WMU News

Vienna Boys Choir Christmas comes to Miller Auditorium

Nov. 25, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- the Vienna Boys' Choir Christmas comes to Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University for a single performance Sunday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m.

Ticket range from $14 to 28 and may be ordered by calling the Miller Auditorium Ticket Office at (269) 387-2300 or toll free (800) 228-9858. Tickets may also be ordered online at <www.millerauditorium.com> or by visiting the Miller Auditorium Ticket Office or the Epic Center Box Office in downtown Kalamazoo.

In 1498, Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I founded the Vienna Choir Boys. For four centuries of the Habsburg dynasty, the choir sang exclusively for the court ­ at masses in the Imperial Chapel, at private concerts and on state occasions. Their repertoire is the soundtrack of history, having thrived for 500 years. Now at the beginning of their sixth century, Miller Auditorium is honored to welcome he Vienna Choir Boys to Kalamazoo on Sunday, December 1st, 2002.

An array of celebrated musicians, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Salieri and Heinrich Isaac, worked with the choir. Some were choristers themselves, such as composers Jacobus Gallus and Franz Schubert.

In 1918, after the breakdown of the Habsburg Empire, the Austrian government took over the court opera, but not the Choir Boys. The boy's choir owes its survival to the initiative and business acumen of Josef Schnitt, who became dean of the Imperial Chapel in 1921.

Today, there are about 100 choristers between the ages of 10 and 14, divided into four touring choirs. During their tours, the Vienna Choir Boys sing in virtually all European countries, and they are frequent guests in Asia, Australia and the Americas, visiting the United States and Canada annually. Every Sunday, with the exception of the summer vacations, the choir sings at Mass in the Imperial Chapel, as they have done since 1498. The Choir Boys' artistic directors are Norbert Balatsch, the long-serving chorus master of the Bayreuth Festival and the Vienna State Opera, and his deputy, Gerald Wirth.

The Vienna Choir Boys have their own school. Almost 250 children live, study and rehearse in the Augartenpalais, a baroque palace in Vienna. Beginning with kindergarten, boys and girls are provided with a complete musical and general education through the elementary grades. At age ten, the most talented boys are selected to join the choir and enter the choir's grammar school.

The school is proud of its alumni, many of whom go on to become professional musicians, conductors, singers or instrumentalists in Vienna and throughout the world. Many others continue to sing: there are two male voice ensembles entirely made up of former Vienna Choir Boys, the Chorus Viennensis and the Imperial Chapel's Schola Cantorum. All former students retain a lifelong commitment to the arts.

Vienna Boys' Choir Christmas is presented by Coca-Cola, St. Julian Winery, WKFR and WOTV.

Media contact: Krista Iles, 269 387-2298, krista.iles@wmich.edu

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