Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A few years ago, when I moved into this house, I realized that there was no aerial television reception here at the foot of this hill and surrounded by trees. There was no using a satellite dish and I’m too far from the main roads to get cable so I decided to forego television and see if I could live without it. It was easier than I thought it would be.

I watch DVD’s instead when I need something visual and not just movies. I like to watch performance DVD’s of boy choirs and I have several. Probably my favorite one is Ave Verum by the Choir of Saint John’s College Cambridge.
There are no special effects, no fancy camera work besides panning and zooming; it’s just the choir standing in the chapel, singing, but it’s fun to watch. Many of the boys, especially the younger ones, have such earnest expressions and it’s easy to see that they are taking their music seriously.
It’s also a bit funny to see them trying hard not to look at the camera, even when it comes very close to them.

They do three Ave Verums, one by Mozart, one by Byrd and one by Elgar. I don’t know which one I like best.
Some of the other songs are How Lovely are Thy Dwellings, Locus Iste, O! For a Closer Walk With God, Pie Jesu Domini and one that I like a lot, Cantique De Jean Racine.
One of the older choristers leads in Panis Angelicus and he has a wonderful, strong tenor voice. They are joined by an cello and harp on that number.

I think my favorite song is Haydn’s Insanae Et Vanae Curae. Listening to a CD I can hear how all the vocal parts come together but watching it I can see how it’s done. On this song they repeat the phrase "saepe furore" five times with a different combination of voices each time. The fifth time they go really high and loud. It’s really sort of thrilling.
There is a clip of that song and some of the others on Youtube so here's a link for anyone who wants to see it.


  1. Very good DVD indeed. I was lucky enough to see them on their last USA tour couple years ago. Great choir.

    I enjoy concerts and try to make any that are within reasonable driving distance. I go for two reasons. First of course is the music. But also I go to watch the antics of the boys. One boy stepping on another's toes because he is getting to close. The little one in front singing the last song before the break with his eyes crossed, wondering if he will make it to the end. The new chorister looking up at the end of a song, seeking the approval of the veteran beside him.
    All priceless little moments that let me chuckle and put a smile on my face.

  2. That's a riot, Buck. Seeing things like that make the boys even more charming and delightful. Some of the WSK boys, last fall, got the giggles right in the middle of a song and I could see them trying hard to hold back.

  3. Hi and thanks for a great blog.

    I totally agree with the Insanea et Vanae Curae. It makes to my top five choral pieces of all time. However I like the WSK version (in the Haydn-Bach-Mozart CD) better, maybe partly because its orchestral version. I have nothing agains organs, but I think the begining with violins sounds great.

    The other ones in my top five must be Gloria and Credo from the Mass in E flat by Schubert. I heard it live in the WSK chappel (Wiener Hofmusikkappelle) and it almost made me turn catholic. Hibiki's solo in the Credo part still gives me chils.

    The other two might be Dies Irae and Lacrimosa from Requiem. I heard the Requiem on the same Vienna trip as the Mass in E flat, only it was smalish mixed adult choir and the Karlkirche which hosted the event had a little too much echo for my taste. I'm going to listen it also by a local (Finnish) choir called Cantores Minores in october. Hopefully its at least partly as good as the WSK version in my CD.

  4. Hi _r2_,
    thanks for the nice compliment.
    I know what you mean about the WSK version of Insanae Et Vanae Curae from the film. Wasn't it great to see the boys dressed in period costumes? They looked and sounded great.

    If you are trying to make me jealous with tales about seeing WSK in their own chapel, it's working. That's must have been a great time, especially getting to see little Hibiki.

    My favorite version of Dies Irae is the one from Silk Road. I've never heard it done so dramatically. Those big drums add a lot of power to the piece.

  5. Hi,

    Didn't mean to make you jealous, but now that you are only way to cure the jealousness is to travel to Europe yourself.

    I'm lucky to live in the same continet as many of the great choirs. Unlucky though, because I live in the far corner of that continent (northern Finland).

    Fortunately there are some budget airlines in Europe, and I travel pretty much. Now that I have found this new hobby in boychoirs (as you have) I try to include concerts in my trips whenever possible. Actually I first saw WSK in Napa, California durring my holiday trip. So we both were long way from home. Maybe London should be next, Kings choir has been on my list a long time. I also have a friend working in München, so maybe I visit him and see the Tölzer boys.

    If you (or anyone else) ever happen to go to Vienna, remember to book the tickets in chapel well in advance (you can send them email). The chapel is build pretty strangely, so there is actually only like 10-20 seats where you can see the choir properly.

    I specifically asked seats where I could see the choir, so my places were located in separate room with big windows in the thick fall facing to the chappel. My seats were in the left side of the window and the organ loft where the boys sang was also on the left side. Fortunately they had thought of that and there was a mirror installed in the window wall through which I could see the choir and actually had a pretty good view. The places could't have been that bad, because mr. Wirth, the artistic director of WSK was sitting in front of me in the VIP seats right by the window.

    Keep on blogging!