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Blend of boys' voices to rise in song

The American Boychoir from New Jersey gives two concerts at Mariner United Methodist Church.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001


SPRING HILL -- The American Boychoir will perform a mix of choral, folk and spiritual songs for Spring Hill audiences this weekend.

The group of 28 boys will give two free concerts sponsored by the Community Performing Arts Guild at Mariner United Methodist Church, which strives to bring affordable musical entertainment to Hernando County.

Heather Maressa with the American Boychoir School in Princeton, N.J., said the group is made up of older boys from the school, which teaches grades 5 through 8. In all, 82 boys are enrolled in the school.

Only a small percentage of the school's students go on to pursue careers in singing, Maressa said. But the lessons they learn they carry through a lifetime.

With early rehearsal schedules, full academic courses and performances, the boys must organize their time.

"You have to look at the whole experience," she said. "The training, discipline and respect they are taught is invaluable."

As part of their schooling, members of the American Boychoir travel all over the United States and the world, Maressa said. Last summer, the group toured Asia, and two weeks ago it performed in Bermuda.

The American Boychoir performs not only classical music, but a wide range of folk and international favorites, Maressa said.

"There is a huge assortment of music they perform," she said.

This weekend's program includes choral masterworks, including Gloria in Excelsis Deo by Guilluame Dufay and O Send Out Thy Light and Thy Truth by Christian I. Latrobe, as well as folk and art songs by Franz Schubert and Pierre Certon.

To mark Black History Month, songs from South Africa, including Tshotsholoza and Siyahamba, will be featured in the concerts.

After each performance, directors hold auditions for anyone interested in attending the school, Maressa said. When they come to the school, the majority of the boys have sung either in church choirs or not at all.

"That is how we get boys from all over the country," she said. "We mold their voice once they get here."

Free tickets for guild events are distributed well in advance of concert dates. Donations are taken at the performance to pay for future shows. If they wish, subscribers can pay $55 and get tickets for the entire season to avoid waiting in lines. A limited number of tickets is available for Saturday's performances.

The choir will perform at 7 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Saturday at Mariner United Methodist Church, 7079 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. For information, call 596-0080.

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