Vienna Choir Boys to perform at The Maryland Theatre

November 01, 2000

Vienna Choir Boys to perform at The Maryland Theatre

The Vienna Choir Boys, a 24-member group of 10- to 14-year-old sopranos and altos, will perform tonight at 8 at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown.


The boys carry a long and rich tradition on their young shoulders. The organization celebrated its 500th anniversary in 1998.

Yet, they are normal children, says Raoul Gehringer, the 29-year-old conductor who is leading the Vienna Choir Boys on a 34-city tour of North America this fall.

Tonight at 8 at The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

Tickets cost $28 and $33, plus service and mailing charges.

For information, call 301-790-2000.

They get standing ovations; they sign autographs. "They know they are stars," Gehringer says. But they are kids. "They don't think about it," he adds.


How does a little boy know he is willing to make the commitment that being a Choir Boy requires?

He has to love what he's doing, says Gehringer, who sang with the choir from 1981 to 1985, and was an alto soloist at age 10. Gehringer says he joined not because his older brother and father were there before him, but because he wanted to. He says he always knew he would become a musician, that he would study to be a music teacher.

Gehringer has been teaching music at the Vienna Choir Boys school since 1997. The school and residence are in the restored 18th-century Augarten Palace. Each year more than 250 children - girls are accepted in the early grades - attend the choir school. There is general and music education from kindergarten through elementary grades. At age 10, the most talented boys are selected to be members of the Choir Boys.

There is no school while the boys are on tour, but they make it up when they get back. A typical day includes four hours of school, two hours of rehearsal, lunch and four more hours of classes. There are breaks, of course, and when the day is done at 6 p.m., the boys have three hours of spare time.

There are lots of possibilities for fun, Gehringer says. The boys play soccer and basketball, skate, swim and watch movies.

There are four groups of Vienna Choir Boys, each with 24 to 26 members. They tour six continents, and have visited the United States more than 80 times since their first tour here in 1932. Usually two groups tour, and two stay in Vienna performing weekly services at the chapel.

Vienna Choir Boys perform fewer concerts than in the past - probably half of what they did 20 years ago, according to Gehringer. "It wasn't necessary," he says.

The Choir Boys have made more than 60 recordings. Their latest release is "Merry Christmas," a new CD of traditional Christmas carols from several countries.

What is unique about the sound of a boy choir? Gehringer recommends that people listen for themselves. "I can't describe it," Gehringer says. "It's a straight voice; it's ideal," he says.

A boy choir includes only altos and sopranos - no tenor or bass voices. A breaking voice is a problem for some boys, but there are techniques that can overcome problems, Gehringer says. In most cases, they are able to sing in good alto voice, he adds.

There are many miles and cities between Hagerstown and the choir's final performance at Carnegie Hall in New York Dec. 17. The boys all have their portable CD players, and Gehringer hasn't heard Mozart among the "loud and noisy" music they play.

Choir boys will be boys. They want to write a rap song, Gehringer says.

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