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Metropolitan Boys Choir brings gift of music to Minnesota world

Many young Lutherans contribute to choir’s exceptional sound

Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey called the Metropolitan Boys Choir “Minnesota’s young ambassadors of song.” The youthful singers, ages 5-18, have traveled to forty-one states and to Canada, Great Britain, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Guatemala. A retired three-star German general, noting the group’s disciplined behavior as they toured a castle together, asked, “Does the U.S. Army know about you?”
“We do maintain discipline,” says Bea Hasselmann, choir founder and artistic director, “but I thoroughly enjoy the boys’ spirit and enthusiasm. I like working with girls too, but the boy’s voice is unique.”
Established in 1971, the Metropolitan Boys Choir will celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary season in 2005-2006. Its sister organization for girls, the Metropolitan Choralaires, is in its fourth season.
The Boys Choir and the Choralaires will present a holiday concert, Sunday, December 5, at 4:00 p.m. at First Lutheran Church, 1555 40th Ave. NE, Columbia Heights. Future appearances include a concert Sunday, February 27, 2005, at 4:00 p.m. at First Lutheran, featuring guest vocal artist Dorothy Benham, Miss America 1977, and a spring concert at Orchestra Hall, Sunday, April 24, at 3:00 p.m.
“We perform a full variety of music,”Hasselmann says, “sacred, secular, patriotic, folk tunes, spirituals and musical theater. Seventy-five per cent of our repertory is classical. We sing in concert halls and churches, but we also go to senior citizen residences and homeless shelters. We like to reach audiences that might not otherwise attend.”
The choir’s mission is “to provide a unique program of musical excellence and personal growth for Twin Cities area boys of varied social, cultural and economic backgrounds; to develop responsibility and leadership; and to empower these young men to become positive influences in their communities.”
Hasselmann explains, “No boy has ever been kept out of the choir for financial reasons. “We are fortunate to have two campuses. St. John Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis has been our home since 1983, and First Lutheran, Columbia Heights, opened its doors to us in 1998.”
The group is non-sectarian, including Lutherans along with Metho-dists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Roman Catholics and members of the Jewish faith. Hasselmann is a member of St. John Lutheran (ELCA).
New recruits complete an audition and interview in which personal and musical strengths are evaluated. “We look for versatility, skill and dedication,” Hasselmann says. Currently there are seven boys’ and girls’ choirs totaling up to 250 voices. Cambiata, for high school boys ages 14-18, focuses on changing voices. Preparatory or feeder choirs begin in January, bringing the number of groups to ten.
The Metropolitan Boys Choir has performed regularly for 29 years with the Minnesota Orchestra, singing under the direction of Klaus Tennstedt, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Edo de Waart, Sir Neville Marriner, Eiji Oue and Osmo Vanska.
Says Hasselmann, “We are a nonprofit organization with a lot of volunteer participation, and we count on contributions.
“Everybody does everything.” Sharing staff duties with Hasselmann are Christi Mueller, choir manager who also conducts; George Matthew Linkert, administrative assistant; and numerous part-time conductors and accompanists.
Long-time tour bus driver Marvin Green died recently and is sadly missed.
“In keeping with our mission, we sing for fund-raising events as often as we can,” Mueller says. Recent benefit engagements have targeted, among others, Zoom House for families in need and Courage Center. The boys will sing at a New Year’s Ball at Landmark Center in St. Paul to benefit Alzheimer’s research.
Hasselmann tells the story of the group’s founding. “In my early years of teaching music, I found that boys in grades four to six were not singing as enthusiastically as the girls. I put the boys in a separate group. They began to love their choir, and I found a real passion for the boys’ voices. Our organization grew from there.”
How do the young men who sing in this group feel about it afterwards? “I would definitely do it again,” says Alex Mueller, 14, a ninth grader at Cooper High School, Robbinsdale. He sang with Metropolitan Boys’ Choir in grades 1-8, and now participates in the men’s group. “I not only learned musicianship but also how to take care of myself when traveling away from home.” Alex is a member of Grace Lutheran Church, Brooklyn Park (LCMS).
For further information, including audition schedules, contact: The Metropolitan Boys Choir, Box 19348, Minnea-polis, MN 55419-0348, telephone (612) 827-6501, e-mail metboychoir@aol.com, or visit the website, www.mbchoir.com.