The National Children's Chorus transforms the lives of young people, empowering them to effectively lead society toward the ideals of artistic excellence, cultural openness, and social justice.
The National Children’s Chorus, under the leadership of Artistic Director Luke McEndarfer and Associate Artistic Director Dr. Pamela Blackstone, is quickly establishing itself as one of the world’s leading children’s choirs, with a set of 22 ensembles and more than 700 students, based in Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. Its groundbreaking Season 2018/19, entitled Starlight, expands on the chorus’ recent success, featuring an array of stunning repertoire, demonstrating the organization’s firm commitment to new music, world culture and extraordinary professional collaborations.
A world where choral music powerfully nourishes
awareness of our most important human values
Performing locally and abroad, the National Children’s Chorus is one of few youth arts organizations in America to have its concert series presented by professional music halls, working with some of the finest conductors, composers, and orchestras from around the world.
Recent venues include Royce Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles; the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; as well as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, sharing the stage with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale, American Youth Symphony and New York City Master Chorale, among others.
Our Unique Methodology
Students of the National Children’s Chorus are represented by more than three hundred schools throughout its cities, and meet weekly for rehearsal and musicianship study. The extensive curriculum includes college-level conducting, composition, music theory, sight-singing in the Kodály Method, and individual voice training in the bel canto style. Through a holistic approach to cultivating the full potential within each child, recent graduates from the program have gone on to be accepted at top institutions around the country.
These include USC’s Thornton School of Music, UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, UC Berkeley, the Curtis Institute of Music, Northwestern University, Indiana University, Stanford University, Harvard University, Yale University, Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School, in addition to the Royal Conservatory of Music in London.
Each summer, Senior Division ensembles of the National Children’s Chorus travel internationally, expanding the students’ cultural awareness and worldly experience. Since 2015, the children have performed at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and St. John’s Smith Square in London, England; the Great Wall of China in Beijing and the Ancient City Wall in Xi’an, China; St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, and St. Cecilia’s Music Conservatory in Rome, Italy; the Berlin Wall in Germany and Musikverein in Vienna, Austria, as well as sites in Prague, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary.
Our Special History
Father William Finn (1881-1961) founds the Paulist Choristers of Chicago, an a capella, treble choir for boys (ages 5–13) at Old St. Mary’s. Father Finn was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 7, 1881. He graduated from Boston Latin School, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Saint Charles College in Maryland prior to entering the Paulist community. He temporarily left his theological studies to direct the parish music program when the choir was organized in 1904. He then returned and was professed on June 11, 1905. He was ordained a Catholic priest on June 9, 1906. Upon ordination in 1906, Father Finn’s first assignment was to be choral director in Chicago.
The chorus gains national attention by being awarded the first prize in the division of Boy Choirs at the National Contest in Philadelphia. In recognition of his musical achievements, Father Finn was awarded an LLD degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1914 and Palms of the French Academy in 1912.
The Paulist Choristers sing at the Vatican for Pope Pius X on their first European Tour, and is awarded the prize in the Division of Honor in the International Competition in Paris. Pope Pius X gave Father Finn the title, “magister cantorum” (master musician).
The chorus tours the United States and Canada for 6 months during World War I to raise money for French refugee relief efforts, singing 238 concerts in 113 cities. Student, Eugene O’Malley was a part of this tour who would then go on to lead the group 10 years later.
Father Finn establishes the first Catholic Choir School in New York at Libby Castle, bringing several of his exceptional singers with him from Chicago, and founds the Paulist Choristers of New York at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan, where the NCC Junior Division still rehearses today. Leroy Wetzel takes over the Chicago group.
The boarding choir school closes due to financial struggles, but the choir remains strong as Finn recruits local boys from all parts of New York City. The Paulist General Chapter also thanks Father Finn “for untiring zeal, earnestness and devotion to the cause of sacred music and for the prestige that has accrued to the Paulist Fathers by his musical work during the last twenty years in Chicago and New York.”
The New York ensemble begins to perform on the WLWL radio station, and also on the NBC radio show, “The Catholic Hour.” The choir also gives frequent concerts at the Metropolitan Opera House. In addition to performances, each ensemble maintains separate recording projects with Columbia Records and Victor Records.
Father Eugene O’Malley, an original Chicago Paulist chorister in 1912, succeeds Leroy Wetzel as director of the Chicago ensemble. Under his leadership the choir once again travels across the country, and performs at the White House. Father O’Malley was famously considered the inspiration for the character of the same name portrayed by Bing Crosby in the movies ”Going My Way” and ”The Bells of St. Mary’s”.
The New York ensemble, under the direction of Father Finn performs at the Metropolitan Opera House for their Silver Jubilee Concert. The program included Gregorian chant, a Palestrina Mass setting, and other works by Handel, Eccard, Gibbons and Byrd.
The group performs for President Roosevelt’s Birthday Party in Chicago.
William Finn begins to lose his hearing and retires from leading the New York group. In his autobiography that he later publishes, he writes, “music is the most powerful spiritual instrumentality by which human beings can be moved.” He then spent three years at Old Saint Mary’s parish in Chicago from 1942 to 1945 during his retirement before returning to New York for the rest of his life.
Joseph Robert Foley takes helm of the New York chorus. Unlike O’Malley in Chicago, Foley keeps the New York choristers in Manhattan, making occasional appearances at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
O’Malley retires after 39 years with the Paulist Chorsiters of Chicago after the directives of the Second Vatican Council went into effect, leading to an end of the Chicago-based group. This directive moved the church’s liturgy from Latin to English text. The music that the Paulist choir sang was music composed in Latin by great composers of past centuries.
Foley retires after 30 years as director of the New York Paulist Choristers, marking the end of the New York boy’s ensemble.
Despite the reformation in Catholic liturgy, Sister Stella Maria Enright (1933-2017) and Jon Wattenberger (1948-1992), a pupil of Father Finn’s teachings, found the Paulist Choristers of California at St. Paul the Apostle Church and School in Westwood, Los Angeles. The ensemble quickly gains international fame through recordings and performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Joffrey Ballet, in addition to multiple television and movie appearances and international tours to London, Oxford, Venice, Florence, Salzburg, and Paris.
As the choir begins to garner more visibility and prestige in Los Angeles, the Paulist Choristers join the Joffrey Ballet for six performances of Trinity at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and record the music of Danny Elfman in Tim Burton’s film Edward Scissorhands.
Dana Marsh, a highly-acclaimed early music scholar, takes helm of the California group after Wattenberger’s untimely death. Dana now serves as director of the Historical Performance Institute and chair of the Early Music Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and in 2018, Marsh was appointed artistic director of the Washington Bach Consort, recognized as one of the nation’s leading period instrument and vocal ensembles specializing in the performance of the complete instrumental and vocal works of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries.
Marsh leaves the group to move to Oxford, and conductor and organist Sir Martin Neary takes over. Neary is known for being Music Director at Westminster Abbey from 1988-1998, which included directing the music for the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Paulist Choristers are invited to sing music from The Lord of the Rings with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro John Mauceri. For the first time in Paulist history, girls are inducted into the organization, marking the first-ever co-ed appearance for the group.
Luke McEndarfer, current NCC Artistic Director & CEO, is appointed the California Paulist Choristers’ fourth Artistic Director.
The Paulist Choristers of California complete their first season with new Artistic Director Luke McEndarfer, ending with a sublime concert performance at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Los Angeles, featuring Mozart’s Requiem and Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna with full orchestra. Choral icon Paul Salamunovich, as well as Mr. Lauridsen and current Los Angeles Master Chorale Artistic Director Grant Gershon all are in attendance on this day. The Paulist Choristers also are featured on national television as part of the musical act for Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.
Luke McEndarfer and Cristina Demiany found the National Children’s Chorus in Los Angeles, transforming the famed Paulist Choristers of California into a brand new cultural identity that reflects the organization’s key focal points of music education and social inclusivity. The name is also carefully chosen with the vision to expand the chorus’ mission into other key cities.
The NCC launches a new educational curriculum for its students that includes music theory, Kodaly Musicianship study and private voice. The group performs its very first concert under its new brand name in June—Mozart’s re-orchestration of Handel’s Messiah—to a standing ovation at the newly built Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The group also appears on Paramount Picture’s feature film Imagine That, starring Eddie Murphy.
The NCC completes its first concert series at the beautiful Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California, and performs at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York (the founding church of the New York Paulist Choristers, and current home to the New York Junior Division), introducing Manhattan to the chorus.
After a successful concert in New York by the Los Angeles group the previous year, the National Children’s Chorus opens its second chapter in New York City, holding its first rehearsal with only 4 students. The Church of St. Paul the Apostle serves as the New York home-base for the new group just as they did for the Paulist Choristers in 1918.
Growing past 100 members in NY within one year of opening, the NCC performs sold-out concerts with Broadway Star Lisa Vroman. Ms. Vroman is best know for playing the lead role of Christine in the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for several years, and now serves on the NCC’s honorary board.
The NCC moves into Schoenberg Hall at UCLA as its LA membership tops 250, and creates an educational alliance with the UCLA School of Music. During this year of bicoastal growth, acclaimed soprano Lisa Vroman joins the Honorary Board of the NCC, and the organization hold its first fundraising gala in New York at the Harry F. Sinclair House on the Upper East Side, a historical property now home to the Ukrainian Institute of America.
The NCC takes a giant leap and opens its third chapter city in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., as its national membership grows to 500 students. National City Christian Church at Thomas Circle opens its doors and the organization’s stellar educational experiences begin to touch the lives of a brand new community. During this groundbreaking year, the NCC also makes special appearances at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, and sings the music from Frozen for the Oscars on the E! Network.
The NCC makes its debut at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with the Yale University Orchestra, and later in the summer performs Carmina Burana with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The NCC also travels to England, with performances in Oxford and London as part of its first international tour.
The NCC grows to 600 members and performs the Los Angeles premiere of Tan Dun’s Symphony 1997 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and led by Grammy-winning conductor David Alan Miller. Soon thereafter, the NCC receives a $1 Million gift from an anonymous donor, the largest single gift on record given to a children’s chorus. In July, students embark on their second international tour to Hong Kong and mainland China, performing for members of the Chinese government at the Great Wall in Beijing and the Ancient City Wall in Xi’an.
With nearly 700 members, the NCC performs Songs of Love at Carnegie Hall in New York and Royce Hall in Los Angeles. The third international tour takes the chorus to Italy, including special performances at the high altar at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and the Santa Cecelia Music Conservatory in Rome. The year ends with the NCC’s first tri-city event at Lincoln Center, as well as debut performances with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitacre at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The NCC rings in the New Year with a live performance on CNN, followed by a debut at the Kennedy Center in DC. National membership grows past 700, and the season ends with Prism at Carnegie Hall and Royce Hall. The fourth international tour showcases the Building Bridges project in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. The chorus celebrates the holidays with Celestial Voices at Carnegie Hall and Bel Air Church, with a special performance of Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols.
The NCC celebrates its 10th anniversary Starlight season with performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic of Mahler 8, in addition to a tri-city event in the hall with a world premiere by Nico Muhly. Other projects include a collaboration with composer Meredith Monk and a performance at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in DC. The season ends with performances of Nebula at Royce Hall and Carnegie Hall. The chorus travels across the Pacific for its fifth international tour to Japan and Korea.