Venue: Orpheum Theatre Date: 11 December 2003 8.00pm

Reviewer: John Jane





Conductor: Dr. Walter J. Turnbull

Boys Choir of Harlem

The audience at last night’s (December 11) concert never would have guessed that the performers were all suffering from fatigue if they hadn't been told so by the choir's founder and director, Dr. Walter J. Turnbull. The choir was professional in how they looked and performed with a maturity on stage, well beyond their ages.

Energy, enthusiasm, and showmanship marked the choir's performance, which ranged from Franz Schubert’s Missa in G to a medley of ragtime and jazz numbers. The 45 member choir, primarily African-American New Yorkers ranging in age from pre-teen to around twenty, never failed to excite the capacity audience.

Founded 33 years ago by its current musical director, Dr. Walter J. Turnbull, the Choir has grown from a small church choir to an institution of international repute. The breadth of the Choir’s repertoire ranges from Mozart through modern composers such as Poulenc to African-American spirituals, gospel, jazz and hip-hop.

The first half of the programme consisted entirely of sacred music, including the previously mentioned, Missa in G (sometimes referred to as Missa Brevis), beautifully sung in Latin.





The ‘boys’, as Maestro Turnbull frequently referred to his charges, took their audience up to the intermission with four spirituals including the lively ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ and the uplifting ’Behold the Star’.

The second half of the concert was more modern, upbeat and showy. Pianist Keith Burton, who had provided sterling accompaniment through the first half of the show, was joined by a four-piece band consisting of synthesizer, drums, guitar and bass. The choir kicked-off with a ragtime jazz medley, including ‘Satin Doll’ and ‘Putting on the Ritz’ as they performed an energetically choreographed dance with black bowlers and white gloves.

The ‘Boys’ then moved into an R & B and hip-hop phase with one of the choir’s original tunes, ‘We Got Shoes’.

The programme concluded with a selection of inspirational gospel music, performed with the entire choir wearing burgundy cassocks. The fittingly titled ‘We’re Glad You Came’ was the second original song performed by the choir. The final song of the evening was the well-known Christmas carol, ‘O, Holy Night’, ending with the audience showing its approval with a standing ovation.

This holiday program is a staple in the choir's 30-plus-year history. During the Christmas season, the choir undertakes a missionary of faith, goodwill and hope wherever it goes.

© 2003, John Jane