrival from the south, but their spirits weren’t dampened, and they really enjoyed their tour of Boston on Friday morning, visiting various historical sites such as the Bunker Hill Memorial, Paul Revere’s house, and the Old North Church.

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The reason for coming to Boston was to present a concert in the wonderful sanctuary of the Memorial Church on the campus of Harvard University. The torrential rains seemed to have kept some of the audience away, but the gentlemen of The Georgia Boy Choir have been trained to give their best regardless of the size of the audience, the prestige of the venue, or the relative importance of the occasion. Anytime anyone is listening to them sing, it is their most important audience. So the Atlantans did not hold back and delivered one of their finest performances ever.

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A video of The Georgia Boy Choir singing Te Deum in C by Joseph Haydn in the Harvard Memorial Church can be viewed below.

Following the concert, two different audience members offered to take the Choir out for ice cream. The mad dash across Harvard Yard in the midst of a tropical storm, followed by a delicious ice cream cone is a memory the boys are not likely soon to forget.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir

2013 Carnegie Hall/New England Tour Team

 

New Beginnings, New Friends [Part 1]

Dear Friends,

Burlington, Vermont is a small, but bustling city, beautifully situated on the coast of Lake Champlain. Surrounded by the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, it is the home of the University of Vermont. The boys and young men of The Georgia Boy Choir arrived in Burlington on Monday afternoon and were greeted warmly by the family and friends of the newly formed Vermont Boychoir, who would be their hosts for the next two days.

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Next morning they enjoyed wandering the 45 acres of the incredible Shelburne Museum, a remarkable outdoor museum which houses amazing works of art (Monet, Manet, Degas, Remington), a private luxury railroad car, a blacksmith shop, the USS Ticonderoga, a passenger paddle-wheel boat, an antique toy collection, a gun collection, incredible preserved wildlife, and abundant gardens. It was not only beautiful, but also fun and educational. When they gathered for lunch and departure, the boys asked if they could please spend some more time there, so an extra hour was granted, much to their delight.

No trip to Burlington would be complete without a stop at the original Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Store downtown. After each boy had carefully chosen his favorite flavor, they enjoyed wandering the ample pedestrian area that is downtown Burlington, which on this day was filled folks shopping, eating, and listening to the various offerings of the outdoor performers of the Burlington Jazz Festival which happened to coincide.

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The Choir's evening performance in historic First Congregational Church in nearby Essex Junction was an exciting one, because it was also to be the inaugural performance of the Vermont Boychoir. As concert time approached, the church began to fill up. When the nine new members of the Vermont Boychoir sang the two songs they had prepared, The Georgia Boy Choir enthusiastically showed their support.

The choir loft at the First Congregational Church is raised about 15 feet above the dais in the front of the church and is designed to hold a choir of about 20 singers, so it was a tight squeeze to get all 30 members of The Georgia Boy Choir in there, but it made for a uniquely wonderful sound. The boys were so close to each other and to the organ pipes that together they really seemed to be almost one instrument. The audience erupted after their first song and gave the first of at least five or six standing ovations for the evening.

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The church was filled to capacity and when the boys came down from the loft, surrounded the audience, and processed to the front of the sanctuary singing, "Marching to Zion," complete with free ringing of handbells and aleatory alleluias, the joy on the faces of the listeners was irrepressible.

A video of the Choir singing Marching to Zion, arranged by John Ferguson can be viewed by clicking on this link.

The tenors and basses from the new Vermont Boychoir joined with their new friends from Georgia for the singing of, "Mansions of the Lord", and the Vermont trebles joined in the singing of, "And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears" as well as the concert closer, "One Voice."

It was a real thrill and honor for The Georgia Boy Choir to be able to be present for the Vermont boys' first performance and to be able to lend them their support and encouragement. In this day and age, and in the current culture it is so vitally important for organizations like these to exist; where boys can exercise their powers of self discipline, and under good guidance learn to become the best musicians they can possibly be, and in the process become the best boys they can possibly be. Many say that it is remarkable that such young children can make such beautiful music. What is more remarkable is the power of great music to make beautiful children.

And so the boys and young men continue on their way, making beautiful music and new friends all across New England. We certainly wish the very best for the new Vermont Boychoir and look forward to seeing them again when they come to Atlanta for the Georgia Boy Choir Festival next February.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir
Carnegie Hall/New England Tour Team

New Beginnings, New Friends [Part 2]

Dear Friends,

Burlington, Vermont is a small, but bustling city, beautifully situated on the coast of Lake Champlain. Surrounded by the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, it is the home of the University of Vermont. The boys and young men of The Georgia Boy Choir arrived in Burlington on Monday afternoon and were greeted warmly by the family and friends of the newly formed Vermont Boychoir, who would be their hosts for the next two days.

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Next morning they enjoyed wandering the 45 acres of the incredible Shelburne Museum, a remarkable outdoor museum which houses amazing works of art (Monet, Manet, Degas, Remington), a private luxury railroad car, a blacksmith shop, the USS Ticonderoga, a passenger paddle-wheel boat, an antique toy collection, a gun collection, incredible preserved wildlife, and abundant gardens. It was not only beautiful, but also fun and educational. When they gathered for lunch and departure, the boys asked if they could please spend some more time there, so an extra hour was granted, much to their delight.

No trip to Burlington would be complete without a stop at the original Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Store downtown. After each boy had carefully chosen his favorite flavor, they enjoyed wandering the ample pedestrian area that is downtown Burlington, which on this day was filled folks shopping, eating, and listening to the various offerings of the outdoor performers of the Burlington Jazz Festival which happened to coincide.

9001335697_0a3c14f800_o.jpg

The Choir's evening performance in historic First Congregational Church in nearby Essex Junction was an exciting one, because it was also to be the inaugural performance of the Vermont Boychoir. As concert time approached, the church began to fill up. When the nine new members of the Vermont Boychoir sang the two songs they had prepared, The Georgia Boy Choir enthusiastically showed their support.

The choir loft at the First Congregational Church is raised about 15 feet above the dais in the front of the church and is designed to hold a choir of about 20 singers, so it was a tight squeeze to get all 30 members of The Georgia Boy Choir in there, but it made for a uniquely wonderful sound. The boys were so close to each other and to the organ pipes that together they really seemed to be almost one instrument. The audience erupted after their first song and gave the first of at least five or six standing ovations for the evening.

9001334507_5a9539a74c_o.jpg

The church was filled to capacity and when the boys came down from the loft, surrounded the audience, and processed to the front of the sanctuary singing, "Marching to Zion," complete with free ringing of handbells and aleatory alleluias, the joy on the faces of the listeners was irrepressible.

A video of the Choir singing Marching to Zion, arranged by John Ferguson can be viewed by clicking below.

The tenors and basses from the new Vermont Boychoir joined with their new friends from Georgia for the singing of, "Mansions of the Lord", and the Vermont trebles joined in the singing of, "And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears" as well as the concert closer, "One Voice."

It was a real thrill and honor for The Georgia Boy Choir to be able to be present for the Vermont boys' first performance and to be able to lend them their support and encouragement. In this day and age, and in the current culture it is so vitally important for organizations like these to exist; where boys can exercise their powers of self discipline, and under good guidance learn to become the best musicians they can possibly be, and in the process become the best boys they can possibly be. Many say that it is remarkable that such young children can make such beautiful music. What is more remarkable is the power of great music to make beautiful children.

And so the boys and young men continue on their way, making beautiful music and new friends all across New England. We certainly wish the very best for the new Vermont Boychoir and look forward to seeing them again when they come to Atlanta for the Georgia Boy Choir Festival next February.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir

Carnegie Hall/New England Tour Team

 

Making Music & Friends Upstate

Dear Friends,

Nestled near the geographic center of the state of New York is the picturebook-quaint village of Cooperstown. Founded by William Cooper, father of the famed novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, the charming town is most famous as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. As the members of the Georgia Boy Choir can attest, it is also home to some of the kindest people on earth. The quiet atmosphere and slower pace was a welcome change to the hustle and bustle and lights of New York City.

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The Choir’s tour bus rolled in to town early on Thursday afternoon. First stop was of course the Hall of Fame. The boys could barely contain their excitement as they went from room to room and display to display. The museum is well laid out and interactive. Many boys had a particular player they were looking for. The Hank Aaron section was a big favorite, as was the looping video of Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” skit.

Just behind the Hall of Fame is the historic Christ Church, home church of the Cooper family and site of The Georgia Boy Choir Concert to be held on Friday. The folks at the church welcomed the boys with some of the best pizza they had ever eaten - and plenty of it - and then hosted them in their homes for the next two nights.

On Friday morning, the Choir enjoyed a round of mini-golf and some ice cream, air hockey, foosball, and arcade games - on the house - at a terrific little entertainment center (located in a 150-year-old barn) owned by one of the Christ Church parishioners. In the afternoon the boys and young men enjoyed a picnic at Glimmerglass State Park. A dip in the picturesque, but chilly Lake Otsego provided a welcome relief from the unseasonably warm afternoon sun.

As that sun went down, it was time for the Choir to get down to the business for which it came - a concert in the beautiful, storied sanctuary of Christ Church. As the choristers progressed through their program, sometimes to the accompaniment of the lovely pipe organ, sometimes with the piano, and much of the time unaccompanied, the audience grew more and more enraptured by the beautiful singing. There were smiles on all the faces, and tears in many eyes. Following the concert the wonderful hosts provided the boys with a delicious and well-deserved ice cream reception.

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It was back on the road early next morning, destined for Buffalo and Niagara Falls. For the majority of the travelers, this was their first time at Niagara. The awesome power of the Falls is staggering to the imagination. It was tremendously exciting to take an elevator down to the base of the Falls and walk out on a boardwalk almost under the cascading torrent. The flimsy ponchos which were distributed did little to keep the water out, but nobody seemed to mind getting wet. Everybody had a wonderful time.

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Dinner that evening was provided by the music department of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo where the Georgia boys were scheduled to sing next morning. This time the pizza was accompanied by – what else? – Buffalo Wings. Once again, the traveling singers were treated to some very wonderful hospitality.

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The Cathedral has a Choir of Girls and Men as well as a Choir of Boys and Men. It was The Georgia Boy Choir’s privilege not only to sing alone during the Sunday morning services, but also to collaborate with each of their fine ensembles, the boys during the early service and the girls during the second service. It was marvelous to see and hear the combination of the Girls and Men of St. Paul’s along with the Boys and Young Men of The Georgia Boy Choir as they sang Paul Manz’ beautiful song, “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come.”

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After church the St. Paul’s and Georgia Choirs enjoyed a splendid dinner together in a nearby restaurant. As they bid farewell, all expressed the sincere hope that we might sing together again in the future.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir
Carnegie Hall/ New England Tour Team

 

Practice, Practice, Practice...Perfect

Dear Friends,

Monday morning for the Georgia Boy Choir was spent in a conference room (converted into a rehearsal room) of the Crown Plaza Hotel in Times Square, preparing for the upcoming concert at Carnegie Hall. Co-laboring with them in this worthy endeavor were singers from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all under the able baton of Eric Knapp. These musicians had all converged in New York in order to mount a performance of John Rutter’s Mass of the Children, a beautiful five-movement work for Adult Choir, Children’s Choir, and Orchestra. The boys of The Georgia Boy Choir are naturally singing the Children’s Choir part, and in fact, the piece and indeed this concert are all centered around The Georgia Boy Choir. Our Young Men’s Ensemble anchored the tenor and bass sections.

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The boys were well prepared and they showed the strength of their dedication and their work ethic throughout the four-hour rehearsal. Numerous times, Mr. Knapp, who was conducting and leading the preparation, used the boys as the example of the way he would like the rest of the singers to sing and enunciate the text. These youngsters were setting the standard and inspiring others to raise their own level of performance.

In the afternoon, they became tourists once again. After a yummy lunch from the street vendors, and some souvenir shopping, they made their way to Rockefeller Plaza for a trip to the “Top of the Rock.” The elevator ride to the top floor only takes a few seconds. And once on the roof, the view is breathtaking. The weather cooperated nicely by providing a glorious day in which the sun shone and the breeze blew and one could see many miles in all directions. The boys loved trying to point out the places they had visited and marveled how small the cars were and how the people looked like ants from their high vantage point.

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With a big day ahead of them on the morrow, it was an early night for the young travelers from Georgia. Tuesday morning dawned a little on the cloudy side, and indeed it did start to rain on the Choir as they made their way back to their hotel after a brief excursion to a marvelous playground in Central Park. Here they had a blast just being boys – swinging on swing sets, sliding down slides, throwing a Frisbee, and playing many versions of good old Tag.

Following this relaxing diversion, it was time to head on over to Carnegie Hall to do the work they had come to do. Even when the Hall is empty, it is awe-inspiring to walk on that magnificent stage, and think of the multitude of musicians with whom you now share that experience. The backstage staff understand this and treated the young singers with remarkable respect and a hearty, “Welcome to Carnegie Hall.”

After another four hours of rehearsal and some dinner, it was finally time for the concert to begin. The entire first half of the concert was performed solely by the boys and young men of The Georgia Boy Choir. They started off with a stirring rendition of the Magnificat in D by Herbert Brewer and immediately the audience was captivated by the overwhelming power of the beauty of the sound they heard. This was followed by the contemplative a capella prayer of The Pilgrims’ Hymn by Stephen Paulus. Here the Choir was clearly doing what they were born to do. The richness of the harmonies performed with nearly perfect intonation combined with the equally rich lyrics of the text proved to be a spellbinding mixture.

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The program continued with Joseph Haydn’s great Te Deum in C. This pillar of the Classical era showcased the versatility and virtuosity of the singers’ abilities. Ably undergirded by the remarkable organ playing of Scott Atchison, the boys sang with both explosive power and tender gentleness, and adroitly negotiated the florid passages of the final fugue.

The painful beauty of Antonio Lotti’s eight-part a capella Crucifixus was a perfect counterpoint to the rousing joy that had preceded it. Here the boys’ voices melded together in remarkable fashion.

Marc Laroussini, 18-year old member of the Choir’s Young Men’s Ensemble composed A Clear Midnight last fall in memory of A. Duane White, late father of The Georgia Boy Choir’s Conductor, David White. Composed in a minimalist style, the song’s piano accompaniment (played by Marc) has an almost hypnotic effect on the listener as the Choir layers in the Walt Whitman text set to complex rhythms and harmonies. The singers met the challenges the song provided with such skill as to make it seem almost easy. It was a remarkable triumph for both Choir and composer.

Claude Debussy’s gem, Salut Printemps is a showcase for the sopranos and altos of the Choir. This joyous greeting to the spring season is a perfect example of French Impressionism, and contains a lengthy, demanding soprano solo as its centerpiece. 8-year old Alok John, the Choir’s youngest member was outstanding in this role. The thrilling high notes blossomed and rang throughout the magnificent Hall.

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The Blue Bird by Charles Stanford is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs ever written. It describes a fleeting moment of beauty as a blue bird passes through the blue of the sky as it is reflected in the water. The lucky people attending Tuesday night’s concert were treated to a fleeting moment of surpassing beauty when 10-year old soprano, Joshua Welch provided the solo as the rest of the Choir sang. Joshua’s wonderfully rich voice soared over the audience, blanketing them in its beauty. The audience roared in its appreciation and admiration, demanding a second solo bow from the modest young singer.

You can view a video of the Choir’s presentation of The Blue Bird by clicking below.

Two American songs concluded The Georgia Boy Choir’s solo portion of the concert. First, the rousing Folk Hymn, Hark! I Hear the Harps Eternal arranged by Alice Parker. By this time, the Choir had really found its groove and sang with utter joy. The audience was almost rowdy in their applause. But then came Moses Hogan’s arrangement of Ride On, King Jesus. From the song’s explosive beginning, the Choir seemed to be whipping the audience in to frenzy. By the time the sopranos arrived on their high B-flat at the end of the song, the audience was already on its feet, cheering and clapping. The boys seemed almost surprised as they received this adulation, but beamed as they strode off the stage.

The second half of the concert was dedicated to John Rutter’s beautiful Mass of the Children. Once again the boys and young men of The Georgia Boy Choir acquitted themselves remarkably as did all of the performers who participated.

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Altogether it was a night of great beauty and considerable achievement for a Choir of boys and young men in their fourth season.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir
Carnegie Hall/ New England Tour Team

A New York State Of Mind

Dear Friends,

Every year, at the conclusion of our regular season, the boys and young men of The Georgia Boy Choir embark on a Concert Tour to a distant location in order that we might not only share our music with audiences in those places, but also so that the boys in the Choir can experience those cultures, meet new people, and expand the horizons of their minds through the experiences they have. Since the Choir's inception, just four years ago, they have delighted audiences in China, England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Finland.

This past Saturday, the first day after school got out for most of them, the members of the Georgia Boy Choir rose early and met at the Atlanta airport hours before most of their classmates rolled out of bed. A pleasantly uneventful 3-hour flight later and they landed in an unseasonably cool New York City. After lunch in Grand Central Station, we met with our local guide Eddie, who for the next two days would share his infectious enthusiasm, sharp sense of humor, and encyclopedic knowledge of Gotham City with us.

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After a thorough exploration of downtown and part of midtown Manhattan including Greenwich Village, SOHO, Little Italy, Chinatown, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Freedom Tower, it was a delight to see the wonder in the boys' eyes as they soaked in all the lights and activity of the busiest intersection in the world at Times Square

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Following a good night's rest in the plush quarters of the Manhattan Hotel, the intrepid choristers were off to explore the rest of New York City on Sunday. Still on the cool side, it was a gloriously beautiful day and the boys particularly enjoyed rambling through Central Park. The highlight of the tour was a stop for lunch and some true New York-style pizza.

The sightseeing concluded at the gargantuan Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side. This immense structure is the largest gothic cathedral in the entire world. From one end to the other is more than the length of two football fields. Its massive weight is held up by 14 pillars 16 feet thick. It is truly awesome. The Choir was here to sing a service of Choral Evensong, their first performance on this tour.

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What an incredible place to begin. At the appointed time, the gentlemen of the Choir processed to their place in the Choir Stalls with poise and confidence. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis for the service were by Herbert Brewer, and the Preces and Responses were by Gerre Hancock. It was an almost other-worldly experience to hear the ethereal tones the boys sang as they wafted through the cavernous edifice. Of particular beauty was the anthem, The Pilgrims’ Hymn by Stephen Paulus. Several people afterward commented that they were moved to tears as it was sung. You may watch a video of this performance below.

No sooner was this service over, than the boys had to high-tail it back down to midtown for a rehearsal in preparation for Tuesday evening's performance in Carnegie Hall.

When they finally got to bed, sleep was not long in coming after such a full day of activity. But it was a day they will not soon forget.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir
Carnegie Hall/New England Tour Team