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Touring: The Invaluable Experience

Each season Houston Boychoir embarks on a concert tour, somewhere. It could be across the state or it could be across the country. But, in this, our 50th anniversary season, 25 incredibly lucky boys traveled across the globe to South Africa.

The choristers think this is their big reward for working hard all year and being in the choir. As their director, I know their reward comes in all they learn.  If you are one of those angels who have supported Houston Boychoir in all they do and even more this season with the grand tour, here, in their voice is how much you impacted a bunch of pre-teen boys.

On Tour:

I learned how to be responsible and how to manage time wisely. These two things will get me far in life…Liam A. 8th grade

Sometimes long bus rides with your friends are more fun than short plane rides and patience and flexibility really are keys to being successful…Nicholas V. 7th grade

I learned how to pack efficiently, lead a group responsibly, and how to interact with new people with a different world view…Jonathan Z. 8th grade

On tour I learned how to quickly put on my formal uniform while still doing it correctly…Coleman H. 6th grade

I learned how to be responsible for myself! Keeping track of my stuff, waking up at the right time, spending money in controlled amounts, and making sure I keep up with the group.  I think these are important life skills that are necessary to succeed…Patrick J. 6th grade

On tour, this tour especially, I learned patience. Being with a younger person and trying to understand their position is what has helped me learn this skill. There are too many things I could write for what I learned but I will just focus on one. The greatest thing I learned was maturity, a lesson that I am grateful for…Jacob M. 8th grade

I learned on tour that many countries are as modern as America and in the choir I learned that if you work hard, you will make the group better…David G. 5th grade

I learned how to pack my bag, how to be ready when it is time to move and how to listen for instructions…Royce S. 6th grade

I have learned how to pack my own bag and how to organize myself…Elliot S. 5th grade

On tour I’ve learned about communicating with people I don’t know (strangers). The home stays challenged me socially because I have trouble catching on but from now on I have a better idea of what to do. I am less shy from this experience…Gerry M. 6th grade

The thing I learned from tour is that you have to be formal for most of the time and you can’t be rude to anyone. What I learned from the choir this year is that you always have fun and you are a professional…anon.

As the directors and staff ready for a new season and new boys we look with enthusiasm for all the learning we can do along side these remarkable boys. Thank you for all your support and see you at the concerts.Image

 

Two Weeks to South Africa

The start of an adventure. It has been years in the making. It was summer tour 2010 on tour in Baltimore when we said let’s go to South Africa for the 50th Anniversary Summer Concert Tour of the Singing Boys of Houston, now Houston Boychoir. So for the next two seasons we did a little extra fundraising and worked ahead and then the real planning began in the spring of 2012.

Thank goodness for the internet. We had our dear Jannie to send the names of choirs to contact and so it began. A wonderful agenda has been put together for the education of the boys both musical, geographical and social. But before we leave there is the packing.

Now as a traveler, I believe in going it light but not when traveling with HBC. Then it is traveling for 35. What do we need? Med forms, uniforms, gifts, first aid kits, extra ties, extra music, permissions and passports. New communication accessories and lists and more lists.

It’s 13 days until we leave. It is 8:30 PM as I write this and 13 days from now, we will be half way to Amsterdam and less than a third of the way to our first destination of Cape Town.

I hope you’ll join us as we go. If you want to send advice on travel, do so before July 16th. By then we will be up in the air and off and running.

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2010 on tour when we decided to go to South Africa. Look everybody likes the news

A Trip to the Hospital

To be a member of the Houston Boychoir is to experience life in ways that are unique to the average boy between the ages of 10 and 18. On such opportunity came when we decided to take our talents into the Texas Medical Center this holiday season.

 

It was a beautiful morning on December 8th when the boys of the Chamber Choir set out for Texas Children’s Hospital to spread good cheer and sing.

 

This was a new experience for these boys and in the early morning chill didn’t know what the day would bring.

 

Santa's Medical Center Workshop

Santa’s Medical Center Workshop where we warmed up and sang a few carols for the early morning hospital shift as they arrived.

 

HBC Friend, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia

Singing began in the lobby when who did we meet but HBC Friend, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and his crew, there to bring presents to the children.

 

The Journey Within

The great discipline taught through the study of music creates boys who are unique in their ability to emulate the adults they meet and adapt to the expectations of the environment they visit. And so the boys had the privilege to enter the floors and sing for the patients, their families and the all important hospital staff, doctors, nurses, aides, technicians, all who were there on a Saturday working in an emotionally charged atmosphere with children and health concerns.

 

Boys had the opportunity to sing for patients while on dialysis and their parents who sit with them tirelessly. The nurses on staff seemed to enjoy the joy of the singing as much or even more than anybody.

 

 

 

 

 

We hear they have few visitors on Saturdays and everybody seemed to be glad we were there. We could tell because we heard them singing along.

 

It was a privilege to be in the hospital and we knew it. After dialysis it was time for lunch so we went to the cafeteria where we were treated to cheese and pepperoni pizzas. Always a favorite with singing boys!

 

Of course all the hospital staff and some patients who were having lunch in the cafeteria wanted to hear Christmas carols too so we sang for them. The cafeteria lady who worked the cash register grinned the whole time!

 

 

 

All in all it was a trip to be remembered. At the next rehearsal the boys talked about how much it meant to them to be so close to the people in the hospital, the children, their parents and the staff.

 

To sing and to see on all the faces the sadness that comes from being in the hospital and the joy the boys could bring singing.

 

Gingerbread House Project Texas Children's Hospital  December 8, 2012

Gingerbread House Project Texas Children’s Hospital
December 8, 2012

 

 

 

A Boy and his Spoon!

Mr. Fowler surveys the playing field.Going Deep.The Winner!

You can imagine that with 50 years of singing boys, there are many traditions in Houston Boychoir.  The most honorable award is the Singing Boy of the year, but my personal favorite is the Spoon Award.

One of the fun things about being in Houston Boychoir  [are] that we have many opportunities to eat out; that is where the Spoon Award comes in. In order to win this award you have to eat every thing on your plate and be neat, (or as Mr. Fowler is quick to remind us, ” it is quantity and quality”)  but the spoon is always watching!

In my 2 years of going on tour with HBC, after our formal dinner we’ve always gone to get ice cream. Every boy gets whatever he wants and then the 4 boys, that have been neat and have eaten every thing on their plate, year round, are chosen to participate in the competition.

At the competition Mr. Fowler orders a lot of ice cream. The four boys sit at a table with the ice cream. They have a specified limit to eat but, there’s one more twist, you don’t get to eat with regular utensils, you must eat with an item that has something to do with tour (this year it was a miniature minor’s hat keyring or it could be a guitar pick like the year we were in Nashville). Eventually after all that, the boys start eating. When the time limit ends they are judged on neatness and amount eaten. Who ever wins gets the special spoon for the year and his name on a plaque. If the same person gets it for 3 years the spoon is retired.

Going Deep.

Adrian Alhadidi, 7th grade

The Winner!

A Boy Does a Man’s Work

Here is where they begin

Once In Royal David’s City, a traditional solo for a boy to sing during the Christmas season. Houston Boychoir featured two boys at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. St. Martin’s is the largest Episcopal Parish in the United States and the architecture is that of a gothic cathedral in the french style. It is a magnificent building to the glory of God.

But that’s not what prompts me, a music teacher and director to write. How do I say how proud I am of these two boys. Having taught for 20+ years I can tell you that these are quite ordinary boys. Today 2 sang. One is in 6th grade and one in 7th grade. They’re good students, both like popular music, they both enjoy video games and the computer and they still enjoy their parents. They are ordinary boys…

Until you put them in an environment of adult musicians and ask them to respond accordingly…and they do. They read music with the best of them, and they can adapt to new situations with the flash of a simple instruction. They stand like pros with not a hint of nervousness. They are truly amazing.

They make me so proud and assure me that what I have been called to do is the right thing. The right thing for me, for them, for their parents and for our future world together. How lucky I was to be called to this work, how fortunate indeed that I have been fulfilled in my love of music from childhood.

If you are reading this and you are the parent of a youngster, get them enrolled in music as fast as you can. Not to study music with the intent of making it their life work or becoming great artists.  Obviously society would be in trouble if everyone wanted only to be a great musician. But, studies have been done for some time now on basic intelligence as it relates to learning music and every child  if given the opportunity will benefit in scores of ways from music.

Music is mathematic in its rhythmic aspects.  Time is precisely subdivided into fractions which must be figured out on the spot from the musical notation. And they have to do it in their head, there is not time to work it out on paper.

Music teaches scientific principles of acoustics including sound intensity, tone quality, volume changes, melody and harmony.  each of these is related to its aesthetic implications.  through learning to tune and handle their instruments or voices, children can learn about harmonic vibrations and overtones.  They learn that the faster the vibration, the higher the pitch and the slower the vibration the lower the pitch and what sort of energy does it need to make that vibration at exactly the right speed and intensity.

Music teaches foreign language.  Terms in French, Italian and German tell us that there are many ways of saying the same thing.  Songs learned in foreign languages help accustom the child to the words and sounds of the language.  Text is more easily remembered when set to music.  It is truly the universal language.

Music teaches history,  Each of the recorded periods of human history has had a musical counterpart.  The music of each period expresses the times of which it is born.

Music teaches geography and understanding of different cultures.  The nature, the emotional makeup of a people is expressed in its music.  we learn specific feelings about a nationality as they are put forth by its composers, who often incorporate existing folk musical idioms in their music to create a nationalistic sense.

Physically, the study of music requires muscular coordination, agility and motor control.  Muscles of the hands, fingers, face and diaphragm must work together with perfect timing.  Kinesthetic senses develop as they relate to the sound that the ear hears and the mind interprets.

Music is art because it is human expression.  It is a medium through which man can express beauty.  Great music from all eras is great because it has power to humanize mankind.  It teaches us to be more feeling and sensitive.  It can take away depression.  It can provide impetus for action.  It can poetically describe all ranges of human emotion.  It can soothe troubled nerves or bring light into a dark world.  It can bless us with precious humor and increase our understanding of beauty, of compassion, of gentleness, of goodness and of life.  It can inspire men and women to good deeds and bring them closer to an infinite beyond this world.

Few things teach self-discipline as effectively as daily musical practice.  The work is not easy, and determination is required in order to reap the rewards.  David P. Gardner, president of the University of California, stated the case succinctly in an interview for the August 1984 issue of B.Y.U. TODAY when he said, “I think my capacity to concentrate and to be self disciplined in my approach to problems was significantly helped by my training on the piano and pipe organ.”

Musical training cultivates musical taste.  If children are not exposed to music of the masters, there is no reason to assume that they will choose to listen to it.  What’s more, it is the music that the children make themselves that has the greatest impact on them.  For a youngster, being in the heart of the group, the choir or orchestra, is many times more rewarding than listening to the same music performed by someone else.  Children who have a taste for a broad range of the great music will still enjoy what is popular, but they also know something greater!

So as I wish you all a happy New Year and I thank you for the privilege of working with your sons I congratulate you on having the foresight and the fortitude to stick with these extracurricular demands placed on you, on your children and on your family. It is worth it for your son and for the world in which we live.

English: No. 71 from St. Matthew Passion from ...

St. Matthew's Passion

It’s still a boy’s voice!

Singing in the Houston Boychoir is really fun because we get to go to all these cool places to perform. For instance, just since September we’ve sung at several weddings and toured to Austin.

What I am REALLY thinking when I perform when I sing, I have no feelings of stage fright. As I sing, I am mostly thinking about what words come next. Even when it’s really tempting to look around, I don’t, because maybe Mrs. Nelson is giving a really important signal and it would be embarrassing if I missed it.

Some of the older boys tell me about funny stuff they see in the audience but I really don’t notice very funny things because I am looking at the Director.

Our Director makes us work really hard, but I like it. For instance, take a song that we recently performed, the German carol, In Dulci Jubilo. We spent many hours in total working on the last chord! I love how Mrs. Nelson pays attention to detail. She makes sure that we sound good.

 

Seb, 5th grade

And So It Begins…Renewal

In March there is Baseball Spring Training and in August there is Summer Camp for Houston Boychoir. For more than 30 years new boys, Rookies, head to camp with seasoned the seasoned boys to begin the rigorous training required to do the job and all that is required of membership with the chosen few, boys who sing.

They are a remarkable bunch of boys, who don’t know they are children. While in HBC mode they work like men and sing…so overused to say sing like angels! So I will say that their sound is extraordinary it can both melt the heart and make it ache for more.

Six of these boys have gone from sitting on the floor cross-legged to standing for hours and holding a folder full of music about a third of which will be memorized by their first performances in September.

But at this particular moment they run and shout and play in the same manner that all the other campers with whom we share these beautiful woods do. In a few hours we are back to work, preparing the business at hand.

Events

A Concert with the Bay Area Youth Singers

Houston Boychoir Chamber Choir and Olde Boys will join forces as guests of the Bay Area Youth Singers on their annual February concert. This season the concert will feature in addition to Houston Boychoir, Barbara Johnson Tucker and Michael Pickett in celebration of Black History Month and the musical tradition  that has become legacy. Bring the whole family for this choral celebration.  

Hear the boys with Barbara & Michael