Mark A. Boyle

The Web Presence of Dr. Mark A. Boyle, Conductor, Tenor, Composer, and Poet. Here you will find recordings, scores, video clips, and information about Mark A. Boyle, Director of Choral Activities at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA.







In addition to his duties at Seton Hill, Dr. Boyle is an active guest conductor at many county, district, and regional choral festivals. Most recently, he was a guest conductor for the 59th Annual Ocean Grove Choral Festival, the largest festival of its kind, featuring a choir of well over 600 people.
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Boyle, a powerful lyric tenor, is sought after as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the country. He has performed as a soloist with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, The Riverside Choral Society of New York City, and Fuma Sacra.
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Boyle's choral works have been performed across the country by community, church, high school, and college choirs. He finds inspiration in the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Peter Hallock, and 17th century Baroque masters. Here you will find examples of his work.
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Boyle has been writing poetry for many years and has enjoyed a long collaboration with composer Peter de Mets. To date, they have produced 9 pieces. Classic forms and open structure are both found in Boyle's poetry. He is currently working on his first libretto, dealing with the life of Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII.
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PMEA District IV: Neither Rain nor Snow nor Dark of Night

The rainbow of robes just before the concert

The rainbow of robes just before the concert

Making music together is as natural as talking together. It’s one of the many ways we bond as a species. I had the good fortune of being part of a wonderful choral experience in Central Pennsylvania this past weekend – the District IV Chorus, hosted by my new friends, Peg Boozel and Nanette Thomas. Mount Union High School, Peg’s home base, hosted the event. over 180 high school students from several counties took part in this multifaceted event.

The audience sees a polished performance and a smiling guest conductor. What they don’t see…

  • Countless hours of practice time by the students.
  • Countless hours of practice time led by the educators of the District.
  • Volunteers organizing housing for well over 160 students from schools too far away for the students to go home.
  • Volunteers and cafeteria workers mobilized to feed an EXTRA 180 plus people during regular school days.
  • The local folks who housed all of these students.
  • Countless hours of planning and organizing and adjusting and sacrificing by the educators of the District.
  • The teamwork among these professionals – and not just choral educators! The band director at Mount Union was right there looking out for his colleague’s back.
  • Meeting upon meeting upon meeting at the event to insure a seamless flow and plan future events!
  • The willingness of the host school’s students to help their teacher with any task.

It was amazing to watch this well-oiled machine work. And with all the challenges that mother nature threw at the District IV teachers – it was AMAZING how quickly they adjusted their collective batting stance without losing a beat (see what I did there? Mixed music and sports jargon!). This festival was scheduled to run from Wednesday night until Saturday morning. Due to weather, it became Thursday morning until Friday night. Phone calls were made to keep everyone informed of the changes. These teachers work together to benefit their students – and many of them do it at a personal cost (some have to pay for their own subs back at their home schools!).

Despite the curve balls and the reduced rehearsal time, the students offered their music with selfless hearts and unbound joy. They gave honestly, honoring the composers (two of which were present!), each other, and the audience. It was my pleasure to be part of their journey.

Rehearsing away!

Rehearsing away!

Weather couldn’t stop the choral art in District IV. And those in attendance left transformed by the students’s collective gift. They saw the very tip of a huge iceberg, an iceberg made of selfless hard work by a group of people I am proud to call my colleagues.

Many thanks to Joseph Gregorio for Frog went a courtin’, Peter de Mets for Blessings, Ethan Sperry for Desh, Paul Basler for “Psalm 23“, Gwyneth Walker for The Dreamers of Dreams, Susie Gardner for Oh What a Pretty Little Baby, Brad Holmes for Noel, Marty Sedek for He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven, and of course – Mozart, Jack Halloran, and Randall Thompson for their beautiful music!

If you don’t know these folks, get to know them now!

Marty Sedek

Marty Sedek

Paul Basler

Paul Basler

Brad Holmes

Brad Holmes

Joseph Gregorio

Joseph Gregorio

Gwyneth Walker

Gwyneth Walker

Susie Gardner

Susie Gardner

Ethan Sperry

Ethan Sperry

Peter de Mets

Peter de Mets

16th Century Brlliance

On this date in 1586, Grühain, a town in what is now the German Free State of Saxony, welcomed the birth of Johann Hermann Schein. Here’s a picture of him looking like a circus clown.

Johann Hermann Schein - John Travolta would copy his collar style.

Johann Hermann Schein – John Travolta would copy his collar style.

One of the most important composers of his age, he would do much to incorporate aspects of Italianate madrigal composition into the music of his native land. Perhaps most importantly, he latched onto the concepts of monody and the basso continuo which in turn influenced his contemporaries and the next generation of German composers. His better known peer, Heinrich Schütz, also used Italian techniques in his music, which was almost exclusively sacred (Schütz wrote one book of madrigals). Schein’s output contains roughly equal parts secular and sacred music.

A statue of J. S. Bach outside the Thomaskirche in Leipzig - both he and Schein worked here, separated by 100 years but connected musically.

A statue of J. S. Bach outside the Thomaskirche in Leipzig – both he and Schein worked here, separated by 100 years but connected musically.

As a lover of J. S. Bach, I find it important to mention that Schein was a predecessor of Johann Sebastian in both Weimar and Leipzig. He’d die as Cantor at both the Thomaskirche and Nicolaikirche.

Here is Schein’s Banchetto Musicale, dating from his time in Leipzig. You can hear the early nature of these instrumental suites, looking back to the Renaissance.

Tudor Beginnings

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York – see the white and red roses?

On this date in 1486, Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch (though a descendent of the House of Lancaster), married his 4th cousin, Elizabeth of York. This marriage helped to end the War of the Roses, the struggle between the two branches of the House of Plantagenet. The symbol of the newly ruling House of Tudor would combine the white Yorkist rose and the red Lancastrian rose. The Tudor or Union Rose is still used by the British Monarchy today.

Henry and Elizabeth’s pedigree resembles more of a wreath that a tree:

Circular genealogy in royal families is common

Circular genealogy in royal families is common – note the Tudor (or Union Rose) in the center.


To complicate matters further, Henry’s son, Henry VIII (who was his own 5th cousin), married Katherine of Aragon, herself descended from John of Gaunt, the 1st Duke of Lancaster. Huh? If you are keeping score, that means Henry VIII married a Lancastrian cousin on his grandmother’s side. To be more specific, Katherine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s 3rd cousin, once removed.

I find all of this amusing as the big concern (at least the stated concern) when Henry sought an annulment from Katherine had to do with the fact that Katherine had been married to his older brother, Prince Arthur. How could he be married to his former sister-in-law! The shame! The horror!

So who was making music in England at the time? An important composer associated with the Chapel Royal was William Cornysh, the Younger (1465-1523). He would live to see the Field of Cloth of Gold – the meeting between King Henry VIII and King Francis I of France in 1520. In fact, he was responsible for the musical elements of the event.

Here is Cornysh’s Woefully Arrayed – a setting of a contemporary Passion poem. Powerful and flowing, it stands as a fine example of English choral music of the day.

All Hail, Oriana!

Elizabeth I's coronation painting - by that famous artist, Unknown

Elizabeth I’s coronation painting – by that famous artist, Unknown

On this date in 1559 Bishop Owen Oglethorpe, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Carlise, crowned Elizabeth Tudor Queen of England and Ireland. Queen Elizabeth walked out of her own coronation mass because Bishop Oglethorpe elevated the eucharist, thereby indicating the presence of Christ in the host – a no no for Protestant leaning Elizabeth. She had warned him once before not to do this; this resulted in the loss of his seat as Bishop.

There is much music associated with the Virgin Queen. She employed well over 60 musicians at court and played the lute and virginals (a small harpsichord type instrument).

A Flemish Virginals

A Flemish Virginals

One of the most important collections of madrigals written during that era, The Triumphs of Oriana, was dedicated to Elizabeth. Triumphs contains 25 madrigals composed by 23 men; each madrigal ends with this line, referencing the Queen:

Thus sang the shepherds and nymphs of Diana:

long live fair Oriana!

My favorite madrigal from this collection is Edward Johnson’s Come, blessed Bird. Some historians feel that the bird in question references William Byrd and that the first few lines are veiled plea for the composer to return to court:

Come, come, blessed Bird,
and with thy sugared relish
help our declining choir now to embellish

Here is a recording of the madrigal from my Master’s conducting recital, performed by the Ball State University Chamber Choir. Note the text painting on the line “declining choir” – the lines start to fall downward on top of one another.

Birth of the K in K Numbers

Looking very Austere

Looking very Austere

Today is the birthday of Ludwig Alois Friedrich Ritter von Köchel in 1800. Man, that is a lot of names. I’m just going to call him Ludwig for the sake of space. Ludwig was Austrian and born to a family of means. As such he did what many young men in his position did – studied law in the capital. He’d go on to be a botonist, composer, musicologist and tutor to the sons of Archduke Charles – the latter truly allowed him to do all the other scholarly activities owing to a financial gift from the Archduke.

Köchel is most famous for cataloging Mozart’s vast output, and in a move worthy of Kanye West, used his own initial in place of the standard “Op.” for opus. He’s not alone; Otto Deutsch did it for Schubert.

The 11th Letter of the Alphabet

The 11th Letter of the Alphabet

Here’s K.375, the elegant Serenade No. 10 for Winds in E-flat Major. In the movie Amedeus, this is the first work by Mozart to which Salieri is exposed – and it really ticks him off that someone so “boorish” could possibly compose such beauty.

The Birth of Public Radio

On this date in 1910, the very first public radio broadcast took place in the United States. Productions of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci (with Enrico Caruso as Canio) were broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. The equipment used produced a signal that was reportedly received by ships 10.8 nautical miles at sea – that’s 12.4 miles to you and me.

Caruso as Canio in Pagliacci

Caruso as Canio in Pagliacci

Imagine how far we have come in just over 100 years. Using the NPR apps on my iPhone I am able to listen to just about any story I want. I can look up the synopsis of the Cav/Pag pairing with a couple of keystrokes. I can even go to YouTube and listen to a host of tenors sing the famous aria from Pagliacci - “Vesti la giubba” – I can even listen to Caruso sing it three different times in one video.

I am so grateful for the gift of Public Radio. My kids LOVE listening to RadioLab and reruns of Car Talk; and we can do it whenever we want. While in Indiana, Nathan (our 12 year old), actually became a member of Indiana Public Radio!

A little trivia from the Wikipedia article – there were few private receivers of the broadcast. Most were at hotels and at the Metropolitan Life Building in a demo room. In an unintentional nod to chorus and supernumerary singers, only the offstage musicians singing directly into microphones could readily be heard. The onstage singing was mostly lost due to the low quality microphones used during the formative years of broadcasting.

Wisconsin Middle School All State – A Life Changing Experience

Mark A. Boyle - Seton Hill University, Jennaya Robison, and Andrew Last, both of the famed Luther College

WCDA All State Conductors: Mark A. Boyle – Seton Hill University, Jennaya Robison, and Andrew Last, both of the famed Luther College (missing is Elaine Quilichini – she had to get back to Canada!)

I teach my students that it’s the conductors job to make others musically powerful. This concept was crystalized for me by Ben Zander in his TED Talk. If you haven’t watched it, you should! As conductors, we develop a vision and inspire others to realize that vision.

When I work with choirs, I tell it like it is. I tell them what I expect – and to paraphrase my friend and fraternity brother, Karl Paulnack, from his Welcome Address to the parents of incoming Boston Conservatory students – I expect them to save lives with their music.

The Wisconsin Middle Level All State Choir was no different. They sang! They gave away their collective voice, honoring the composers, each other, and the audience. I told them – you never know whose life you might change with your music. I believe that. I believe that there could be someone in that audience whose life is at the crossroads – and honest and selfless art given freely by a group of emotionally connected middle schoolers has the power to pull them down the road that leads to life.

We sang! But we also talked about the music. We talked about the historical context of McCartney’s “Blackbird” – so relevant today. Not about a blackbird, friends. Sir Paul wrote this in response to the riots occurring in ’68 after Dr. King was assassinated. And the middle school musicians ate up this information. You could have heard a pin drop when I talked to them about this.

I have started taking a moment at festivals to ask students why they sing – particularly in choir. One young woman, Scedra (pronounced Say-dra – her name was a combination of the initials of grandmothers and great grandmothers) particularly touched me. Scedra was born 2 months premature. She fit in the palm of your hand. Her father’s wedding ring could slide up her arm to her shoulder with room to spare. Scedra is in a wheel chair. She put her hand up to share why she sang….

“I sing because it makes me feel like flying. I don’t feel like I’m in my chair. It’s like I’m not disabled anymore.”

I wept. I’m weeping now typing this. 149 of her new friends instantly applauded her. The smile on her face eclipsed her chair. Scedra is often (at first sight) defined by her wheelchair, but in that moment, she was simply and beautifully a young woman overjoyed to be making music with her new friends.

Scedra and a host of her colleagues shared from their hearts in a room full of people they had just met. Music did this. Music created this place that allowed these people to be who they were (are!) without fear of judgment.

And that is music’s power.

These young men and women changed my life and for that I will be forever grateful.

Thank God, the universe, and all good things for music.

December 26


Today is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Beatlemania in the United States. On this date, I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw her Standing There were released here. The following February, The Beatles would appear on the Ed Sullivan Show three times. I Want to Hold Your Hand quickly risen to the number one spot on the charts and the appearances solidified their popularity.

From the Wikipedia article:

In late 1963, Sullivan and his entourage happened also to be passing through Heathrow and witnessed how The Beatles’ fans greeted the group on their return from Stockholm, where they had performed a television show as warmup band to local star Lill Babs. Sullivan was intrigued, telling his entourage it was the same thing as Elvis all over again. He initially offered Beatles manager Brian Epstein top dollar for a single show but the Beatles manager had a better idea—he wanted exposure for his clients: the Beatles would instead appear three times on the show, at bottom dollar, but receive top billing and two spots (opening and closing) on each show.

Here is I Want to Hold Your Hand from their February 9th appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

December 25

Today, Christmas Day, is the birthdate of English composer and organist, Orlando Gibbons in 1583. He received his Bachelor of Music in 1606 and soon after King James I appointed him Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. One of the most (along with William Byrd) important composers who spanned the Tudor/Jacobean periods, Gibbons produced madrigals, service music, and both verse and full anthems. The verse anthem was a sectional work, alternating between solo sections (meant to be ornamented) and choral sections.

This is the record of John is probably one of the best known verse anthems from the period. While more appropriate for Advent, it;s one of my favorites – so let’s let it slide.

December 24

Today, Christmas Eve, is the anniversary of the death of English composer, John Dunstable in 1453. He wrote polyphonic music and was most likely one of the first composers to use triadic harmony effectively. Other composers, among them Binchois and Dufay, would mirror his use of thirds and sixths. The poet Martin Le Franc called Binchois and Dufay’s contenance angloise (English manner).

Lovely nose...

Lovely nose…

Dunstable often built contrapuntal melodies around plainchant, creating wonderful pieces, and worked in just about every vocal genre of his era: motets, mass movements, masses (one of the first to use a cantus firmus in a cyclic mass setting), hymns, antiphons, and secular works.

Here is Dunstable’s motet, Salve Regina misericordiae.

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