By Adisa Nickerson
Executive Director, Georgia Boy Choir
On Sunday, Aug. 3, the Georgia Boy Choir and Peachtree Road United Methodist Church Choir (both from Buckhead) will join forces to raise money for Action for Children by presenting a two-hour special charity choir performance at Wesley’s Chapel in London.
The performance will begin at 11 a.m. EST with a half hour intermission. This performance will mark the culmination of the tour for the Georgia Boy Choir, which began on July 18.
The 30 choristers from the Georgia Boy Choir were invited to be the Choir-In-Residence for a week at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “What this means,” says David R. White, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Atlanta-based ensemble, “is that we are responsible for singing the daily service of Choral Evensong, essentially representing the Church of England to the parishioners of the Cathedral and to the thousands of tourists who flock there every day.”
The choir will be in England for 16 days total. The first week of their trip they were based in the beautiful town of Ludlow in Shropshire, not too far from the Welsh border. While in Ludlow, the boys were housed on the campus of Bedstone College. From there they made day trips to give concerts or perform Evensong in Chester Cathedral, Dore Abbey, Shrewsbury Abbey, Hererford Cathedral and St. Laurence’s Church.
Then they traveled to London, where the choristers are being housed in the dormitories of the St. Paul’s Cathedral choristers (who are away for the summer holiday) while performing their duties at St. Paul’s Cathedral. White explained, “Singing for a cathedral residency is much harder work than our usual concert tours. Normally we prepare a concert of 1 to 2 hours’ length, and then essentially go from one location to the next performing the same concert. But in this case, we have to have all new music prepared for every day that we are there.” Choral Evensong is a mostly sung liturgical service that has been performed almost every day at St. Paul’s for centuries.
There are proscribed texts, which are part of Evensong. Each day there is a setting of the Magnficat (prayer of Mary) and the Nunc Dimmitis (prayer of Simeon), plus an anthem, plus numerous liturgical prayers and sung responses. “Perhaps the most challenging aspect, musically,” said White, “is the Anglican Psalm chanting. Every day there is an appointed Psalm, which the choir must chant. The English are very particular about the way the Psalms are chanted.”
The role of the organ is significant for a quality performance of Choral Evensong. “We are privileged that Scott Atchison will be on the organ bench for us,” White adds. “Scott (the Georgia Boy Choir’s Organist and Associate Conductor) is truly one of the finest organists alive today. His musicality and insight are invaluable to us.” Atchison is the Director of Music at Peachtree Road United Methodist where the Georgia Boy Choir serves as “Ensemble-in-Residence.” Incidentally, the Peachtree Road United Methodist Choir will be Choir-in-Residence at St. Paul’s the week immediately after the Georgia Boy Choir’s tenure there.
It hasn’t been all work and no play for the members of the Georgia Boy Choir. While in England they have had the opportunity to experience much of what that country has to offer. They visited several castles, spent an afternoon playing cricket, participated in an acting workshop at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, taken a cruise through London on the Thames, and gone punting on the river in Oxford. “While we are very serious about the work we have to do,” said White, “it is also important that the boys learn about, see, and experience the culture of the country.” To help ensure that happens, White has each boy write an essay about one of the sites they will visit and read his report aloud to the rest of the group.
Established in 2009, the Georgia Boy Choir has quickly gained a reputation as one of the finest choirs of its kind. Known for the transcendent beauty of their singing and powerful, nuanced musical interpretation, the choir has garnered an impressive international fan base through its many performance videos on YouTube, which have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of listeners in more than 170 countries all around the world. Operating on a five-tier music education system, the choir serves more than 100 boys and young men from all around the metropolitan Atlanta region.
In the summer of 2010 the choir embarked on its first international tour, delighting thousands throughout the country of China. In 2011 they traveled to England where they were the Choir-In-Residence at both Wells Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. Summer 2012 saw the boys and young men in Scandinavia where they performed in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia. The Georgia Boy Choir made its Carnegie Hall debut in May of 2013. Next summer they will be returning to China where they have a large following.