Vienna’s old, old boys’ clubMozart loved them. Beethoven played for them. Wagner wrote songs for them. Established in the 15th century by decree of the Austrian emperor Maximilian I, the Vienna Boys Choir has been singing its ethereal harmonies for centuries. Starting next week, the choir’s dulcet tones can be heard in Korea as it tours the country.
The choir sang exclusively for Austria’s royal family, aristocrats and clerics until the early 20th century. Some of European history’s most famous composers, including Johann Strauss and Franz Schubert, were members of the choir, and later wrote songs for, conducted and accompanied the ensemble.
Following the end of the Austrian monarchy after World War I, the choir faced the possibility of dissolution when the new Austrian government decided against funding it.
However, the choir’s then-conductor decided to make the choir a public institution that would perform for all. The decision was a milestone, and marked the choir’s ascendancy to worldwide fame. The choir now performs for hundreds of thousands around the world every year.
Comprised of 100 boys ranging in age from 10 to 14, the choir is actually divided into four choirs; one performs in Austria at Masses and other events, and the others tour the world. To cultivate the heavenly voices, the choir maintains its own boarding school, in a renovated palace. About 250 pre-teen candidates are trained there; only the cream of the crop are selected for the choir.
The choir has diversified its repertoire over time to satisfy changing tastes; it now sings not just conventional hymns, but adaptations of songs by pop singers like Madonna and Celine Dion, as well as operettas for children. The choir has also been used in film music, from the movie “Primal Fear” to the popular Japanese animation “Doraemon.”
The performances in Korea will include classic serenades and folk songs from countries around the world.
The tour starts Wednesday in Daegu; the choir will then go on to perform in Daejeon on Jan. 14, Jeonju on Jan. 15, Busan on Jan. 17, Suwon on Jan. 18 and finally Seoul, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets for the Seoul concert will range from 20,000 won ($19) to 70,000 won.
by Chun Su-jin
Ticket prices vary for each venue. For more information, call 1544-1555 for the Seoul and Daejeon performances, (063) 270-8000 for Jeonju, (031) 256-0599 for Suwon, (051) 248-2011 for Busan and (053) 626-1980 for Daegu.