Over the centuries, pure angelic voices and truly remarkable vocal technique have brought the Vienna Boys Choir international acclaim and undying popularity. Founded in Austria over five hundred years ago, the oldest boys’ choir in the world embraces both old tradition and new vision. Throughout the centuries, generations of prominent composers have continuously contributed to its formation and development. Gluck, Haydn, Mozart, Salieri, Schubert, and Bruckner are only a few of those whose voices and minds have greatly impacted the choir’s history and tradition. Intense training, tough schedule and frequent travels have not turned the boys into impeccable singing robots. Fame has not made them a bunch of arrogant idols. On the contrary, thanks to the thoughtfulness and care of their artistic leaders, the boys continue to be happy, open-hearted children, and yet fully-developed professional musicians. This unbelievable combination is what makes the choir truly one of a kind. Even though founded in Vienna, the choir is far from being strictly Austrian. Germany, France, Slovakia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Philippines, Japan, Moldova and Peru are widely represented in the choir. Counting the total of one hundred choristers, ages 10-14, it comprises four touring choirs, each named after a famous Austrian composer, associated with the choir’s history.

On December 4th, 2010, the twenty four choristers of Schubert Choir, lead by their young Peruvian choirmaster and conductor Andy Icochea Icochea, treated the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall audience to an enchanting evening of choral music.

Complying with the choir’s concept of multicultural diversity, the program presented music from every corner of the world, from the Middle Ages up until this day. Besides traditional carols, psalms and folk songs, it featured choral works by Henry Purcell, Johann Schulz, Gioacchino Rossini, Eduard Ebel, Maurice Durufle and even Andy Icochea Icochea himself, who had composed several pieces specifically for Schubert Choir.

From the very first notes, the boys captivated the audience with their breathtakingly beautiful singing. Their incredible musicality, clarity of tone, fine diction and excellent command of sound were outstanding. Some compositions were sung a cappella, others with piano or folk instruments accompaniment. I doubt that anyone could stay unmoved by the utmost spirituality of the boys’ performance, especially as they sang traditional carols and psalms. Vocally the most impressive one was the famous hymn Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Sung a cappella, this piece allowed the choristers to show off the best of their canonic and unison singing, as well as bring out the joyful spirit of the holiday season.

The spectrum of the boys’ talents seemed to have no limits. During the course of the evening, almost each sang solo and played folk musical instruments. One of the boys even took the conductor’s floor to lead the choir in the performance of the Peruvian psalm Huayno navideno. His keen conducting brought this young musician a long ovation.

However, the true highlight of the evening was Waldhansl (John of the Forest), the famous Styrian clapping and stomping dance. Dressed in traditional brown lederhosen, seven of the choristers danced their feet off in this contagiously happy country dance. The boys could not be more excited to give up their well-pressed sailor suits and just be a bunch of happy kids, proud to share their cultural legacy through the music of their country.

After the concert was over, all the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall audience was up on their feet to give the boys a long and well-deserved standing ovation. People of all ages, some still in their parents arms, like my own toddler, others holding on to their walkers, rose to express their gratitude to the young masters of music for this beautiful evening. However, much to their credit, even at the moment of true triumph, the boys, happy and exhausted as they were, still remained humble kids, selflessly and utterly devoted to music.