Van Gogh masterpiece-themed concert features The Choir of Men and Boys at St. Paul’s in film premiere

The entrance of Saint Paul’s Church during the filming of Starry Night, image by Julia Monaco Photography

Starry Night delivers incomparable musical celebration featuring singers from Greater Boston region in the European chorister tradition, now accessible worldwide

In this season’s anxious atmosphere of social distancing, Starry Night: Christmas in Harvard Square is a beacon of musical hope.  The performance is inspired by the stillness of Vincent Van Gogh’s magical painting masterpiece Starry Night, depicting the wonder found in the night sky and embracing the spirit of Christmas celebration.  Fifteen musical selections span perennial Christmas favorites by Johann Sebastian Bach to modern-day compositions of John Rutter, as well as original arrangements by Kennerley and Theodore Marier, SPCS founder.  Sublime soundscapes and heavenly voices are heralded in works by Harold Darke and contemporary American composer Eric Whitacre, shining side-by-side with more obscure gems like the buoyant Sir Christèmas by Welshman William Mathias, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, and a setting of the Medieval poem, Adam Lay Ybounden.

During this year it has become crystal clear just how much we all need music in our lives,” shares Kennerley.  “Choral music is so very special around Christmastime.  In light of the need to adapt this season, we created a program that welcomes the listener inside the performance, as if they were immersed in the music and sitting among us, as our community has since 1963.  Selections inspired by Van Gogh’s famous painting include several arrangements that I composed just for this performance – pieces that I particularly loved to sing myself as a boy chorister.”

300Two students rehearse for Saint Paul Choir School’s Starry Night
concert film, image by Julia Monaco Photography

Starry Night: Christmas in Harvard Square delivers stunning works that conjure imagery paralleled in Van Gogh’s masterpiece, painted in Southern France in 1889 – glorious swirling music enlightened by a night sky of glistening voices heralded by the light of illuminated stars.  Van Gogh himself once wrote “But the sight of the stars always makes me dream,” and here, The Choir of Men and Boys bring their finest performances, in full voice – in Van Gogh’s own words – “more alive and richly colored than the day”.

“This concert film, like Van Gogh’s masterpiece, offers a calming experience to music lovers wherever they may be,” says Dr. Thomas Haferd, SPCS Head of School.  “For the Saint Paul’s Choir School community, the performance is a welcome reminder of the traditions that, now more than ever, ground and define us all.”

Starry Night: Christmas in Harvard Square premieres on December 19, 7 pm via viewing hyperlink. The performance is available to supporters on YouTube and Vimeo, where viewers can stream on the device of their choice, including Smart TVs, Amazon Fire Sticks, Chromecast, AppleTV and Roku via YouTube and Vimeo apps through desktop, laptop and tablet devices or smartphones.

Starry Night:  Christmas in Harvard Square program:

Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, arr. by Keith Chapman

Once in royal David’s city, by H.J. Gauntlett and A.H. Mann, arr. by David Willcocks

In the Bleak Midwinter, by Harold Drake

Adam Lay Ybounden, by James Kennerley

Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, by John Rutter

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, by Richard Willis, arr. by James Kennerley

Silent Night; by Franz Gruber, arr. by Theodore Marier

SPCS Director of Music and Choirmaster James Kennerley,
image by Julia Monaco Photography

Nativity Carol, by John Rutter

Ave Maria, by Franz Biebl

Lux Aurumque, by Eric Whitacre

I Wonder as I Wander, by Carl Rütti

Sir Christèmas, by William Mathias

Hark! The herald angels sing, by Felix Mendelssohn, arr. by David Willcocks

Personent Hodie, arr. by James Kennerley

Internationally acclaimed conductor, organist, and composer, James Kennerley, is Director of Music at Saint Paul’s Church and Choir School in Harvard Square. Additionally, he is Municipal Organist for the City of Portland, ME, which he combines with regular concertizing throughout the US and Europe. His training is rooted in the English choir school tradition, having sung as a chorister under Graham Elliott and Barry Rose at Chelmsford Cathedral. He later served as Organ Scholar at Jesus College, Cambridge, and at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. Most recently he served as Music Director at three influential Episcopal churches in the United States. He has provided further professional leadership as Dean of the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and as Director of the New Jersey State Children’s Chorus.

Founded in 1963, Saint Paul’s Choir School is a Catholic day school that prepares boys in grades 3 through 8 to succeed in the strongest secondary schools, becoming confident and virtuous leaders, and grow into compassionate, caring adults. Embracing the great cathedral school model, SPCS unites a rigorous academic and musical curriculum rooted in the Roman Catholic moral tradition. Within this community of faith, friendship and high expectations, students build the habits of mind and heart to rise to all of life’s demands and thrive.

Starry Night rehearsal, under the direction of Conductor James Kennerley,
image by Julia Monaco Photography

Saint Paul Choir School’s world-class music program trains all students in choral music appreciation, theory and practice, enabling them to grow as thoughtful students, disciplined performers and virtuous young men. Students sing music ranging from Gregorian chant (a key feature in any sung Mass) to contemporary choir commissions to choral masterworks.  As the boys continue through the school and their voices change, a Choral Studies course teaches them about conducting, composition, and choir training. The study of the organ is also available to qualified students.  The choir provides beautiful liturgical music at daily and Sunday services at Saint Paul’s Church and have released several professional recordings, including the albums Ave Maria and Christmas in Harvard Square (by Aim Higher Recordings, available at saintpaulschoirschool.us). In addition, the ensemble tours internationally and performs alongside renowned groups such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 

Saint Paul’s Choir School safely educates during the pandemic in full-time small classrooms of 10 students or less, observing state health mandates.  Distance learning is also available.  To learn more about Saint Paul’s Choir School enrollment, curriculum, programs and performances, visit saintpaulschoirschool.us, call 617-868-8658, or email admin@saintpaulschoirschool.us, or follow St. Paul’s Choir School Harvard Square on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  For more information on Saint Paul’s Harvard Square, visit stpaulparish.org

About Saint Paul’s Choir School

Saint Paul’s Choir School (SPCS) is the only private all-boys Catholic Choir School in the United States, serving students in grades 3 through 8.  Founded in 1963 by Dr. Theodore Marier, SPCS is a vital facet of Saint Paul’s Parish in Harvard Square, Cambridge, led by Father William Kelly, Pastor, an alumnus of the school himself.  

​Uniquely integrated with music study, the school’s diverse academic offerings aspire to give each student a strong foundation in basic skills and to provide diverse opportunities for enrichment. The positive influence derived from the study of music on other academics is clearly evident. Many families were unaware that their child was a capable singer upon entry, and have benefitted from SPCS’s frequent choral practice, regular performances, and academic study of music theory. Classes are small and motivation is high among both students and teachers, making for a lively, energetic and creative classroom environment.​

To learn more about enrollment, curriculum, programs and performances, visit saintpaulschoirschool.us, call 617-868-8658, or email admin@saintpaulschoirschool.us, or follow St. Paul’s Choir School Harvard Square on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.