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Friday, May 2, 2008

Voice of angels from Vienna

Schubert group of world-famous boy's choir on concert tour of Japan until mid-June

Staff writer

Get ready, Japan. The sopranos are coming. And they're bringing 10 altos as muscle. No, not "The Sopranos" from the U.S. TV drama series, but the Vienna Boys' Choir. Their angelic voices will grace concerts across Japan from May 3 until mid-June.

News photo
The Vienna Boys' Choir © WWW.LUKASBECK.COM

The world's most famous boys' choir, known as Wiener Sangerknaben in German, consists of four groups named after renowned composers. The Schubert group's tour of Japan features a variety of songs from different countries and from both old and modern times.

Among the 26 boys aged 10 to 14 in the choir is Hibiki, 12, one of two Japanese nationals who passed the first audition for the choir held in Japan in 2005. Given the young age and international status of the boys, the organizer of the concerts lists only their first names, including in the show's program guides.

At a news conference held in Tokyo on April 24 to announce the tour, Gregor, one of 16 sopranos in the Schubert group, said it was difficult for him to learn the Japanese lyrics. "But once I remembered the songs, I found it so fun to sing them," the 11-year-old said. "I think it's great singing songs that have very beautiful melodies and harmony."

The boys will perform songs from two different music programs — A or B — consisting of hymns, songs from different countries and Austrian folk songs.

In both programs, the choir will sing Japanese songs including "Sen no kaze ni natte (A Thousand Winds)." The song is based on Japanese writer Man Arai's translation of "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep," a 70-year-old English-language poem widely attributed to Baltimore housewife Mary Frye (1905-2004).

Program A includes "Ave Maria" by Zoltan Kodaly, "Zigeunerleben" by Robert Schumann, the Irish folk ballad "Danny Boy" and "Furusato (Homeland)," the timeless Japanese traditional classic.

Program B consists of the Gregorian chant "Veni creator spiritus," "Eljen a Magyar" by Johann Strauss II, plus "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel," and "Nemunokino Komoriuta," a lullaby written by Empress Michiko.

The choir will hold 26 concerts across Japan between May 3 and June 15.

Highlights of the concert schedule include Tokyo (May 3, 4, 23, 30, 31, June 1, 7, 14), Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture (May 5), Osaka (May 17, 18), Nagoya (May 15), Kagoshima (May 25), Fukuoka (May 27), and Sapporo (June 3).

The ticket prices vary depending on seats from ¥1,000 to ¥7,000. For more information and reservations, call Japan Arts Pia at (03) 5237-7711 or visit the Web site at www.japanarts.co.jp/

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