Thursday, 6 September 2012

Vienna Boys' Choir Tour of Oz

The famous Vienna Boys' Choir (VBC) is this week embarking upon a lengthy tour of the Antipodes. The tour, which should prove to be very popular, is being marketed in a thoroughly modern fashion:

See also here. The choir is seeking to include two Australian members. 

The VBC is similar to the Vienna Mozart Boys' Choir (VMBC), apparently established in 1936 by a former choirmaster of the VBC.  It was the VMBC that, during a world tour, was stranded in Australia at the outbreak of WWII, and that ultimately formed the first boys' choir at the Cathedral of St Patrick in Melbourne. A programme from that tour states:
"For more than 500 years the Boys' Choirs have been the pride of cultured and music-loving Viennese people, maintaining a tradition of polyphonic singing unsurpassed anywhere in the world. As Viennese Choirboys Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Richter and many other famous musicians received their training and earliest inspiration".
In a rather tongue-in-cheek review, The Chicago Tribune asserted that "they put the birds to shame", and the New York World Telegram gushed "One actually suspected the angels must sing thus ... The audience was enchanted with the entire programme" (clearly this was an age when it was not a hangable offence for journalists to use the impersonal pronoun "one", and when "British English" spelling prevailed across the pond - unless of course there was some judicious editing of the quotes for the programme so as not to offend the sensibilities of the Antipodean audience!).

Programme for Concert  at the Adelaide Town Hall on Saturday, 12 August, 1939

One intriguing aspect of this tour is that the VBC will be singing a specially commissioned piece, by Uzbekistani-Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin, based on one of Australia's most well-known poems - My Country by Dorothea Mackellar (the one the second stanza of which starts "I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains ...").