Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vienna Boys

Vienna Boys Choir

This is how to hear the Vienna Boys Choir if you are in Vienna on a Sunday. Check their website for the times of the Sunday services at the Hofburgkapelle. It will also list the composer & version of the Mass to be sung. You might be able to reserve a ticket by emailing or phoning, but the ticket office is notoriously erratic. No matter. Just turn up about 45 minutes before the time of the service and head up the front steps of the Hofburgkapelle where you will find a ticket office in the entrance foyer. You may notice a group of people queuing at the foot of the entrance steps - they are waiting to take the free standing room spaces, and they won't be allowed in until all the ticket-holders are seated.

To secure a seat you need to pay to go to church. Just line up at the ticket counter in the entrance foyer and pay. The tickets are priced according to the location of the seats. Note that even the highest priced ticket may not have you seated at the front of the chapel. You could consider paying less for the upstairs balconies. The view up there would be interesting.

Before taking your seat I recommend a journey - and it is a long way - to the restrooms on the highest floor. Signs, and the friendly English-speaking attendants, will direct you. The value of this journey (apart from the obvious one of physical comfort) is that you get to take a walk through or past many of the lovely rooms of the Hofburgkapelle. Through some doorways you might peek to see a violin casually waiting in its velvet-lined case, or music sheets spread on an antique console. But best of all you will be drawn by the dulcet sounds of the choir and orchestra warming up. On a lucky morning you might pass a door standing ajar, high up on the third floor, and be able to discreetly eavesdrop on the sailor-suited boys as they warble in preparation.

A little about the choir:
The Vienna Boys Choir was formed more than five hundred years ago, and has worked with some of the greatest composers ever known, including Mozart and Bruckner; and Franz Schubert himself was a chorister.
The choir is the modern-day descendant of the boys' choirs from the Viennese Court, dating back to the late Middle Ages. The choir was, for practical purposes, established by a letter written by Maximilian I of Habsburg on 7 July 1498. In the letter the Emperor instructed court officials to employ a singing master, two basses and six boys. Jurij Slatkonja became the director of the ensemble. The role of the choir (numbering between fourteen and twenty) was to provide musical accompaniment to the church mass.
The Vienna Boys' Choir (also The Vienna Choir Boys, German: Wiener Sängerknaben) is a choir of trebles and altos based in Vienna. It is one of the best known boys' choirs in the world. The boys are selected mainly from Austria, but also from many other countries.
The choir is a private, not-for-profit organization. There are approximately 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen. The boys are divided into four touring choirs, named for Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert, which perform about 300 concerts each year before almost 500,000 people. Each group tours for about nine to eleven weeks. 

In the Hofburgkappelle

But you should take your seat in good time for the service. This may include a small men's choir standing at the front of the chapel, along with various robed celebrants. Don't be surprised to find that from the main seating downstairs you won't be able to see the boys - but you will hear them, and the orchestra -- invisible musicians from somewhere above and behind your head. If you took my advice and made the restroom trek, you'll  have an idea from whence the sound is proceeding.

The service will last for about 60 minutes, and will include the usual Roman Catholic liturgy and a short sermon, in German of course. The sung portions of the service will be delightful, with the orchestral accompaniment providing a lighter tone than the usual church organ accompaniment. When they're done, the clergy will process solemnly through the congregation and out of the side entrance of the chapel. Now is the moment. The last clergyman to leave the chapel may give a wide grin just before he steps through the doorway and point one finger on each hand towards the front altar, as if to say "over to the stars of the show!"

Now the Boys and their conductor will file in from the wings, as it were, and line up in front of the altar to give you a song or two. The orchestra remains invisibly overhead. Their performance will be met with great acclaim by a congregation who finally feel they are getting their money's worth. And that's it. Well worth it. Oh, and you can take all the photographs you want.

There are, of course, other formal concerts by the Vienna Boys Choir at different venues such as theatres or the Opera House - the website will show details. If you want a ticket to these, I'd suggest contacting the venue in question well in advance. But for a quiet Sunday morning with angelic boys' voices, try the Hofburgkappelle. And don't forget to 'go' beforehand...

Vienna Boys Choir

No comments:

Post a Comment