Boys Choir of Harlem is No More, Where Is “Permed Up Al” When We Need Him?

- By Bossip Staff

Remember the Boys (and Girls) Choir of Harlem? If someone doesn’t step up and make some miracles happen, it’s pretty much a wrap for them. SMH

The Boys Choir of Harlem was started by Dr. Walter J. Turnbull in 1968. The choir sang at the White House for nearly every president since Lyndon B. Johnson, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Bill Clinton. Unfortunately the choir was rocked by a sex abuse scandal in 2001 (a 14-year-old boy accused a counselor on the choir’s staff — the counselor eventually was sentenced to two years in prison) which lead to a lawsuit that continues to haunt what remains of the program. Since Dr. Turnbull’s death in 2007, the choir has been plagued with debt (in the millions from payroll taxes and penalties) that has pretty much crippled the organization from moving forward. While Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church continues to get calls wanting to book them, the choir as it was previously known no longer actually exists.

About 30 women and men who are alumni of the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem have since assembled for occasional performances, including a recent Christmas show at a Brooks Brothers store and an appearance in Shanghai for an international arts festival that was funded in part with help from country music duo Brooks & Dunn with a Texas businessman paying the cost of airfare. Local politicians did not even return calls when they were contacted about helping.

A little more information about the current state of the Boys Choir of Harlem is below, along with a video of an old performance with Kathleen Battle:

Last week, Terrance Wright, a 39-year-old choir alumnus, picked up a microphone in front of the altar of Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church in Harlem, the choir’s last home, and delivered news that surprised few people but saddened many.

“Tell the people. Let it be known,” Mr. Wright said, glistening and exhausted after leading a Christmas concert by former singers in the choir. “There is no Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem.”

The choir’s last official performance was in 2007, around the time of the death of its founder, Walter J. Turnbull. But no one ever announced that it was gone. Board members and alumni had hoped to revive it, but they acknowledged last week that they had not had any success.

The alumni say they want to revive the original goal of the Boys Choir — the development of boys and girls through music — if not the actual organization, which may be doomed by its debts and the lawsuit. Their mission, they said, took on an additional note of urgency this month, after education officials proposed closing the high school grades of the Choir Academy, which the city had run on its own after 2006, for poor performance.

But starting over, Mr. Wright said, might require first that people know the original choir is dead.

“Though there’s no Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem,” Mr. Wright told the crowd before launching his red-and-black-clad singers into their final gospel song, “there is still life. It just means God has something else planned.”

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Comments

  • the truth

    wow thats sad

  • Faith

    So how about all of the rich celebrities that always rep NYC help out and donate to keep them alive?

  • abeille

    Thank you Faith. These celebrities/rappers are always talking about how many millions they have, yet a Black institution is about to go under. Where are they now? SMH.

  • Sylmarvelous

    Too bad that one incident had to mees up the whole outlook of the choir. They always sounded so good! Hopefully something better will come later…

  • her?yeahher

    this was a very sad and even disturbing story. but glad to see someone give it attention. Harlem was once known as a place where black people did great things(hello? harlem renissance?) it’s unfortunate to see it’s legacy continue a downward spiral and agian Harlem loses apiece of what made it shine so bright. not to mention, more unseen potential in harlem’s youth, especially black boys, will be pushed to the streets.

    and yeah, where ARE all the nyc folk and harlemites with money and clout? they should be shamed for allowing this national treasure to be stomped down to non existance

  • kapreeshus™

    @Faith
    SMH
    I was just saying the same thing.
    This is not good. We need organizations like these to keep our l’il brothas productive!

  • hey now

    @ dr drake

    lol! that’s so wrong but prolly true

  • hey now

    Huh… Jay-z, Alicia Keys, Diddy hello somebody needs your help

  • http://esaw@rock.com REAL TALK

    YOU NO WHERE AL A?SS IS REAL TALK IF THIERS
    NO MONEY IN IT FOR HIM HE DOESINT GIVE A F?UCK
    WITH THAT RAGADEY PERM HES GOT,TO GO ALONG WITH
    THEM SCUFF UP BOOTS HE BE WEARING,OLD NACCP
    RIPE OF A N?IGGA A?SS.LETS SEE WHAT HE DOES
    WHEN WE CALL ON HIS SILLY LOOKING A?SS.REAL REAL
    TALK

  • http://esaw@rock.com REAL TALK

    YOU NO WHERE AL A?SS IS REAL TALK IF THIERS
    NO MONEY IN IT FOR HIM HE DOESINT GIVE A F?UCK
    WITH THAT RAGADEY PERM HES GOT,TO GO ALONG WITH
    THEM SCUFF UP BOOTS HE BE WEARING,OLD NACCP
    RIPE OF A N?IGGA A?SS.LETS SEE WHAT HE DOES
    WHEN WE CALL ON HIS SILLY LOOKING A?SS.REAL REAL
    TALK..

  • http://esaw@rock.com REAL TALK

    YOU NO WHERE AL A?SS IS REAL TALK IF THIERS
    NO MONEY IN IT FOR HIM HE DOESINT GIVE A F?UCK
    WITH THAT RAGADEY PERM HES GOT,TO GO ALONG WITH
    THEM SCUFF UP BOOTS HE BE WEARING,OLD NACCP
    RIPE OF A N?IGGA A?SS.LETS SEE WHAT HE DOES
    WHEN WE CALL ON HIS SILLY LOOKING A?SS.REAL REAL
    TALK…

  • hey now

    We need you Oprah, Will Smith, Tyler , Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Lebron, Kobe, Shaq. Spike Lee, Denzel, Magic Beyonce hell why not Tiger? PPL don’t have to be from new york to help out…I not rich but ima find out how to make a donation myself.

  • B3 Fearless

    I can’t believe it took 2 years for this information to come out. The Choir was an institution. I can’t believe it’s over.

  • chaka1

    @Dr. Drake

    Let’s see YOU donate something…

  • Honut Sinti

    This is a travesty. Where are the blacks with green?

  • valerie

    where can we donate?

  • Nicoletta

    Wow…This is truly sad. The elite want the masses too be without sophistication and culture.

    Music, dance, language, Arts are what truly enlighten people. Students that study one or more of these also do better at other subjects and have higher self esteem.

    These are the very programs that are being cut from schools because they want kids to grow up and be mindless workers, sick cosumers and ignorant soldiers who follow orders.

  • Stanley

    Barack Obama would help if the school practiced some other religion besides Christianity….So sad

  • OhMy

    Choir alumni! I look back on those days and I truly hated it, but now I realize how much this choir helped me vocally.

  • roxy09

    Black people do not spend their money on relevant things and thats a fact.

  • OhMy

    Reason what are you talking about? You know not what you say!

  • One Hunnit Pruf

    As BCH alumni, I am not surprised that the scandal has shaken the choir to its core. It was a good institution when I was apart of it and it allowed me to travel the world a minority and inner city youth. I experienced plenty of good things that came from the choir. Personally, I think nobody of celebrity status wants to put there money on the choir knowing that the founder and director is deceased and also the scandal doesn’t help either.

  • One Hunnit Pruf

    As BCH alumni, I am not surprised that the scandal has shaken the choir to its core. It was a good institution when I was apart of it and it allowed me to travel the world a minority and inner city youth. I experienced plenty of good things that came from the choir. Personally, I don’t think a person of celebrity status wants to put there money on the choir knowing that the founder and director is deceased and also the scandal doesn’t help either.

  • Kelsey

    If we as black folks can’t stand up and support our own, then we are in a sad state. I noticed the title referenced “where is permed up Al”. I don’t think this has anything to do with Al or that we need him to raise awareness. This didn’t just happen overnight so if you want to blame Al for not stepping up, then all of us, including black journalists should be blamed. This is not a black/white issue. It’s about time we as black people stand up for ourselves and do something for ourselves.

    If you want to make a difference, find a way and do it. If you don’t, then just shut the hell up and enjoy your life.

  • http://esaw@rock.com REAL TALK

    YOU NO WHERE AL A?SS IS REAL TALK IF THIERS
    NO MONEY IN IT FOR HIM HE DOESINT GIVE A F?UCK
    WITH THAT RAGADEY PERM HES GOT,TO GO ALONG WITH
    THEM SCUFF UP BOOTS HE BE WEARING,OLD NACCP
    RIPE OF A N?IGGA A?SS.LETS SEE WHAT HE DOES
    WHEN WE CALL ON HIS SILLY LOOKING A?SS.REAL REAL
    TALK…..

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