As the summer break began, St. Mark’s Middle School choristers traveled across the pond for a 12-day trip to England and the Choir’s 17th biennial International Tour.
Twenty-three choristers, led by St. Mark’s Organist and Director of Treble Choristers Glenn Stroh and chaperones Greg Crook, Jason Lange, and Shannon Nadalini, stepped out of their comfort zone to sing side-by-side with the choristers of Hereford Cathedral in a choral residency, which formed the heart of this year’s trip. A visit from the Hereford Cathedral Choir of Men & Boys to St. Mark’s in 2016 helped strengthen the connection between the two programs, leading to this special arrangement that allowed St. Mark’s choristers an opportunity to collaborate with one of the top choirs of men and boys in England. This was the first time St. Mark’s students have benefited from joining forces in this type of partnership during an international tour.
The boys sang, ate meals, played, and explored together, united by a common mission. Through daily rehearsals with Mr. Stroh and Hereford Cathedral Director of Music Geraint Bowen, the boys grew immensely as singers and individuals. Mr. Bowen’s inspired leadership of the choir built on its already high level of vocal training and preparation, yielding a remarkably fine choral sound. Hereford Cathedral Organist Peter Dykes and guest organist James Lancelot, the former Organist and Choirmaster at Durham Cathedral, helped round out an impressive cast of musicians supporting the work of the choristers.
In addition to their musical duties, the choir spent time taking in the history and culture of England. They climbed 332 steps to the top of the Salisbury Cathedral Tower, walked the hedge mazes and secret passageways of Hampton Court Castle, explored the filming locations from Harry Potter in the village of Lacock, and toured Windsor Castle, official residence of Queen Elizabeth II and the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.
Through the myriad musical and historical lessons, the boys were presented with numerous opportunities for growth as individuals and global citizens. Navigating unfamiliar cities, managing their own finances, and adhering to strict rehearsal schedules promoted a sense of personal responsibility, self-reliance, and leadership. Throughout their trip, the boys were gracious ambassadors of St. Mark’s and Dallas, even singing their gratitude to the food services staff where they ate. The boys impressed many with their high standard of singing, with one English tour guide describing them as “a proper choir.”
“The boys carried more than their own loads in order to move the group forward and were constantly thinking ahead to the future needs of the team,” said Shannon Nadalini. “The empathy, respect, and care they showed toward their peers and the chaperones demonstrated maturity and reminded me of their progress along the Path to Manhood.”
To crown off a successful tour, the choir sang their final service at Tewkesbury Abbey, where they were welcomed by the ringing of the church bells that customarily signal an upcoming Evensong service.
“Just when I thought the bar couldn’t be nudged higher, they exceeded expectations in singing a glorious evening service,” Glenn Stroh said of the group’s final service of Choral Evensong. “Smiles around the choir confirmed what the boys knew inside: they had achieved something wonderful with their hard work and perseverance.”
The Choir of St. Mark's School of Texas, affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music since 1951, is known as one of the pre-eminent boys’ choirs in the U.S. During the academic year, the choir performs at daily chapel services, monthly Evensong services, the annual Festival of Lessons and Carols, Baccalaureate, and various events in and outside of the St. Mark's community. The choir is regularly invited to perform in residence at some of the oldest and most famous cathedrals around the world as part of their biennial International Tours. In addition to England, recent tours have included South Africa, Canada, and Washington, D.C.
St. Mark’s School of Texas is a private, nonsectarian college-preparatory boys’ day school for students in grades 1 through 12, located in Dallas, Texas. St. Mark’s aims to prepare young men to assume leadership and responsibility in a competitive and changing world.