Boys’ Choir Combines Innocence and Depth

Dressed in bright red robes and singing a Gregorian chant entitled “Salve Mater Misericordiae” in clear voices, elementary and middle school-aged boys from the St. Paul’s Choir School in Cambridge, Mass., walked down the aisles of Cochran Chapel, heading toward the stage.

The choir, which includes boys aged nine to 14, sang liturgical music ranging from Gregorian chants to contemporary hymns on Sunday afternoon.

John Robinson, Director and Conductor of the St. Paul’s Choir, said, “[The strongest musical aspect of the choir is] probably their [fearlessness] because they’re so young and inexperienced with concert scenarios. They don’t really think about it. They don’t process it like adults. They don’t have that kind of situation where they’re getting nervous in quite the same way.… They’re not set in their ways so much; they can sometimes respond in performance.”

In addition to the choir, the concert also featured ninth-grader and St. Paul’s Choir alumnus Forrest Eimold, a talented organist. He played a piece entitled “Livre du Saint Sacrement: XIII. Les deux murailles d’eau,” or “The Two Walls of Water,” by Olivier Messian, a contemporary French composer.

The piece began with a series of loud, dissonant chords that ascended and descended through consecutive notes. These jarring yet flowing movements mimicked the sound of a waterfall, true to the title of the piece.

“[Eimold] is fantastic.… Normally people in college [or] graduate school would be playing pieces of that caliber, and he’s in ninth grade. He’s very mature in his ability to interpret really complex music,” said Dr. Abbey Siegfried, Organist and Instructor in Music.

The singers concluded the program with “A Song of Wisdom” by Charles Villiers Stanford. Light organ accompaniment introduced the melody while the boys sang softly. Later, the piece sped up and increased dramatically in volume and energy, transforming into a march that exhibited the singers’ vocal range and ability to transition between high and low notes.

“[A Song of Wisdom] was kind of inspiring in a way. The song and how the choir sounded just awoke some emotions in me,” said audience member Lara Guvelioglu ’16. “The song’s rhythm was very inspiring and hopeful.… I felt a good kind of sadness, bliss, determination and hope.”

After the concert, Robinson hosted a workshop for interested students, teaching them how to read a Gregorian chant called “Dominica II. Post Epiphaniam.” Because Gregorian chants are not written in the same way as most music is today, the expression and interpretation of the piece is more flexible.

“I liked being able to work [step-by-step] through [the piece.] Starting simple, starting with numbers and the piano and then taking away each part one by one until we built ourselves up to the chant. It was really cool, and you saw the freedom that came once you reached that level,” said Michaela Barczak ’15, who participated in the workshop.

The concert was funded by an Abbot Academy Association grant that was initiated by Tom Burnett ’15.

“I graduated from the St. Paul’s Choir School in 2011, and it was a really big part of my childhood, a big part of who I am and really important to me. I wanted to share that with the Andover community. I wanted to share that huge influence on who I am and my identity,” said Burnett.