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Pittsburgh Boy Choir gives residents a chance to sing

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Auditions for the newly formed Pittsburgh Boy Choir will be held April 9, 13, and 18 at Northmont United Presbyterian Church in McCandless for boys ages 5 to 13 with unchanged voices and the desire to sing.

Two treble ensembles will be derived from selected singers — the Junior Choristers will be for boys 5 to 7, and the Concert Choir will be for boys 8 to 13, said Todd Alexander, artistic director of the Pittsburgh Boy Choir.

Alexander said the group was started because of the lack of a boys choir in the Pittsburgh area and the desire to give local boys an opportunity to participate in a type of music that has been around for centuries.

“What this can offer is a really rich cultural experience — musically, artistically and socially,” Alexander said.

And as the singers mature and their voices change, Alexander said, organizers plan to create additional choir opportunities so the members can stay as long as they want.

Auditions will be held at the church, which is at 8169 Perry Highway, from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. April 9; 10 a.m. to noon April 13; and 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. April 18.

Alexander said the informal auditions will last about 10 minutes, and organizers will be looking for singers who have a good attitude, a strong interest in being in a boys choir and “can hold a tune.”

Otherwise, “just bring a smile,” he said.

Over the season, the choirs will cover selections from a broad range of music from the Renaissance to modern times, Alexander said. A winter concert already is scheduled for Dec. 8 at Northmont.

In the future, organizers anticipate more local concerts and eventually performances in other cities and even other countries.

“We're planning big things,” said Alexander, 31, of McCandless.

And, he said, those involved are aware they will be working with boys without any formal training, so novice singers shouldn't be worried about a lack of experience. Alexander and the other choral leaders will work with new members on how to sing in a choir.

“We're going to start off with the basics. I think it's going to be pretty accessible to anyone,” Alexander said.

George Pearsall, president of the board of the Pittsburgh Boy Choir, said the group will fill a void.

“A boys choir is such a unique sound. It has centuries and centuries of tradition,” said Pearsall, who is a retired choir director for Northgate School District and also a former church choir director.

He said that participating in the choir will be a character-building activity for the boys and help them develop maturity and discipline.

Pearsall said the eventual size of the choir is hard to determine, but organizers hope to start off with anywhere from 20 to 40 members for the first season. Pearsall, of McCandless, said any size group can work.

The organization currently has a six-person board, but Pearsall, 67, said the board might grow in the future.

The group has applied for Internal Revenue Service recognition as a nonprofit group, Alexander said.

The goal of the Pittsburgh Boy Choir is to make participating affordable to all, and with the help of donors and fundraisers, the organization plans to provide scholarships for members who qualify, Pearsall said.

Alexander said the choir tuition will be discounted for its inaugural season.

The Junior Choristers rate is $325 for the 2013-2014 season; the Concert Choir rate is $500. The next season, the rates increase to $487.50 and $750, respectively. And for the 2015-16 season, the fees will be $650 and $1,000.

“Compare that to private lessons … or group lessons,” said Alexander, who added the choir fee probably is less than half of the cost.

“We want to make it as affordable as we can,” he said.

Alexander said he anticipates two rehearsals a week at Northmont that last about an hour and a half each. After the first season, other opportunities for members, such as camps, also are planned.

As a father of three boys, Alexander and his wife, Andria, are excited to have a choir opportunity for their sons, including Joel, 5, who wants to audition. They also have Nathan, 2, and Luke, who was born Feb. 10.

Todd Alexander has been involved in choral singing throughout his life, including directing choral groups of all ages and levels. He is the minister of music and the organist for Northmont United Presbyterian Church.

To audition, visit www.pittsburghboychoir.com, and fill out a contact form. The choir then will contact the applicant with an audition time. Applicants must fill out an audition form also located on the website and bring it to the audition.

Michele Buford of Kennedy Township is planning to have her son Jonathan, 6, audition for the boys choir. She said Jonathan, a kindergartner who attends Propel Montour in Kennedy, recently performed a song for a class program and loved it.

“I think he's going to be really excited about doing it,” Buford, 41, said about the boys choir.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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