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St. Paul's Choir School releases debut Christmas album

A new generation is finding its voice in the old world
Catholic boys choir brings its music to the masses 05:23

The boys of St. Paul's Choir School are in the holiday spirit, and these boys have plenty of reasons to sing. The school's choir recently released a debut album, "Christmas in Harvard Square," reports CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers.

From the rehearsal rooms to the church, music bellows through the Cambridge, Massachusetts, middle school where only 12 new students are accepted each year.

Thomas Potts, a 7th grader, said the audition was "very friendly."

"It was very relaxed," 6th grader Colin Lapus added. "He just had me sing something like 'Happy Birthday' or something."

"We matched pitch a little ... he would play a chord on the piano and I'd pick out notes and stuff," Colin added.

Father Michael Drea leads the parish. Five years ago he made it his mission to upgrade the school's music program.

"We're the only boys' Catholic choir school in the United States," Drea said. "We are a choir with a school attached, as opposed to a school that has a choir."

Fifth, sixth, and seventh grade boys make up the choir, but their musical tastes skew a bit older.

Colin said his favorite Christmas song is "some of the more unknown stuff, like the Victoria that we sing, 'O Magnum Mysterium.' Some of the more unknown stuff that's a lot nicer and more calm."

"I would choose 'Jesus Christ the Apple Tree' because it's just boys, no organ," Thomas said. "It's very acoustic and natural."

That's no "Jingle Bell Rock."

Both of these songs appear on their album. They're in the midst of a media tour to promote its release.

"It was very unique because we weren't recording in a recording studio," Colin said. "We were recording in the choir loft of the church here at St. Paul's. And we sing in this acoustic every day, and it's such a great acoustic."

While they're at home singing in their church, they've already performed in the holiest of places -- singing for Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square last year.

"It was really cool," Thomas said.

And yet the boys still find the time to sing in mass 6 days a week.

John Robinson, who moved from England to take this job, leads these young men.

"I was drawn to St. Paul's because it's the only Catholic boys' choir school in America," Robinson said "And I'd long been wanting to work in America in a boys' choir school, and I wanted to become Catholic as well."

The musical director converted religions to lead this choir.

"I was, in fact, Anglican, and I converted here at St. Paul's ... after the first year I was here," Robinson said.

Anyone can hear the dedication and the talent in the voices of the St. Paul's Choir.

Thomas said he sometimes gets stage fright, but then "sometimes you're just not afraid at all."

"I think when I came to the school in fourth grade, I was a lot more nervous," Colin added. "But as I got more used to it, I think that it came easier for me to not be nervous when I was singing."

Singing and playing music is what the boys of St. Paul's Choir School hope to keep on doing, long after they leave these hallowed halls. The boys' tenure in this particular choir lasts only as long as they maintain their childhood voices. When the boys' voices drop, they're moved to another choir at the school that caters to deeper-pitched voices.

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