NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Silenced by scandal, the legendary Boys Choir of Harlem may be on its way to a comeback.
The resurrection of the group, famous around the world for performances at the White House, Carnegie Hall and the Vatican, is being welcomed by some, but the choir’s past has others questioning if it’s the right thing to do.
“I think it’s great. It’s good for the community,” Priscilla Crockett, of Washington Heights, told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis on Tuesday night.
Founded in 1968, the choir featured scores of under-privileged African-American boys. However, it disbanded in 2006 due to financial and legal problems and a child sex abuse scandal involving then 14-year-old David Pinks, who accused a choir director of molesting him in a case that ultimately sent his abuser to prison.
“I can’t change what happened in the past. I can just assure people that going forward this is what we’re going to do,” the choir’s former vice president, Horace Turnbull, told CBS 2’s Dennis.
Turnbull said he wants to move beyond the past, with new safeguards, counseling and mandatory reporting in place, with the goal of giving more boys an outlet to sing.
“I’m just looking for young people who are committed and who will allow the music and the training to help them become the best that they can be. I just want to give them a chance,” Turnbull said.
But Pinks, now a music producer living in Las Vegas, is opposed, saying in a statement: “Horace Turnbull was the first person I spoke to about my abuse, and he never did anything about it. The idea of that same leadership starting another Harlem boys choir is scary.”
“It happened, I am truly sorry it happened, but again, we have to go forward,” Turnbull said.
Harlem residents are cautious, but said they are willing to give the new boys choir a chance.
“There should be checks and balances — some system in place to make sure that doesn’t happen, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bath,” Harlem resident Billy Spearman said.
Auditions start next Monday at the Church of the Ascension on 107th Street near Broadway. Boys in grades 4 through 12 are invited.
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