The Vienna Boys’ Choir, founded in 1498, is one of the best-known boys’ choirs today and sets a gold standard for ensembles of young voices around the world. The choir stopped by the WFMT studios during a tour across the United States to spread some holiday cheer. Below watch the choir perform a German Christmas classic, “Fröhliche Weihnacht.”
The choir also performed two more holiday carols, “Leise rieselt der Schnee” and “Maria durch ein Dornwald ging.” Scroll down to stream more recordings.
Conductor Manolo Cagnin, who has been leading the choir for about ten years, said that he has “a wonderful job. When you work with children, it’s not just music – it’s about relationships. We are like a family. On tour, we are together working every day for long hours, not just for concerts, but during our free time too. We play soccer. We walk through the cities we visit. It’s probably the most interesting part of my job. We speak about everything. It’s important because I need to know my kids and they need to know me as well. After that, we can make music together.”
Matthew, who has been singing with the choir for three years, grew up in Hong Kong and wanted to audition after the son of a family friend joined the choir. “I came to Vienna for two weeks to audition,” he explained. “It was very nerve-wracking. But it was also like a little journey: I had to practice a lot of songs before, I had to audition, and I got a lot of friends. It was an amazing experience and I decided I wanted to do that for the next four years of my childhood. You join and connect with everyone like butter and bread.”
Matthew is thrilled to tour with the group, saying: “It’s fun to travel around the world and stay in the hotels, eat the different foods, seeing the different cultures. Performing in the different concert halls is also amazing because you can see the different cultures and histories of places.”
This is his first trip to the United States, and he said, “I had a picture of the country in my mind and when I came here it was sort of the same thing, some places were even better than I thought.” One thing that did surprise him? “It’s humongous. Sometimes we are on the road for hours and hours, and we still haven’t finished driving.”
To get through the long trips on the tour bus, Matthew said he gets by with a little help from Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, John Legend, and Nicki Minaj. “I have a lot of their albums on my phone. On the journeys on the bus, music is something that helps me concentrate and…” he paused briefly and laughed, “I don’t know how I could live without music, actually! It’s a big part of my life.”
“Leise rieselt der Schnee”
“It’s about how beautiful Christmas is when the snow is falling down,” Matthew said, “and how everyone is happy and everyone is joyful when Christmas is coming.
“Maria durch ein Dornwald ging”
“This song is very quiet and settled.” Matthew explained, “It’s about before Jesus was born. There are three different verses that have three mini stories inside one big story.
Matthew described this piece as “a little folk song that everyone can sing gathered around the Christmas tree. It’s just a fun song for families. Kids learn it at school, and we all just really like it a lot.”