It’s high, high and far for the Vienna Boys Choir
The Vienna Boys Choir is on the road again.
After a two-and-a-half-year pandemic hiatus that saw the cancellation of more than 700 performances in Austria and abroad, the choir is set to embark on an 84-day, 40-concert North American tour. which will travel to the Burlington Performing Arts Center, 440 Locust St., on Saturday, October 15 at 8 p.m., one of five Canadian dates.
This tour will be undertaken by the Schubertchor, one of the VBC’s four traveling choirs, each named after a famous composer with ties to Vienna, the others being the Haydnchor, the Mozartchor and the Brucknerchor. The Schubertchor, 21 boys aged 10 to 14, mostly from Austria or Hungary with two from Japan, and one from the UK, France, South Korea, China and the Republic Czech, will be led by Oliver Stech, a native of Waidhofen an der Ybbs in Lower Austria who has been part of the VBC since 2011. They will be accompanied by two accompanists from Vienna as well as staff from Opus 3 Artists, the American choir. All have been vaccinated. As for the other choirs, the Mozartchor is touring Germany in the fall while the others will attend the VBC’s mixed boarding school for young people aged 6-18 at their home and rehearsal venue, the Palais Augarten. , while taking turns singing mass at the Imperial Chapel, concerting in Vienna with some choristers participating in productions of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in the two opera houses in the city.
And that’s a welcome relief because the VBC, like almost every other music organization on the planet, has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“We survived, we coped as best we could,” said VBC playwright Tina Breckwoldt. “We received help from government funds, but it only helped to cover a fraction of our losses. So we are still in a difficult situation, and actually looking for sponsors, both in Austria and abroad. We remain cautiously optimistic and always hopeful, especially as we prepare to celebrate our 525th anniversary next year.
After the first confinement, the VBC, being a professional choir, received a special dispensation to rehearse but with certain guarantees. They rehearsed masked and physically distanced in large spaces, such as the choir pool, with open windows and air purifiers in all music rooms. In terms of performances, they have moved online, broadcasting concerts filmed via IDAGIO. From a health and safety perspective, it was the best option, but less than ideal in two other respects.
“Revenues from these projects weren’t as good as we had hoped,” Breckwoldt said. “And there’s a crucial factor missing when you’re doing things online: the (lack of) direct contact with your audience, the human touch so to speak.”
In May and June 2021, the four VBC choirs recorded a CD in the Imperial Chapel, aptly titled “Together”. The 19 tracks include songs with maritime connections such as “Wellerman” as well as new repertoire and multicultural offerings.
The Schubertchor’s Burlington concert, their first since 2017, will include several numbers from the CD as well as selections from Purcell, Hassler, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Esenvalds, Kodaly and Viennese candy from the Strauss family.
Tickets: $69.50 (all inclusive), group of 20 or more $56 (all inclusive, each). Call 905-681-6000.
On Friday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m., McMaster’s LIVELab, 1280 Main St. W., features pianist-performer-composer Alex Whorms with guitarist Stephen Orr, bassist Konrad Swierczek and drummer Nigel Stewart. Science snapshot with Dana Swarbrick. Tickets at livelab.mcmaster.ca: $20, student $10. Live broadcast: free.
On Saturday, September 24 from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Burlington Performing Arts Center presents Culture Days. Free shows and demonstrations by local organizations. Visit burlingtonpac.ca.
On Sunday, September 25 at 2:30 p.m. at Melrose United Church, 86 Homewood Avenue, the Duet Club presents its fellows in concert. Tickets at the door: $20, student/senior $10, child under 10 free.
And speaking of scholarships, the Hamilton-Halton Chapter of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association recently raised over $7,500 for a $1,000 annual scholarship named after the late piano teacher June Caskey. This year’s recipient is Mary-Maria Bourdeau, who will be studying piano performance at Western University.