The Cary Arts Center, as a part of the Marvelous Music Series, presented by the Town of Cary, hosted the Vienna Boys Choir for the first time since the singers appeared in the Town in 2000. The Vienna Boys Choir has been around since about 1498, when the choir was made up of only six boys. Today, 100 boys age ten through fifteen sing in four touring choirs that have visited Asia, Australia, the Americas, and virtually all of Europe. The choir also provides music at Sunday Mass at Vienna’s Imperial Chapel, and they have participated in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Concert five times. Having that legacy present made this concert all the more special – not to mention the fact that it was completely sold out!

Renowned choirmaster Manolo Cagnin has been conducting the choir since 2008 and has traveled with them to such diverse countries as Vietnam, Belgium, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. His theory is that “singing is a gift; it is a language everyone understands” and that, as performers, the choir’s duty is “to master that language…, to reach out to our audience, to engage, to touch people.”

His choir certainly did just that. The first half of the program showcased the boys’ talent through classic choral repertoire, including selections from Orff’s Carmina Burana, works by Brahms and Schubert, and many more. The choristers’ enthusiasm and love for music was immediately apparent, as was their sophisticated blending of parts, and soaring, confident solo parts sung by boys as young as ten years old! The smallest boy, who sang a very complicated solo in Josef von Eybler’s “Omnes de Saba Venient,” already knows how to charm an audience and keep everyone in the room in the palm of his hand as he performs.

The fact that this choir teaches such artistic sensitivity is truly admirable. The boys had other talents, as well; periodically several of them would emerge with hand drums and tambourines to add a little sparkle to their performance. In one song, a soloist was accompanied by other choir members who played the cello, violin, flute, and oboe!

The boys are as disciplined as they are musically talented: their bows after each number were in unison, and they all kept their hands very still as they sang. However, they were still young boys singing, so it was nice to see them crack smiles during their favorite songs and sway along to the music. A few boys needed to bounce up onto their tiptoes and raise their eyebrows to sing some of the extremely high pitches, but this just added to their already immense cuteness.

The second half of the program featured traditional folksongs from a variety of countries, requiring that the boys sing in not only German and Latin but also Hungarian, Japanese, Italian, and English – including a few rousing gospel songs that they presented with flair. Their rendition of Elton John’s hit “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from Disney’s The Lion King was particularly heartwarming to this American audience. The soloist struggled a little with the pronunciation, but his pitch was spot-on and even the most experienced of adult singers would have admired his tone.

The great thing about listening to these young voices was hearing their pure, innocent interpretations of the songs. There was not a lot of vibrato or ornamentation, but their blend and accuracy were fantastic. Hopefully this choir and the one-of-a-kind opportunity it offered will come back a little sooner next time!

The choir’s US tour continues. Among the pending concerts is one in Charlotte, for Charlotte Concerts, on March 16. For details, click here.

The next event in the Cary Arts Center will be Basant Bahar, an Indian celebration of spring presented by Hum Sub on March 11th at 4 p.m. The next event in the Marvelous Music Series will be “It Takes Two,” an evening of Broadway hits from star couple Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell, on Saturday, June 15th at 7:30 p.m. For details, see our calendar.