This year marks the 525th anniversary of one of the world’s top boys’ choirs. The Wiener Sängerknaben have toured the world’s premier concert halls. Their musical achievements are equaled by their innovative approach to education and inclusivity. In June 2024, the Vienna Boys Choir will be awarded the European Culture Prize.
The year 2023 marks the 525th anniversary of The Vienna Boys Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben). What began in 1498 with a handful of boys at the court of Emperor Maximilian I, is now a world-renowned cultural and educational institution. This choir of boy sopranos and altos based in Vienna, Austria is one of the best-known boys’ choirs in the world.
The institution of the Vienna Boys Choir is an Austrian cultural icon and a community of values following the principles of tolerance, cosmopolitanism, integration and equality. In the last 10 years alone, children and young people from 39 different countries have lived and studied on campus. Refugee children are regularly accepted – from Afghanistan, Syria, the Congo and most recently from Ukraine. The international character is also reflected in the almost 50 dedicated employees; they come from Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Ukraine, Colombia, Japan, Hong Kong, Iran and India.
At the Augarten Campus in Vienna’s 2nd district, more than 300 children and youth aged 6 to 19 receive an excellent musical education, which includes choral singing and instrumental lessons as well as voice training and music theory. This education, ennobled by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage, is accessible to all, regardless of origin, gender, nationality or religion.
As early as elementary school, boys and girls are taught together in the Chorus Primus. It is the choir for the youngest children, in which they gain their first stage experience with short concerts and singing plays. In the 10-14 age group, the children are separated into Vienna Boys Choir and Vienna Girls Choir for vocal reasons.
The 90 currently active Vienna Boys Choir members, who attend the lower school of the grammar school, are divided into four boys’ choirs, which perform a total of around 300 times a year in front of half a million spectators. Since 1924, they have sung around 29,000 concerts on more than 1000 tours in 100 countries. The Vienna Girls Choir, founded in 2004, currently attends external schools and rehearses twice a week. From the 2024/25 school year, the girls will also attend the lower school of our grammar school. Then they will have the same same training conditions as the Vienna Boys’ Choir and also go on go on tour at home and abroad.
The Vienna Girls Choir, founded in 2004, currently attends external schools and rehearses twice a week. From the 2024/25 school year, the girls will also attend the lower school of our grammar school. They will then have the same training conditions as the Vienna Boys Choir and will also go on tours at home and abroad.
In the upper school of the grammar school, the youth choir Chorus Juventus will once again be a mixed choir. The upper school with a focus on vocal music is the only one of its kind in Europe – the subjects on offer include choral singing and individual voice training as well as composition, aural training and performance practice. The school concludes with the Matura, which entitles students to attend university.
The Vienna Boys Choir is a private, non-profit organization that has so far financed itself mainly through income from concerts and tours, but is increasingly dependent on donations and sponsors. The school fees collected from the children’s parents are far below the usual prices at private schools. The philosophy of the association is “Only talent counts”; this means that children from financially weaker families can also enjoy an excellent education. Social commitment plays a central role. These include the cooperation with UNICEF, the Project Licht ins Dunkel (sponsored by the ORF, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) and the Möwe (Seagull) child protection centers. In 2009, “superar” was founded with Caritas Vienna and the Wiener Konzerthaus (one of Vienna’s two major concert halls), an association that offers children free access to musical support.
In November 2023, the live CD of the Musikverein’s big concert will be released by Deutsche Grammophon. At the same time, Decca will release a prestigious anniversary box set with 21 CDs. This box contains numerous recordings with music from the history of the Vienna Boys Choir; the oldest dates from 1907, the most recent – previously unreleased – are from last year.
The Vienna Boys Choir and its choirs represent the cultural city of Vienna and are musical ambassadors of the Republic of Austria. Based on a decision by the Austrian government, the Vienna Boys Choir is entitled to wear the national coat of arms on its uniform.
In June 2024, the Vienna Boys Choir will be awarded the European Culture Prize together with the Vienna Girls Choir.