These are challenging times for residents of the State College area. No wonder some people are having a tough time getting into the holiday spirit. If you're in need of a symbol of all that is good about this festive time of year, look no farther than the Vienna Boys Choir.
The world-famous ensemble, featuring two dozen lads in their trademark sailor suits and shiny black shoes, sings holiday favorites, Austrian folk songs and waltzes, classical masterpieces, pop tunes and more at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium.
The choir, backed by more than 500 years of Austrian tradition, is scheduled to perform a diverse program of works by classical masters Joseph Haydn, Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Strauss Jr. and others. But the evening also includes songs by contemporary songwriters Sting, Robert Ray and Stephen Schwartz.
Choirmaster Florian Schwarz, a native of Vienna, leads the 10- to 14-year-old boys in concert. Since 2008 Schwarz has been at the helm of the "Mozart" choir, one of the four equal-standing touring ensembles of the Vienna Boys Choir.
"Twenty-four boys," he says, "can sound like a gaggle of geese, like a group of Tajik street urchins, like hardened boisterous football fans or indeed like a flock of seraphs depending on the time of day and the task at hand."
Rest assured that when the task at hand is singing on stage, the youngsters sound angelic.
The choir came into being in 1498, but until 1918 the ensemble sang only for the imperial court, at masses and for private events. After World War I and the breakdown of the Hapsburg Empire, the choir took on a broader function. By the late 1920s the lads were singing regularly beyond Austria's borders, as well as at home.
Today, the four ensembles perform a combined 300 concerts each year in front of almost half a million people.
Tickets are available for the concert.
Artistic Viewpoints, which is free for ticket holders, takes place in Eisenhower one hour before the concert. Schwarz and Tania Jastrebov, the choir company manager, are scheduled to speak. Seating for Artistic Viewpoints is limited.