The Vienna Boys Choir, with Jimmy Chiang, conductor, will perform in Sewanee at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 1, in All Saints’ Chapel. Tickets are $20. Call Hilary Ward at (931) 598-1225 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org> to purchase tickets. Tickets for Sewanee students, faculty and staff are free.
Boys have been singing at the Viennese court since the 14th century, and in 1498, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I moved his court and his court musicians to Vienna. Historians have settled on 1498 as the foundation date of the Vienna Chapel Imperial (Hofmusikkapelle) and thus the Vienna Boys Choir. Until 1918, the choir sang exclusively for the imperial court, at mass, concerts, private functions, and on state occasions.
Today, the Vienna Boys Choir consists of 100 boys between the ages of 10 and 14, from dozens of nations, divided into four touring groups. Each group spends nine to 11 weeks of the school year on tour. Between them, the four choirs give 300 concerts and performances each year before almost half a million people. They visit virtually all European countries, and are frequent guests in Asia, Australia, and the Americas.
The choir’s repertoire includes everything from medieval to contemporary and experimental music. Motets and lieder for boys’ choir form the core of the touring repertoire, as do the choir’s own arrangements of quintessentially Viennese music like waltzes and polkas by Lanner, Lehár, and Strauss.
The Vienna Boys Choir performs major choral and symphonic works as part of the Hofmusikkapelle, and with other orchestras and adult choirs. They are regularly asked to supply soloists for large choral and orchestral works, such as Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. Both the choir and the Chapel Imperial have a long tradition of commissioning new works, going back to Imperial times, when composers like Mozart, Haydn, and Bruckner wrote for the ensemble. Austrian composers Heinz Kratochwil, Balduin Sulzer, Wolfram Wagner, and Gerald Wirth have written works for today’s boys. Benjamin Britten penned a vaudeville which could be performed on tours, and Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin wrote her Land of Sweeping Plains for them. Over the last century, the choir has worked with some of the greatest conductors of the genre, for example Böhm, Furtwängler, Karajan, Mitropoulos, Toscanini, Walter, Bernstein, Boulez and Harnoncourt. In more recent times, the boys have been invited to collaborate with Mariss Jansons, Zubin Mehta, Marc Minkowski, Riccardo Muti, Kent Nagano, Seiji Ozawa, Christian Thielemann, Michael Tilson Thomas, Franz Welser-Möst, Simone Young and many others. The choir also takes part in opera performances at the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Volksoper, and the Salzburg Festival.