It's not heaven, but the annual Atlanta Boy Choir concert at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit might be as close as it gets with the angelic voices of 40 boys lifting to the rafters of the historic Abbey Church Saturday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.
In addition to the choir's current roster, 40 men, who were former student singers with the renowned group, will also join the concert, as will a five-piece chamber orchestra.
"We look forward to this and ushering in the Christmas season," the monastery's Brother Callistus Crichlow said. "Advent season is all about waiting and looking forward to the birth of Christ. When (the choir) comes that time of the season, it's like ushering in the Christmas season and the nearness of Christmas."
Atlanta Boy Choir founder and director and Grammy Award winner Fletcher Wolfe said the choir always looks forward to performing in such a "magnificent place."
"We have the 40 boys and the alumni choir of 40 men and as usual, we are excited about being in the monastery," he said. "The acoustics are so beautiful and the abbey is so beautiful."
The annual Atlanta Boy Choir concert at the monastery is a Christmas tradition for this area, said Crichlow, adding that they have lost count of how many years the choir has performed at the monastery, but "it's in the neighborhood of 29 or 30 years."
With the addition of the alumni choir also performing this year, a large crowd is expected to attend the upcoming event. Crichlow said the audience usually numbers around 400 each year.
Crichlow, who has been a monk for 24 years, said he has enjoyed the Atlanta Boy Choir concert ever since he became a resident of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers nine years ago.
"The performance is usually very great with classical pieces, Christmas pieces and some familiar pieces the crowd sings along with," he said. "It is especially nice right now because Fletcher Wolfe, the one who founded (the choir) years ago, was brought out of retirement two years ago."
The Atlanta Boy Choir has performed all over the world and is among Atlanta's most prestigious musical organizations. A number of notable performers got their start with the Atlanta Boy Choir, including Shuler Hensley, a Tony Award winning Broadway star; Morris Robinson, a Metropolitan Opera star; Richard Clement, a Grammy Award-winning singer and Justin Guarini, first runner-up on "American Idol."
The choir was founded 45 years ago by Wolfe, who had an early career as a distinguished opera and concert singer.
Wolfe was a recitalist both in the U.S. and abroad and made his solo debut at New York's Carnegie Hall. He and famed music teacher Nadia Boulanger performed together in concerts and master classes in France and Wolfe was chosen to give performances of works by many of her famous composers.
When he came to Atlanta, Wolfe founded the Atlanta Chamber Opera Co., the Fletcher Wolfe Chorale and the Georgia Festival of the Arts in Italy. He received Italy's highest honor, Commander of the Italian Republic, presented by President Pertini at the Quirinale Palace.
Wolfe was also made a Knight of Malta at Rome's famous Villa Giulia, with the knights present and presided over by the Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani.
In 2001, Wolfe was made a Russian Knight of Malta and invited to conduct the Glinka Choir and Orchestra at the reopening of Emperor Paul's Gatchina Palace outside St. Petersburg. He spent many years working with the man he calls his mentor and lifelong friend, Robert Shaw. He and Shaw both received a Grammy Award for their performances and recording of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem."
For the upcoming concert at the monastery, Wolfe said the performance will include the music of the season with Christmas carols and a couple of Hanukkah songs, as well.
"Most will be Christmas music and carols people know," he said, adding that many of the songs have been especially arranged for the Atlanta Boy Choir.
"We're excited about doing something beautiful for a beautiful season," he said. "We're looking forward to it and I'm sure it will be a magnificent evening for everybody."
Tickets are $20 per person or $15 for seniors and students. To order tickets, go to www.trappist.net. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is at 2625 Highway 212 in Conyers.
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Atlanta Boy Choir holiday concert
When: 7 p.m. on Dec. 10
Where: Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 in Conyers
Cost: Tickets are $20 for adults; $15 for seniors and students. To order tickets, visit www.trappist.net.