The Educational and Choral Tradition of the Vienna Boys’ Choir Performing arts in Vienna, inscribed 2017
The original function of the Vienna Boys’ Choir was to perform music—above all sacred music—for the Imperial court. The choir still performs this function today at Sunday morning mass at the Wiener Hofburgkapelle (Vienna Court Chapel). The ca. 100 active Vienna Boys’ Choir members, aged between ten and fourteen, are divided into four choirs (one of which consists of girls). Their artistic tradition is distinguished by a special kind of technical training and the passing on of their typical choir sound.
The Vienna Boys’ Choir was established based on a decree issued by Emperor Maximilian in 1498. With the transfer of his court music establishment from Innsbruck to Vienna, he laid the cornerstone for the Vienna Boys’ Choir’s long tradition by explicitly requiring that a group of six boys be included among his musicians. Today, the choir that eventually grew out of the Imperial and Royal Court Boys’ Choir has been passing on its artistic tradition of boys’ singing for over 500 years. Their activities now include concerts, long and short tours, and special performances and engagements both in Austria and abroad. The better each individual member has mastered the required techniques, the better the choir sounds overall. The four choirs are headed by a group of Kapellmeisters who rehearse the repertoire in daily rehearsals while furthering the boys’ and girls’ overall musical education. Alongside the choir’s own private secondary school, a private primary school and a private upper-level secondary school—both of which are also fully open to girls and feature an emphasis on vocal music—serve to prepare their students for membership in one of the choirs while also continuing to provide well-founded musical training to interested former choirboys and girls all the way up to their Matura [Austria’s academic school leaving exam]. The training of Boys’ Choir members is accompanied by rituals such as the presentation of uniforms to the élèves upon completion of the primary school’s fourth form as well as a formal farewell ceremony upon their departure.