Boychoirs: a fragile and important legacy

Special, celebrated and unique

Ragazzi Boys Chorus was created to give boys the opportunity to sing, to work together as artists and to express their emotional lives. Ragazzi also continues a long tradition of boys singing music created especially for them, a tradition that shows the unique and special sound of the unchanged boy’s voice. For most American boys who want to sing, there aren’t many opportunities like Ragazzi, although having seven distinct boychoirs that call the San Francisco Bay Area home is astonishingly unique!

Rooted in History

The historical record of the boychoir tradition begins in the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, where boys’ voices were used in worship music and festival music. Although the Talmud makes reference to adding boys’ voices to the mens’ to “sweeten the sound,” they apparently did not sing on their own.

Artistry and Hard Work

Boys, when they work hard, get great family support, and excellent teaching, are capable of singing music that would daunt most adults. While there is a preponderance of sacred music for boys’ voices (most traditional music was developed for worship services), in the last century boys choirs have expanded their musical role to become concert organizations. Composers are still drawn to write music that shows off this unique and wonderful sound, and there is an ever-increasing secular literature for boychoirs.

We will launch a series of articles explaining the wonderful history of boychoirs, but you can have the opportunity to hear for yourself a slice of that history at Ragazzi’s December concerts.  You’ll get to hear a hard-working boy (and yes, he’s talented, but that is only a beginning) sing an aria written for accomplished female opera singers – Mozart’s amazing, extreme upper-register Queen of the Night aria from his most popular opera, The Magic Flute, at our Winter Family Recital on December 13.

An Endangered Tradition

Ragazzi’s boys are continuing this ancient but endangered tradition of vocal and artistic development for young males. Endangered? When the primary music in a society is simplistic and loud with a driving beat, cultivation of patient listening and layered interpretation goes unrewarded. When Xboxes and PS-3s sing the siren song of instant gratification, it can be tough to teach the delayed rewards of work and skill leading to artistry and mastery.

For all our boys, from the beginnings of the little Primary voices to the fully developed trebles in the Concert Group, then on to the emerging tenors and basses in the Young Men’s Ensemble, Ragazzi celebrates the voices of boys.

—Ragazzi founder Joyce Keil


‘Tis the season!


What shall be their music?