Young Voices Sing


© Richard Cox

When I first heard about the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School a while back, I knew that there was a story to be told. Initially, I thought of a photography book, but by the time we got the necessary access to our subjects, we were more interested in multimedia productions. The school needed candid photos for many purposes such as brochures, web sites, invitations, and the yearbook. We donated our time and resources to the school and convinced them that they would also like to be the subject of a multimedia slide show. The Boston Archdiocesan Choir School, in residence at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is home of the world famous Boston Boy Choir. It is a unique institution in the United States, combining a rigorous academic and musical program for boys in grades 5 through 8. The school accepts only boys who are both academically and musically talented for a program that requires long school days coupled with regular Sunday commitments. The reward for this work is an outstanding professional choral group. The choir, directed by Headmaster and Music Director John Dunn, often performs with other well-known music organizations, such as the Boston Sympony Orchestra. Performances often fill the boys’ Saturday and evening hours. We geared up for the project in late August of 2002, just before the start of the school year. We wanted our finished production to be a part of the 40th Anniversary celebration of the school’s founding in 1963 by noted Gregorian Chant scholar, Dr. Theodore Marier. Unfortunately, this precluded having graduation photographs. We wrapped up the acquisition of photos and audio material in January, completing the program by late February.

Here is the process we used to conduct our research and to gather our audio-visual materials:

  1. Prepared a general outline of the topics we wanted to cover
    • History
    • Audition Process
    • Adjusting to the School
    • Typical Day
    • Performance
    • Graduation and Moving on
    • Parent Commitment
  1. From the outline, we created a questionaire that was distributed to all the boys in grades 6-8
  2. We made several trips to the school to photograph all of the grades and classes and to interview the faculty and students selected based on the questionaires.
  3. We also recorded background sounds in classrooms, masses, and other venues
  4. Based on information we learned in interviews, we visited the school to capture special events
  5. We obtained permission from the school to utilize their recordings in our production


Experiments in Digital Montage


© Richard Cox

Impressionism: Experiments in Digital Montage is a five minute, two projector slide show that features 28 digital photo montages in their “before and after” versions. In July of 2002, we attended the New England Camera Club Council Conference at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. We were intrigued by the “Photo Impressionism” work of Canadian photographer Andre Gallant

Mr. Gallant suggests that photo impressionistic techniques can free photographers to express how they feel about a scene rather than to be always constrained by complete realism. Mr. Gallant described several film-based techniques for creating impressionistic effects. One of his techniques was “slide montage” in which he sandwiched two slides — one out of focus and another of the same scene in focus — to produce a single impressionistic image. The result was a rendition of the scene with a soft, ethereal glow. If you would like more information, Mr. Gallant has co-written (with Freeman Patterson) an excellent and reasonably priced book on his techniques.

We suspected that this technique could be simulated in Adobe Photoshop. I wasted no time in collecting 28 New England photographs and began his experiments.

Here is the process he used:

  1. Open a Photograph in Photoshop
  2. Make a new copy on a separate layer
  3. On the copy layer remove distracting elements such as telephone lines
  4. Make another copy of the corrected image
  5. Move back to the middle layer and use the Gaussian Blur filter, experimenting with various degrees of blur for each photo. In general, the more blurry, the more dreamy the image, but there are also more distracting halo effects.
  6. Moving to the top layer, select the layer blending list box and used the arrow keys to walk through each blending option to see which will produce the most pleasing effect.

© Richard Cox

In most cases, I chose the “Darken” option. Having completed his experiments, Richard concluded that a multimedia slide show set to music would be an excellent way to share his collection of impressionistic images. To prepare the slides for the show, I saved the original layer and then saved the combination of blurred and blended layers to TIFF files which were converted to film using a film recorder.