Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Caps off to those sailor boys from Vienna

Posted by Kimberly on October 25, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
October 25, 2007, page 3 (522 words)

The Vienna Boys’ Choir need no introduction, their history spanning several centuries since 1498, when Emperor Maximilian I gave specific instructions to include six choir boys among his court musicians.
More interestingly perhaps, is the story the Choir’s conductor, Mr Kerem Sezen told about the situation during WWII.
“There was one group in Australia touring, and they couldn’t go back [to Europe] so they made a living there [in Australia] for 3-4 years.”
These days, that number is closer to 100 choristers and despite the Choir having performed in Macau before, specifically, in 2003, the group of boys that performed last night were new, said Kerem.
“No one of this choir was here four years ago, when we had a China tour and sang with the CCTV children’s choir,” he added.
At that time, the Chinese song chosen was sung with the first verse by the Chinese choir, the next by the Vienna Boys’ and the final verse, together.
And something similar was done last night, in that the Choir performed two Chinese folk songs.
“We [the Choir] started in Austria, with music and rhythm and we started in detail when we arrived here,” said Kerem, referring to the boys’ learning of the Chinese folk songs.
“The system of writing [Chinese] in Europe is not the same as the Chinese would pronounce it,” he said adding that “we had translated the words so mainly they [the Choir] knew the meaning.”
Asked what requirements the boys needed to be picked as a member, Kerem said, “being ale to sing, have a god voice, the boys are between 10 and 14 years old,” adding that before that stage, there is also a kindergarten and elementary school on the grounds of Palais Augarten, “so they usually start at age six or earlier.
“When they get to 10 and grammar school, there is an audition and the best are taken. They also need a willingness to perform on stage for an audience,” he said.
“This year it’s pretty tricky motivate boys especially in fine arts, but we still had about 50 boys and from them 25 were chosen, divided between the four touring choirs,” he added.
With the boys performing in front of Presidents and Popes, the difficulty in keeping their feet on the ground must be tremendous and yet, when questioned about this aspect, Kerem said, “it’s something tricky, but to build high skyscrapers you have to build deep in the ground.
“When you have a weak base, at a certain point it crashes down,” said Kerem.
And despite the stringent period between a Vienna Choir boy is at his peak, their use-by date need not end at the age of 14.
According to Kerem, “we have two choirs where just former Vienna boys can attend.
“One is for the chapel, singing Gregorian chants but a big percentage do other things with music, such as conducting or playing instruments,” he said.
It has been said that it is the journey that matters, not the destination: in this, the Vienna boys have much to be proud of, regardless of where their finally lay their sailor caps.

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