Imagine herding 25 young boys across the country.
That’s one of Oliver Stetch’s duties as conductor of the Vienna Boys Choir. He and the 10- to 14-year-old boys will perform Friday at Ent Center for the Arts.
“I have to focus the boys on what’s important at this moment, and that’s the music, and turn that boy energy into the music,” said Stetch, who’s been with the choir since 2011. “Sometimes the boys are tired or just want to do sports, or they have other things in their minds. But it works well.”
Focused youths produce beautiful harmonies, as their soprano and alto voices soar up the octaves. The first half of their performance will feature classical music by Handel, Haydn and Schubert, a Gregorian chant and an African-American spiritual. The second half comes with a slogan: “Vienna Waits For You.” It features popular songs, Austrian folk music, Viennese music and works by Strauss.
The world-famous choir got its start as six boys invited to sing at the Viennese court in 1498. It has grown into a group of 100 youths from around the globe. They’re divided into four groups, each of which travels nine to 11 weeks a year. Altogether, they perform 300 concerts worldwide. And they maintain their roots by singing at Sunday Mass in Vienna’s Imperial Chapel.
Boys as young as 6 come to Palais Augarten in Vienna, their rehearsal venue and boarding school. When they turn 10, they audition for the choir and are judged on their musical abilities and rhythm. After being accepted, they receive voice lessons.
Boys from outside the boarding school also can audition for the choir, though it’s much less common. They must have experience singing in a choir. About 25 new boys join the choir each year.
The school year consists of trimesters: two for school work and concerts in Vienna, and the third spent touring internationally.
While the groups tour, their chaperones get the boys to hit the hotel pool, visit a gym, find a place to play soccer or take a walk to burn off that youthful energy. But being on stage is also a good use of their spirit.
“When we leave the stage, they have the highest level of energy,” said Stetch. “They’re happy the concert is done and that they did a good job. We stay at the hall for 20 minutes and get some snacks. They have to put their uniforms in boxes and clean up the dressing room, so they have some things to do. On the bus, they’re already kind of quiet.”
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM