Vienna Boys Choir displays vocal skills in wide-ranging program

Vienna Boys Choir
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

There’s no more gratifying sound than that of children singing. And there’s no more polished ensemble of children’s voices than the Vienna Boys Choir.

The 24 boys sang Monday at Bass Performance Hall in a program featuring prayers, pop music and polkas. In sweet treble voices, they sang songs from across continents and centuries.

The choir is famous for its Christmas albums and TV specials. But the group also holds a central place in Vienna’s cultural life. There, the choir boys celebrate Mass, sing with the Vienna Philharmonic and perform onstage with the Vienna State Opera.

The touring choir’s program Monday focused on that triangle of duties. Either unaccompanied or with piano, the boys sang Latin motets and contemporary church music and classical songs by Schumann and Schubert (Schubert himself sang in the choir in the early 1800s). They also performed two famous opera choruses from Bizet’s Carmen and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. The gospel hymn Amazing Grace and the jazzy New York, New York paid homage to America.

The kids were perhaps most at home singing three Strauss polkas but also gamely sang pop classics Stormy Weather and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. John Lennon’s Imagine rang with sentiment; 30 years ago, young people sang the verses with the same hope and innocent longing.

Bass Hall’s dry acoustics didn’t always serve the choir ideally; more reverberation would have let the boys’ pure, pearly voices better mingle and linger. But the singers, ages 10 to 14 and wearing their traditional uniform of black slacks and white sailor’s shirt with dark blue collar, performed with the guileless zeal of youth.

The choir was impeccably prepared and led by conductor Kerem Sezen. (The boys sang some 30 songs over two hours without music.)

A Lebanese hymn rang with exotic Eastern harmonies; an African call-and-response concluded the evening, proving that the Vienna Boys Choir is a world treasure, not just an Austrian one.