Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Today I...November 22nd

Today I...

...am sharing this video of the Oratory's boys choir, Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, singing Minuit Chrétien (O Holy Night, for those of you who do not speak French :o) ). I don't have much to report on my end today, so I will take advantage of the fact that I'm feeling Christmasy tonight since we're going to get our first dumping of snow (5 to 10 cms) and tell you a little bit of these guys and their annual Christmas Eve ritual. They are troopers. They are elite musicians to the degree where some kids and young adults are elite athletes. All these boys went through an audition either in grade two or grade three (a few years ago they added a third grade class at the choir school, thus the difference in audition ages) to enter the choir school. The school does not require previous musical experience, just that the auditioning boy has a love for music, a good ear and obviously a voice that has some potential for training. All candidates must also be in very good academic standing, because if they are accepted into the choir school, they follow the same academic program as all other students in the province of Quebec, but in condensed form since they all devote three hours a day during their remaining elementary years to their musical training. At the elementary level they are taught to read music, sing, play piano and their ear training is developed. As of the 5th grade, they fully participate in Sunday services at the Oratory, all special celebrations where the choir is required and also perform dozens of concerts a year and go on tour every summer. When they reach high school, they attend Notre-Dame College, a private high school which is across the street from the Oratory and owned by the same Catholic religious order, on a very generous scholarship and are initiated to music history and composition while devoting more time to mastering the choir's vast repertoire. The boys spend nine years in the choir, which means nine years of spending the equivalent of every other Sunday morning at the Oratory warming up and then singing mass. On an average Sunday about half the choir or around 50 to 60 boys participate in the 11:00 A.M. mass, but as you can see on the above video, for major celebrations such as the 9:00 P.M. and Midnight masses on Christmas Eve, they bring in all the active boys, so around 130. I counted 133 last year :o) On Christmas Eve, the boys are at the Oratory from about 7:00 P.M. to 1:30 A.M....even the little guys. They warm up from 7:00 P.M. to 8:15 P.M., then put on their albs and troop up to the Basilica. They sing from 9:00 P.M. to 10:15 P.M., then head back to their rehearsal space, lose the albs, snack a bit, fine tune anything they might have been shaky on until 10:15, then put the albs back on, troop back upstairs to the Basilica and sing again from Midnight to 1:15 A.M. As I said, they are troopers and if I ever have a son, I will absolutely see if he's up for the choir school, as long as my Sweetheart agrees. He went to the choir school and enjoyed his experience...mostly. He still says it was really hard at times and is very firmly retired from the choir circuit, but he still plays piano like nobody's business and becomes positively giddy at the prospect of being able to try his luck at a pipe organ. He hums all the time too and still spends a lot of time with his three best buddies from his choir days. But singing at Midnight Mass twice in one evening like the fellas on my video are doing? Every year for 8 years (they don't sing services the first year, remember!). Nah, he doesn't miss that. He a retired trooper and happy to be able to just sing and play piano for his family on Christmas Eve!

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