College To Celebrate Black History Month With Newark Boys Chorus

CRANFORD – Union County College will host a day of events in observation of Black History Month, including a lecture on freedom, soul food, and an African-American market, on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

The seventh annual Frederick Douglass Birthday Celebration will conclude with an evening of beautiful music from the Newark Boys Chorus and the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club. All events will be held on the college’s Cranford campus at 1033 Springfield Avenue and are open to the public.


The day will begin with a lecture at 10:15 a.m. in the Roy Smith Theater by a renowned scholar of slavery, Dr. Peter Kolchin, professor of history at the University of Delaware. He will present, “What Kind of Freedom? The Abolition of American Slavery and Russian Serfdom.”

Kolchin specializes in nineteenth-century U. S. history, the South, slavery and emancipation, and comparative history. He is currently working on a comparative study of emancipation and its aftermath in Russia and the U.S. South.

At 11:30 a.m. in the Roy Smith Theater, college students will participate in the 21st National African American Read In. Students will read excerpts from various works of literature and poetry.

Soul food will be served in the cafeteria, right off the Richel Commons with a large selection of menu choices from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and cafeteria prices will apply.

From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Victor M. Richel Student Commons will be an African American market including vendors selling all types of products. For those interested in having a vendor table, contact Loren Ventrice at 1-908-709-7579 or e-mail

The highlight of the evening, the Annual Dolores Collins Benjamin Memorial Concert, will begin at 7 p.m. when the young, The Newark Boys Chorus, gathers with the veteran, North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club, to perform songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” and “Let There Be Music”.

The Newark Boys Chorus School was originally the New Jersey Symphony Boys Choir in 1966. The original chorus was formed with the New Jersey Symphony who needed “angels’ voices” for the “Dance of the Snowflakes” in their production of Tchaikowsky’s “Nutcracker”. It was James R. McCarthy who undertook the task and found 66 “angels” for use in the production. On Dec. 26, 1966, the chorus finally joined the New Jersey Symphony and the Garden State Ballet in a complete production of the “Nutcracker.”

The chorus’s debut performance was so successful and received such critical acclaim, that additional performances were demanded, which ultimately led to the opening of the Newark Boys Choir School on Sept. 15, 1969. In September 1972, the school adopted the name Newark Boys Choir, which later became the Newark Boys Chorus School.

Known as Newark’s “musical ambassadors,” the chorus has been heard throughout the world with a diversified repertoire that includes traditional classical music, spirituals, folk music, and jazz. In recent years the boys have toured Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean, Finland, Latvia, and Russia. The Newark Boys Chorus has performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. In June 2006, the chorus again performed at Carnegie Hall in a program that included music by Randall Thompson and Rene Clausen.

The more mature North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club was established in 1939 by the late Delores Collins Benjamin. The young male singers were all from Newark’s old Third Ward. The Philharmonics saw singing as a powerful cultural artifact. During the early years of the glee club, singing was used as a vehicle for expression and a manly ritual. It was a way to preserve style, discipline, and camaraderie. It was also a way to keep alive old traditions from the time of slavery and at the dawn of Afro-American freedom.

The Newark Boys Chorus and the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club perform together on one stage. Photo courtesy of Union County College

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