The Raleigh Boychoir‘s 50th anniversary season has been an exciting one – under the slogan “A Rich History, A Bright Future,” the RBC has celebrated the past and future in many locations around the Triangle and with diverse collaborations that really set this season apart. Before their official end-of-season spring concert (occurring at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral on June 9), the Boychoir hosted their annual American Music Festival, inviting boys from ten elementary schools to create the “2018 Triangle Boys Honors Chorus,” along with the RBC’s Performing Choir and Young Men’s Ensemble. This year’s American Music Festival was special for several reasons. First and foremost, guest clinician Dr. Rollo Dilworth led the festival’s two days of rehearsal and the concert. Dilworth is highly renowned not only for his work as a professor and choral director, but also for his choral compositions, arrangements, and original pedagogy books. As the RBC’s artistic director Jeremy Tucker stated, Dilworth’s presence and guidance for the boys of the Honors Choir more than fits the organization’s goal of creating “musicians, not students.”

This already monumental concert for the Boychoir also involved several other collaborations. A partnership with Music for Food and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle allowed concertgoers to donate food items right there at the concert, and the festival’s location in the Stewart Theatre underlined support from NC State University, whose all-male a cappella group Grains of Time opened the program. The Boys Honor Chorus portion of the program opened with a look ahead at the 51st season, when new members of next season’s Performing Choir were recognized.

The Triangle Boys Honor Chorus performance was, of course, a testament to Dilworth’s work with them, but it also showed off the dedicated preparation of their music teachers and RBC directors. Managing a group of nearly fifty elementary/middle school aged singers is a daunting task, but Dilworth effortlessly drew in their focus for the performance. As a result, there was flawless diction, clean cutoffs, and well-blended melodies. “Old Joe Clark” and “Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop” featured the bouncy, energetic side of the boys; the latter especially, where RBC member Luke Ramee performed an improvisatory solo accompanied by the chorus.

The Young Men’s Ensemble joined the rest of the singers for Dilworth’s legato but syncopated arrangement of “Shenandoah,” adding extra depth to the harmonies. His unique medley called “America, the Beautiful” closed the concert, where several patriotic tunes were strung together for a triumphant conclusion. As the audience applauded, Dilworth made a point to shake each singer’s hand onstage, underscoring the valuable work that he and the Festival singers had done together.