The Choir of Men and Boys is made up of some 30 boys and a professional ensemble of 6 to 12 adult altos, tenors and basses. The foundation is based on the Anglican Cathedral model of Choir where the boys do the work of professional soprano vocalists. The repertoire offered by the senior ensemble is based on this tradition in SATB configuration rather than on the treble dominated style of the modern children’s chorus.
The Grace Church Choir of Men and Boys was established in 1894, and in the fall of that same year the Church established a Choir School for the academic and musical training of the boys.
James M. Helfenstein served both as Organist and Choirmaster and as Headmaster of the School. He was succeeded as Organist and Choirmaster in 1922 by Ernest Mitchell, who was brought to New York from Trinity Church, Copley Square in Boston. Mr. Mitchell served Grace Church with great distinction for thirty-eight years. Upon his retirement in 1960, Frank Cedric Smith, then organist at Grace Church in Newark, New Jersey, and himself a former choirboy at Grace Church, became Organist and Choirmaster. Mr. Smith retired in 1992 and was succeeded by Bruce G. McInnes, Organist and Choirmaster, who came from Christ Church Cathedral in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Mr. McInnes retired in the fall of 1999 and Patrick Allen became Organist and Master of Choristers in March of 2000.
Thus, in its One Hundred Eighteen year history The Choir of Men and Boys at Grace Church has had only five directors. It is the oldest resident Boy Choir in continuous service in New York City, and its school served as a model for the Choir Schools at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Morningside Heights and at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. The Choir School which began with sixteen boys has evolved into Grace Church School which today comprises some four hundred boys and girls spanning grades pre-kindergarten through eight. In the fall of 2012 the Grace Church High School will open for its first season with grade nine.
During its distinguished history this Choir was the first to have its Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols televised nationally. The Choir has sung on many occasions at the major concert halls in New York City including participation in performances of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and Massenet’s Hérodiade at Carnegie Hall. New anthems are commissioned regularly for the Grace Church Choirs including most recently works by René Clausen, Fenno Heath, Barry Rose and Gerre Hancock.
BLESS, O LORD, us thy servants who minister in thy temple; grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.