Dr. Walter J. Turnbull is a man of boundless energy. On this cold Monday afternoon, however, he sounds tired.
But ask him about his boys, and the energy returns. Turnbull expects the world from these youngsters, and day after day, night after night, concert after concert, they meet those expectations.
The Boys Choir of Harlem will perform a holiday program at 8 tonight in the Valentine Theatre.
This is “an organization for music and a school for life,” says Turnbull, who founded the ensemble more than three decades ago.
“The joys for me are to see these children go on to be successful human beings. We don't expect them to become professional musicians, but we do want them to take away from their experience a sense of hope and caring for others. We hope that the discipline and hard work that we all do together will give them something to fall back on and be enough to carry them through life's many trials,” he says.
This is an essential part of Turnbull's teaching philosophy. He wants to mold his musical charges into responsible adults through immersion in the culture of music.
“We teach the boys how to conduct themselves on the concert stage, around other people, even at the dinner table. This is all part of a lifestyle that involves being gracious, caring, and full of hope, of generally being the best they can be,” Turnbull says.
Turnbull founded the Harlem Boys Choir in 1968 as the Ephesus Church Boys Choir. The ensemble was incorporated under its present name in 1975. Some 50 percent of the children are from Harlem; 90 percent are African American. All the children are also enrolled in the Choir Academy of Harlem, which offers a comprehensive education for boys and girls grades four through 12.
The program will include music of Bach and Handel, Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington.
The Boys Choir of Harlem will perform at 8 tonight at the Valentine Theatre. The concert is sold out. For last-minute availability, call 419-242-2787.