The choir was founded in September 1985. Highly respected singing teacher Clifton Cook was approached by Chris Doig and his first wife, Jane Doig to fill the space for a boys-only choir separate from school or church choirs. Clifton Cook both conducted and accompanied at the same time.
Clifton's vision was to create a choir for the unique sound that is the treble voice. A choir not affiliated with any one Christchurch school or church, and one where enjoyment was key to creating choral excellence.
There were approx. 30 boys in the beginning. Their very first concert, with only 2 months rehearsal, in December 1985 contained nearly all unison songs. 2 and 3 part songs were introduced from 1986 onwards. Alf Jones joined the choir as accompanist.
They began with rehearsals in the Great Hall of The Christchurch Arts Centre. It was first called ‘The Arts Centre Boys' Choir’. In the late 1980’s is was known as ‘The Christchurch Treble Choir’ – or the ‘Clifton Cook Treble Choir’.
It changed it's name to Christchurch Boys' Choir sometime in 1991. A name most likely chosen as a direct description of who the choir members are. Any boy from anywhere in Christchurch, and from any school in Christchurch can potentially become a member.
At one time in the 90’s, when membership numbers were down to only 12 boys, they rehearsed in the loungeroom of committee member (and Mum) Margaret Davidson.
Later on it has also rehearsed in St Andrews College.
Many boys from the choir, over the years, have been part of concerts and performances and productions with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Showbiz Christchurch and Canterbury Opera.
It's first tour was in 1992 to Queenstown’s Winter Festival (in minus 5 degrees temperature). There have since been tours to Auckland, Nelson & Dunedin, to Melbourne and even Kurashiki in Japan. The choir has sung with many high-profile groups and performers including the Vienna Boys Choir, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Rachel Wilford (Doig), Barbara Walton (Christchurch soprano singer) and the Christchurch Liedertafel Male Voice Choir.
In the intervening 35 years the choir has consistently sung a range of pieces from traditional songs, spirituals, sacred song, opera, jazz and showtunes and movie soundtracks. The 2 - 4 part arrangements are carefully selected by the Music Team to challenge the boys whilst entertaining audiences.
We continue to be “Striving for Choral Excellence”. The members are all highly skilled musically and we focus on helping them to better their musical knowledge and to teach them the personal responsibility and discipline required for music performance. We also hope that we show the boys that music is fun and to give an opportunity for our family, friends and community share the joys of our songs.
This year, we have updated our awards, as our trophies are showing signs of age.
I have dug through our archives and updated and reinstated some ‘lost’ awards from the past.
We now have (on display, to be awarded at the prize giving after our EoY concert):
Chris Bruerton Award For Most Improved Chorister
Chris was our MD 2004 to 2007 has gone on to become one of the acclaimed ‘Kings Singers’. Chris recalls that seeing the boys continue to enjoy singing was extremely satisfying. “The idea that I, along with the many other musical influences in their lives, contributed to their love of singing is what I cherish the most.”
Andrew Withington Award For Choral Excellence.
Andrew was MD 1997 to 2004, he is currently Director of Choral Activities at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, USA. Andrew was at the helm for the 1998 Japan trip, CD recordings and the 1999 Trinity College Bronze Choral Assessment. Choir archives note that Andrew continued to grow the musical standard of the choir to international levels, conveying to the boys “a depth of technical expertise” and exceptional musicianship. (Not to mention more camps, workshops and eight or nine concerts a year!)
Margot Hogwood Award For Endeavour
Margot was accompanist from 1995 to 2004 then 2008 to 2010. I have heard tell her role also involved being a ‘mother figure’ for the boys- helping knot ties and organise events. She attempted to retire many times but was called back on several occasions – finally handing over in 2011
We also needed more medals made this year, so have taken advantage in updating and refreshing our medal design as well. These will be gradually integrated into use, as the old stock runs out.
Interesting facts about the choir:
Chris Bruerton – MD 2004 to 2007 has gone on to become one of the acclaimed ‘Kings Singers’.
Andy Ellis - Member 1995 to 1997 went on to become an All Black
Jared Holt – One of our founding members, has gone on to become an international opera singer.
Nicholas Hadlee - Member in 1991, CBC was donated red performance ties by Sir Richard Hadlee (Nicholas’ dad), which were worn for many years.
Julian Hay – Member 1995 to 1999 currently runs Voices Co, as seen on TVNZ’s ‘The Naked Choir’ in 2017.
Richard Oswin – Current Accompanist -his connection with the Christchurch Boys’ Choir goes back to the early 1990s when he was an accompanist and honorary member. He has composed pieces specifically for the choir, and we have sung many more of his other choral pieces.
Fundraising - A particularly impressive effort in 1994 saw $9,000 raised through the sale of a half container-load of soap!
All our memorable events have been made possible through the combined efforts of the music teams, parents, friends and committee members. Over the years, this has included the likes of Margaret Davidson, Kevin Knight, Nichola Densem, Robyn Ogle, Lindy Quennell, Sharyn Hay and Susan Frost (who sadly passed away early this year) and many, many, more. Without whom the Choir would cease to be.
The Boys’ Choir has welcomed over 500 boys in its 35 years.
The Christchurch Boys’ Choir is known for excellence and enjoyment. It’s provided an opportunity for talented boys to come together, and achieve magnificent things through a powerful mix of singing, fun and adventure.
Jill Plank, Chairperson 2020.