Posted on December 28, 2009

A Quiet End for Boys Choir of Harlem

Sharon Otterman, New York Times, December 23, 2009

For more than three decades, they sang Mozart in Latin, Bach in German, and Cole Porter and Stevie Wonder in English, from Alice Tully Hall in New York to Royal Albert Hall in London.

For the audiences that marveled at the Boys Choir of Harlem, it was an additional wonder that the young performers with world-class voices had emerged from some of the most difficult neighborhoods of New York. {snip}


The choir’s demise as a functional organization was a result of many factors, but everyone agrees it was set in motion by a single episode: an accusation by a 14-year-old boy in 2001 that a counselor on the choir’s staff had sexually abused him. The counselor eventually was sentenced to two years in prison.

The accusation and the scandal that followed–Dr. Turnbull did not report the claim to the authorities and allowed the counselor to continue working with children–set off a chain of events that led the city to oust the choir in 2006 from the Choir Academy of Harlem, the school building that had been its home. {snip}

Owing millions in payroll taxes and penalties, and immersed in a lawsuit stemming from the abuse accusations, the board of the Boys Choir gathered in the months after Dr. Turnbull’s death, said Howard Dodson, the leader of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. {snip}