Because St. Olaf is a leading educational institution in the state nicknamed “Land of the 10,000 Choirs,” it is not unusual for the College to receive choir guests. But on Tuesday, Oct. 21, a different kind of guest stopped by Manitou Hill to present a vocal talent that has been revered not just within the United States, but also throughout the world. The American Boychoir provided entertainment throughout the day, through its performance during chapel time and later that evening in a concert alongside the St. Olaf Choir and the Northfield Youth Choir.
Herbert Huffman founded the Princeton, N.J.-based American Boychoir in 1937 under the name Columbus Boychoir. The present role of leading the choir has fallen into the hands of the Litton-Lodal Music Director, Fernando Malvar-Ruiz. The choir itself has been heralded as one of the nation’s premier musical ensembles. Its 36 current members represent many of the diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds of the United States, and come from 10 different states and three overseas countries altogether.
Dr. Anton Armstrong, the current conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, is a former member of the American Boychoir and has also served on its summer faculty for more than 20 years. At the concert, he talked about how his experiences there have deeply influenced and shaped him. If it were not for the American Boychoir, he said, he would probably not be standing where he is presently.
The theme of the 2014-2015 American Boychoir concert tour is “Starlight.” As the subject of curiosity, fascination, wonderment and superstition, stars have inspired many artistic expressions, including music. The titles of the songs, such as Randall Thompson’s “Choose Something Like a Star,” “There Shall A Star From Jacob Come Forth” by Felix Mendelssohn, “Lux Aeterna” Light Shine by Z. Randall Stroope and “This Little Light of Mine” by Ken Berg, illuminated the theme.
The audience filled Boe Memorial Chapel to full capacity, and applause from the listeners revealed that the choir’s performance shone as bright as its theme. A combined finale between the American Boychoir, the St. Olaf Choir and the Northfield Youth Choir closed out the night. The ensemble sang “Look To This Day,” a piece which was composed by Carolyn Jennings – the wife of St. Olaf Emeritus Professor of Music Kenneth Jennings ’50, who was the third conductor of St. Olaf Choir. The presence of the composer in the audience made the piece especially meaningful.
As everyone congratulated one another on an amazing show, the audience could not help but notice how the stars shone slightly brighter than usual that night.
Photo Courtesy of Ingrid Elzey