My prior familiarity with the Vienna Boys Choir was their version of “The Little Drummer Boy” in the 1968 stop-action animated Christmas TV special of the same name. Since I had the association between the choir and the holiday season, when I heard that they were coming to the Klein (a 75-year-old art deco theater in Bridgeport, Connecticut) this December, I thought I might as well check them out.
The Vienna Boys Choir is actually divided into four different sub groups which travel separately, all over the world. Currently touring the U.S.A., Canada, Germany, and Luxembourg, they will be heading to Korea and Japan in 2015, while also making many regular appearances in Austria. The choir maintains its own schools, in order to accommodate this intensive schedule (the singers are on the road for about eleven weeks per year).
They are, for the most part, Austrian boys (all between ten and fourteen), although the choir I saw also had representation from Romania, Slovakia, the U.S.A., South Korea, Japan, and one boy from Mexico who played the guitar rather sweetly. In their sailor suits, they look like they could be extra Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music, but when they open their mouths, you don’t hear “I don’t need a governess!” or any yodeling about the lonely goat herd. They have voices like angels, absolutely astonishing in their beauty.
Their performance included selections from what their choirmaster called their classical repertoire (and as they were founded in 1498, they’ve had a lot of time to develop it). I thought “He Shall Feed His Flock” from Handel’s Messiah and “Sandman and Evening Prayer” from Englebert Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel were standouts. Their version of “Hail, Holy Queen” from the movie Sister Act was quite the crowd pleaser. They also sang some Christmas favorites, among them “Carol of the Bells,” “Let it Snow,” a swinging sixties style “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and the original German version of “Silent Night” (Stille Nacht), which brought the show to a close.
If they come to your area, or you find yourself in Vienna, go check them out. Their website has concert tour information in German and English: http://www.wienersaengerknaben.at/_1
And if that is in any way geographically inconvenient, you can get one of their (many) Christmas albums…their latest is 2014’s Good Shepherds, which seems to only be available (so far) at their online store.
Fröhliche Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org