A Boy(choir)’s Life
Connecting with other boychoirs worldwide has been an ongoing project for the Nashville Boychoir at Blair since its inception. As they did last year, the Nashville Boychoir under the direction of Hazel Somerville joined with the Cathedral Choir of Ely Cathedral, U.K., last fall for a workshop and concert.
Under the direction of Paul Trepte, organist and director of music at Ely Cathedral, the combined boychoirs sang four songs by English composer Richard Rodney Bennett. An hour-and-a-half long workshop was preceded by a vigorous dodge-ball game between the two choirs (a great hit with the boys). Also that evening, Peter North, music director of the King’s School, Ely, conducted a workshop for the Young Men’s Chorus, leading to their singing alongside the professional lay clerks (men singers) of the Ely Cathedral Choir.
Both groups combined in concert at Nashville’s St. George Episcopal Church the next afternoon. Both Trepte and the head chorister of the choir praised the Nashville group for their professionalism and sound.
Ty Jackson, a member of the Nashville Boychoir at Blair, is the treble soloist in the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Chorus recording of John Corigliano’s A Dylan Thomas Trilogy, released in the fall on the Naxos label. The work was conducted by Leonard Slatkin and recorded in December 2007 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Joining Jackson as soloists for the piece were Sir Thomas Allen and John Tessier.
Jackson’s solo on “Fern Hill” was originally scored for mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra, but was changed in its final form for boy-soprano. In its review of the piece on ClassicalSource.com, Jackson was praised for his “marvelous voice, and it’s clear he understands the text, too.”
Boychoir member Jake Moor shared the treble solo with Jackson during performances of the Corigliano piece with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Chorus during its 2007-08 season, singing the part at the Saturday performance. Moor has sung numerous solos with various groups, including Nashville Opera’s Amahl and the Night Visitors in December.
Parker Ramsay, former member of the Nashville Boychoir at Blair, has accepted the prestigious position of Organ Scholar at King’s College, Cambridge University, England. He will be the first American to hold this position and will begin his studies there in the fall of 2010. The Organ Scholarship at King’s College is one of the premier positions in the world for training young organists. Previous holders include Simon Preston, later organist of Westminster Abbey, and Sir Andrew Davis, later conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
During his three-year course of study, Ramsay will accompany the world-famous King’s College Choir for services, concerts, tours, recordings and broadcasts, including the annual worldwide live BBC radio broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve.
Ramsay has distinguished himself as a performer on both organ and harp and as a composer, earning diplomas in both harp and organ performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) in 2006. He was twice awarded first prize in the Music Teachers National Association National Composition Competition, was a national prize winner in the American Harp Society National Competition, and was awarded the ABRSM Hedy King Robinson Award for music theory in 2008.
In addition to being a member of the Nashville Boychoir at Blair, he served as principal harpist of the Curb Youth Symphony, under the direction of Carol Nies. He played continuo for Belle Meade Baroque under the direction of Murray Somerville, and studied harp with Carol McClure, artistic director of The Harp School Inc. He studied organ with Wilma Jensen, music director, emerita, of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Nashville, and piano with Robert Marler of Belmont University. He was supervised in his theory and composition work by Wes Ramsay.
He is currently a student at the King’s School, Ely, U.K., where he serves as Sixth Form Organ Scholar for Ely Cathedral, studying with organist Paul Trepte and regularly performing and conducting in the weekly schedule of services in the cathedral. During his time in Ely, Ramsay has continued to distinguish himself, winning the Composer of the Year award offered by the Cambridge Young Musicians Trust. A member of the Nashville Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, the American Choral Directors Association and the American Harp Society, Ramsay participated in the Cathedral Choir of Ely Cathedral tour, including its stop in Nashville, which reunited him briefly with the Nashville Boychoir at Blair.