November 14, 2012

Boychoir Students Welcomed by Others After Lambert Drive Power Outage

BUSINESS AS USUAL: When Hurricane Sandy caused a power outage on Lambert Drive, American Boychoir School (ABS) Math Teacher Shawn Volz simply relocated with her class to a temporary space in Trinity Church. Along with the Church’s hospitality, ABS boarders were welcomed to stay in a number of area homes. (Photo by Lisa Eckstrom)

Did you hear the one about the American Boychoir School? Among the local stories about Sandy and the nor’easter that have emerged in recent days, it’s one of the nicest.

Although scheduled to move to the Princeton Center for Arts and Education (formerly St. Joseph’s Seminary) on Mapleton Road where it will join the Princeton French Academy and Wilberforce School, American Boychoir School (ABS) has remained at its old location on Lambert Drive while updates are being made to its future home. Unfortunately, Lambert Drive was among those Princeton neighborhoods that lost power for an extended period as a result of Sandy; no small hardship for a school where boarders outnumber day students, and a holiday season’s worth of concerts is quickly approaching.

“There were 12 students here when the storm hit,” recalled Assistant Head of School K.P. Weseloh. The subsequent return of a group of choristers who had been out touring almost tripled that number.

Thanks to Princeton’s Trinity Church, which offered classrooms, and to the good will of nearby students’ parents, grandparents, and other friends of the ABS community, all 32 boys were almost seamlessly housed, fed, and schooled — and well-rehearsed. With beautiful spaces at Trinity and Princeton Theological Seminary in which to practice, you could say that the boys didn’t miss a beat.

“If you like chaos, it’s fun,” observed Ms. Weseloh, who was among those providing care and shelter for boys last week. “They’re having a ball meeting new people, living in new spaces, and having new experiences.” The electricity on Lambert Drive returned this weekend, but until then, the boys were welcome to remain in their temporary homes as long as needed.

“If you ask someone to help, they’re more than willing to do it,” Ms. Weseloh reported. For host families, there was the “fun of hearing about the lives of boys who have perfect pitch and travel around the world to perform.”

The boys follow an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedule, so breakfast and dinner were with their host families, while lunch was at the Church. Princeton Windrows, a retirement community located near the school’s future home in Plainsboro, also stepped up to the plate by offering to house the boys. With all the other volunteers coming forward, though, it wasn’t necessary.

Last Thursday, then, was what had become a routine day for ABS students in their new quarters. After a day of academics, members of the choir trooped into the chapel to learn new songs under the tutelage of Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, ABS’s Litton-Liddal music director. Addressing them as “gentlemen,” Mr. Malvar-Ruiz encouraged the boys to sit forward, corrected their pronunciation of Latin words, beckoned them to sing out, and to repeat certain passages. Already beautiful sounds (the boys know how to sight read) became even more beautiful.

The American Boychoir’s upcoming schedule includes a performance of music from Wozzeck, accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra of London at Avery Fisher Hall, in Lincoln Center on Monday, November 19, at 8 p.m. On Thursday, November 29, at 6:30 p.m. they will perform The Christmas Rose with Jane Seymour and the Tim Janis ensemble in Carnegie Hall.

Closer to home, on December 7 at 7:30 p.m. the choir will appear in a concert of “Winter Wonders” at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton; in a program called “Voices of Angels” at the Princeton University Chapel on December 15 at 7:30 p.m.; and in the December 16 “Winter Wonderland Concert” at 4 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus.

In the coming year, area residents will be welcome to hear free, open choir rehearsals once a month on Friday afternoons; check for updates.

The only non-sectarian boys’ choir school in the nation, American Boychoir School was founded in Columbus, Ohio, in 1937, and has been located in Princeton since 1950. Regarded by many as the United States’s premier concert boys’ choir, it includes boys in grades four through eight, with students from across the country and around the world.