May 8, 2024

Princeton Boychoir Presents Season-Ending Performance

By Nancy Plum

The centuries-old tradition of boys’ choirs has always had a strong presence in the Princeton area. The American Boychoir School musically trained and educated hundreds of young men in its six-decade history in Princeton. Following closure of the Boychoir School, the Westrick Music Academy chose to expand its highly-successful Princeton Girlchoir program by incorporating a boys’ choir under its umbrella, and in the fall of 2017 launched the Princeton Boychoir. Aimed at singers grades three through 12, this program not only provided a musical extension to former American Boychoir members, but has also appealed to a new clientele of talented young performers. Today, the program includes three choirs addressing all stages of the changed and unchanged voice while imparting principles of “confidence, character, and leadership” to create fine young men.

The three ensembles of the Princeton Boychoir presented a season-closing performance this past Saturday night at Princeton’s Nassau Presbyterian Church. Playing on a “May the 4th be with you” Star Wars theme, the choruses performed music invoking both the Earth and the galaxies, also acknowledging graduating seniors and long-term members of the program. The Apprentice Choir, Treble Choir, and Young Men’s Ensemble opened the concert by setting a “celestial” tone for the evening, presenting Jacob Naverud’s “Ad Astra” from memory with a well-blended sound. Conductor Adam Good led the joint ensembles through precise phrasing and a concrete foundation of tenor and bass changed voices supporting the lighter choral tone of the trebles.

Apprentice Choir conductor François Suhr knew when he was an eighth-grader at the American Boychoir School that his future profession would be as a musician, and he has returned to Princeton for a multi-faceted position with the Westrick Music Academy. The 16 members of the Apprentice Choir performed three numbers by noted children’s choral music composers, led by Suhr and ably accompanied by pianist Moriah Kam. With each selection introduced by a narrative written by Choir member Kabir Chopra, the Apprentice Choir consistently sang with dynamic range and a solid full sound on low notes for singers so young. Rollo Dilworth’s arrangement of the spiritual “Shine on Me” showed the choristers able to successfully execute the “blues” harmonies through Suhr’s exacting conducting gestures and over Kam’s gospel accompaniment.

Adam Good conducted the 18-voice Treble Choir in three selections conveying themes of light and journey. Soloist Liam McWha sang assuredly with a clear top register in Paul Mealor’s “I am the Gentle Light,” accompanied by a cleanly-blended chorus. A strong soprano choral sound was evidence in the lyrical melodic passages of Benjamin Britten’s “The Sally Gardens,” and the Choir reached its highest vocal range in Larysa Kuzmenko’s “Stars.” Full quick tricky rhythms well executed by the Treble Choir, this piece was surely both challenging and fun to teach and learn.

Good was also the conductor of the Young Men’s Ensemble, a 19-member chorus of clearly experienced and committed singers. He led the Ensemble in six complex choral numbers, cleanly accompanied by pianist Tyler Weakland. The set opened with the march-like “Book of Boba Fett” theme from the show The Mandalorian smoothly morphing into the very classical “The Last Words of David” of Randall Thompson. The Young Men’s Ensemble is rooted in the male glee club tradition, a genre often hard to find these days. The group sang consistently cleanly in multiple parts, with several stand-out soloists. Tenor Jack Elliott, featured in an arrangement of “Down in the Valley,” sang strongly and accurately, joined in the piece by baritone soloist Willard Johnson. Clement Lacroix and Onyx Roden skillfully performed solos in a rhythmic and jazzy arrangement of “Sixteen Tons,” with Lacroix displaying a voice which would do particularly well in musical theater.

Saturday’s concert ended with all choirs of the Boychoir program singing together, in an arrangement originally by former American Boychoir conductor Wallace Hornady, with Tyler Weakland adding a unique Princeton Boychoir compositional twist. “Come and Sing!” easily summed up the Westrick Music Academy philosophy of “enabling individuals to find their voice through the power of music,” and the camaraderie evident among the choir members on Saturday night demonstrated that these brothers will “sing on” for their entire lives.