Mark your calendars –the world-famous Vienna Boys’ Choir is coming to Boerne! On Thursday, Feb. 9, the choir will put on a performance at the city’s own Champion High School, a concert of a certain clout rarely seen in these parts. Aligned with the Boerne Performing Arts’ continued effort to bring the world of performing arts to Kendall County, the Vienna Boys’ Choir has been invited to make a stop here and put on a Hill Country performance.
The Vienna Boys’ Choir was founded in 1498 and they have been one of the most highly sought international choirs ever since. When Emperor Maximilian I moved his court and his court musicians from Innsbruck to Vienna in 1498, he gave specific instructions that there were to be six boys among his musicians. Until 1918, the choir sang exclusively for the court, at mass, private functions and state occasions. Famous musicians like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Caldara and Antonio Salieri worked with the choir along with composers like Franz Schuber and conductors like Hans Richter.
In 1918, the Austrian government took over the court opera, but not the choir boys. The choir owes its survival to the initiative of Josef Schnitt, who became Dean of the Imperial Chapel in 1921. Schnitt established the boys’ choir as a private institution and replaced the imperial uniform with the present-day sailor suit….then the height of boys’ fashion. Funding was not enough to pay for the boys’ upkeep so in 1926 the choir started to give concerts outside of the chapel and they were wildly successful. The impact was amazing. Within a year, they were performing in Prague and Zurich. Athens Spain, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden followed. The Vienna Boys’ Choir first came to the United States to perform in 1932.
The Wiener Sängerknaben, as they are called halfway around the world, have their own school. More than 250 children study and rehearse in the Augartenpalais, a baroque palace and former imperial hunting lodge that exists in Vienna. Beginning with kindergarten, boys and girls are provided with a complete musical and general education through the elementary grades.
Here in Texas, it’s cool for boys to be in the 4H Club performing at the Junior Livestock Show and Rodeo, but in Vienna, boys are competing to be selected to sing in the choir. At age ten, the most talented boys are selected to join the choir and enter the choir’s grammar school. All boys are assigned to one of the touring choirs and academic lessons are taught in small groups. The school has a band and offers extracurricular activities ranging from sports like baseball and basketball to judo and fencing. They also attend concerts, operas, plays, musicals and movies. The choristers are encouraged to create their own projects and a number of them write, act and direct short sketches about life at the school.
Today there are around 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen and they are divided into four touring choirs. The four choirs give approximately 300 concerts and performances each year in front of more than half a million people. Each group spends nine to eleven weeks of the school year on tour.
The choir’s repertoire includes everything from medieval to contemporary and experimental music. Motets for boys’ choir form the core of the touring repertoire, as do the choir’s own arrangements of waltzes and polkas by Strauss. They visit virtually every European country and are frequent guests in Asia, Australia and the Americas. How lucky we are to have them perform right here in Boerne!
Seeing the Vienna Boys’ Choir performance in Boerne just might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is the perfect occasion to take the wife for date night or bring the kids along so
they can be exposed to a different culture.
Tickets range in price from $30 to $50 and can be purchased online at www.boerneperformingarts.com or by calling the Boerne Performing Arts at 830-331-9079. See you at the show!