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.
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.
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 â€“ 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.
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.
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.
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