Vienna Boys Choir provides resounding Rockford performance

Vienna Boys Choir
Rockford Register Star

By Sue Langenberg

The Rockford Coronado Concert Association presented a second concert in its series Tuesday evening: a resounding performance of the Vienna Boys Choir.

The house was nearly sold-out, including about 80 members of Rockford’s Kantorei boys choir.

Also, an Austrian TV crew was on hand to film a documentary featuring the touring Vienna group with some extra welcome from the Kantorei backstage.

The Vienna Boys Choir has been a phenomenon of excellence and cultural presence for about 500 years. Historians agree on 1498 as the inception, but until 1918, the secret gem performed exclusively for the imperial court, Mass and private functions. That would include famous composers — Haydn, Mozart, Bruckner and Schubert — who participated in this wonderful choir.

Now, the group has garnered world attention by sending touring groups everywhere to inspire and share their musical heritage.

Choirmaster Manolo Cagnin accompanied the 22 boys, making his first North American tour.

His musical accomplishments of choral music and conducting hail from Venice as well as Leipzig, Germany. As a performer, he is energetic and charismatic, with a playful rapport between choir and audience. He was able to balance a rehearsed discipline from posture to polished shoes, yet bring out the gleam in every musician’s eye that says, “Let’s have fun playing music.”

The program began on a high note with the works of composer Carl Orff, including “O Fortuna” from “Carmina Burana,” a marvelous 20th century creation. Orff composed this haunting and rich Medieval-style piece that needs to be performed more often, everywhere, as a brilliant statement of life cycles. The choir with soprano range was magical, as the composition demands.

There were heavenly 17th-century motets including “Cantata Domino,” a more contemporary “Ave Maria” and Francis Poulenc’s “Ave verum corpus” (“Hail, true body”), all in angelic harmony. Giuseppe Verdi’s “Dante Alighieri” (“Hello Spring”) was a rolling and sweeping melody.

Some pieces were performed with director Cagnin at the piano, some a cappella. The boys were attuned and tuned-in.

The second act loosened to perform livelier music from around the world. There were soloists within the pieces, including “Santa Lucia” from Naples, Russian folk song “Kalinka” featuring wonderful acrobatics, Korean love song “Arirang” and lyrics from musicals including “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Hair.”

Most moving and inspiring from these children in the encore selections was “We are the World.”