The world's premier boys vocal ensemble will make its long-awaited return to the east metro area next month when the acclaimed Vienna Boys Choir performs in Covington on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Established more than 500 years ago in the court of Austrian Emperor Maximilian I, the Vienna Boys Choir, composed of altos and sopranos between the ages of 10 to 14, has charmed listeners the world over since accepting recital invitations outside of Austria in 1928.
At present, there are four traveling choirs - named after Austrian composers that worked with the group (Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert) - who appear in some 300 concerts a year before nearly 500,000 people. The Bruckner choir, which in mid-January was on tour in South Korea, will sing at Porter Hall on the Newton High School campus in a concert hosted by the Arts Association in Newton County.
"This is a big concert for us," said Ric Chiapetta, artistic director of the Arts Association. "There are a lot of great boys choirs out there, but the Vienna Boys Choir has been the standard-bearer forever. They are the Rolls Royce of boys choirs because of the standard of excellence they've maintained for so long."
Chiapetta said it's been at least a decade since the Vienna Boys Choir visited Covington, adding its appearance helped spur the development of the Oxford Youth Singers and the Oxford Singing Children. He also said the ensemble's concert meshes nicely with other choral programs on the Arts Association's schedule.
"We were really lucky to be able to fit them into our scheme of what we wanted to do to have a blockbuster choral season," said Chiapetta, who while singing in Europe in the late 1970s heard the Vienna Boys Choir in concert. "We were looking for three different choral experiences and I think we got them with the Morehouse College Glee Club (which performed in November), Saint John's Passion (set for March 2) and our own choruses."
The Bruckner choir, led by conductor Johannes Kobald, will perform throughout the Southeast, West and western Canada on this two-month tour, which will be complemented in the fall when the choir visits the East Coast and Midwest in October, November and December.
Tania Jastrebov, who has served as company manager for Vienna Boys Choir tours in America for a decade, said the choir comes to America twice a year. Because the boys are divided into four groups, each ensemble visits the U.S. every two years.
"This is their big tour," said Jastrebov, who works for the artist management company Opus3 Artists in New York. "When this tour is completed, these boys won't travel again for approximately a year. They will be at home in school and will be singing locally."
While the Vienna Boys Choir is well versed in the classic choral literature of composers such as Mozart and Haydn, the group's repertoire also includes medieval pieces, waltzes, polkas and contemporary works. In the 1970s, the choir performed songs by The Beatles and in 2002 recorded its first-ever pop album, showcasing tunes by the likes of Madonna and Celine Dion.
The choir's diversified repertoire will be on display in Covington, Jastrebov said, as the first part of the concert will feature sacred and classical works with the second half highlighting "lighter music" like Billie Holiday's "Stormy Weather," international folk songs, waltzes and polkas.
Chiapetta said there's no mistaking the Vienna Boys Choir with any other vocal group.
"The thing I love about the Vienna Boys Choir is their signature sound," he said. "It tends to be a sweeter, more liquid sound than other choirs. It's so neat to hear and it's instantly recognizable. That sound is what sets them apart from all the others."
Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org
SideBar: If You Go
What: The Vienna Boys Choir, presented by the Arts Association in Newton County, along with Rob and Jean Fowler; First Nation Bank; Laney, Boteler and Killinger, CPAs; and the James Hyde Porter Trust
When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 at Porter Hall on the campus of Newton High School, 140 Ram Drive in Covington
Cost: Tickets are $27 for adults, $24 for seniors and $12 for students and can be obtained by calling 770-786-81881 or by visiting www.newtoncountyarts.org.