Concert by Vienna Boys Choir is a coup for TCCA |

Concert by Vienna Boys Choir is a coup for TCCA

When I was about 12, I went with a school group to hear the Vienna Boys Choir. I was startled by their sailor-boy costumes, since I knew that Austria was landlocked and unlikely to have much of a navy. However, since I was wearing a somewhat old-fashioned uniform myself, I could hardly criticize.

As a boy treble (we were never “sopranos”), I knew that they were special. I was envious of their amazing talent, poise, and repertoire, far beyond my diet of Gregorian chant, Mozart masses, and the Messiah. Ever since then, I have had a soft spot for VBC, and in my mind’s eye it’s the still same group of 10- to 14 year-olds performing year after year.

So it was a thrill to hear that TCCA had secured them to sing in the Seventh Day Adventist church on Tuesday, March 9.

What makes VBC special is its continuity from its establishment by the Emperor in 1498 as the boys’ choir of the Austrian court. Centuries later, in 1924, VBC transformed into a professional group performing also outside the Imperial Chapel to raise money to pay for the boys’ keep.

Today VBC, or WSK – Weiner Sangerknaben – as it is known in Vienna, has 100 choristers in four touring groups of 25 trebles and altos, each named after an Austrian composer associated with the choir – Bruckner, Mozart, Haydn and Schubert. Each group tours nine to 11 weeks a year, between them performing 300 concerts a year.

“It’s a real coup for us,” said TCCA Artistic Director Ken Hardin. “I had been in communication with their agent for some time, when he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It’s a rare chance to bring a world-renowned group to our very discriminating audience.”

Over the years VBC has dramatically updated its programs to include “World Music” as well as modern arrangements. One of its recent CDs is entitled “Weiner Sangerknaben Goes Pop,” a far from expected musical focus.

“The program is a gem,” said Hardin. “I love that we’ll be hearing things the choir has sung for High Mass in the Imperial Chapel for centuries.” The program is divided between traditional fare, Songs from Around the World, and Viennese Classics. They’ll be singing in a dozen languages, including Cherokee and Korean.

“I expect to be amazed and blown away by VBC,” said an excited Hardin, “but it’s also very fitting to hear them in the beautiful acoustics of the SDA church.”

Such an event doesn’t come cheap, not least since special arrangements are needed for such a high profile, not to say young, group. Once again supporters have stepped up, including corporate sponsor Citizens Bank, as well as Martha and Dieter Juli, Beth and Dick Landis, and Nina and Eugene Zepp.

“I’ve been strategizing about how to bring some high caliber, high visibility international stars to Grass Valley,” said Hardin. “VBC gets the ball rolling. I’ve already got a big surprise in store for next season, and no, I’m not telling, but it’ll get people’s attention.”

Happily for TCCA the VBC concert sold out in a couple of weeks, and for the capacity audience additional parking has been arranged at the Calvary Bible Church on Highway 174 with a shuttle bus to the church.

If you were lucky enough to get a ticket you too will be blown away as I was all those years ago.

Charles Atthill lives in Alta Sierra. A single 78 rpm, 10 inch shellac recording of his treble voice singing Mozart survives. He plans to sell it on eBay to pay for his grandson to join VBC.

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