Sometimes getting enough male singers in your junior high or high school choral program can be incredibly challenging. Not only is there often competition with other extracurricular activities, but singing when the voice is changing can be daunting. And even though a young man might love singing, he may feel social pressure against joining a choir because it isn't "manly" enough.
At Cal State East Bay, Dr. Buddy James has developed a Men's Chorus Festival to challenge the notion that choral singing isn't manly enough and to encourage young men to continue singing in choir. Today, about 150 guys (including a few from the LAB Choir!) from about 14 different middle and high schools made profound music in a way that reminds me of Chanticleer's Youth Choral Festivals. The day started at 9am with warm-ups and combined choir rehearsals, there was a break-out portion separating the middle schoolers from the high schoolers, and the day ended with a closing concert. Such a good formula! Participants also got T-shirts saying "Men. Singing."
Seeing the risers full of committed young singers, hearing the power and beauty of quality music pour from them, leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Guest conductor Frank Bianchi spoke about those things in life which give pleasure, and those things which move you so much that your skin reacts. As choral musicians, we get to experience these deep stirrings of the human spirit on a daily basis and share with all who will listen. No matter what divides us in daily life - age, voice part, culture, politics - all is unified when we sing together. The final song still rings in my ears: "Lift Every Voice and Sing!"