For over 40 years, the Newark Boys Chorus School has connected boys in grades four through eight with song, and have in turn brought that song into the world.
For the third time in three years, members of the school brought their voices to Morristown Medical Center on Monday. Unlike their first two appearances in the spring exclusively for patients at the hospital, the chorus sang a blend of standards, unexpected new favorites and holiday fare for the public.
It's one of the world-renowed music program's preview performances, leading up to their biggest performance of the holiday season, at Grace Church in Newark on Dec. 17.
The chorus also will perform Dec. 16 and 22 at the Short Hills Mall.
Music Director Donald Morris gave a brief introduction to the program, founded in the 1960s, before leading the group of 31 in an hourlong concert.
"We're just so happy to sing for you all," he said.
Founded in 1969, the Newark Boys Chorus School "provides academic and musical education to young men from the greater Newark area in grades four through eight. Our students graduate with the maturity, discipline and self-confidence to succeed in life," according to the school website.
The chorus, which performs about 50 shows a year, has been around the world, giving concerts as close as New Jersey, as far as South Africa, Australia and Jamaica, where Morris was born.
Currently applying for prep school, eighth-grader Stephon Waddell said his four years at Newark Boys Chorus School have given him a deeper appreciation for music and its impact on both those presenting it and those experiencing it.
It's a statement his classmate Robert Stephens, also in eighth grade, echoes.
"One thing we all have in common is we all love music and being around it," he said. "And, it's not just making us happy."
Whether it has been public concerts such as the one on Monday, or concerts held for Morristown Medical Center oncology patients, Robert has seen the importance of the music. "The smiles they have ... some of them haven't smiled in a long time."
Smiles were not hard to find in the Malcolm Forbes Ampitheater. The chorus provided a blend of songs sung from the stage, as well as interaction with the audience, something a few Newark Boys Chorus School alum got involved in, as well.
"For me, it was a passion for music. This gave us an outlet," said Keith Gibson, who along with twin brother Kevin, performed in the 1973-74 class that traveled as far as the Vatican to perform for the Pope.
"We toured the world, we brought joy to the world," said Gibson who, like his brother, has taken his time in the chorus as a stepping stone toward a musical career as both a percussionist and producer for such recognized artist's as fellow Newark native Lauryn Hill.
After seeing the boys give it their all on Monday, Keith Gibson, like the rest of the audience, clapped and cheered.
"It was phenomenal, I still miss it," he said.