A look back: Vienna Choir coming to Lansing
Our wonderful Lansing District Auditorium at 220 Lion Lane will be playing host to the Vienna Boys Choir at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19. This is to benefit the Carnegie Arts Center in Leavenworth and the Lansing Educational Foundation, both of which are a great part of our community.
We are so fortunate to have this choir come to Lansing because there are only three hundred of these concerts during the year in the whole world in front of almost a half million people. Each of the four choirs of boys spends nine to eleven weeks a year on tour. There are approximately twenty five boys in each choir. They visit virtually all the European countries and are frequent guests in Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Their ages are from ten to fourteen years old and they live in Austria all of these years. They attend school from kindergarten on and at age ten the most talented boys are selected to join the choir and enter the choir grammar school.
Academic lessons are taught in small groups. The school has a band, and offers extra curricular activities ranging from sports, baseball, basketball, judo, soccer, rollerblading, swimming, and fencing. They are also encouraged to create their own projects. A number of them write, act and direct short sketches about life in the school. Some of them even make their own instruments.
The choir is a private not for profit organization. It started in 1498. Until 1918, the choir sang exclusively for the court, at mass, at private concerts and functions and on state occasions. In 1921, Josef Schnitt established the boy’s choir as a private institute and the imperial uniform was replaced by the sailor suit, then the height of boys’ fashion. In 1926 the boys started performing all over Europe to help pay their expenses. In 1932 they moved from Europe to the rest of the world.
The eight members of the choir’s governing body oversee its development and guarantee its future. The current president is Walter Nettig. Gerald Wirth became the choir’s artistic director in 2001.
These boys are very protected during their travels. When they were in Leavenworth two years ago we had the opportunity to meet one of the boys, a distant relative, and what a thrill that was. Guards were everywhere watching us. He is now 16 and singing with another choir in San Francisco.
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