This year, the first day of winter fell on December 21, a dark and rainy day. Inside Edenton United Methodist Church in downtown Raleigh, however, the atmosphere was anything but dark. The angelic voices of The Raleigh Boychoir filled the massive sanctuary of the church with light and warmed the hearts of audience members on that dark December night.

The Raleigh Boychoir’s holiday concert is an annual event that the boys begin preparing for in the fall. This year, the concert was again named simply Carols of Christmas. The program featured both the expected Christmas carols, many in sing-along format, as well as a variety of contemporary Christmas songs and arrangements. The sing-along carols were placed strategically in the program to allow for seamless transitions between groups and also served to involve the audience and heighten the Christmas spirit.

Adding variety to their packed holiday program was the involvement of all four of the Raleigh Boychoir’s ensembles in the concert as well as a group of alumni and various combinations of the ensembles. In addition, The Oakwood Waits, with their gorgeous Dickens era costumes, sang in the lobby before the concert while the WCPE String Quartet (Neha Vangipurapu, Jaewon Jung, Abigail Marshall, and Quenton Blache) played holiday prelude music in the sanctuary.

The WCPE String Quartet also provided occasional accompaniment for songs, as did harpist Angelyn Fanlo and Filippa Duke, organ and piano. The four youth musicians of the WCPE String Quartet should be commended for their excellent prelude performance and conscientious accompaniment. It was evident that they had worked hard to learn the many transitions that come with such a dynamic concert. The quartet never missed a cue and the musicians played their parts confidently. Their tone was warm and gentle enough that it didn’t overpower the choirs, despite the attempts of the giant sanctuary to swallow up the soft voices of the younger ensembles.

The Boychoir ensembles put on an excellent and unique performance, as usual. Each of the four ensembles brought smiles to the faces of audience members in a different way: the Training Choir (directed by Katie O’Neill) with their young voices and endearing fidgeting, the Resident Choir (directed by Danny Yancey) with their slightly more experienced but still charmingly youthful singing, the Performing Choir (directed by Jeremy Tucker) with their breathtakingly clear sound, and the Young Men’s Ensemble (also directed by Tucker) with their powerful voices and confidence.

The strengths of each ensemble were illuminated by a wisely chosen repertoire. For example, the Young Men’s Ensemble performed two lively, primarily a cappella pieces, one of which required the boys to sing in a different dialect; another required them to sing nonsense syllables to create an interesting rhythm. The first piece was “Noel,” arranged by Brad Holmes to have an African or tribal sound, complete with drums and occasional clapping. The second piece “The Sleigh,” is an energetic piece by Richard Kountz arranged by W. Riegger. Judging from the smiling faces and confident body language of the members of the ensemble, the young men seemed to enjoy these challenging and fun pieces just as much as the audience did. In contrast, the simple and angelic voices of the young Training Choir and Resident Choir were showcased with more gentle and lighter pieces, such as the traditional “Still, Still, Still,” arranged by R. Lang, and  “All on a Silent Night” by Becki Slagle Mayo, accompanied by Quenton Blache’s wonderfully rich cello playing.

A notable moment in the concert was the Training and Resident Choirs’ performance of a piece titled “Each of Us Has a Light.” The two composers of the piece, Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse, were actually in attendance at the concert and had the opportunity to hear the Boychoir’s heartwarming performance. It was very inspiring to hear a large choir of young voices singing about how “each of us has a light shining inside,” “a hope burning inside,” and “a wish, a dream we want to come true.” The song was a beautiful reminder of the meaning of the holiday season: Christmastime is about having hope and letting that hope shine bright. “Each of Us Has a Light” was certainly a fitting selection in the Raleigh Boychoir’s holiday concert this year. After all, the RBC’s 2018-19 season is entitled “A Season to Shine!”

The Raleigh Boychoir certainly did shine in this year’s holiday concert. The impressive concert culminated in the Performing Choir, Young Men’s Ensemble, and Oakwood Waits singing together the “Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter, while the younger boys lined the center aisle holding flickering, battery operated candles. It was a touching moment and a memorable way to end such a beautiful concert.

If you were inspired by the Boychoir’s performance or if you missed the Christmas concert and want another unique and enjoyable concert to attend, be sure to make it to the next two concerts in the Raleigh Boychoir’s “Season to Shine!” series: Bluegrass Mass and Dawning of the Day. See our calendar for details.