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CURRENT ISSUE:  August 8, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
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Rigorous dedication for boys’ choir
 

Father Robert Rien believes one good way of preparing for the Christmas season is with a choir and music.

 
Auditions: 4 p.m. Aug. 31, Our Lady of Lourdes Community Center, Oakland; another on Sept. 7.

For information or to book an event: www.ggbc.org, or e-mail goldengateboyschoir@gmail.com or (510) 887-4311
 
So last December, Father Rien brought the Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bellringers to St. Ignatius of Antioch parish in Antioch where more than 450 people listened to a program of Advent and Christmas music. St. Ignatius has monthly concerts, Rien said, and this one had the largest attendance of any.

It was “a truly memorable and outstanding musical evening,” Father Rien said, adding the choir will return for another performance this year.

The choir, bellringers, staff, parents and friends are devoted and dedicated to their music. The boys come to one or two rehearsals a week, and the entire group practices together four times a month, said Steven J. Meyer, co-founder and artistic director. There are about 60 boys in the choir from all over the Bay Area, and parents and friends work out transportation to get the boys to practice and performances.

The choir year begins with two general rehearsals, Meyer said, coming up Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, so “people who are interested can come and take a look at us.” Afterward, there are no formal auditions; boys can contact Meyer or one of his four staff members to arrange an audition.

The Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bellringers were founded in 1988, and the choir has since performed all over the world, including before Pope Benedict XVI in Italy last year. The boys also go to a summer music camp in early August.

For those interested in having the choir perform, Meyer said it can be pared down from full strength into smaller ensembles for some events. The choir’s work isn’t limited to religious music. “We can do memorials, Masses, our own concerts, patriotic songs, weddings,” Meyer said. Sometimes, the bellringers perform alone.

Costs are on a sliding scale, from about $350 for a nonprofit to $1,000 for a large corporate event or wedding.

“We don’t turn down many requests,” Meyer said, though because the boys are usually in school, they are limited to evening and weekend performances.

The choir has recorded four CDs and posted performance videos on YouTube. Its music can also be heard on the website.

For new recruits, Meyer reaches out to schools and pupils in Faith Formation (CCD). A few of the parents were in choirs themselves and want the same experience for their children, Meyer said, while other choir members have had piano lessons, or have learned band instruments. Sadly, Father Rien said, “so many children are involved in sports, music isn’t a real priority.”

“It’s not easy to start a music program,” he said reflecting on efforts in his own parish, where a new music director and the monthly concerts are providing inspiration.

Meyer is pleased some boys stick with the music. A few weeks ago, 18 alumni of the choir gave a fundraising concert. All 18 of the young men either majored or minored in music.

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