World-famous Vienna Choir Boys come to TTU on Feb. 23 in the ensemble's only stop in Tennessee

For more than 500 years, the Vienna Choir Boys have been entertaining the world with their sacred songs and beautiful voices. And on Friday, Feb. 23, the world famous choir comes to Tennessee Tech University.

The concert, open to the public, will be held in the Memorial Gym at 7 p.m. And while the concert is free, tickets are needed and can be obtained at the Information Center in the Roaden University Center. For more information, call 931-372-6252.

Campus officials expect the 4,000 seat Memorial Gym will be packed with people from across Middle Tennessee. The Feb. 23 date at TTU is the only date the Vienna Choir Boys will perform in Tennessee.

"This is our gift to the community and we are hoping for a large turn out," said Ilene Qualls, coordinator of Student Activities.

This performance is sponsored by the university's Programming Council, the General Education Fund and Center Stage programming committee.

Established in 1498 by I Habsburg Emperor Maximillian I, the Vienna Choir Boys were founded to sing sacred music for the monarchy in the Imperial Chapel. Under the direction of Maestro Johannes Mertl, the boys will sing sacred music, oratorios, operettas, folk songs and traditional Viennese waltzes by composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Schubert.

The ensemble will open its program with four motets Ð Jubilate Deo by Heinrich Schutz, regarded as the greatest German composer before J.S. Bach; Duo Seraphim by Jacobus Gallus, a Slovenian composer of the 16th century; Jubilate Deo by Heinz Kratochwill, a contemporary Viennese composer well known for his vocal compositions; and Ave vernum corpus by Mozart. The choir will also sing Psalm 23 by Schubert, the most famous alumnus of the Vienna Choir Boys, and Anima nostra, a hymn by Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Franz Haydn.

During the second part of the program, the Vienna Choir Boys will sing spiritual songs of diverse ethnic origins: native North American, Indian-Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Africa, African-American and European-Christian. Under the direction of Frank Martin Widmaier, stage director at Oper Frankfurt, who is known for his work with children, the Choir members will also play indigenous instruments from each culture.

The program will close with a traditional Viennese medley, Austrian folk songs, and polkas and waltzes by Johann Strauss.

Trained in the bel canto style of singing, the Vienna Choir Boys sing in 20 different languages and enjoy a reputation not only as a superb musical ensemble, but one that has had close associations with some of history's foremost composers and teachers, including Mozart, Antonio Salieri, Michael and Josef Haydn, Anton Bruckner, and Franz Schubert.

Originally formed with just 12 boys, today's Vienna Choir Boys consist of four separate choirs of 24 to 26 boys ranging in age from 10 to 14. Often, two choirs are on tour simultaneously, with two choirs remaining in Vienna to sign at the weekly Sunday Mass in the Imperial Chapel, a tradition that has continued practically unbroken since 1498, even during the two world wars. The Vienna Choir Boys, who reside and are schooled in the restored 18th-century Palais Augarten in Vienna, have become symbols of the city itself.

The choirs tour widely on six continents and have visited the United States more than 80 times since their first tour in 1932.

In addition to their two North American tours, during the 2000-01 season the Vienna Choir Boys are touring Asia and Europe, as well as giving their first performance in Iceland in 10 years.

For additional information, visit the Vienna Choir Boys Web site at www.wsk.at.