NEW YORK— A mystical harp and a beautiful voice resonated from the side of the church. Enchanted by this sound, the audience turned to watch the singer as a group of sopranists began singing from the center stage. Yet, instead of an ensemble of women, the notes were sung by young boys.
The Transfiguration Choir of Men and Boys is one of the few remaining male choirs in New York. It is a 155-year-old tradition of the Church of the Transfiguration. The group joined the Girls Choir, and Camerata with the Transfiguration Early Instrument Ensemble in a concert called “A Baroque Christmas” at the Church of Transfiguration on Dec. 14.
The Transfiguration Choir of Men and Boys consists of 16 boys, ranging from ages 8 to 14. Eight professional adult men sing the alto, tenor, and bass parts with the boys. The group is the oldest of such choirs in the United States, and the only one not affiliated with a school.
The boys must audition to get accepted, and are paid for their weekly rehearsals and performances through scholarships from the Anthony J. Mercede Scholarship Fund.
The style of men and boys choirs began in the 19th century cathedral and collegiate choirs of England, where the upper line of the musical score (also known as the treble part) is written specifically for boy sopranos.
The group sings works from the English and European choral tradition, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, William Byrd, Joseph Haydn, and Ned Rorem.
The evening’s performance included Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria”; Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Messe de Minuit pour Noël (Kyrie and Gloria)”; “In Nativitatem Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Canticum”; “Noels pour Instruments”; and two French carols: “Il est né le divin enfant” and “Noel Noevelet,” arranged by John Rutter.
The conductor for the evening was Claudia Dumschat, the music director of the Church of Transfiguration.
Dumschat’s said she had conducted Vivaldi compositions on numerous occasions over 20 years ago, but none could quite compare with the evening’s performance, which included a soft orchestra with hushed violins.
“It really brought out the choir, and there was a feeling of unity,” Dumschat said. “This made the group sound like one, instead of a separate choir and orchestra.”
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