Friday, December 14, 2012

Sweet Song of Vienna

A Saturday night in December would seem an ideal time to attend a performance of the Vienna Boys Choir, especially when the repertoire promised to include Christmas carols, which I adore this time of year. Trouble was, the Christmas songs they sang were all of Austrian and German origin and I didn’t recognize a single one, save for a short rendition of Jingle Bells. Not even an Oh, Tannenbaum came forth from the stage at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in downtown Baltimore on Saturday night.

No matter. The angelic voices of about 25 boys of varying ages and heights, accompanied only by their concertmaster on a single piano at center stage, were mesmerizing. Actually, the first half of the program celebrated contemporary music, including a rousing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, written by Freddy Mercury for the rock group Queen’s 1975 album A night At The Opera. It was after the intermission that the program turned to Christmas and ultimately left me wanting.

For this relaxed evening out, I chose comfort over flash, reprising my "magic Genie" look from last week, this time donning a different pair of sufi pants by medieval fashion designer Moresca (I own pairs in three different colors and fabrics). The classic, billowing trousers, these in narrow stripes of orange and burgundy, have been difficult to coordinate with an appropriately hued top, although it is my good fortune that orange is now back in vogue. As I searched my closet for something to wear with the droopy silk drawers, I made a mental note to seek out a festive new top in orange on my next shopping excursion.

I finally settled on a comfortable tank top of subdued black sequins by Express, which I bought at The Limited Too while on a day-long shopping expedition with my best friend, Kari, and her parents at the Galleria Mall in Dallas, Texas, over the New Year’s holiday in 2011. I accessorized my look with a combination of ornate and rustic pieces: a red beaded choker necklace on a black chord from Fire & Ice Jewelers of Baltimore (, a simple wristband of painted wooden disks, my favorite gold-toned bracelet-watch from Chico’s, some vintage red-beaded earrings from the 1970s, and a pair of new strappy platform heels by City Streets that I bought on clearance at Penney’s a few weeks ago.

Since the weather was unseasonably warm, there was no need for a heavy winter coat. Instead, I chose a fabulous velvet shawl in abstract swirls of dark orange and black which was a birthday gift from my dear friends, Robert and Jan, several years ago, a perfect finishing touch to my evening outfit.

The Vienna Boys Choir originated in 1498, when Emperor Maxmillian The First moved his court to Vienna and declared that, henceforth, there should be six singing boys among his musicians. Until 1918, the diminutive choir sang exclusively for the imperial court, but when the Austrian government took over the orchestra, it did not include the boys choir. Left to languish until 1921, a new dean of the Imperial Chapel, Joseph Schnitt, established the choir as a private institution and instituted a policy of giving public concerts to help fund their upkeep. Now numbering around 100 boys between the ages of 10 and 14, the singers are divided into four groups who spend nine to eleven weeks of the year giving over 300 concerts around the world, while continuing to provide music for Sunday mass in Vienna’s Imperial Chapel as they have done since 1498.

Dressed in their "sailor suit" uniforms, adopted in the 1920s when such garb was all the rage in fashion houses across Europe, the boys’ voices soared during their lively program Saturday night, even if I couldn’t understood a word they were singing. Several young members stepped forward to give solo performances during the presentation, and I left the concert hall feeling glad for having finally witnessed this historic chorale in person.

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