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World music in Lititz Renowned Vienna Boys Choir performs at Linden Hall
By: JANET SCOUTEN Special to the Record, Staff Writer
The pews of Linden Hall’s Mary Dixon Chapel, traditionally populated by girls, were filled with boys last Saturday morning.
Ranging in age from 10 to 14, they were members of the world-famous Vienna Boys Choir, invited to the 265-year-old girls school as a gesture of hospitality and goodwill. The visit also provided the boys with a morning respite from their 10-week tour of the United States.
The initial plan was to treat the boys to musical entertainment, a tour of Linden Hall’s campus and some free time in the gymnasium, followed by lunch in the school’s dining hall. Yet, this talented group of boys and their choirmaster surprised those in attendance when they graciously offered to perform. The young singers, dressed in Viennese sailor suits, filled Linden Hall’s chapel with well-trained voices that, for over 500 years, have traditionally entertained the royal courts of Europe.
"The opportunity to host the world’s finest boys choir is not only a great achievement for music at Linden Hall, but also a wonderful experience for our girls to meet other high-caliber, successful students from around the world," said Linden Hall’s Director of Music AJ Walker.
"I was so pleased with our student volunteers who greeted the boys and assisted with all of the hosting responsibilities," he added. "The girls continue to make me proud and their work today underscores what Linden Hall stands for. Though our own student choirs were not available to sing at this event (due to SAT scheduling), many of our students were still able to hear the Lancaster City Choir and the Community Chorus perform, followed by the exceptional surprise performance by the Vienna Boys Choir! We are so pleased by the connections established between our school and the Vienna Boys Choir, and we will continue to provide cultural and musical experiences for Linden Hall students."
The visiting choirmaster, Manolo Cagnin of Treviso, Italy, expressed his deep appreciation to Linden Hall for the warm hospitality.
"Thank you very much for the invitation to come here," he said. "It’s been a magical morning. The local choirs were so good, and the boys enjoyed the music very much."
Under Walker’s direction, the local Lancaster City Choir and the "Music for Everyone" Lancaster Community Chorus reveled in this rare honor to entertain these world-famous choristers. A mutual appreciation and love of music appeared evident as the boys enthusiastically applauded the local choirs, with Cagnin leaning forward in his pew, smiling and tapping his feet along with the music. After presenting the boys with gifts of locally-made Wilbur chocolate and Sturgis pretzels, those in attendance experienced the delightful surprise of hearing the boys perform.
"To have this world-famous organization perform in our chapel was truly amazing. Hearing them sing is an experience I will never forget," Walker said afterward. "The Vienna Boys Choir certainly lives up to its reputation, and then some!"
Following the entertainment portion of the visit, the boys went outside to enjoy the spring-like Lancaster County morning. With a group of Linden Hall students leading the way, the boys explored the school’s award-winning equestrian stables, where they fed the horses with carrots supplied by Director of Riding Jen Merris-Dolk. Afterward, the boys enjoyed playing in the school’s large gymnasium.
A chaperone with the choir for 14 years, Andrea Zimmerman of Vienna, Austria, also thanked Linden Hall on the choir’s behalf, saying, "Free time is very precious to the boys."
She explained that, with so much time on the road while touring, they relish any opportunities for exercise and fresh air.
Since the group’s first visit to the United States in 1932, the Vienna Boys Choir has become one of the most popular choirs to tour North America. Today there are approximately 100 choristers divided into four touring choirs. The choirs are named after famous Austrian composers associated with the choir’s history: Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. Each choir has a choirmaster and two chaperones.
The group that visited Linden Hall was the Bruckner choir, with most of the boys hailing from Vienna or other parts of Austria. Some boys, however, have Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Congolese roots. Two of the boys are from the United States — one from New York City and one from Cincinnati.
Walker, a former member of the Philadelphia Boys Choir who remembers his own experiences of traveling the world, coordinated the boys’ morning in Lititz with the help of Scott Sheldon from the Lancaster Parish Resource Center. Sheldon also coordinated that evening’s scheduled performance of the Vienna Boys Choir at the Hempfield Performing Arts Center, where Linden Hall students served as ushers.
The Vienna Boys Choir is a choir of trebles and altos based in Vienna. It is one of the best-known boys’ choirs in the world. They are selected mainly from Austria, but also from other countries around the world.
Boys have been singing at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor since the early 15th century. 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 Austrian Imperial Court, at Mass, at private concerts and functions, and on state occasions.
Today, together with members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Chorus, the Vienna Boys Choir maintains the tradition of the imperial musicians, providing music for the Sunday Mass in Vienna’s Imperial Chapel, as they have done since 1498.
All boys are assigned to one of the touring choirs. Academic lessons are taught in small groups. The school has several bands, and offers extracurricular activities ranging from all kinds of sports to attending a wide range of 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. All choir boys live in the choir’s own well-appointed boarding school.
Many of the school’s alumni go on to become professional musicians, conductors, singers or instrumentalists in Vienna and abroad.
Source: The Vienna Boys Choir website, www.wsk.at More VIENNA BOYS, page A11