The St. John’s Boys’ Choir offers an enriching experience in music education with an emphasis in vocal music, as well as the socializing experience of shared enterprise, fellowship, cultural awareness, and touring for boys ages 8-15. The Choir promotes vocal music education in Central Minnesota and offers the unique experience of a well-trained boys’ choir to its audiences.
Now in its 39th season, The St. John’s Boys’ Choir continues the tradition of enabling boys to express themselves through music, and provides an environment that nurtures and encourages creativity. Founded in 1981 by Br. Paul Richards and the Saint John’s monastic community, the organization has grown to include four choral ensembles which perform more than fifty engagements annually. Members of the choir represent home, public, and private schools in more than fifteen communities around Central Minnesota. Their repertoire includes sacred motets, classical masterpieces, folk music from around the world, and contemporary theatrical and popular selections. Concert sites include local schools, churches, civic organizations, private businesses, and in concert halls around the world.
The choirboys serve as ambassadors for choral music and for male singing, as well as ambassadors for Central Minnesota and the United States. Their travels have taken them to churches and concert stages in North and Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. They have hosted international choir festivals, bringing more than 2,500 singers from around the world to the Saint John’s campus. They have shared their sacred music in some of the world’s most famous churches – Notre Dame in Paris, Sagrada Família in Barcelona, and Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to name a few. They have graced the stage of Dvořak Hall in Prague and entertained dignitaries in Italy and Ireland. Here in the United States, they have accepted prestigious invitations to perform at state and regional conferences of the American Choral Directors’ Association, twice at the Oregon Bach Festival, and made their Carnegie Hall debut in 2019. They have appeared on the nationally-broadcast A Prairie Home Companion and can be heard on any of several independently-released CDs, as well as on recordings by Saint John’s Abbey, Amy Grant, and the Grammy-nominated album Ghosts Upon the Earth by Gungor.
For all its international success, the choir remains firmly rooted in its Central Minnesota community. The choir has collaborated with almost every musical ensemble in the region, as well as with several professional Minnesota artists such as Jearlyn Steele (gospel), George Maurer (jazz), Peter Rothstein (theater), the Rose Ensemble (choral), and the Minnesota Dance Ensemble. The choir has commissioned and premiered works by notable Minnesota composers Stephen Paulus, René Clausen, and Eric Barnum. They reinstituted and have twice hosted the Minnesota State Boychoir Festival, bringing together the state’s community boys’ choir organizations.
SJBC has a strong reputation across the state and the nation for its outstanding concert programming, refined choral tone, and exceptional commitment to male social development. A musical and experiential curriculum guides each choirboy’s progress through four different choral ensembles. The choirs perform as unique entities, but often combine to pursue repertoire with larger musical forces and to provide leadership opportunities for singers of all ages.
The Training Choir is made up of approximately 25 of the newest choirboys. Auditions are held during January with weekly two-hour rehearsals beginning in February and running through the end of May. The primary goals of this choir are to develop a well-supported, unison sound, and to become familiar with basic note-reading and music theory. The Training Choir performs for the annual Spring Gala and at area churches.
Conductor: Emma Hohulin • Pianist: Julia Beck
The Junior Varsity Choir comprises boys in their second or third year of the program. In addition to their regular 2 hours of rehearsal, the 26-32 boys in this group spend an hour each week before rehearsal studying theory, developing keyboard skills, and taking voice lessons. Each year, the JV travels to a different US destination for a week to perform at various schools and churches.
Conductor: Joshua Smith • Pianist: Matt Kiminski
The Varsity Choir comprises between 25-36 of the most senior trebles of the program. These singers pursue more challenging repertoire and learn more advanced vocal techniques. The group rehearses twice a week for 2 hours and studies theory as well. The group tours every year, alternating domestic and international travel.
Conductor: Aaron VanDanacker • Pianist: Sean Jacobson
Nova Voce is an ensemble dedicated to developing and celebrating the boy's changing voice. The young men work on TB choral repertoire aimed at developing their new voice, as well as SATB repertoire that they perform regularly with the Concert Choir. This ensemble meets twice a week for two hours of rehearsal.
Conductors: Aaron VanDanacker & Brandon Nordhues • Pianist: Sean Jacobson