It takes four groups of singers -- Brucknerchor, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert -- to make up the Vienna Boys Choir.
The demanding travel schedules make schoolwork difficult to complete while on tour so each semester two groups tour while the other two groups study in Vienna. The next semester they trade places. Each of the four groups is named for a different Austrian composer. The boys of the Brucknerchor perform as the Vienna Boys Choir in the Bill Heard Theatre, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, on Sunday.
Each choir travels with chaperones. Tania Jastrebov serves as company manager for the Brucknerchor boys and Manolo Cagnin is the conductor and pianist.
There are 23 boys, ages 10-14, in Bruknerchor. Boys usually stay in the choir for four years. The teen years bring voice changes to many of the choir members who begin singing soprano and later shift to alto.
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The Vienna Boys Choir was founded in 1498 by Emperor Maximilian I when he moved his court and his court musicians from Innsbruck to Vienna. He said there had to be at least six boys among his musicians. Until 1918, the boys choir sang just at court, at mass, at private concerts and functions and on state occasions.
The first U.S. tour was in 1932.
Jastrebov has been with the choir for 14 years. She said the boys respect her, though they tease her.
In one blog, the boys wrote, “She has toured with the Vienna Boys’ Choir probably since its inception; at any rate, she knows everything ... she sees everything (she has eyes in the back of her head), and she takes care of everything.”
The boys attend boarding school in Vienna, and are used to be living on their own, Jastrebov said.
About a third of the boys are from countries other than Austria. One boy is from New York.
“In the last 10-15 years, we have gone international,” Jastrebov said. “We’ve opened up auditions for boys from all over the world.”
Because the curriculum is taught in German, all the boys must learn to speak and understand the language.
The boys “graduate” from the Vienna Boys Choir Institute after eighth grade. Then they can continue their schooling in Austria return home to attend high school.
Being in the Vienna Boys Choir is a “once in a lifetime experience,” Jastrebov said.
Before the choir returns to Austria for their semester of studying, the boys will travel to New Zealand and Australia.
Jastrebov who speaks fluent German and English, interpreted Cagnin saying, “It has been a dream of mine to travel to Australia.”