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Boys, young men sharpen choral singing at summer camp

Dozens of boys and young men sang in unison, their voices echoing throughout Baker Memorial Chapel.

The members of Maryland State Boychoir, an ensemble comprised of males between the ages of 6 to 22, were rehearsing for a performance held Thursday evening, the culmination of a week-long summer camp held on the McDaniel College campus.

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Benjamin Farlow, 13, a student at Chapelgate Christian Academy in Marriottsville, who joined the choir in January after moving to the area from Raleigh, N.C., was among the singers.

"I've had a good time," said Farlow, who is looking forward to going on his first tour with the choir.

Choristers have spent the entire week at McDaniel rehearsing and building team skills for a tour this summer.

"We practice living together and that's an important part of touring as well," said Mike Hopkins, 27, a chaperon who has been involved with the choir since he was 12. "It can be difficult — here you're on campus, you're in the same room. On tour you spend all day on the bus and in hotels away from your family — for young kids that can be really difficult."

Margaret Boudreaux, a professor and director of choral activities at McDaniel, watched from a pew as the group harmonized.

"I've just enjoyed watching them rehearse and working with them on a couple of things," said Boudreaux, who directed a couple of songs at the evening performance. "I think it's a wonderful experience for them."

Hopkins said being part of Maryland State Boychoir was influential in his life.

"I feel like it provided me a lot of opportunities and I'm always excited to give back," Hopkins said. "It's just a huge sense of the community about the organization and the directors do such a great job with providing leadership and fostering community building in the big picture," said Hopkins, who teaches music at Somerset Elementary School in Montgomery County.

He went on to say: "It was very formative for me in terms of developing musical skills and a passion for music, but even beyond that a passion for education and working with kids."

Nicholas Gore, 16, a rising junior at Winters Mill High School, who said he has been singing in chorus for as long as he can remember, spent Thursday shadowing members of the choir.

Gore said he was impressed by members of the choir who seemed to be dedicated to their craft.

"They all know what they're doing," he said.

He plans to audition for the choir sometime this week or in the fall, he said.

"I enjoy music a lot and I plan on making a career out of it," Gore said. "People have been telling me this opens up a lot of college opportunities, too."

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According to Stephen Holmes, artistic director, the group began with 14 members when it was founded in 1987. Since then, it has grown to about 150 members from 10 jurisdictions in Maryland. Choristers tour abroad about five times a year, traveling to places such as Canada, Washington and Puerto Rico, Holmes said.

Members sing sacred music, although they have no religious affiliation; jazz; world; gospel and pop music. They are often referred to the choir by teachers, school music directors or music mentors, Holmes said.

Holmes said the organization holds auditions three times a year, and those interested in joining may audition at McDaniel before the camp ends Saturday. It costs $30 per week to join the choir, which includes the cost of the summer camp, according to Holmes.

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More information:

Learn more about the Maryland State Boychoir at marylandstateboychoir.org.

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