Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Boys of St Thomas

Somehow I wound up with several new Christmas CD’s during the holidays and I suppose I could put them aside until next December rolls around or I could just go ahead and talk about them now.

Oh, why wait?

This one is from a very famous choir, Thomanerchor Leipzig, and it’s titled Weihnachtssingen der Thomaner, which just means Christmas With the Boy Choristers of St Thomas.
The good thing is that with only a couple of exceptions these songs are not particularly Christmasy to me. The titles and lyrics are in German so the only ones I recognize are Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht and In Dulci Jubilo (oh, I suppose that one is in Latin). The other songs have titles like Macht Hoch Die Tur by Max Reger, Ubers Gebirg Maria Geht by Johann Eccard, and Aus Hartem Weh Op.7a by Willy Sendt.

I don’t “sprechen sie Deutsch” but I get the feeling that none of those are translations of Jingle Bell Rock so I can’t really say much about the songs except that they are really pretty.
The first piece and the last, Gelaut Der Thomaskirche Zu Leipzig, consist of the warm tones of the bells of St. Thomas church. Very nice.

The boys and young men sing without accompaniment, and they sound great. Interestingly, there are three numbers that are organ only without voices, and they are also very pretty.

There are 23 songs but at a total time of 49 minutes the CD is over too quickly.

Thomanerchor Leipzig has been around for almost 800 years. They were closely associated with Johann Sebastian Bach but had been in existance for a long time when Bach came along as music director. In the year 1212 Otto IV confirmed the foundation of an Augustiner monastery dedicated to St.Thomas. The monastery included a school to prepare youngsters for a clerical career, to which boys from outside the monastery were also admitted. From the beginning, singing for the liturgy was part of the education.
In the last century alone, the school has survived two World Wars, and the Communist regime, which permitted many of its ancient traditions to continue, unbroken.

The children get up at six in the morning, have several hours of choir practice every day, as well as individual singing and instrumental lessons and, of course, ordinary school lessons. For concerts they always dress in the tradition dark-blue sailor-style uniforms.
I love this bit from BCSD, “Scruffiness is strictly prohibited. The smaller boys are inspected to make sure that their fingernails are not dirty and nothing is bulging out of their pockets.”


  1. Magnificent choir !!!
    It's impressive to hear sing to Bach St Matthew Passion (Mattäuspassion).
    Much merit, acomplish this with children :))

  2. Thanks for the comment Jseina. I haven't heard them sing St Matthew's Passion so I'm going to look for that.

  3. Morning Larry

    Taking up your challenge of listening to Christmas music in January I am at this very moment listening to the King's album I told you about a few weeks ago. Mind you, if you find 49 minutes and 23 songs too short, O Come All Ye Faithful is going to make you weep :)

  4. Good afternoon to you Andy. Is that CD the double CD that was released in 1999? I have that one and enjoyed it a lot during the holidays. I see that there are 9 lessons but there are a lot more than 9 carols, but then I suppose the title doesn't say A Festival of 9 Lessons and 9 Carols so the more carols, the better. The choir sounds really powerful on this album and it's nice to note that Cleobury wrote the descant to O Come, All Ye Faithful and some of the other songs.

    You know, we're going to have to come up with some songs for Easter pretty soon.

  5. Nope Larry, this is a single CD, just the carols and no lessons. I do love it but it is SHORT. I'm not sure how many CD's of the same song sung by the same choir (all be it different years and singers) it is possible to have but I really do love it.

    To point you in the right direction I've tried to save the link in the URL attached to my name on this link (can't paste in the comments I'm afraid).

    If that don't work just go on Amazon (US not UK) site and search 'King's colloge choir O come all ye faithful' and it shows as the top one (CD dated 1990 but the recording is earlier. You can preview the tracks and there are 20 5 star ratings (and one 1 star because it didn't arrive for Christmas - some people.....)