"A Christmas in Vienna" travels to Williamsburg

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

The singers and musicians of the Vienna Boys Choir hail from all over the world, continuing the 500-year legacy of the ensemble. After 48 concerts spanning 11 weeks, the choir’s American touring group concludes its latest season with a pair of performances Wednesday and Thursday in Williamsburg and Virginia Beach.

“We knew it would be a natural fit for Williamsburg during the holiday season,” said Rob Cross, executive director of the Virginia Arts Festival, which organized the regional concerts. "People love to see children perform at such a young level. It’s such a great training program for them, learning life skills and learning how to work in a group.”

The choir features 100 members hailing from 31 nations and ranging in age from 10-14; the children are divided into four touring groups to tackle as many as 300 concerts in a year throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

“It’s a lot, but we enjoy it,” conductor Manolo Cagnin said. “We are like a family.”

When Cross saw the choir was touring stateside, he was confident their style of traditional baroque music would find an audience in an area rich with a history of its own. The choir was founded in 1498, although the modern iteration is not without contemporary flourishes.

“You can find whatever you want for every taste,” said Cagnin, who also plays piano for the choir. “It’s different colors. It’s different types of music.”

Building on 500 years of tradition

The first half of the concert focuses on the group’s more traditional repertoire of Christmas carols and sacred pieces. The second segment shifts the focus to contemporary holiday favorites.

Cagnin, a native of Treviso, Italy, said the performance showcases the hard work and dedication of its youthful members amid the constant demand of concerts, rehearsals and long bus rides along the way.

“That’s our tradition; that’s our destiny,” he said. “They enjoy the stage. They enjoy the music. They sing with a lot of patience and love.”

Cagnin hopes the ensemble’s pedigree, bolstered by centuries of tradition, will help the choir continue to endure and thrive as it marches on through the 21st century. His goal with the concert is a timeless one.

“I’m so excited we can finish our long tour in this wonderful state,” Cagnin said. “What I’d like to give the audience is two hours of peace, joy and no trouble at all.”

That’s an ideal for which Cross also strives, as he hopes the choral performance will inspire reflection and thankfulness as the holiday season reaches its crescendo.

“Music is a way to bring people together,” he said. “It’s just being with friends and family as you’re going into the holidays and realizing that there’s true beauty in the world.”

Want to go?

“A Christmas in Vienna” runs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Bede Catholic Church, 3686 Ironbound Road, and 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Market St., Virginia Beach. Tickets start at $28, available online at vafest.org or by calling 282-2822.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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