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Monaco Boys' Choir warms hearts of patients, tourists through joyous music

by Larry Luxner

The Principality of Monaco, the world’s second-tiniest country, showed that it has a huge heart when it comes to music and spirit.

Last week, the Monaco Boys’ Choir — known in French as Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco — celebrated its 40th anniversary by giving two free public concerts in Washington, as part of a U.S. tour that also includes New York and other cities.

Kathleen Gorman, chief operating officer at Children’s National Health Center, shakes hands with 10-year-old Julien Crassard of the Monaco Boys' Choir following a performance at the hospital. Photos: Stephen Bob / CNHC

Under the patronage of Prince Albert II and through the support of the Monegasque government, the choir has donated its time and talents to various international humanitarian associations. Monaco, located along the French Riviera, measures only 499 acres and is home to just 37,000 people — most of them foreigners. The wealthy microstate is famous for its world-renowned Gran Prix, luxury apartments and the elegant Monte Carlo gambling and casino complex.

The award-winning choir, under the direction of Pierre Debat, was established in 1974 by Prince Rainier III. The monarch, who was married to American actress Grace Kelly, did this mainly as a way to promote Monaco’s historical association with culture and the performing arts.

Maguy Maccario Doyle, Monaco’s ambassador to the United States, introduces the Monaco Boys' Choir at Children’s National Health Center.

“The principality has attracted discerning visitors for centuries by offering unique cultural, sporting and lifestyle experiences, and it is always very exciting when our cultural emissaries come to town,” said Maguy Maccario Doyle, Monaco’s new ambassador to the United States.

“The Monaco Boys’ Choir showcases the principality’s joyous cultural and artistic heritage, and we are so happy to welcome them back to the USA in their 40th anniversary year. We invite music lovers to join them at one of the many free performances offered from Washington to Miami and many points in between this summer.”

Pierre Debat, director of the Monaco Boys’ Choir, plays the piano as his young singers entertain patients at Children’s National Health Center.

The tour commenced July 9 in New York and wraps up July 29 in Miami, where it will sing the U.S. national anthem at the Nationals v. Marlins pre-game ceremony. Along the way, the choir will perform in Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando and Palm Beach.

The official ensemble, formerly known as the Little Singers of Monaco, is composed of 30 boys aged 8 to 18, all of whom have passed rigorous examinations before being admitted into the prestigious group. The choir has already visited more than 40 countries and performs an average of 40 concerts a year. Its repertoire includes sacred musical works, Monegasque folk songs, English and patriotic American songs.

Some of the 30 members of the Monaco Boys’ Choir sing at Children’s National Health Center.

The group arrived in Washington on July 14 and gave an invitation-only concert at the French Embassy later that evening in honor of Bastille Day.

The choir’s first performance took place the morning of July 15, with children singing for several hundred patients, families and guests at Children’s National Health Center in Washington. Prior to the concert, Kurt D. Newman, the hospital’s president and CEO, said “we’re thrilled that the Monaco Boys’ Choir is visiting Children’s National, and we are grateful for the time they will spend with our patients, and I know it will be a treat for the kids and their families.”

From left to right: Pierre Debat, director of the Monaco Boys’ Choir; Kathleen Gorman, chief operating officer at Children’s National Health Center; and Maguy Maccario Doyle, Monaco’s ambassador to the United States.

Embassy spokeswoman Elle Berdy said the children couldn’t have been happier.

“The concert was streamed live through the hospital’s in-house system, so all the kids who couldn’t get out of bed were able to watch it,” she said. “They sang for 35 minutes, then met the children afterwards and took photos together on stage. They all had great big smiles.”

Four members of the Monaco Boys’ Choir pose with, from left: the choir’s director, Pierre Debat; Monaco Ambassador Maguy Maccario Doyle; U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.); his wife Marie Royce; and Lorenzo Ravano, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission, at the National Museum of American History.

Later that day, the boys gave a second performance — this one at the National Museum of American History. That show marked the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, whose lyrics were inspired by the enormous yet delicate flag on display at the museum’s Flag Hall.

Berdy, who described the performance as “touching,” said more than 1,000 people listened intently as the boys also sang “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” as well as the Monegasque national anthem and various folk songs in French.

The Monaco Boys’ Choir sings the Star-Spangled Banner for more than 1,000 guests at the National Museum of American History.

For more information on the Monaco Boys’ Choir, visit www.lespetitschanteurs.mc.

Larry Luxner is news editor of The Washington Diplomat.




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