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Sweet-voiced Active Child began as choir boy

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Active Child brings his unique indie pop sound to San Francisco this week. (Courtesy Vanguard Records)

Until recently, Pat Grossi – who records as the operatic-timbred Active Child – was unclear on specific details about his childhood singing in choral ensembles.

But after his concert in Philadelphia two weeks ago, his Moorestown, N.J. elementary-school music teacher Angela Torban visited him backstage and filled him in: “She was really proud that I was one of her students, and she actually cleared up my memory,” says Grossi, who appears this week in The City, promoting his second CD, the symphonic “Mercy.”

“I initially was in the school choir, then she recruited me for a choir honors program, separate from the school, and then she separated me again and said, ‘Hey, there’s this little group in Philly,’” he says.

At 9, Grossi begged his mom to drive him to an audition for that group, the Philadelphia Boy’s Choir.

“She was really worried that I wouldn’t get in, because she didn’t know at what caliber I could sing, or if I even had a voice at all,” recalls the artist, who instantly was accepted, then singled out for solos as the company began touring the world.

His success is in part due to Torban’s belief in him: “It was the first time where an adult pulled me aside and told me to be really ambitious and shoot for something bigger,” he says. And although during their talk, his former teacher didn’t offer any new pointers, he says, he enjoyed reminiscing, and “letting her know how much it meant to me, her giving me the confidence to go audition.”

Grossi, 32, hadn’t seen his instructor in years. He relocated to Los Angeles in seventh grade, and – embarrassed about his choir-boy profile – traded singing for sports. But he happily filled her in on all the strange turns his career has taken since then.

He attended college in Boulder, Colo., where friends prodded him into fronting their thrash-metal band. Then, while residing rent-free in a foreclosed Denver apartment, he bought unusual instruments – even a harp – and tinkered, mastering music software as he went.

“I had no name, nothing – I was just writing, recording bits and bobs here and there,” Grossi says. “And I had two different worlds going – one was based in really raw recordings of my voice, and then I had a separate world of soft synthesizers, until I finally figured out how to integrate the two.”

On his debut recording “You Are All I See” in 2011, he dubbed himself Active Child, for the wide-eyed wonder of youth his plush, falsetto-crooned songs represented.
His new album “Mercy” – featuring the symphonic “Darling” and “These Arms” – is more ornate, and lyrically dissects the near-breakup Grossi and his girlfriend survived last year.

IF YOU GO
Active Child
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. July 3
Tickets: $21
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com

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