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Philadelphia Boys Choir Holiday Concerts a Philly Tradition

The Philadelphia Boys Choir is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Boys as young as seven are invited to audition or attend summer camps.




The Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale performing at Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

Photo Courtesy of Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale

You've heard of the Philadelphia Boys Choir. You've seen them in their red jackets for years on TV or at sporting events. But if you've never heard them in person, this is the perfect season for you and the family to remedy that.

In its 50th-anniversary year, the choir is as busy as ever. It has 29 Nutcracker performances; nine holiday pops concerts; various tree lightings, local and national TV appearances (The choir is scheduled to be on The Today Show on Monday, Dec. 23) and three of its own holiday concerts. It had to turn down a request by the Eagles to sing the National Anthem. (Maybe for the playoffs?)

They invited us to attend the first of their holiday concerts last week at St. Katherine of Siena Church in Wayne, PA. There are two more shows – Dec. 20 in Haddon Heights, NJ and Dec. 22 in Philadelphia.

Introduce kids to choral performance

If you have kids, even young ones, who have any interest in singing, attending a performance of the choir will show them an option different from popular music or musical theater. At its holiday shows, the choir even welcomes its youngest singers-in-training to perform a couple light holiday numbers. Some of them are as young as seven. Once they have learned proper singing technique through the training program and are able to memorize 12 songs from the repertoire, they are invited to join the performance choir.

In order to add depth to the choir, alumni form the chorale of adults and teens whose voice have moved into their deeper, adult range.

There is a separate girls choir as well. "Boys' voices create a different timbre (color of sound) than girls' voices," the organization explains on its webiste. "Composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Britten and Berstein have all written music specifically for boys' voices."

Indeed, the first half of the choir's holiday concert takes advantage of some of those classical compositions from Benjamin Britten and John Rutter along with arrangements of Silent Night, We Three Kings and Do You Hear What I Hear?

Auditions, camps, world tours

After a brief intermission, the youngest singers in the Beginning and Advanced Cadets come out to sing Snoopy's Christmas. The full performance choir returns with Santa caps to set the mood for the rest of the second half.

From Winter Wonderland to Joy to the World, the two-hour performance closes with a better understanding why we often associate the voices of angels with those of young boys. In fact, this year's program is called Sing, Choirs of Angels.

If it inspires aspriing singers in your family, details on how to audition can be found on Phillyboyschoir.org. No prior musical experience is required, but for those who are still hesitant, the choir holds summer camps for choral, musical theater and opera. 

Those who make it to the performance choir have the chance to join the annual summer touring trips, which this year will go to South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. The choir has also been to Australia, Russia, China, Argentina and Spain as well as other countries.

Those red jackets sure do get around.

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