In 1962, during the height of the Cold War, Walt Disney Studios released “Almost Angels,” a movie featuring the Vienna Boys’ Choir — or, in Austrian, the Wiener Sangenknaben. In 1965, 20th Century Fox released Robert Wises’ production of the “Sound of Music,” featuring Julie Andrews and a talented family, the Von Trapp Family Singers.
What does this suggest? It might suggest we’re all somehow connected, that singing brings us together, and music can break down barriers. Such aspirations became evident Nov. 9 when the Vienna Boys’ Choir presented their concert to a full house in the Shockley-Zalabak Theater at the Ent Center for the Arts alongside singers from the Colorado Children’s Chorale.
Aisha Ahmad-Post, Ent Center director, said several people worked to bring the choir to Colorado Springs.
“The Vienna Boys’ Choir booking agency called and asked if I was interested in the group, as they were working a tour through Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. I was immediately interested in bringing them here. They’re such a historic and celebrated group, having performed for over 500 years.”
The renowned group of singers includes 100 boys ranging in age from 10 to 14 from Austria, Hungary, South Korea, China, Germany and Japan. Sporting four separate touring choirs, the Vienna Boys’ Choir is certainly global.
Ahmad-Post approached Colorado Children’s Chorale Executive Director Marcia Hendricks about partnering on the concert.
“The Ent Center for the Arts was built for the community and the university to come together, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase our local talent side-by-side with an internationally renowned ensemble. Marcia was enthusiastic about the project from that first meeting,” Ahmad-Post said.
Hendricks said, “We have been partners with the Ent Center since before ground was ever broken. The vision of UCCS leadership to build this spectacular place was inspiring to us, and now we can share this place with our children. Aisha has great dreams for the center — bringing in world-class performers. The Children’s Chorale is honored to continue to be partners in this endeavor.”
Presenting a diverse and challenging array of vocal music spanning many centuries, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, under the direction and accompaniment of Oliver Stech, connected emotionally and artistically with Friday’s audience. Their lyricism, diction, and highly refined voices, trained and honed to dizzying standards, soared and sparkled throughout the evening.
The Children’s Chorale joined the Sangerknaben for the last two songs: arrangements of “For Ever,” by Josef Strauss and “Vienna,” by Billy Joel.
“For us, it’s always a good thing when we get to sing with other choirs,” said Stech, who became the group’s choirmaster in January 2011. “We appreciate that we had the opportunity to sing with (the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale) and I think they did a great job together.”
Children’s Chorale singer Elizabeth Hoyle, a 12-year-old Russell Middle School student, said, “The experience was one I will never forget. It was truly amazing. … Singing with these boys that go all around the world, and learning more about their culture was wonderful.”
Her sister, Katelynn, also 12, said, “Singing with the Vienna Boys’ Choir was very exciting, especially for a young singer like me. Truly, an honor. The boys sounded amazing and I just wish we could have sung more with them.”
Singer Victoria Aguilar, a 15-year-old student at St. Mary’s High School, said, “It is so inspiring to take part in a concert with the Vienna Boys’ Choir (and) see different generations of children from all parts of the world on stage. We want to all change the world through song, through all genres. Overall, this was a night I am going to remember the rest of my life.”
Zanitta Harris-Torres, whose daughter Angela is a member of the Children’s Chorale, said it was exciting to see the Chorale onstage with such a seasoned and historic musical group as the Boys’ Choir.
“The boys sounded wonderful, but then the ladies of the Chorale marched out and stepped on the choir stands. I can’t but be immensely proud of not only my daughter Angela, but of all the ladies of the Summit Ensemble and the entire group of the Pikes Peak Singers,” Harris-Torres said.
Audience member and Pikes Peak Opera League member Mary McKinley said this wasn’t the first time she’s heard the boys’ choir perform. “I’ve heard the Vienna Boys’ Choir three times before and have never been disappointed. I love the voices of these young men.”
“We really enjoyed the performance and what I loved about the audience was that they were so nice,” Stech said, referencing the audience’s standing ovation following the concert. “That’s a good push for the boys — the great thing about American audiences.”
From walking reverently onstage while singing a gentle Latin a-cappella Gregorian chant and onward toward their final three curtain calls, the world-famous Vienna Boys’ Choir delivered their musical message of peace: music unites; it does not divide, echoing the Colorado Children’s Chorale signature song of peace and love, “Dream a Dream.”
For more information on the Choir, visit wsk.at.