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Vienna Boys' Choir

Wiener Sängerknaben Vienna Boys' Choir

ABOVE: The Wiener Sängerknaben have performed in the Imperial Chapel of Vienna's Hofburg Palace for more than half a millennium. 

The Wiener Sängerknaben, a.k.a. the Vienna Boys' Choir, have been an important part of Austria cultural life for more than five hundred years.

In 1496, Emperor Maximilian I moved his court orchestra from Innsruck to Vienna and added a dozen choir boys to the group of musicians. By 1498, the choir had become a permanent fixture and was charged with singing daily mass in the Imperial Chapel of the Hofburg Palace. When the emperor traveled, the choir frequently went with him, performing in royal courts throughout Europe.

With the end of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918, the choir changed its name and relinquished the imperial uniform (complete with swords) in favor of sailor suits. As early as 1924, the group--now consisting of four separate choirs--was giving guest performances in the world's most famous concert halls and became known as "Austria's singing ambassadors." Yet despite a busy schedule of international concert tours, sound recordings, and film appearances, the Vienna Boys' Choir continues to perform every Sunday during the solemn mass in the Imperial Chapel.

To maintain a pool of qualified choristers and assure a high level of musical quality, the Vienna Boys' Choir has its own boarding school at the Augarten Palace in Vienna. The government-subsidized boarding school has some 250 male and female pupils. Pupils study both the normal Austrian curriculum and music from kindergarten through fourth grade. When they reach the age of 10, the most talented boys are recruited to sing with the touring choirs while attending the Wiener Sängerknaben grammar school.

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Text based on information from ANTO.. Photo copyright © IMSI. 

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