I grew up listening to the Vienna Choir Boys Christmas album. Yes, album, not cassette, tape or CD. Although vinyl albums have been surging in popularity lately, this memory makes me feel really old. But what’s Christmas with a little nostalgia, right? Along the same lines of thought, when we were in Vienna for Christmas, I insisted we go see a Vienna Choir Boys performance.
History of the Vienna Choir Boys
One of the most famous choirs in the world, the Vienna Choir Boys can trace their origins back to the choirs of the Viennese Imperial court. When the Austro-Hungarian empire fell, the court choir was disbanded. The Vienna Choir Boys were started as a professional choir in order to continue the tradition. Their uniform was changed to the well-known navy sailor suit instead of a military cadet uniform.
The choir is made up of about 100 boys from the ages of 10-14 who are mostly of Austrian origin. They are divided into 4 touring troupes which among them perform about 300 concerts per year.
The boys receive both academic and musical instruction from the Choir. It must be an intense eduction because they are also on tour about 11 weeks of the school year. Sadly, as with many institutions involving pre-pubescent children, there have been allegations of sexual abuse by some of the boys in recent years.
A Vienna Choir Boys Performance
Every Sunday from September to June the Vienna Choir Boys sing at Mass at the Imperial Court Chapel in the Hofburg Palace. This tradition has been ongoing since 1498.
Similar to our experience of visiting the Holy Vial of Blood in Bruges, we chose to attend Mass and listen to the Choir Boys. Nothing like multitasking on holiday when you are short on time.
During the Mass, the choir boys sing from their balcony on the organ loft located above the congregation. At the end of the Mass, they come downstairs and perform a couple of songs in front of the Altar.
Hearing the boys singing in this chapel was a sublime experience. The Chapel is very small because it was intended to be a court chapel of the Imperial family. It reminded me of a theatre because most of the seats are in boxes. Both the nobles and the Imperial family sat in one of the boxes to attend Mass.
We were only able to get two sets of tickets with two seats together so my husband and I took a child each. My husband and son were in one of the boxes and my daughter and I were on the ground floor.
Both the acoustics and the visual display are amazing as would befit a Habsburg. The Hofburg Chapel has a lot less stained glass than Sainte Chapelle, the other royal private chapel we visited in Paris. We were all enchanted by this jewel box of a chapel especially with the clear sweet voices of the Choir singing.
Attending a Vienna Choir Boys Performance
The Vienna Choir Boys have a dedicated website that you can book tickets to attend either a concert at the Music and Theatre Hall (MuTh) or a Mass at the Imperial Chapel. The website also has information on the choir’s international touring dates
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