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Boys Choir of Harlem Holding Auditions in Comeback Bid

By Ben Fractenberg | October 8, 2012 1:24pm
 The Boys Choir of Harlem, which disbanded in 2009, is holding auditions in effort to restart the program.
The Boys Choir of Harlem, which disbanded in 2009, is holding auditions in effort to restart the program.
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HARLEM — The famed Boys Choir of Harlem is trying to make a comeback after stopping performances in 2007 and eventually collapsing in the wake of a sex abuse scandal and financial struggles.

And the efforts to rebuild the group will be filmed by an L.A. production company, which will turn the footage of the process, including auditions, into a television documentary.

The auditions will take place Oct. 15 to 17 and Oct. 22 to 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Church of the Ascension on West 107th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, said Horace Turnbull, whose brother, Walter Turnbull founded the choir in 1968.

Between 40 and 60 students from fourth to 12th grades will be selected, with rehearsals starting in January.

The choir has performed in some of the most famous places in the world, including Carnegie Hall and the White House. Beyond music instruction, the program offered academic help and personal counseling to the young participants.

Troubles for the group started in 2001, when a 14-year-old boy accused the choir's chief counselor, Frank Jones Jr., of sexually abusing him.

The choir then lost its school space in 2006 and officially disbanded in 2009 in the face of mounting legal and financial problems.

Along with auditioning new singers, organizers are also fundraising and looking for a new home for the group.

Turnbull will lead the new effort. He told the Wall Street Journal his goal is to build character more than launch singing careers.

"It's a commitment to be excellent that we're looking for," said Turnbull. "Our goal is to create productive citizens, not necessarily singers."

Those interested in the auditions can call Turnbull at 914-584-6367 or email him at htbull56@aol.com.