Back in the day – well, starting in the late ’60s – the Raleigh Boychoir in effect launched the Advent season here in the capital, presenting annual concerts of carols and mostly sacred concerted works on the first Sunday thereof. (Christmas parades followed Thanksgiving back in those days, too, if you will recall….) It was a truly wonderful way to start the mad rush with an hour or so of reflection on what it all means to Christians in our midst. There’s also some very nice music associated with these end-of-the-calendar-year observations. And one of the more rewarding things about ensembles like this one (and their female counterparts) is that just being in them provides instruction in and familiarization with these timeless scores – along with discipline, a sense of teamwork, big doses of socialization and etiquette, some opportunity to travel and – did I mention it? – good opportunities to sing.

But at some point the RBC turned its schedule upside-down, and now it (effectively) ends the Advent season, one or two lingering events from other quarters notwithstanding. But attendees may still savor the processions and recessions and all those good tunes in between, with singing from a far vaster array of choirs than founder and long-time director Thomas E. Sibley would have imagined. There’s the Performing Choir, of course (with 20 singers listed in the current season’s program). There’s a subset of that, called the Millennium Singers (13); these folks make special appearances around town and beyond at service clubs and such. There are also two training choirs – the Resident Choir (18, directed by Danny Yancey) and a group called the Training Choir (10, directed by Vicki Oehling, the RBC’s long-time accompanist, back in the day). Last but not least, there’s a Young Men’s Ensemble (5 singers whose voices have changed, so they’re no longer sopranos and altos) and – on special occasions (like this one) – a group of Alumni Singers (5 former RBC members). There’s a regular pianist: Megan Yohman; and on this lovely evening, in the spacious sanctuary of Edenton Street United Methodist Church, organist Josh Dumbleton was on hand too, along with harpist Michelle Cobley.

[If this were being written for the N&O that would be the end of the review because I have used up 400 words just setting the stage.]

The music director of all this is Jeremy Tucker.

There wasn’t any sort of biographical info about any of the staffers in the program, but summaries of their careers are here.

The program was pretty much traditional.

The processional was “Once in Royal David’s City.” It has enough verses that everyone can get in before it ends (or maybe some were repeated).

There were lovely carols. Traditional carols. Carols by the great John Rutter (who led some of his own music in this very church last August). Carols so familiar there’s almost no reason to name their composers – if the composers are still known. Carols that weren’t all entirely in English. Carols arranged by some fabulous musicians. One or two funny things, like Andy Beck’s “Hot Chocolate.”

There were a few rarely-heard pieces, including at least part of the late, great Rosario Bourdon‘s arrangement of carols in Christmas Tide {six were listed in the program).

The Performing Choir projected very well although some of the diction seemed a bit iffy. In terms of tone and blend, the results were consistently outstanding.

The two training choirs did admirably throughout. One reason for this is that they sang from memory, which the Performing Choir, nattily attired in impressive robes with moderately subdued ruff collars, did not do.

The reinforcement provided by the Millennium and Alumni groups made a big difference.

One number really needed women and a good deal more power than the massed choirs gave it: Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus (for which we were invited to stand). But one out of all those numbers really isn’t bad at all.

Overall, this organization seems to be in exceptionally good hands, artistically, vocally, and otherwise.

Hooray! And season’s greetings!

Hear them again when they host the Cincinnati Boychoir on Apr. 9, at the NC Museum of Natural History. (Details to follow.)

The RBC is raising money for a trip to Ireland this summer. Readers who’d like to help a young person take what is likely his first trip overseas may contribute at this gofundme page.

I can tell you from personal experience that a trip like this can completely change and redirect one’s life.