Boston Archdiocesan Choir School

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Boston Archdiocesan Choir School
BACS logo.png
Repleátur os meum laude tua
("Let My Mouth Be Filled with Praise for You")
Location
29 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA, U.S.
Information
TypePrivate, day school
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Established1963
HeadmasterWilliam P. McIvor
PastorThe Rev. Michael E. Drea
Music DirectorJohn W. Robinson
Faculty13
Grades4-8
Enrollment53 boys
CampusUrban
Color(s)Maroon      
Website
 
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Boston Archdiocesan Choir School
BACS logo.png
Repleátur os meum laude tua
("Let My Mouth Be Filled with Praise for You")
Location
29 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA, U.S.
Information
TypePrivate, day school
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Established1963
HeadmasterWilliam P. McIvor
PastorThe Rev. Michael E. Drea
Music DirectorJohn W. Robinson
Faculty13
Grades4-8
Enrollment53 boys
CampusUrban
Color(s)Maroon      
Website

The Boston Archdiocesan Choir School (BACS) is a choir school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A middle school for boys in grades 4-8, BACS is the only boy-choir school in the United States of America affiliated with the Catholic Church. Its choir of boys and men sings for liturgical services at St. Paul Church, Cambridge and performs within the Boston area and elsewhere.

Contents

History

St. Paul's Choir School was founded by Theodore Marier as the result of decades of work spent renewing liturgical and musical traditions at St. Paul Parish, with which he had been affiliated since 1935.[1] In the 1950s, at about the time when Marier was taking over the choir, the pastor of the parish, Msgr. Augustine F. Hickey, was inspired by the papal encyclical Mediator Dei to encourage congregational participation in the Mass. This was unusual at a time when altar boys or a choir typically made all the responses to the priest's dialogue invocations. It was Marier's experience that the Gregorian Chant was suited both to congregational singing and for inspiring the devotion of the faithful. Gradually, the parish developed the habit of singing the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei). In 1958, the Vatican's Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy ("De musica sacra") declared that "every effort should be made that every church have its own boy choir" and that "Every effort must be made that the faithful of the entire world learn to sing" the dialogue portions of the Ordinary of the Mass.

The St. Paul's Choir School began in 1963 with twenty-five students chosen from throughout the archdiocese. Under the direction of Dr. Marier, the young musicians sang in the parish choir with members of the Harvard Catholic Club. Harvard students also helped out with the recreation program. The school was designed as a four-year course for students of academic ability and musical talent, assigning two periods of each school day to music, plus an hour after school. The music program included sight reading, tone placement, appreciation, theory and history, and instrumental studies.

Theodore Marier and Dom Joseph Gajard in 1965

The first years of St. Paul's Choir School were extraordinary. The choir made guest appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood, with the Boston Philharmonic, and with the Handel and Haydn Society. They performed annually with the Boston Ballet in the Nutcracker Suite, with Arthur Fiedler conducting.

When the choir school began, it was housed in the building that had been the parish school in a building that was built in 1891. By the 1960s, however, St. Paul School had been experiencing declining enrollment as more families moved out of Cambridge to the suburbs. After several more years, the parish school closed and the choir school remained in the space. Eventually that building was torn down after being declared unsafe.[2] Since 1991, the school has operated in a newly built 4-story multipurpose building on the same location as the old school. The current building houses the St. Paul's rectory, parish offices, and the Harvard Catholic Center in addition to BACS.[3] In early 2012, the Pastor and School Administration announced the establishment of a Fourth Grade level beginning in September of 2012. This addition follows a trend amongst choir schools both in the United States and Europe where choristers begin their formation and traning at a earlier age.

Music Directors of the Choir School

  1. Theodore Marier, 1963 - 1986
  2. John Dunn, 1986 - 2008[4]
  3. Jennifer Lester, 2008 - 2009
  4. John Dunn, 2009 - 2010
  5. John Robinson, 2010–present

Accreditation

BACS became fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 2007.

School life today

Students at the Choir School attend school full-time, completing a rigorous academic program in addition to daily rehearsals and singing at liturgy up to four times a week, including daily Choral Mass at 12.10, and Choral Vespers on Wednesday evenings at 5.15. Each student's tuition is supplemented by a "working scholarship", whereby the choristers are expected to sing at weddings, funerals and concerts throughout the school year.[4] The busiest times of the year for the choir are at Christmas and Easter. All students at the Choir School study mathematics, science, computers, literature, language arts, social studies, religion, geography, French, and Latin.

In addition to these academic subjects, students take lessons in music theory and piano, and play in recorder ensembles and handbell groups. In music theory, students are taught how to read music through a careful study of the language of written music. There is also an extra rehearsal every Wednesday night for boys in grades 6-8, which is an opportunity to get the full choir (including the professional Adult Men) to rehearse together. From sixth to eighth grade, the students must take private piano lessons taught by several piano teachers during the school day. Opportunities to perform include regular informal concerts, as well as biannual adjudications. If a student chooses, he may take private lessons in another instrument of his choosing. The handbell choirs are an opportunity for disciplined musical fun with friends, and are very popular with boys and parents alike.

There are no school sports teams, but students have physical education once a week and nearly every student participates in sports outside of school. Periodic travel for the choir combining educational sightseeing and performing is a tradition at BACS. Over the years, the boys have visited cities such as Chicago, Montreal, Washington, DC, and Rome. While in Rome in 2005, the choir sang at a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and at the Church of Santa Susanna. The choir has sung at Mass on multiple occasions at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, DC, most recently in 2011. The school also sang the national anthem at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in 2010. Parents are actively involved in the life of the school; nearly 100% of families are represented at each month's Parent Guild meeting, to help support the Choir School through hospitality and fund-raising efforts.

Students and faculty

The student enrollment at the Choir School is approximately 55 in number. New students are accepted in fourth, fifth and sometimes sixth grades. They are chosen based on the results of a vocal audition as well as a written academic exam. Students commute to Harvard Square from various cities and towns throughout the greater Boston area, sometimes traveling more than an hour each way. Most students at BACS are Roman Catholic and many previously attended parochial schools, but there are also non-Catholic students.

The administration and faculty include the pastor, headmaster, music director, assistant organist, academic faculty and several piano teachers. The current Music Director of the School, John W. Robinson, was appointed in 2010. He previously served as Assistant Organist at Canterbury Cathedral and Organist at The King's School, Canterbury.

Performances and recordings

The Choir of St. Paul's Church, Harvard Square performs throughout the school year at Mass on Sundays and most weekdays, and for services at Christmas and in Holy Week. It also presents concerts before Christmas and in the Spring. All of these are performed at St. Paul Church and, except for the weekday masses, include the St. Paul Men's Schola. The concerts sometimes include orchestral accompaniment, and guest soloists. Also, school concerts include ensembles such as the Bell Choirs and Recorder Groups. The Choir is available to hire for private events including Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings and Funerals.

Prominent performances

With the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus:

With the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Boston:

With the Opera Company of Boston at Boston Opera House:

With the Back Bay Chorale:

At the Maryland State Boychoir Festival:

Recordings

BACS Recordings:

References

  1. ^ Alters, Diane (June 9, 1986). "He gave Cambridge church music for 52 years". Boston Globe: p. 13 (Metro). 
  2. ^ Hirshson, Paul (March 22, 1987). "Cambridge church plan clears a hurdle". Boston Globe: p. 47 (Metro). 
  3. ^ Marchocki, Kathryn (November 2, 1991). "Cardinal Law helps dedicate rectory in Harvard Square". Boston Herald: p. a01. 
  4. ^ a b Radsken, Jill (December 13, 1992). "Hark, the student 'angels' sing...". Boston Herald: p. 037. 
  5. ^ Rothstein, Edward (January 30, 1983). "Concert: Ozawa's 'Faust'". New York Times. 
  6. ^ Dyer, Richard (January 22, 1983). "Soloists excel in BSO's Faust". Boston Globe. 
  7. ^ Pincus, Andrew L. (August 11, 1985). "Tanglewood stages Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion'". New York Times. 
  8. ^ Smith, Tim (May 15, 2007). "A Weekend of Various Voices". Baltimore Sun. 

External links

Coordinates: 42°22′15″N 71°06′55″W / 42.3708°N 71.1154°W / 42.3708; -71.1154