Pacific Boychoir returns to Merced Theatre

The Pacific Boychoir returns to the Merced Theatre on Saturday.
The Pacific Boychoir returns to the Merced Theatre on Saturday. Pacific Boychoir Academy

The holiday season is, without question, the busiest time of year for the Grammy Award-winning Pacific Boychoir Academy.

Whether it’s doing a gig with the California Symphony, or appearing with “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips, the Oakland-based group always aims to perform at its best.

“We tell the boys that each concert is an audition for the next concert,” explained Kevin Fox, the academy’s founding artistic director. “We want to get invited back wherever we go.”

Having already performed twice in Merced, the choir’s goal to impress has definitely had the desired result. The group is scheduled to return to the Merced Theatre, 301 W. Main St., at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Audiences can expect a night of entertaining holiday music and a diverse selection of songs from the country’s only choir school west of the Appalachian Mountains, according to Fox. The songs will include a variety of Christmas carols by English composers Gustav Holst and Edward Elgar, among others.

“People have an opportunity to hear a very special sound,” Fox said. “We put together a program that has some familiar things that people will remember and also things that people haven’t heard that we think they will enjoy.”

The choir dates back to 1998, when Fox set out to build the program with just six boys. Back then, the choir was started as an after-school program. Today, the academy includes a day school for boys in fourth through eighth grades and the after-school program. About 175 boys attend the academy and those who perform in the choir range in age from 11 to 18.

Fox said around 65 boys will be performing in Merced.

He said it’s “pretty remarkable” to look at the school’s humble beginnings and see how far the program has progressed. “It’s really been a lesson in having a vision and trying to stick to your vision and trying to build it piece by piece – and that includes the boys who’ve come through, the families and the staff as well,” Fox explained.

Students at the day school average about two hours of singing per day, according to Fox.

“(The boys) get to become really good because they are singing every day. You can build up their skills,” he said. “For us it’s always a race against time ... because their voice is going to change at some point or another. You can’t really change that date, but you can change how much training they get before then.”

The Pacific Boychoir Academy seeks boys of all ethnic, economic and geographic backgrounds, according to its website, and isn’t affiliated with any church, ethnic group or geographic area.

The choir, which has performed nationwide and on six continents, has won three Grammys for recordings with the San Francisco Orchestra. The boys also have performed in cathedrals and other venues in Russia, China, Argentina, Australia and other countries.

The choir also has a relationship with South Africa, where it has performed multiple times with the Drakensberg Boys Choir. “A lot of people think of us as one of the best boys choirs in the world,” Fox said. “This time of year we try to sing for as many people as we can – to enhance their holiday season.”

Tickets for the concert range from $30 to $35. To purchase tickets or for more information call (209) 381-0500 or visit http://tickets.mercedtheatre.org.

Sun-Star City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.