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VOL. 126 | NO. 233 | Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Calvary Series Welcomes Boychoir’s Angelic Voices

By Aisling Maki

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After returning from a tour of the nation’s capital that included performances at the National Cathedral, Basilica of the Immaculate Shrine, and the Canadian and Singapore embassies, the Memphis Boychoir celebrates the holy season of Advent with a hometown performance at Calvary Episcopal Church.

The Wednesday, Nov. 30, performance is the second-to-last in the Calvary & the Arts Concert Series, a unique, free and convenient lunchtime musical experience at Calvary, 102 N. Second St., in the heart of Downtown Memphis.

Each autumn, the mother parish of the Episcopal Church in Memphis invites people of all faiths and from all walks of life to enjoy eight free concerts representing the diverse sounds of the city.

The Calvary & The Arts Series is offered in memory of Dottie Jones, the late mother of current Daily News Publishing Co. Inc. president Peter Schutt. Dottie and husband John Paul “Jack” Jones were inspired by a free lunchtime concert they had attended during a trip to New York City.

After returning to Memphis, the couple approached Calvary, asking the church to organize a similar series, and Calvary has been hosting it ever since with the Jones family’s sponsorship.

This year’s series has featured an eclectic mix of performers singing sacred and secular music, from Grammy-winning jazz artist and Soulsville Foundation CEO Kirk Whalum to folk-rock ladies Holly Cole and the Memphis Dawls to the Memphis Boychoir.

“It’s Memphis,” said Geoffrey Harris Ward, artistic director of the Memphis Boychoir. “You’ve got all these fantastic musicians like Kirk Whalum, and in the past they’ve had people like the opera singer Kallen Esperian. So you’ve got all these people who are so well-regarded in the genre they perform in. For the boys, it’s a thrill and an honor to be invited to participate and to help continue the process of exposing Memphis to all these wonderful styles of music that can co-exist and be supportive of one another.”

The Memphis Boychoir was founded 24 years ago as a music outreach program of St. John’s Episcopal Church. The choir is now its own nonprofit, still based at and supported by the church.

“You’ve got all these people who are so well-regarded in the genre they perform in. For the boys, it’s a thrill and an honor to be invited to participate and to help continue the process of exposing Memphis to all these wonderful styles of music that can co-exist.”

–Geoffrey Harris Ward
Artistic Director, Memphis Boychoir

The choir is made up of 22 boys, all in second through sixth grade, from across the city and county, although past members have included boys from North Mississippi and Eastern Arkansas.

Open auditions are held to find new talent, and many boys are referred by music teachers who’ve taken notice of their talent and commitment. The next round of auditions will take place in January.

“Our goal is to expose these boys to a high level of music-making and to enhance the music that they’re already exposed to, whether it’s through Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools, private schools or home schools, because we draw from all of those educational outlets,” said Ward, who also serves as organist and choir master at St. John’s. “We want to be part of their music education, but also – and I think more importantly – be part of their development as they become the next leaders in the city of Memphis. We want them to be able to take these experiences that we provide and that can factor into their growth and personal development.”

Ward said the Memphis Boychoir’s performance Wednesday will also feature The Memphis Chamber Choir, an auditioned adult choir, which he said will be a genuine honor for the boys.

“That’s a real special group of people because not only are they very talented musicians, but they’re also exposing the boys to music making at a very high level,” Ward said. “When the boys, at age 7 or 8, are exposed to that level of singing – that’s like planting seeds. It’s crucial for what we’re doing.”

Ward this fall embarked on a new project, the Memphis Girlchoir.

“They’re different from the boys, as you can imagine,” Ward said. “But they’re just so much fun. Kids love music and being exposed to this high level of music at such a young age is a really positive thing for everyone involved.”

The Memphis Boychoir will perform Wednesday at noon at Calvary Episcopal Church. The concert is free and open to the public, and a light, boxed lunch will be offered for $5 following the concert.

Visit www.calvarymemphis.com and www.memphisboychoir.org for more information.

The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc. is a supporter of the Calvary & the Arts Concert Series.

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