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The Vienna Choir Boys

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Biography

The choir is the modern-day descendant of the boy singers of the Viennese Court, dating back to the late Middle Ages. The choir was, for practical purposes, established by a letter written by Maximilian I of Habsburg on 7 July 1498. In the letter the Emperor instructed court officials to employ a singing master, two basses and six boys. A Slovene, Jurij Slatkonja, became the director of the ensemble. The boys were drawn largely from the Netherlands.

The role of the choir (numbering between 14 and 20) was to provide musical accompaniment to the church mass. The boys received a solid musical education, which in most cases had a significant impact on the rest of their lives, as many went on to become professional musicians. The composers Jacobus Gallus, Franz Schubert, and the conductors Hans Richter, Felix Mottl and Clemens Krauss were members of the choir.

In 1920 the Hofkapelle (court musicians) was disbanded. However, the rector at the time, Josef Schnitt, sought a continuation of the tradition. In 1924 the “Vienna Boys’ Choir” was officially founded and has evolved into a professional music group. Since 1948 the Palais Augarten has served as their rehearsal venue and boarding school which goes from kindergarten level up to middle school level.

The choir is a private, not-for-profit organization. There are approximately 100 choristers between the ages of 10 and 14. The boys are divided into four touring choirs, which perform about 300 concerts each year in front of almost 500,000 people. Each group tours from nine to eleven weeks.

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