My work for Christmas with the Georgia Boy Choir

Christmas with the Georgia Boy Choir, 2011

This season I did some music copyist work for the Georgia Boy Choir for their amazing Christmas concert at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, December 16 and 17.

Director David R. White is also a solo singer, and with the orchestra and choir he wanted to close the concert by performing Alan Silvestri‘s “God Bless Us Every One” from the Disney movie A Christmas Carol (2009). The song was written for Andrea Bocelli, who belts out a high Cb at the end. David, being a fine singer but a mere mortal, needed the song in a lower key. He asked me to transpose the whole thing down for choir, orchestra, and soloist. So we bought the full set of orchestral parts, choir octavos, and conductor’s score from Hal Leonard.

David wrote his own modified arrangement for the the choral part. He gave the Hal Leonard scores to me. I replicated everything in the Sibelius music notation software program, making a few adjustments to the arrangement to accommodate the transposition and instrument ranges, and to reconcile the chord progressions between the conductor’s score,¬† two different published piano accompaniment arrangements, and David’s choral arrangement. I then printed up a new choral octavo, conductor’s score, and parts for the orchestra. It was a huge orchestration (on a Disney scale and budget); David performed it with a twenty-five piece orchestra and pipe organ accompaniment.

Two esteemed members of the professional orchestra told me that they all checked my charts and that they contained no errors and were easy to read. Mission accomplished.

David sang the piece, unamplified, with all of his choirs and the orchestra, the massive pipe organ, and the B√∂sendorfer Imperial Grand at Peachtree Road UMC. That’s his son Duane, a freshman at Covenant College, conducting in the picture above.

I can’t show you any of my scores, which will never get out of David White’s hands, because the piece is copyrighted by people who are not me and not David White. Let me state again, the Georgia Boy Choir purchased a full set of commercial, licensed scores for every part for every musician, so all copyright requirements were met, and the Georgia Boy Choir pays performance royalties as well.

Wheat sings Menotti’s opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors”

Please permit me to share with you what a great Christmas season I had. I haven’t sung a solo role in a stage production since I was in college in 1988, and I haven’t been in any kind of stage production since 1992, but this season I sang King Kaspar in Roswell Presbyterian‘s production of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, with a full 23-piece professional orchestra. We performed two concerts, December 8 and 9, in front of a total paying audience of 1,100. It was a benefit for the Christian charity Music Mission Kiev in the Ukraine.

I got to work with the fabulous 26-year-old opera singer Shellee Wilson as Amahl’s Mother. I call her “the next Jessye Norman“. She’s headed to London for the next year. Ralph Griffin, a member of the church and the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, is a retired professional operatic bass-baritone, and played King Balthazar. King Melchoir was played by Roswell Pres. music director Bruce Graham‘s son Andrew, who has a master’s in choral conducting and is a high-school choir director. Amahl was played by 13-year-old Sarah Clements, who amazingly is as much of a classical ballet dancer as she is a singer and actress. It was a professional-calibre production and the best production of Amahl you could ever hope to see in a church in this town.

I’m happy to say that vocally I held my own with the pros. We had eight weeks of two nights a week of rehearsals, which is a lot, but I took advantage of it, and got my comedic timing down well. I didn’t know if I could pull it off and make people laugh, but guess what, I did.

I’m at the age where career professional opera tenors are retiring. I have no illusions about getting many more opportunities like this one, let alone making any money at it, but it’s gratifying. Circumstances made it difficult for me to devote much energy to singing for many years. Only in the last three years have I been able to get serious about it again, and it feels good.

Photographs are by professional photographer Stanley Leary, and he holds the copyright. Prints may be purchased at this link at photocore.us.

"One moonstone to make you sleep."
"Choirs of angels hover over his roof and sing him to sleep."
"Yes, good woman. Let him come with us. We'll take good care of him."

Most unfortunately the photographer did not shoot any pictures of me cupping my hand to my ear and saying “Eh?”.

Merry Christmas.