Cincinnati Boychoir remains one of the largest in the country, with 250 boys participating in five choirs.
Cincinnati Boychoir is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season with a new home in the Aronoff Center, a trip to Australia in July, and next weekend, a world premiere performance.
The Boychoir, which is led by Christopher Eanes, is one of the premier professional boy choirs in the United States, and the newest resident company at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, Downtown.
The Boychoir's first rehearsal took place on March 6, 1965.
"The Cincinnati Boychoir was founded because (founder) Bob McSpadden was noticing that boys weren't coming out for choir in high school. It was a move that was forward-looking at the time," says Eanes, 38, the Boychoir's fifth artistic director. "He understood the notion of all-boys singing in a choir can be successful. You put a bunch of boys together without the distraction of girls in the room, and the fear goes away."
In its 50-year history, the Boychoir has performed with Cincinnati Opera, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati May Festival, toured internationally, sung onstage at Carnegie Hall and at the Kennedy Center, and been featured on "CNN Worldwide" and on "CBS This Morning." But besides the sometimes starry performances, its mission has always been about bringing music to any boy who wanted to sing.
"If you look around Cincinnati, there are some schools with phenomenal music programs that have always been great. But we're also pulling kids from schools that may only get a half hour of music every two weeks," Eanes says." So if there's no built-in tradition, how do we expect kids to sing in high school and beyond? Our goal is to bring this activity to any boy in the city, even if they've never had a music lesson in their life."
The Boychoir program next weekend in Christ Church Cathedral, Downtown will look backwards and forward in the life of the choir.
"We're looking backwards with the Leonard Bernstein's 'Chichester Psalms,' which was also written in 1965 for a big combined choir of boys and men," Eanes says.
In the last five years, he has established a Men's Glee Club of alumni, friends and even some dads in the choir, who will perform with the boys in the concert.
The look ahead will consist of a newly commissioned work for the 50th anniversary by Dominick DiOrio, a 30-year-old composer who is turning heads in the choral world. His new piece, "A Horizon Symphony," with poetry by Walt Whitman and Stephan Crane, was funded by a $10,000 grant from the William O. Purdy, Jr. Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
"We wanted the new piece to look forward 50 years – to be about what's next, about adventure and about what's to come," Eanes says. "We also wanted it to pair with 'Chichester Psalms.' It has a large, unusual orchestra, with strings, brass and eight percussionists."
Cincinnati Boychoir remains one of the largest in the country, with 250 boys participating in five choirs. It also offers six-week programs for kids who want to try a Boychoir experience, and has launched a "Cincinnati Sings" program of free after-school boy choirs in five public schools.
Eanes believes the Boychoir is one of the musical gems of the city.
"I've never met anyone who has come to a concert who hasn't been blown away," Eanes says. "Because it is rare to see that many kids, especially boys together onstage, making art at such a high level."
If you go
What: Trumpets! Drums! Voices! Cincinnati Boychoir 50th anniversary concert: Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" and DiOrio's "A Horizon Symphony," featuring Collegium Cincinnati
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7; 5 p.m. Sunday, March 8
Where: Christ Church Cathedral, Downtown
Tickets: $15; $10 student and seniors. www.cincinnatiboychoir.org