The Choir of St. Mark’s School of Texas shared its musical talent across the pond, touring England during its 18th biennial International Tour. Thirty-two choristers, led by Choirmaster Glenn Stroh, performed in residency at St. Edmundsbury Cathedral in Suffolk, England. Throughout the 12-day tour, the choir boys helped carry a continuous tradition of sung services for the cathedral, which can trace its origins at that site back to the eleventh century. The boys also visited some of England’s most historic landmarks and heard other world-class choirs, including the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge.
As the choir-in-residency at St. Edmundsbury, the St. Mark’s choristers took on the daily musical responsibilities of the cathedral’s choir, singing all of the services for the week, including daily Evensong as well as a Choral Eucharist and Evensong on Sunday. Included in their repertoire were several notable compositions by American composers, such as a newly-composed set of Preces and Responses by Dr. Margaret Burk and the Evening Service for St. Mark’s School, written for the St. Mark’s Choir in 1986 by Gerald Near, a former St. Mark’s Evensong Organist and a noted composer.
In addition to their musical duties, the boys bonded over shared meals, downtime in their dormitory, games on the playing fields, rehearsals, and interactions with locals, including several impromptu performances. As well as refining their vocal skills, the group of Marksmen was lucky enough to explore London, Windsor, Suffolk, Cambridge, and more, learning about England’s rich history. Boys admired the discipline and intensity of the Queen’s guard at Windsor Castle, trekked through Westminster Abbey, paid a visit to King’s College in Cambridge (associated with the development of the Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols), cracked codes with Bletchley Park cryptologist methods and, of course, attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to cap off the trip.
As they worked and played, the boys were presented with and took advantage of the many opportunities to mature. Diving headfirst into tours and cultural learning opportunities, exploring unfamiliar cities and pursuing a high standard of excellence in their daily routine of rehearsal and performance, the boys acted with confidence, maturity and kindness, receiving praise for their manners and composure.
“They overcame fears and challenges, made new friends and connected and grew closer to each other,” Stroh said. “They shared ‘musical mountaintops’ as we sang Brahms, Parry, Palestrina, Sumsion and so many others. The more experienced choristers lifted up younger singers, encouraging and teaching them how to be their best. It has been a tremendous week and one we won’t soon forget.”
In addition to Stroh, this year’s International Tour was chaperoned by faculty members Greg Crook, Erica and Ryan Hershner, Garrett Kheshtinejad, Jason Lange, and Shannon Nadalini, and further supported by tour organist Dr. Kirk Rich. The boys even received a visit in London from Headmaster David Dini and his wife Nancy.
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 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 the United Kingdom, tours have included South Africa, France, Canada, New York, and Washington, D.C.