Many countries of Western and Central Europe have a long tradition of church boys' choirs dating back to the medevil era. The Austro-Hungarian Empire (before 1918) and Austria (after 1918) was one of those countries. The Austrian choirs were associated with the
Catholic Church. The most famous Austriann choir was the Vienna Choir Boys which it one of the oldest, if not the oldest boys' choir in operation today. It ios the prototype of the modern choir. It was formerly created at the turnnof the 16th century from the singers at the royal palace. Until 1918 served as the oficial choir for the Emperor's chappel. It is today one of the icons of modern Austria. The Vienna Choir Boys, however, are not Austria's only choir.
The importance of the Vienna Choir Boys has meant that the sailor suit is often assoiciated with boys' choirs. The use of the sailor suit, however, was a relatively recent development for the choir--only adopted in the 1920s. Less information is available on other Austrain choir uniforms. At least one other choir also has sailor suit uniforms. The sailor suit is also popular for German and Scandinavian choirs.
The Viener Sangerkanaben is surely the best known Austrian choir, if not the best known boys' choir in the world. There are, however, several other Austrian choirs. We have collected some basic detils about the different choirs.
The Austrian boys choir Sängerknaben vom Wienerwald, the "Boys Choir of the Vienna Woods, was founded more than 70 years ago, in 1921. It was organized in the Missionary Home of St. Gabriel in Maria Enzersdorf near Mödling south of Vienna. At first the Boys Choir sang primarily at church services and festivals organized by the Missionary Home of St. Gabriel, but later they began making concert tours through Austria and even through the neighbouring countries. So far, they have performed in nearly all European countries. In 1968 they had their first invitation to tour Japan, and on countless tours as far as South Korea, the Philippines, and the U.S.A., the Boys Choir of the Vienna Woods have found an enthusiastic audience.
The Shubert Boys Choir asks the question, "There is no business like showbusiness?" There are some prejudices about Sängerknaben. The typical Sängerknabe has to be blonde, smart, cute, gentle with a beautiful high "Viennese" boy voice. But like the most prejudices that IS NOT TRUE. Of course the Shubert Boys Choir does have some blonde boys, but not all the boys are blond. Of course, they have some smart boys, but not all the boys are brilliant. Of course some of the boys are cute, sometimes--but not all the time. Of course they are gentle, but not very often. And the thing with the voice... Only this: it is a long way to a developed performing voice.
I have some information on the Vienna Choir Boys, but little information
on other Austrian choirs. It would seem tha army uniforms were used as choir
uniforms before World War I (1914-18), but sailor suit uniforms became
more popular after the War. This is presumably because army uniforms
gave the appearce of strident militarism, unacceptable to the public in
Austria and Germany after the war. The precedent of military uniforms
for choristers was set by the emperor. As a result, sailor suits seems
to have been the logical replacement for army uniforms. Sailor suits were
military uniforms, but they also since the mid-19th century were popular outfits for boys. Many Austrian and German boys were commonly dressed in sailor suits during the 1920s.
The Wiltener Saengerknaben (Wilten Boys' Choir) is sponsored by the Wilten Abbey in Innsbruck. It is one of the oldest boys' choirs and cultural institution in Austria. The Choir's roots date back to the 13th century. The Choir was desbanded during World War II. It was revived after the War (1946). Some believe that the Wiltener Saengerknaben are one of the most renowned boys' choirs in Europe. The Choir report, "The brilliant and remarkably clear voices of the boys have the capacity of filling even big opera houses." The Choir hs comducted many concet tours both within and outside Europe, including Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, France, Denmark, Great Britain, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan. The choir has given concerts for Pope John Paul II., Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Beatrice and many others. The repertory of the Wiltener Saengerknaben is extensive. It includes church music and traditional Austrian folk songs. It also includes works by Brahms, Mozart and Schubert and well known operas and operettas. The Choir has also worked with h internationally renowned soloists and orchestras, such as KS Bernd Weikl (honorary member of the Wiener Staatsoper). Opera productions in Austria and abroad also give the choristers to showcase thdir talent for acting (Mozart "Die Zauberfloete", Bizet "Carmen", Strauss "Der Rosenkavalier", Britten "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and many more).
At this time I have no information on other Austrian choirs.
Austrin folk music often features in presentations by Austrian choirs. Austrian choirs are noted for yodeling in their Tyrolean folk perfomances.
Some interesting movies have been made in Germany and Austria about boys choirs. The
movies have been of uneven quality, but do show some details about the
cotumes worn by choirs in Germany. The sailor suit is the most common
costume, but lederhosden are also often featured.
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