Sunday, December 13, 2009

I’ve never been to Vienna but I’ve seen lots of pictures and if ever a place was designed to evoke a Christmas feel it is surely this one. The gorgeous old buildings decked out in lights and snow, the beautiful decorations and those choir boys, it all makes me want to be there.

Children and Christmas are a perfect pairing and never more so than when it’s the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Of the choir’s many Christmas CD’s I have three and all three are very different from each other.
The first one, from 2003, is titled The Christmas Album and has a photo of several smiling boys around a small candle-lit tree. There is a small, white Teddy bear dressed in a WSK uniform standing in front of the tree and I want one of those. If you should ever see one somewhere, tell me.

Anyway, the songs on the album are of the very popular variety. Songs like Jingle Bells, O Holy Night, Stille Nacht and the best version of Little Drummer Boy I’ve ever heard.
They also include a powerful version of Suo Gan with English lyrics and John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over).
There’s no need to describe the singing. It’s the Vienna Boys’ Choir so of course it’s delightful.

The second CD has more of an English feel to it. This one is from 1995 and is titled Christmas Angels. It starts off with Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and this time has all 11 songs (or 12 if you count 4a and 4b as separate). One of my very favorite songs from this group is That Yonge Child. The vocals on this song are cleverly staggered with each verse repeated in such a way that it makes an echo-y effect. It’s pretty cool.

For more English carols there are Coventry Carol, We’ve Been Awhile A-Wandering and Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. Of course there is also Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, Adeste Fideles and a bunch more popular tunes.

My third Vienna Boys Choir CD is titled Christmas With The Vienna Boys’ Choir and was recorded in 1993. This could have been called A Mozart and Bach Christmas, or perhaps, Christmas for Smart People.
It starts off with Mozart’s Mass in C Major K. 317 “Coronation”, a six-part Mass with Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei.
The Bach portion is Cantata “Ich Hatte Viel Bekummernis", a two part composition with sections like Sinfonia, Corro and Recitativo.
It’s very nice but somehow it just doesn’t say Christmas to me. I prefer more popular carols to put me in the Christmas mood.

Still, I know I’ll be listening to the Vienna Boys’ Choir this Christmas morning.


  1. Hi,

    Its been great to read your blog, since I'm pretty new at boychoir music also.

    I actually found it out via christmass carols and wsk. I have always
    liked choir music (Carmina Burana, Ode to Joy etc...), but I agree
    with you that its best sung by boys choir.

    Then once I heard some unknown boys choir (maybe you know which) in
    the West Wing (TV-series Season 1, Episode 10 "In Excelsis Deo") singing "The little drummer boy". I wanted
    to get the piece to myself, and found version by the WSK.

    That lead to spending time in the Internet and many great pieces of
    music. And your blog. Which led to even more great pieces.

    I doupt that there is much snow in Vienna. We don't even get white
    xmas in Oulu (which is in northern Finland) every year and Vienna is
    couple thousand kilometers south. Its white now, and -18 celsius...

    I am almost certain that WSK used to sell those Teddies in their
    webshop. However, it doesn't seem to be there now, and some recent
    message in the questbook implied troubles with manufacturer. I have
    seen those being sold at Hofburgkapelle at Vienna, but i quess that
    doesn't help much. Maybe you can ask from the questbook...

  2. Here's the West Wing clip in youtube:

    Can anyone tell the name of the choir? I couldn't find the name in the comments either...

  3. Hi _r2_,
    I watched the clip and thought it was just great. That was a really sweet choir, but you got my curiosity stirred up, darn it. I did some searching on the internet and came up empty handed, but I'm not giving up. I've asked some other friends and if I don't get a good answer I have a few other ideas to try. It's now my quest.
    Meanwhile, I took a look at Oulu (on the internet, that is) and it looks like a wonderful place to live. I think it's fun that you have an Irish festival and an American car show.
    Is it as beautiful there as it looks on the internet?

    Oh, yeah. The Vienna Boys' Choir guestbook told me that more bears are coming and to check back.


  4. Well, I it's a worthy quest I quess. I couldn't find any suitable choir in the boysoloist-archive, but maybe it's one from D.C. area. They sing in the Whitehouse after all. I posted a question (or QUESTion) to the YT clip, maybe someone there knows.

    It's actually a bit depressing now in Oulu. It's situated so north, that we only have like 4 hours of light at the moment. It's only about 300km from polar circle. No polar bears though, not even regural bears in WSK uniform. But weather is clear, so when is sun shining its pretty beatiful. Specially so if you only look from the window, if you actually go outside you cannot think anything else that the coldness.

    If you want some WSK souvenir when waiting the teddy (and if you are very rich) you can buy one of these:
    I was set to buy one when I first visited Vienna, but it turned out, that the price was about 800 EUR. A 'bit' too high for non-millionare like I...