Just before performing Gabriel Faure's lauded Requiem Mass, the boys of Saint Paul's Choir School were visited by Wes Cipolla, staff reporter at the Pilot. The reporter visited to observe and photograph a rehearsal of the requiem. It was not lost on all involved how strange it is for elementary and middle-school aged boys to be singing a memorial mass written during the close of the 19th Century.
Gabriel Faure's 1893 Requiem is a much more challenging work than the latest Taylor Swift album. Wes Cipolla, November 17, 2023
It is not uncommon to hear the boys examine the pieces they sing -- especially when contrasted with today's hits. They do not live in a bubble, and each chorister has his own favorite pop songs and bands. Their ability to compare mass appeal against history and complexity is remarkable, as is their growing empathic ability to feel a song's emotional journey, whether it was written today or 200 years ago.
PHOTO by Geoff Why
"It's really cool to experience the amazing music," Ari said. "Sometimes, I'll find myself thinking, 'What if I stayed in a public school?' And I'd be completely different. This school just completely changes you." Wes Cipolla, November 17, 2023
Perhaps the most incredible thing the boys captured is the way their life changes when it is surrounded by music. Though they note that the requiem is beautiful, it's hard to think of its subject matter as beautiful. When asked if singing about loss was difficult, the boys proved resilient! They cited their faith and religion class as a source of confidence and joy.
Moreover, it hasn't slowed down their plans for the future. Each has a preferred career ahead of him, and, in most cases, a back up plan!
When he grows up, Ari is thinking of becoming a professional singer or writer. James wants to be a paleontologist, but still sing in choirs on the side. Dermot is also considering becoming a singer. "If that doesn't work out," he said, "I'll try to go into government." Wes Cipolla, November 17, 2023
All of the boys agree with their Music Director, Mr. Richard Webster, that singing is something you can be excellent at with very little prior experience. That is, as long as you are ready to learn and to work hard. Each knew in a vague way that he liked to sing before he joined the school. However, beyond liking singing, all had little formal training. They found it here at Saint Paul's Choir School. Once enrolled and invested in the choir, they began singing the Mass four times each school week, plus Sunday, and they rehearse twice a day. With that much time on task, excellence isn't hard to find!
Webster said that, contrary to popular belief, boys do not need to be great singers to get into St. Paul's. They only need "the potential to sing" -- and a good grade on the entrance exam. "It isn't that hard to get into the school," said James, who has been singing since he was "little" (four years old, to be exact). Wes Cipolla, November 17, 2023
For more on the visit, read the full article here: Forming the Future: St. Paul's Choir School, Cambridge.