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Boys choir to serenade Brooksville

Florida's Singing Sons Boychoir will bring music both secular and sacred to the Hernando High School Performing Arts Center on Thursday.

Musical director Jeffri Bantz said the boys who join the choir are set apart not only by their musical talent, but also by their dedication to the group.

"They work very hard, but they know being in a group like this affords them opportunities they would otherwise not have," Bantz said. "They benefit from not just the training, but the travel and opportunity to perform."

Since it formed in 1975, the choir has shared the stage with celebrities including Liza Minnelli, Bob Hope, Audrey Hepburn and folk singer Judy Collins.

Last year, choir members sang backup for Miracles Happen, a release from the Bee Gees.

Brooksville audiences, Bantz promised, will be treated to a concert including music from Johann Sebastian Bach, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and French composer Cesar Franck.

Bantz said that whether the children perform a Gregorian chant, opera or Broadway, they are well received by their audiences.

"It's an exciting thing for audiences to see kids involved in something they care about," he said. "There is so much press about kids doing bad things or nothing at all. This is refreshing."

Each year, about 150 boys are chosen for the prestigious choral group from 5,000 Broward County fourth-graders who audition. They undergo extensive schooling in vocal production, music theory and stage discipline in the training and junior choirs. When the boys are between 11 and 14, they are usually ready to join the Senior Concert Choir.

"By the time they've filtered through the learning process, with all the theory and practical aspects, they're usually the right age," Bantz said. "Sometimes a little sooner, sometimes a little later."

On Thursday, 37 choirboys will perform at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center in Brooksville. Tickets are $10 and may be reserved by calling the box office at 544-6425, ext. 221.

Since Bantz joined the program 20 years ago, the singing sons have gained an international reputation as a premier choral group, winning top awards at the Prague International Choir Festival, the Welsh International Musical Eisteddfod, the Golden Gate International Children's Choir Festival and the Kathaumixw International Choral Festival.

Though some former choir members go on to study music at performing arts schools and major universities, Bantz said the lessons he hopes to teach are more universal.

"'We are not trying to persuade kids to go into this profession," he said. "We are trying to produce children who are well-rounded and interested in the arts. We give them perspective, understanding and exposure to arts all over the world. My greatest hope is to make their lives more fulfilling after they leave the group."

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