Truth be told, I have struggled to find my Christmas spirit this season. That changed the minute I walked through the large wooden doors of Edenton Street United Methodist Church for the Raleigh Youth Choir‘s “Carols of Christmas” concert on Friday night. As nervous parents ushered their singers to the appropriate group, and smiling children eagerly lined up outside the sanctuary, I found myself instantly caught up in the excitement.

The Raleigh Youth Choir has been revitalized in recent years, transitioning from the Raleigh Boychoir to include children of all ages and genders. Their DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Advocacy) statement acknowledges the desire to “honor each chorister, their background, and the fullness of their potential.” This was evident in spades on Friday night. The young musicians were the highlight from start to finish, beginning with the Beach String Quartet, a student string ensemble comprised of youth from the NC Chamber Music Institute (Owen Beal and Adrian McCall, violins; Max Owen, viola; Cashier Books, cello; and Luke Tychansky, bass). As artistic director Jeremy Tucker welcomed the audience, he specifically called attention to Dr. Fran Page, for whom the Page Singers are named, and she received perhaps the largest applause of the evening. Read about all of the Raleigh Youth Choir’s conductors here, and ensembles here.

Throughout the concert, I was swept away by the balanced combination of voices and instruments, none overpowering the other, but perfectly blended to create a story. Our story began with all the younger choirs excitedly processing in and then joining together with the older groups for the hymn, “Once in Royal David’s City” (Alexander/Gauntlett), which showcased the purity of the young soloist’s and ensemble’s voices right from the start. “Christmas Canon” (arr. Andy Beck) and “Carol of the Bells” (Mykola Leontovych) followed. The dynamics of the pieces, specifically on “Carol of the Bells,” built effortlessly without speeding up the tempo. Somehow this large group of young vocalists didn’t skip a beat.

Each song selection was chosen to perfectly represent each group. “Warm and Fuzzy” (Billy Gilman), sung by the Acorn and Oak Choirs, under the direction of Katie O’Neill and Bo Reece, was a delightful example of emerging singers being guided to sing properly so that they can effectively graduate to the older groups. The young singers didn’t shy away from singing in their high registers, and they had the breath control to hold out notes, two skills not often seen with young vocalists. Add in hand motions and facial expressions, and the audience was thoroughly delighted!

The Mosaic Choir, directed by Amy Brock Davis, and the Page Singers, directed by Emily Turner (who also serves as Associate Artistic Director), treated the audience to the angelic sounds of girls’ voices. The pride that these choirs showed on stage was evident in their upright posture, the projection of each note, and the carriage of each folder. “Snow on Snow” (Gustav Holst/arr. Ruth Elaine Schram), featuring the Mosaic Choir, highlighted gorgeous high notes; while “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” (Sarah Quartel), sung by both choirs, was attention grabbing from the very first unison note. “Where the Light Begins” (Susan LaBarr), performed by the Page Singers, with the synchronicity of the harmonies and the changing dynamics, had me lost in the music immediately.

Then it was time for the young men’s choirs, co-directed by Jeremy Tucker and Aaron Brown (who also serves Assistant Music Director), to delight us. “Hodie” (Jacob Narverud), performed by memory by the Sibley Singers, showcased a driving lower line that never sped up unnecessarily, built upon powerful dynamics that left me wanting more. The Capitals Choir joined in for possibly the most fun number of the evening, “Deck the Halls from Coolside of the Yuletide” (Papoulis and Nuñez). The addition of the soprano and alto parts to the already strong bass and tenor voices was entertaining and festive. “Glorious” (Stephanie Mabey/arr. Masa Fukuda), sung by the Capital Choir, and featuring flawless soloists, was refreshingly expressive. It was a joy to watch each facial expression in this group of young men as they sang confidently and expressively.

Our story ended with three different yet equally beautiful pieces sung by the Capital Choir, the Mosaic Choir, the Sibley Singers, and the Page Singers. “Personet Hodie” (Holst, Traditional) was a strong start to this last set, followed by “Somewhere in My Memory” (Bricusse and Williams) and “Candlelight Carol” (John Rutter), both hauntingly beautiful. The audience joined in the final chapter, “Silent Night,” after the joint choirs sang the first verse in German.

In fact, throughout the concert, the audience was invited to sing traditional Christmas carols with the young singers. This afforded the choirs time to transition to and from the stage, but it was also a chance for us as listeners to actively participate in the evening. I found myself quiet on most of the hymns however, as I was too overwhelmed with the beauty of the descants sung by the choristers to participate fully. What a gift to have the opportunity to sing along side such gifted young people.

The singers were not the only stars of the evening. Kudos to the instrumentalists who expertly accompanied these young voices, allowing them to shine: Stephen Aber, organist; Jennifer Wolfe, pianist; Angelyn Gallardo-Fanlo, harpist; and Elena Lazaro Evans; flute. Large applause to the directors of each group who have obviously lovingly and patiently guided each young singer, giving them the skills necessary to listen, blend, project, and perform so that they can continue their musical journey up through the ranks of the Raleigh Youth Choir.

Needless to say, I left this concert no longer lacking holiday spirit. I listened to Christmas music the whole way home. If you have an opportunity to hear these talented young people perform, don’t miss it. They’ll be performing on December 22, 2023 with the NC Symphony’s “Candlelight Christmas” at Meymandi Concert Hall, and on February 16, 2024 at Edenton Street UMC for their concert entitled “Stage and Screen.” More information is available at