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CHOIR BOYS: Milton sopranos to sing solos with Holiday Pops

This article appeared in The Patriot Ledger (Quincy) and on

By R. Scott Reedy/For The Patriot Ledger

Posted Dec 7, 2017 at 2:58 PM

Updated Dec 7, 2017 at 3:51 PM

Photo: Sam Brewer, Quincy Patriot Ledger.

Andrew Mak and James Delaney – friends and neighbors from Milton, and a seventh- and eighth-grader, respectively, at St. Paul’s Choir School in Cambridge – have some big plans this holiday season.

The two boy sopranos will be appearing as guest soloists with the Boston Pops and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus at six Holiday Pops Kids Matinees at Boston’s Symphony Hall this month.

Andrew, 12, and James, 13, will be featured during a performance of the classic 1978 British holiday story “The Snowman,” by Raymond Briggs. Set to a score by Howard Blake, the performance will also showcase the author’s original illustrations. Andrew will perform on December 10, 16, and 24 and James will take the stage December 9, 17, and 23.

“Essentially, ‘The Snowman’ was first a book and then a short film. It has no words. It’s just a very emotional story of a snowman and a boy. The snowman takes the boy on an adventure. The next morning, when the boy goes to see his new friend, he has melted.

“When the book was made into the film, the song ‘Walking in the Air’ was added as a solo for the boy,” explained James by telephone last week.

Although this marks their soloist and Boston Pops debuts, both James and Andrew previously appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of guest conductor Charles Dutoit, when the Choir of St. Paul’s Harvard Square was featured in a performance of Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust” at Symphony Hall in October.

“James Burton, the new BSO Choral Director and Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, has been very proactive about giving these opportunities to local people,” said John Robinson, Director of Music at St. Paul’s. “He coached the boys and, for these holiday shows, he also arranged time with Pops conductor Keith Lockhart for them to experience singing alone in Symphony Hall.”

Robinson, a Quincy resident, said the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Pops are “world-class orchestras.”

“For these boys to be able to sing with them is amazing. It’s giving them truly invaluable experience,” Robinson said. “James and Andrew are very poised and very good under pressure.”

Andrew readily acknowledges the responsibility that accompanies high-profile concert appearances.

“We perform a lot in churches and that’s always cool. It’s different, though, when you’re singing at Symphony Hall in front of a lot of people. To prepare for this, I read over the music, I practice, and then I hope it all goes well,” says Andrew.

Robinson said additional steps are taken at school to make sure the boys are performance ready.

“They have to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated, especially in these colder months of the year. And recess and school sports are done silently to preserve the students’ voices.

They may feel like cheering during a game, but they don’t scream,” says Robinson.

Andrew plays golf, baseball, and soccer, while James enjoys rowing and skiing. Both boys focus primarily, however, on music. Each has a solo on the Choir of St. Paul’s Harvard Square’s new album, “Ave Maria,” produced by 10-time Grammy Award winner Christopher Alder for AimHigher Recordings, and released on the Sony Classical label in October.

With final preparation and rehearsals well under way for their holiday-themed appearances, the boys are somewhat noncommittal about their own favorite songs of the season.

“I like all Christmas music. It’s all joyful, so I can’t pick a favorite song. If I absolutely had to choose one, though, it would be ‘Jingle Bells’,” says Andrew.

James faces a similar dilemma. “It is too hard to pick just one. There are just too many good songs to choose from. I love almost all Christmas music,” he says.

Both boys admit that their holiday bookings often come close to home, especially at this time of year.

“When we all get together over the holidays, my family always wants me to sing. They’re like, ’You’re the choir boy – go sing!” says Andrew with a laugh.



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