Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vienna Boys Choir in Singapore on 2 Sep 2012


The world famous Vienna Boys Choir returns to our shores once again at 2 September 2012, this time with Italian conductor Manolo Gagnin at the helm. If you haven't already heard and seen their exquisite performances live, do make a point to check them out. Here's more information about the choir's glorious history (founded in 1498!), its glorious collaborators (Mozart and Haydn) and alumni (Schubert), and how it has evolved into one of the most recognisable brand names in performance arts today.

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Vienna Boys’ Choir
Conductor: Manolo Gagnin (Italy)

The world’s favourite childrens’ choir and one of today’s most celebrated ambassadors of music will perform a one-night-only concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 2 September, 2012.

Formed in 1498 by Emperor Maximilian I, the Wiener Sängerknaben’s (Vienna Boys’ Choir) distinctive sound is unmatched in purity and beauty. From as early as 1926, the Choir performed outside the Austrian Imperial Chapel, paving the way to today’s highly successful world tours.

The boys range between 10 to 14 years, and are selected to join the choir’s full time training through worldwide auditions. They have their own school at the Augartenpalais, a baroque palace and former imperial hunting lodge in Vienna.

Beginning with kindergarten, boys and girls are provided with a complete musical and general education through the elementary grades. 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. Academic lessons are taught in small groups. The school has a band, and offers extracurricular activities ranging from sports (baseball, basketball, fencing, judo, soccer, skating, swimming, volleyball) to attending (pop) concerts, operas, plays, musicals and movies.

There are around 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen, divided into four touring choirs. The four choirs give around 300 concerts and performances each year in front of almost half a million people. The choir’s repertoire includes everything from medieval motets to Beatles and Celine Dion, from folk songs to film scores.

In recent years, they have performed with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Recent guest conductors include Pierre Boulez, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Zubin Mehta and Riccardo Muti.




About the Wiener Sängerknaben (Vienna Boys’ Choir)
In 1498, more than half a millennium ago, Emperor Maximilian I moved his court and his court musicians from Innsbruck to Vienna. He gave specific instructions that there were to be six boys among his musicians. For want of a foundation charter, historians have settled on 1498 as the official foundation date of the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle and - in consequence - the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Until 1918, the choir sang exclusively for the imperial court, at mass, at private concerts and functions and on state occasions.

Musicians like Heinrich Isaac, Paul Hofhaimer, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Johann Joseph Fux, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Caldara, Antonio Salieri and Anton Bruckner worked with the choir. Composers Jacobus Gallus and Franz Schubert, and the conductors Hans Richter, Felix Mottl and Clemens Krauss were themselves choristers. Brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn were members of the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and sang frequently with the imperial boys’ choir.

In 1918, after the breakdown of the Habsburg empire, the Austrian government took over the court opera (i.e. the opera, its orchestra and the adult singers), but not the choir boys. The Wiener Sängerknaben owe their 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: the former court choir boys became the Wiener Sängerknaben, the imperial uniform was replaced by the sailor suit, then the height of boys’ fashion. Funding was not enough to pay for the boys’ upkeep, and in 1926 the choir started to give concerts outside of the chapel, performing motets, secular works, and - at the boys’ request – children’s operas. The impact was amazing: Within a year, the Wiener Sängerknaben were performing in Berlin (where Erich Kleiber conducted them), Prague and Zurich. Athens and Riga (1928) followed, then Spain, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden (1929), the United States (1932), Australia (1934) and South America (1936).

Present
Today there are around 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen, divided into four touring choirs. The four choirs give around 300 concerts and performances each year in front of almost half a million people. Each group spends nine to eleven weeks of the school year on tour. They visit virtually all European countries, and they are frequent guests in Asia, Australia and the Americas.

Together with members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Chorus, the Wiener Sängerknaben maintain the tradition of the imperial musicians: as Hofmusikkapelle they provide the music for the Sunday Mass in Vienna’s Imperial Chapel, as they have done since 1498. Gerald Wirth took over as the choir’s artistic director in 2001.

The choir is a private, not-for-profit organisation. The eight members of the choir’s governing body oversee the choir’s development and guarantee its future. Dr. Eugen Jesser became the choir’s president in 2001, and its director in 2003.


Repertoire
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 waltzes and polkas by Strauss.

Both the choir and the Hofmusikkapelle have a long tradition of commissioning new works. Benjamin Britten wrote the vaudeville The Golden Vanity for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and conducted the premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1967. Austrian composers Heinz Kratochwil, hk Gruber (another former chorister), Ernst Krenek and Balduin Sulzer have written works for the choir.

The Wiener Sängerknaben perform major choral and symphonic works, sometimes as part of the Hofmusikkapelle, sometimes with other orchestras and men’s choirs. They are regularly asked to supply soloists for large choral and orchestral works, such as Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Mahler’s Das klagende Lied. Choristers also take part in opera performances at different opera houses, most notably the Vienna State Opera.


Children’s Operas
Children’s operas are an integral part of the choir’s repertoire; the Wiener Sängerknaben perform both classical favourites as well as new works. The successful production of Gerald Wirth’s The Journey of the Little Prince led to an invitation to stage Wirth’s Die Schicksalstafel, an opera based on the Babylonian myth of Anzu, at Vienna’s Musikverein. In 2004, the Musikverein hosted the world premiere of Raoul Gehringer’s Moby-Dick, a children’s opera based on the novel by Herman Melville.

World Music and Cross Over Projects
Since the 1920s, the choir has collected music on its travels. One of the educational goals is to introduce the boys to as many different styles of music as possible. Says Gerald Wirth, “We do not claim to play ‘authentic’ world music; we create something from the original sources that is our own. We want to be faithful to the source in the sense that we treat it with respect.”

Silk Road is the choir’s third world music project. The colourful journey along the old trade route was staged by Rebecca Scheiner, a stage director and evening supervisor at the Vienna State Opera, and features songs from Uzbekistan and China, a qawwali from Turkey, a ghazal from Iran and field hollers from Tajikistan, all sung in the original languages. Pirates tells the story of 18th-century pirates, using music from Yemen, Madagaskar, the Carribean and Latin America.

In the 1970s, the choir started to perform a cappella arrangements of songs by The Beatles. In 2002, the boys recorded their first ever pop CD, including songs by Celine Dion, Madonna and Robbie Williams. The choir has contributed to a number of film soundtracks: Primal Fear (USA 1996); The 13th Floor (USA 1999); Dokuritsu shonen-gasshoudan (Japan 2000); the animated Doraemon (Japan 2000) and L.I.E. (USA 2001).

The choir has produced video clips for television and for its homepage, and is currently planning its first-ever DVD.

The Choir School
The Wiener Sängerknaben have their own school. Almost 250 children study and rehearse in the Augartenpalais, a baroque palace and former imperial hunting lodge in Vienna. Beginning with kindergarten, boys and girls are provided with a complete musical and general education through the elementary grades. 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. Academic lessons are taught in small groups. The school has a band, and offers extracurricular activities ranging from sports (baseball, basketball, fencing, judo, soccer, skating, swimming, volleyball) to attending (pop) concerts, operas, plays, musicals and movies. The choristers are also encouraged to create their own projects; a number of them write, act and direct short sketches or films.

The school is proud of its alumni, many of whom go on to become professional musicians, conductors, singers or instrumentalists, in Vienna and throughout the world. Many others continue to sing; there are two male voice ensembles made up entirely of former Wiener Sängerknaben, the Chorus Viennensis and the Imperial Chapel’s Schola Cantorum. All former students retain a lifelong commitment to the Arts.

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Find out how to get tickets for the Vienna Boys Choir's concert on 2 September 2012 at the Events Page.

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