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October 22, 2007

What's 500 years old and wears sailor suits?

Columbus Dispash (OH):

What's 500 years old and wears sailor suits? The Vienna Boys' Choir, a throwback to the Holy Roman Empire that embraces music by generations of great composers from Heinrich Isaac to Franz Schubert.

About 100 youngsters ages 10 to 14 make up the current choir, which has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, at the Augartenpalais, a former imperial hunting lodge. Founded in 1498 during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I, the choir was taken over by the Austrian government in 1918 with the dissolution of the Hapsburg Empire.

The tradition lives on, however, as the Vienna Boys' Choir continues to delight listeners around the globe. The 24-voice group heard in Columbus today, conducted by Nikolaus Mueller, is one of four touring ensembles currently associated with the organization.

The boys offered a conventional program of sacred classics, many sung a cappella, followed by lighter fare. A closing group of novelty items included yodels — complete with dancers in lederhosen — and waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr. What could be more Viennese?

The boys sing everything from memory and are obviously highly disciplined. With works mostly in two- and three-voice harmony, the difficulty of the pieces varied greatly, and the most entertaining songs, such as the well-known Mexican folksong La Cucaracha in the second half, were not necessarily the easiest.

Among the highlights were the charming Echo by Orlando di Lasso and Panis Angelicus by Cesar Franck, a piece repopularized by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli a few years ago. These and other selections featured soloists who stepped bravely from the ensemble; the clear but understated direction of their conductor/accompanist gave the boys strong guidance.

Posted by acapnews at October 22, 2007 9:45 PM

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