What an honor it was to have CBC alum Scott Coulter join the choir as a soloist for Christmas on Broadway! We were thrilled to be able to reconnect him to the choir through this performance, and we can't wait to work with him on other projects in the future!
The Chattanooga Boys Choir hosts a special musical event commemorating the International Day of Peace, also known as “World Peace Day” on Sunday, September 22 in Patten Chapel on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Partnering with a special ensemble of local music educators assembled to expand the repertoire of this event, the choirs will present pieces from across different cultures, languages, and musical styles to promote the cause of piece through the powerful medium of music.
The boys choir will present songs including Al Shlosha D’Varim by Allan Naplan, the text of which is taken from the Pirkei Avot (Jewish morality laws) which translate: “The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice, and by peace.” The choir will also perform contemporary composer Cristy Cary Miller’s setting of the text Dona Nobis Pacem (“Grant Us Peace”) and an arrangement of the beloved Sy Miller tune Let There Be Peace on Earth. The choir is also presenting musical settings of evocative peace-themed texts including Mahatma Gandhi’s “Bet he Change You Want to See in the World” and Andrea Ramsey’s “I Lift My Voice.”
Chattanooga Boys Choir members are also especially proud to present local composer Ethan McGrath’s composition Malala’s Dream, which is a setting of inspiring words of Malala Yousafzai, the young schoolgirl who was attacked by the Taliban in 2012 for voicing her support of equal treatment and opportunities for young women in Pakistan. In surviving the attack and continuing to speak out against injustice, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at just 17 years old.
Members of the project choir – comprised of music educators from around the region – will present Moses Hogan’s arrangement of the African-American Spiritual Deep River and the original composition Prayer by René Clausen, which is based on a text by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The group will perform Wana Baraka, a joyful expression of hope and health from Kenya and Javier Busto’s Et in Terra Pax (“And on earth, peace”). This ensemble will also present McGrath’s setting of Every Valley Shall Be Exalted, with a text from Psalm 140 that was highlighted in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in August of 1963.
The program will close with all in attendance to join the choir in a recording of Ukuthla, a South African song of peace that has become a centerpiece of the #AVoice4Peace movement. The song will be taught on site prior to the start of the concert. This event is free and open to the public.
The last eight days with the Chattanooga Boys Choir and our amazing staff in Costa Rica have been absolutely incredible. Five performances in and around San Jose, masterclasses with choral luminaries Digna Guerra and Tim Sharp, collaborations with area schools and several local and international choirs, exploring the customs (and food!) of this wonderful and generous culture, visiting breathtaking volcanoes, the rain forest ecosystem, and centuries-old landmarks ...this was a remarkable trip, and I could not be more proud of our choristers or more grateful for our talented and caring staff who took such great care of all of us!
While the highlights above will remain with me forever, I will also remember watching older choristers help our newer and more anxious travelers through the rigors of tour with positivity and encouragement, having an Argentinian conductor stop me in the airport and summon a coffee barista to translate her effusive praise for the boys, witnessing a senior chorister fix a younger boy's glasses using electrical tape and a paper clip, having a restaurant manager confide in me that he and his staff were nervous about hosting such a large group of boys but was overjoyed with their kindness and conduct, and witnessing a grateful older woman put the faces of two boys in her hands with tears running down her face after their performance - they did not speak a common language, but they each knew exactly what was on each other's hearts.
The theme of the event was, aptly, a choral festival for peace. It became more evident through the week that singing is both a natural vehicle for and expression of peace that is understood worldwide. It was also a reminder that choral music brings together people in a magical way that allows us to know ourselves and each other better, so that beauty can be found in both the literal and figurative harmony that results. My congrats to all, and my most sincere thanks to the choristers, CBC families, and staff!
Et in Terra pax, and PURA VIDA!
What do you do when rehearsals are canceled due to inclement weather? Practice at home, of course! Mr. Oakes issued a " Snow Day Challenge," asking members of the Handel, Concert, and Cantabile choirs to send in a picture of themselves rehearsing their music. What a creative bunch!
Over the course of sixteen seasons with the Chattanooga Boys Choir, I have had many “favorites” – performances that have been artistically stunning, travels that have been eye-opening, and several opportunities to watch boys grow into musically mature and intellectually curious young men. My life has been enriched many times over by the boys’ generous sharing of themselves in rehearsal and performance, as they create a wonderful artistic product that is truly greater than the sum of their parts.
One relatively recent “favorite” occurred during the choir’s summer tour of 2016, when we presented a Civil Rights-themed program in the Civil Rights museums of Memphis TN, Birmingham AL, Montgomery AL, and Atlanta GA. While preparing the repertoire for our travels, I shared several stories about those who faced opposition and overcame adversity during the Civil Rights Movement, leading our nation toward the prized goal of equality. The conversations this sparked with the boys were incredible – they shared their admiration of these great leaders of the past, recognized those who were at work today with such efforts, and commented on how they themselves might be agents of change not only as leaders of tomorrow but as active youth today in their families, schools, and communities.
One song that captured the essence of their discussion was “Like a Mighty Stream” by Rollo Dilworth, a setting of a portion of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s I Have a Dream speech where, paraphrasing the book of Amos, Dr. King states:
“We are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
So remarkable is this quote, it is etched into the memorial fountain at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery AL and in the entryway of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Hearing a song of such gravity performed by these talented young people provides both hope and caution, as we balance the tensions of optimistic youth with present realities, casting both light and a pall on the shared hope that we are leaving our children with a world better than the one we inherited.
As the choir performed the piece in the bustling lobby of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, I was struck by this text after touring this remarkable museum, especially given Dr. King’s storied career in Atlanta. While the boys were singing “Like a Mighty Stream,” I noticed some high school-aged students gesturing and pointing in the direction of the choir. A bit unnerved, I tried to ignore them and identify which of the boys had captured their attention, assuming it was not for a good reason (the boys will tell you of the importance I place on remaining focused on the performance/task at hand!). As I glanced inquisitively at the left edge of the choir, I was able to identify the subject of the audience members’ attention. Over the shoulders of those boys, etched into the wall just behind where they were performing, were the same words from Dr. King that we had been singing for the last several minutes – “Let justice roll, like a mighty stream…” In a rare break in character, in front of a lobby filled with tourists and audience members, I asked the boys to turn around and view the words after they finished the piece. An interesting mixture of glee and gravity came over the choir, as they realized more fully the impact of these words and the meaning that was added when we presented it together in our community of song.
The role of music in the Civil Rights movement and other historic moments and movements throughout history is well-documented. Singing brings people together in an instant, further unifying their collective ability to bring about change and – literally and figuratively – giving voice to their concerns, outrage, hopes, and dreams. As a form of collective protest and of personal expression, music allows people to communicate for, as Hans Christian Andersen identifies, “when words fail, music speaks.”
Participation in the Chattanooga Boys Choir is so much more than preparing repertoire and learning proper singing technique (though we’re certainly proud of those as well!). Singing in the choir is an exercise in effort and humility, grit and artistry, excellence and community that transcends the lone effort of any individual. Numerous studies from recent years espouse the health benefits of singing, the increased neural activity observed in music-making, and the accelerated learning of the musically-oriented mind. However, I am reminded as we observe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that being a part of the choir allows tremendous growth of the heart. As the boys breathe life into a variety of pieces from different cultures, languages, time periods, and perspectives, and as they work side-by-side with others to create beautiful moments which can never be replicated, they are participating in something that makes them not just better singers and musicians, but provides them with a foundation to be outstanding people and citizens.
While “Aha!” moments of turning around and seeing the lyrics of a song you are singing emblazoned on the wall behind you are rare, it is not uncommon for the meaning and the message of such pieces to make their way from the boys’ voices and ears into their minds and hearts. Already this semester, we have explored the resiliency found in the African-American spiritual, the power of raising one’s voice in song, and celebrated the importance of community in Swahili (Sisi Ni Moja / “We Are One”). Thank you for allowing your chorister to participate in this exercise and find strength with one another as they lend their voice to the choir.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Chattanooga Boys Choir celebrated World Peace Day on Thursday, September 21 by presenting "Symphony of the Heart: Songs for the International Day of Peace" at Barger Academy and East Ridge Elementary schools. Pieces of Andre Thomas, Rollo Dilworth, Jim Papoulis, and others, as well as the #AVoice4Peace inspired "Ukuthula" with hundreds of AMAZING elementary school students. Thank you, Kevin Fenton, for the inspiration, to Charlene Potts and Michael Mitchel for their assistance and incredible devotion to their students and schools, and the CBC staff for their work with our CBC ambassadors of peace!
"***In my heart I can hear it…I hear a symphony.
All of the instruments are playing the same song.
As different as they may be, they all work together in harmony. Imagine the world as a symphony.***
***Lift ev’ry voice and let us sing! In ev’ry song let freedom ring! From ev’ry soul comes a noble dream.
Let justice roll like a mighty stream.***
***I dream a world where man no other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth and peace its paths adorn, I dream.***
*** When I close my eyes then I can see; when I close my eyes I'm alive. When I close my eyes then I can see; and I am not afraid. When I try to see the reasons why, if I ever could understand. When I find the hope to let me try, and I am not afraid.**
***Hine ma tov uma na'im, shevet achim gam yachad (How good it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in peace)***
Another week of summer camp is in the books! The week was full of rehearsals, theory classes, theory lab, team building games, art projects, swimming, slip-n-slide, a Talent Show, Skit Night, drumming classes, and of course, Mr. Henderson's Shaved Ice!
Today was spent at the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College. Following a quick warm up, the choir was escorted onto stage at the LeFrak Concert Hall where they performed four selections from the summer tour repertoire. The rest of the day was spent in workshops with clinicians and listening to other choirs perform. The boys ended the day back in the Times Square area with a little bit of souvenir shopping, dinner at Dallas BBQ, and celebrity spotting at Madame Tousseau's Wax Museum.
Downpour. A much needed morning downpour ended just in time to board the buses, and it brought with it a 15 degree drop in temperature and a cool breeze for most of the day. Light traffic had the choir arriving at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine early enough to enjoy a stroll around the block to Morningside Park and a quick visit to the Peace Fountain, located just beside the church. The choir was given a brief history and tour of the church and some time to explore in small groups. At 10:00am, the choir presented a 30 minute selection of pieces from the tour program. The boys were thrilled to see so many relatives and friends from near and far who had come to see them perform.
Following a quick lunch in small groups around Amsterdam Avenue, the choir boarded the coaches and headed to the September 11th Memorial and the One World Observatory in the Freedom Tower. It was a relatively clear day, and the view was amazing from 102 floors up.
Dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co was followed by the amazing show, Wicked, at the Gershwin Theater on Broadway. There may have been a quiet chorus singing along to "For Good" :-) Whew! Now for some sleep.
One of the traditions of touring with the Chattanooga Boys Choir is the "evening meeting," typically in the lobby of a hotel at the end of the day. The events of the day are recounted, details for the following day discussed, and questions answered. This year there are 53 choristers on tour, a record number, with a typical roster closer to 35 choristers. A group of that size presents numerous challenges from requiring 2 coaches to not being able to cross the streets in NYC at one time. In the "evening meeting" on the first day of tour, chaperones had an opportunity to discuss any concerns they observed over the course of the day. Every single chaperone recounted comments they received or overheard on the bus, in the airport, in restaurants, on the hotel, and on the plane about how kind, thoughtful, and gentlemanly our choristers are. Parents of these young men, you should be so very proud of your sons. Alumni, you should be thrilled to know that your legacy is continuing. Chattanoogans, you should be proud of how these boys are representing your city.