Why a Boy Choir?

01 August 1998

A Letter to Albuquerque Boy Choir Parents, August, 1998

Dear Parents:

Thanks, in advance, for sharing your sons with us this year!  Why a boy choir?  In our politically-correct times, I have been asked that by those who feel that a boy choir is a sexist throwback.  Being a composer, I've been in love with beautiful sounds since I was little, and I've been fortunate to have heard [almost] every thing I've written.  Out of all the sounds I have used, my absolute favorite is a well-trained boy choir.  When it is done well, there is a purity and energy that boy choirs seem to be able to make better than anyone else.  Jerome Wright, founder of the Northwest Boy Choir, sums it up:  "The sound of choirboys is a fleeting, hauntingly beautiful thing, precious because of its unique quality, perhaps doubly so because of the short time such a voice is among us."

There is also a need for boys to have something in common at which they can excel--in addition to the usual avenues of sports, scouts, etc.  At their age--and given our society's tendency to rush them into manhood--it is healthy for them to do something together that is communicative and sensitive, and of which they can be proud, including the ancient boychoir tradition itself.

For a young maturing boy to do his job and know that it has been done to the best of his ability gives an immeasurable sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  Our goal is to help boys make music, and magic, today--cherishing and sharing the best of their boyhood--and to help them grow into strong and sensitive men for tomorrow, as they see that successes become reality through hard work, patience and awareness of their environment.  They learn that the pursuit of excellence really can be a worthwhile endeavor.  We tell them, "Don't wait to be a great man; be a great boy."

A boy choir is a great way to bring some balance and power into a boy's life--and for him to give back something wonderful to his family, his city, even complete strangers.  Let me close with two paragraphs I wrote at the end of my first year, and which I re-read at each Spring Concert:

Yes, I like boys.  I like the way they walk, talk and think.  But above all, I like the way they sound when they sing.  And, yes, I like to hug them and hold them.  But what I'm really after is their hearts.  I want to see them give the best part of themselves to making magic for others.

It isn't easy to win the heart of a boy.  And some will say that it isn't a prize worth having--that it is shallow, fickle, and selfish.  It is a bit self-occupied, but not because it wants only for itself.  It senses that when it gives, it will give unconditionally, so it studies the worthiness of the recipients of its love first.  But once the commitment is made--whether to persons or principles--it seems to be a lifelong allegiance.

So, no, it isn't easy to win the heart of a boy, but what a priceless thing it is.