Travelogue 5

Dear Friends,

After having successfully fulfilled their duties as Choir-In-Residence at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for the last week, the Georgia Boy Choir completed their 16-day tour of England with one final performance on Sunday afternoon at John Wesley’s Chapel.

They were joined for this delightful occasion by their friends from Atlanta, the wonderful Chancel Choir at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church who will occupy the St. Paul’s choir stalls all this week. The two choirs sang together to open the concert, which was given as a benefit for a Methodist charity for underprivileged children. It was a glorious sound when all 60 voices were raised together.

The ensembles then took turns before joining together to conclude the concert with Edward Bairstow’s magnificent anthem, “Sing Ye to the Lord.”

It was a bittersweet moment when the 30 young men boarded their flight bound for home. All were looking forward to seeing their families, but disappointed that the incredible experience could not last forever.

Hopefully, the wonderful memories they have created will stay with them throughout their lives.

Many of those of you who are reading these travelogues have had a major part in creating these memories by being supporters of the Choir. We are grateful for your devotion and generosity. You may also wish to have a memento of this shared experience. Well-known artist, Mark Mulfinger accompanied the boys on this tour as Artist-in-Residence.

He was a most welcome addition to the entourage, not only for his affable wit and ready companionship, but also because he captured the entire fortnight with his every ready pen and sketchbook. The boys were fascinated to watch him create each mini-masterpiece. He was able to capture the bucolic wonder of the English countryside as they traversed the county of Shropshire, as well as the wonder and magnificence of London and St. Paul’s cathedral while the Choir sang. The boys relished an opportunity to sit for a portrait as he carefully rendered the contours of their faces on paper, uniquely recreating not only their image, but their personalities as well. Mr. Mulfinger is making reproductions of his sketchbook available as gifts.Those who wish to do so may also purchase a watercolor or even a larger linocut or oil painting resulting from these wonderful drawings.

The Georgia Boy Choir was also privileged to have MONUMENTALMedia accompany them on their tour, capturing each note and moment in wonderful high-definition video. Please visit our England 2014 tour page to enjoy the first two completed video from the tour.

monumentalmedia.jpg

The Georgia Boy Choir’s Mission Statement proclaims that,

The purpose of the Georgia Boy Choir is to achieve the highest possible standard of musical excellence, while instilling in its members a life-long appreciation of music; an abiding love of beauty; a keen sense of respect for themselves and others; and the self-discipline necessary to become effective leaders in their families, their communities and the world.

It is now time for the Choir to turn its attention to the upcoming season. auditions for new members will be held in the coming weeks and the whole cycle begins anew as the Georgia Boy Choir strives to fulfill this mission in the lives of more and more boys fortunate enough to be a part. If you believe in the work that the Georgia Boy Choir is doing, please join with us by making a financial contribution that will enable us to continue the tremendous work they have begun.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir 
2014 England Tour Team

Travelogue 4

Dear Friends,

The City of London is truly one of the most splendid and storied cities in all the world.  Having been settled thousands of years ago, her inhabitants have, over the centuries, done an admirable job of being on the forward edge of civilization, while still honoring and preserving her history.  As early as AD 604, there was a church dedicated to the Apostle Paul sitting atop Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the city, overlooking the River Thames.  

The present church, dating from the late 17th century, is one of the most magnificent and awe-inspiring buildings on earth, befitting the grand metropolis it serves.  St. Paul's cathedral has been the site of the commemoration of some England's most significant events, including the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher; Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars; the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, and the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.  It is also home to one of the very finest Choirs of Men and Boys anywhere.

When the Georgia Boy Choir passed through London on their way to Oxford three years ago, they felt privileged to be allowed to sing just one song in the hallowed space beneath its cavernous dome.  That one song resulted in an invitation to return as Choir-in-Residence while the home team is on holiday.  So every day this week, the 30 boys and young men from Atlanta have filed into the choir stalls to perform the office of Choral Evensong in the mother church of the diocese of London.  

One might imagine that the young boys would be overwhelmed at such a daunting responsibility, but they have been dutifully preparing for months.  When Associate Conductor and Organist, Scott Atchison played the opening strains of Charles Stanford's wonderful Magnificat in C on the mighty organ, and the Choir began to sing, it was clear that they were equal to the task.  

They were as enthralled with the joy of singing here as were the hundreds of listeners at hearing them.  The sound of their voices filled the immensity of the giant room even during the softest passages.  Following the final fortissimo, smiles crept across their faces as the boys listened to the reverberation of their voices as it continued to haunt the massive space. 

It did not take long for them to feel at home in their new role, singing each day with more confidence, and with a better understanding of how to maximize the marvelous, but unusual acoustic.  They showed considerable versatility while singing a variety of canticles ranging from the Tudor master, Thomas Tallis to the late 20th-century English composer Geoffrey Burgon.  Other services also included settings by George Dyson, Herbert Brewer and, perhaps the musical highlight of the tour, the magnificent "St. Paul's Service" by Herbert Howells.  One of the more challenging aspects of singing Choral Evensong is the chanting, or "pointing" of the Psalms, but the young Georgians mastered this technique and presented each day's Psalm with clarity and beauty, even evoking compliments from the St. Paul's clergy.

Taking full advantage of their time in London, the Choir spent each morning seeing some of the sights in and around the city: visiting the Tower of London, seeing the Crown Jewels, climbing the dome of St. Paul's, touring the London Museum, the National Gallery, and the Imperial War Museum, shopping in and around Trafalgar Square, cruising up the River Thames, standing outside Buckingham Palace during the changing of the guard, participating in acting workshop at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and riding on the top level of a double-decker bus.

If one were to ask each boy about this week in London, there would likely be 30 different "favorite" moments, but without a doubt, it will be a week none of them is ever to forget, although it may not be until many years from now until they realize the significance of their experience.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir  
2014 England Tour Team

Travelogue 3

Dear Friends,

When Thursday morning dawned, it was yet another beautiful day in England.  The boys and young men of the Georgia Boy Choir made their way to the lovely town of Hereford, where later that day they would be singing Choral Evensong in the magnificent Hereford Cathedral. 

Upon their arrival they were welcomed most graciously, and given a tour of the ancient edifice.  There are several highly valued treasures of antiquity housed there.  Foremost among these is the famous Mappa Mundi, a 13th-century map of the world drawn on a piece of vellum more than 5 feet in diameter, which recorded how scholars of the time interpreted the world in spiritual as well as geographical terms.  The boys in the Choir were quite taken with it and delighted in identifying some of the 500 or so drawings it contains.

After lunch in the churchyard, and a shopping excursion into the quaint city center, the young gentlemen got down to the real business at hand.  They appeared confident as they processed into the beautifully carved wooden choir stalls.  As they began the service with Healey Willan’s marvelous “Rise Up, My Love,” the ethereal tones of their voices wafted to the great arched ceiling and cascaded down upon the listeners enveloping them in a blanket of gorgeous sound.

The canticles for the evening were from the St. Paul’s service by Herbert Howells, a veritable tour-de-force in the canon of great choral literature, which was sung magnificently by the Georgia Boy Choir on this evening.    When organist Scot Atchison, opened up the organ’s mighty trumpets for the beginning of Gerald Finzi’s “God Is Gone Up” the centuries-old timbers of the church shook, and when the Choir came in, their exuberant singing was indeed triumphant.  It was a most satisfying and thrilling conclusion to a beautiful service.

Friday was spent in Ludlow, a gem of a town situated on the River Teme, and indeed teeming with history, beauty, and culture.  The boys and young men of the Choir enjoyed a short hike in the wood surrounding the town, followed by exploration of the splendid ruins of Ludlow castle.

Afternoon tea was provided by the kind members of the local Methodist church, which also provided a good location for a brief nap (or, as the locals say, “A bit of a lie-down”) before the evening’s concert in the nearby St. Laurence’s Church.  St. Laurence’s, sometimes referred to as The Cathedral of the Marches, is considered by many to be one of the finest parish churches in all of England.  Word of the concert, which was given as a benefit to the Society for the Preservation of St. Laurence’s Church had apparently gotten out, and the nave began to fill with audience members.

Throughout the evening the usually reserved Britons became more and more enthusiastic as they listened with rapt delight to the young Americans.  Some even shouted their approval after a few numbers and all clapped along in rhythm to one of their favorites.  At the end of the two-hour concert, they insisted on hearing one more song, so, of course, the Choir willingly obliged.  With tears in her eyes, one lady said she couldn’t remember having had a more enjoyable evening in years.  It seemed to be the consensus for both singers and listeners alike.


On Saturday morning the Choir said goodbye to county Shropshire and beautiful Bedstone College and headed to the dreamy-spired city of Oxford for an excursion punting on the river.  Those who were in the Choir three years ago, when the Georgia Boy Choir spent a whole week in Oxford were particularly eager to see some of their favorite sites from that time.  First stop: The West Cornwall Pasty Company for some delicious lunch.  On the way to the river, they passed by the Sheldonian Theatre, the Bodleain Library, the University Church of St. Mary, Lincoln College, Magdalen College, and many other phenomenal landmarks.  
Most Americans think of “punting” as what one does when faced with fourth and long, but in England, especially in Oxford and Cambridge it is very popular to travel down a shallow river on a flat-bottom boat propelling it with a long pole.

It sounds easy enough, but keeping the boat straight and the punter dry can be a considerable challenge.  By the time the entire Georgia Boy Choir were in their punts it comprised a flotilla of 7 such vessels.  Most of the members tried their hand at punting and only two actually fell in.  All had a splendid time.

Then it was on to London Town.  The big city will be quite a change, but will undoubtedly provide a multitude of joys and delights.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir

2014 England Tour Team

Travelogue 2

A couple of hours’ drive through the rolling hills of Shropshire from the Georgia Boy Choir’s temporary “home” at Bedstone College, lies the port city of Chester, England.  There stands a centuries-old cathedral church.  Arriving there mid-morning on Monday, the members of the Georgia Boy Choir were treated to a thorough and informative tour of the magnificent building.

Among the myriad remarkable features the cathedral offers, the most exquisite is the 14th-century, hand-carved wooden choir stalls.  

After a picnic lunch in the cloister garden, and a walk on the Roman wall which still surrounds the city, it was into these ornate antiquities that the young Georgians processed, and from where they beautifully sang the service of Choral Evensong.  

The Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis in D by George Dyson is a pillar of post-Romantic splendor and beauty, and the boys and young men from Georgia sang it with soaring strength and elegance.  

The anthem, “Blessed Be the God and Father” by Samuel Sebastian Wesley was also sung splendidly; and the treble solo in the middle of that piece was rendered with both power and sensitivity by the young Justin Goldman.  

Following the service it was off to a nearby restaurant for some delicious fish and chips, which were consumed with great delight.

The lovely sunny weather the Choir has been enjoying continued in like fashion on Tuesday morning, which was fortunate in that the activity of the day was a lesson in the great British sport of Cricket.  After a brief coaching on the basic fundamentals, the Choir divided into two teams named after their captains.  As it turns out, there are quite a few good bowlers and batsmen in the Choir, but in the end, after 4 innings, Team Sebastjan came out on top of Team Nicolas 154 to 117.  

Visit our England 2014 Tour page to see more cricket photos.  To the victors came the spoil of being first in line for lunch.

After a most satisfying afternoon nap, the young gents made their way to Abbey Dore for the evening’s concert.  While not vast in size, the Abbey certainly does not lack in beauty or charm.  

The acoustic was quite nice, and lent itself to providing a wonderfully intimate atmosphere for the audience who filled nearly every seat in the room.  As the ethereal tones of the boys’ singing washed over them, they seemed to bask in its splendor.  A brief stop at McDonald’s on the return trip afforded the singers a well-deserved ice cream cone.

Every Wednesday at 1:00 throughout the summer, Shrewsbury Abbey, in the town of the same name plays host to a concert of great music.  The artists presented this week were none other than the Georgia Boy Choir.  Upon their arrival, they were treated to Tea and Biscuits (cookies) prepared for them by the ladies of the church.  Shrewsbury Abbey is indeed a marvelous structure with a great vaulted ceiling.  

In the churchyard, where the boys enjoyed a picnic lunch before their singing, lies a memorial to the memory of Wilfred Owen, one of Britain’s greatest poets, who sadly died in the last days of the First World War.  

Standing beside this memorial, the boys were treated to a reading of one of his poems delivered by their trusted guide, Clive Richardson.

As the time neared for the concert to begin, the seats began to fill.  Word had gotten out that this was a performance not to be missed and the audience swelled to almost triple its usual size.  Those who had come were not disappointed.  The boys from Georgia thrilled them with every note, showing tremendous versatility in singing everything from a capella sacred music to folk songs from around the world, concluding with an encore of “Georgia On My Mind.”  The listeners all jumped to their feet to express their gratitude.

On the return trip, the Choir stopped for a visit to Stokesay Castle, a splendidly preserved fortified manor house dating back to the Norman times of the 11th century.   Here the boys were truly delighted as they made their way through the ancient home imagining what life must have been like there hundreds of years ago.  

More than a few souvenirs were purchased in the gift shop destined to keep the memory of this day alive for years to come.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir
2014 England Tour Team

Travelogue 1

Dear Friends,

The St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir of Boys and Men is one of the finest choral ensembles in the world.  For centuries, those singers have attained the very highest standard of excellence as they have sung the daily services in one of the most magnificent edifices of worship anywhere in the world.  Three years ago, in the summer of 2011, when the Georgia Boy Choir was passing through London, on the way to Oxford, they attended a Choral Evensong service at St. Paul’s.  Following the service, boys from Georgia remained behind to sing one song in that rarified space.  Upon hearing them, the Canon of the Cathedral said, “Would you please come to St. Paul’s to be Choir-In-Residence some time whilst our choir are on holiday?”  And so, three years later 30 members of the Georgia Boy Choir have returned to England to fulfill that request.

Before heading to London and St. Paul’s, the Choir is spending the week in and around Shropshire in west England with its bucolic rolling hills filled with wheat fields and sheep pastures.  Their home for the week is the Tudor-style residence hall of Bedstone College in the little village of Bucknell, not far from the town of Ludlow.

The first performance of the tour will be tomorrow (Monday) at Chester cathedral, so for today, they were tourists. Just a short drive away, and across the border into Wales is the ruin of Chepstow Castle high on a hill above the River Wye.

Built in 1070 by the Normans and added to during the Gothic period, it now is a splendid place for young boys to explore and imagine living there 900 years ago.

After a picnic lunch on bank of the river, the Choir then toured the incredible ruins of Tintern Abbey.  During the 16th century, Tintern Abbey was a thriving Cistercian monastery, but fell victim to King Henry VIII and his disillusion of the monasteries in England.  Imagine if you will, a large, gothic, cathedral-like structure with the roof missing, and the stained glass gone, but with most of the walls still standing and grass growing where the floor once was.

t is remarkably picturesque, and somehow, even with the open ceiling, the acoustic is still very nice.  As is their custom, the Georgia Boy Choir sang one song for their own enjoyment as well as for those lucky enough to be within earshot.  Afterward, one of those standing nearby introduced herself as a photographer who had been hired by a young man to take pictures as he proposed to his sweetheart who would be there any minute, and she wanted to know if the Choir could sing as he popped the big question. 

The boys in the Choir took great delight in waiting surreptitiously while the unsuspecting couple made its way to the designated spot in the nave of the once vast edifice, and when the gentleman dropped to one knee and presented the ring, burst into a joyous rendition of Gerald Finzi’s “My Spirit Sang All Day” as the two lovebirds embraced.

It was marvelous, serendipitous moment.  The photographer blogged about the experience here

Upon returning to their splendid quarters at Bedstone College, there was time to engage in a rousing game of soccer as well as ultimate Frisbee out on the school’s cricket pitch. Everyone agreed it had been a wonderful day, and went to bed rested and looking forward to tomorrow’s Choral Evensong performance.

If the necessary technical arrangements can be made, the service will be webcasted live via this page:  http://www.georgiaboychoir.org/live Please “like” the Georgia Boy Choir on Facebook in order to be sure not to miss the announcement of that broadcast.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir

2014 England Tour Team