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There is a very exciting change happening in one of the oldest youth choral training programs in Triangle. The former Raleigh Boychoir, now in its 55th year, has been transformed into the Raleigh Youth Choir. Kudos to the leadership, board, donors, and the arts organizations who have backed this necessary evolution. This new iteration includes six separate choirs that fulfill a myriad of vocal and musical developmental stages and is not limited to children identifying as male.
On Friday evening, we heard one of the first concerts by this newly expanded organization. Rest assured, the opportunity for boys is still flourishing, but the Raleigh Youth Choir is sure to bring many more options and positive exposure for all young musicians of any gender identity.
The tastefully decorated Edenton Street United Methodist sanctuary was full to the brim with family and friends. Guests entered to the dulcet playing of harpist Angelyn Gallardo-Fánlo. Board President Dwayne Holloway introduced the Raleigh Youth Choir, stating that they are "exceedingly proud that [they've] now made a space for all."
The feeling of support and inclusion was thoughtfully incorporated into the program as the congregation was invited to sing along with five Christmas favorites, beginning with "Once in Royal David's City" (Alexander/Gauntlett). Soloists Logan Orazi from the Capital Choir, Patrick O'Sullivan, and Honora Quinn from the "Class of 2023" sang the first two verses beautifully as the other choristers processed in.
RYC's six choirs consist of the Acorn Choir conducted by Katie O'Neill, the Oak Choir conducted by Bo Reece, the Mosaic Choir under the direction of Amy Brock Davis, the Capital Choir who are co-directed by artistic director Jeremy Tucker and assistant music director Aaron Brown, the Page Singers (named after Dr. Fran Page, who was in attendance) directed by associate artistic director Emily Turner, and the Sibley Singers who are also co-directed by Tucker and Brown. Each choir respectively builds upon the other to teach from elementary to advanced high school level. (Bios of the conductors may be read here.)
The concert was programmed to show the progressive nature of how each choir nurtures and prepares the choristers for the next. Highlights were the little Acorns singing "Snowflake Carol" (arr. Kupferschmid) followed by the rambunctious "A Very Scary Sleigh Ride" (Weston) by the Oak Choir. The Mosiac Choir successfully ushered in two-part singing with "On a Starlit Night" (Galina) with a lovely solo by Mia DiDiano of the Page Singers.
This mentorship of the older singers with the younger groups continued with both the Mosaics and Page Singers joining forces on "God Be in My Head" (Ramsey). The Page Singers then brought added skill with each playing Choirchimes while singing a challenging arrangement of "Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming" (arr. Hughes).
The Capital Choir (formerly known as the Boychoir's Performing Choir) looked dashing dressed in traditional Anglican garb including a festive ruff and red sash. They sang with excellent articulation in John Leavitt's arrangement of "Carol of the Bells/The Bells." They were then joined by the Sibley Singers on Victor Johnson's exuberant arrangement of the Zambian song "Bonse Aba" which again incorporated a hand drum accompaniment by fellow singer O'Sullivan to great effect. Conductor Brown was emotive and supportive on the direction of both pieces.
The Sibley Singers displayed an exquisite tone, exemplary control of dynamics, and clear articulation in a moving performance of "O Love" (Hagenberg) under the direction of Tucker. This work also featured wonderful cello accompaniment by Andrew Chung.
The highlight of the evening was a musical treat of the ever popular Polar Express (Silvestri). Having had the opportunity to sing this larger work with the North Carolina Symphony a few weeks back, the Mosaics, Page Singers, and Capital Choir joined forces as soloist and narrator Scott McLeod took us on a wonderful journey to the North Pole. The Acorns and Oaks sat at the feet of the choir listening intently to the story. I am quite sure that all of the singers welcomed the opportunity to do this piece one more time! A special shout out to pianist Jennifer Wolfe who played the part meant for full orchestra. Brava!
The culmination of the concert brought all of the choirs together on "Personent Hodie" (Holst) and a recessional hymn of "Silent Night" with the younger choirs singing the first verse in German. Organist Stephen Aber, who also accompanied all of the congregational hymns, made this one very moving.
What an outstanding and moving performance by all of the musicians! But what struck me most were all of the opportunities for learning and growth that are thoughtfully planted throughout this entire organization. All of the excellent conductors were exceedingly knowledgeable, kind, and helpful in their direction. The performance experience casts a wide net: how to stand with poise and good posture, how to hold a folder and present, bowing, following direction and working as a collective, endurance and attention during longer works, musical literacy, exposure to foreign language and poetry, singing descants above a large congregation, and singing with a variety of instruments (even a symphony orchestra and professional soloist!). Most importantly, all of this is done with pedagogical care and consideration for age appropriate, healthy singing that is simply beautiful. It's pretty ideal and definitely one of the most well-thought-out organizations of its size in the United States and perhaps the world.
Go hear these young singers. They will be performing at Duke Chapel for the next two Sundays and have three concerts scheduled in the new year. If you know of young folks that might be interested, auditions are being held in January and they have 10 weeks of summer camps lined up as well. What a great community! Congratulations to the new Raleigh Youth Choir.