Berkshire Boy Choir
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brunnett-sm.jpg (10719 bytes)The Berkshire Boy Choir first came into being in the summer of 1967 and after intensive rehearsal gave a series of concerts under the direction of George Guest of St. John's College, Cambridge, England. The Choir won golden opinions from the press, and the LP recording made whilst the Choir was in session remains as an eloquent testimony to George Guest's genius in welding a group of voices into a choir of distinction in a very short time.

I am honored and happy to have been invited to succeed Mr. Guest this year in directing the second season of The Berkshire Boy Choir, and it will be my pleasant task and endeavor to carry on the tradition so well begun last year.

Brian Runnett

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In its second season, The Berkshire Boy Choir consists of sixty members, forty-six treble boys and fourteen men. These have been divided into two groups, the concert choir and the cathedral choir. The musical standards of both are identical, with membership being determined by age alone.

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The Concert Choir

The concert choir consists of twenty-six boys of the ages 12 and 13 and all fourteen men. The cathedral choir includes twenty boys from 9 to 12 years old and nine of the adult voices. This division was established for two reasons. The demands of the concert schedule are such that it was impossible during the first season for the Choir to sing more than occasionally in places of worship. It has been central to the concept of the organization that its music must be brought to congregations of all faiths in order, by example, to encourage the improvement of the art and support for it in its most logical setting. Secondly, the establishment of a younger choir would foster greater continuity of the group from year to year.

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The Cathedral Choir

Membership in the Choir is open to boys of all creeds, colors, and economic backgrounds. The choristers of the 1968 Berkshire Boy Choir have been chosen from twenty-three cities in fifteen states. Selection is based upon highly competitive auditions which take place during the winter, and the summer is entirely free to those boys who gain admission. Most of them are the solo boys in their respective choirs. In the 1968 Choir are boys who have sung with the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the New York Pro Musica, the Caramoor Festival, the Boston Lyric Theater, the Meadowbrook Music Festival, the Opera Society of Washington, the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, and many other well-known musical organizations. Almost all of these boys have appeared with major orchestras, and 25 percent have sung on concert tours in Europe.

The men are accomplished professional musicians, including a number of graduate vocal students and at least six with post-graduate degrees in music.

The Berkshire Boy Choir stems from a concern that the tradition of men and boy choruses has been neglected in the United States and that the price of this neglect is both musical and social. The Choir aspires

-to bring a rarely heard sound of highest quality to the general public, without specific religious identification;

-to provide recognition and incentive for musical accomplishment on the part of boys, choirmasters, and the communities which support them; and

-to stimulate boys from all levels of society toward the training and influence of choirs at the local level.

If the art of boy singing is to survive, it must be encouraged within the communities from which the boys are drawn as few American parents today are willing to send pre-adolescent children away in the choir school tradition of past years.

stookey-sm.jpg (10845 bytes)Throughout the urban and suburban areas of the country there are choirs equipped to deliver an excellent training in music free to the willing youngster. There are neither cultural nor economic barriers, and the rewards are far greater than the basic technical training. Examples of successful choirs utilizing local resources are to be found from prosperous suburbs to inner-city poverty areas. The Berkshire Boy Choir would recognize these successes and call attention to the possibilities which they suggest.

Only through the example of musical excellence may the Choir achieve these goals. The Berkshire Boy Choir is particularly fortunate to have Mr. Brian Runnett as its Music Director for the current season. In addition to his reputation as one of England's foremost choirmasters, Mr. Runnett is widely known as a concert organist. The Choir is deeply indebted to its Executive Director, Mr. Ellwood Hill, whose tireless efforts throughout the year are responsible for bringing together these remarkably talented individuals.

In particular, to all of those whose generosity has made this work possible, we wish to express our heartfelt thanks. The Berkshire Boy Choir is entirely dependent upon the support of those who care to encourage this traditional art and who share a concern to stimulate artistic opportunity for boys at an early age.

John Hoyt Stookey


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Copyright 2001
This page was last modified on 01 September 2004