Part 1

William Boyce (1710 – 1779)
3-part canon
Arr. Gerald Wirth

William Boyce was born in London, the son of a joiner. He became a choirboy at St. Paul’s Cathedral when he was eight years old. He held a string of appointments as church organist before becoming Master of the King’s Musick in 1755, a post he held until his death in 1779. Boyce gradually became deaf; he had to give up teaching and performing and turned to composing and editing works by Byrd and Purcell. Boyce is responsible for a compilation of church music still in use today. His “Alleluja” canon is a favourite with choirs the world over. The Vienna Boys Choir sing it in procession.

Text: Alleluja!
Translation: Praise God (Yahweh)!


Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695)
From Ode for the birthday of Queen Mary II  Z 323 (1694):
Come Ye Sons of Art
Sound the Trumpet
See Nature, Rejoicing

Henry Purcell was a chorister in the Chapel Royal. After his voice changed, he held a number of musical posts at the court, including organ maker and keeper of the king’s instruments, composer-in-ordinary for the king’s violins and organist of Westminster Abbey, and of the Chapel Royal. During his lifetime, he served three consecutive kings of England: Charles II, James II and William III.

It was part of Purcell’s duties to compose works for royal occasions, coronations, weddings, birthdays and funerals. Come Ye Sons of Art is the last of six birthday odes composed for Queen Mary II, who loved music. Come Ye was written for the popular Queen’s 30th birthday on 30 April 1694; her last, as it turned out.

The text, probably by Nahum Tate (1652-1715) who was Poet Laureate at the time, is flowery and highly complimentary of the Queen, although it leaves something to be desired for poetic merit. One line in Sound the Trumpet deserves comment; “you make the listening shores rebound” is a play on the word “shore” and the name of the Sergeant Trumpeter to the English king, a Matthias Shore, whose abilities on the trumpet sparked a number of virtuoso compositions for that instrument.

Stage Director Susanne Sommer has the Vienna Boys Choir perform a courtly dance of Purcell’s time while they sing.

Come, come, ye sons of Art, come, come a way.
Tune all your voices and instruments play,
to celebrate this triumphant day.
Sound the trumpet till around
You make the listening shores rebound.
On the sprightly hautboy play.
All the instruments of joy
That skilful numbers can employ
To celebrate the glory of this day.
See Nature rejoicing has shown us the way
with innocent revels to welcome the day.
The tuneful grove and talking rill,
the laughing vale, replying hill
with charming harmony unite
the happy season to invite.
Thus Nature, rejoicing, has shown us the way
with innocent revels to welcome the day.
What the Graces require,
and the Muses inspire,
is at once our delight and our duty to pay.
Thus Nature, rejoicing, has shown us the way
with innocent revels to welcome the day.


Hans Leo Hassler (1564 – 1612)
Cantate Domino (Sing to the Lord)
Motet for four voices a capella

Hassler was born in Nuremberg as son of composer Isaak Hassler. He started his musical training with his father. In 1584, Hassler went to Venice to study with Andrea Gabrieli; he was among the first German musicians to do so.

In 1586, Hassler was back in Germany, in the employ of Count Octavianus Fugger in Augsburg. In 1600, he became the director of music of the city of Nuremberg, and in 1608, he was appointed chamber organist to the Kurfürst of Saxony in Dresden, quite a prestigious post. Hassler’s last post was in Frankfurt, he was court “Kapellmeister”.

Hassler was a protestant, yet he wrote numerous works for both catholic and protestant services. His Latin masses and motets show the influence of the Venetian School, his German music is influenced by Orlando di Lasso, a widely travelled French composer who worked in Munich from 1556. Contemporaries especially liked Hassler’s madrigals and songs. He reused the tune of his popular love song “Mein G’müt ist mir verwirret (My spirit is confounded)” in the famous chorale “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”, which appears in Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

The text of this motet is taken from Psalm 96, titled “Jahwe, King and Judge”. It was originally a liturgy sung at the New Year festival to celebrate God as ruler of the universe.

Cantate Domino canticum novum, cantate Domino omnis terra.
Cantate Domino, et benedicite nomini eius:
annuntiate de die in diem salutare eius
annuntiate inter gentes gloriam eius
in omnibus populis mirabilia eius
Sing to the Lord a new song,
Sing to the Lord all the world.
Sing and bless his name,
Tell aloud of his salvation, day by day.
Tell the nations of his glory
and all peoples of his miracles.


Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
Domine, fili unigenite (Lord, only begotten son)
from Gloria in D, RV 589

The “Gloria” is part of the Mass ordinary; the words date to the early Middle Ages. Vivaldi wrote at least three settings, of which two survive. RV 589 is a hugely popular piece: There are over 100 recordings of it (including one by the Vienna Boys Choir), and it has been used to great effect in several films, “Shine” (Scott Hicks 1996), “The Hunter” (2011), and “Songs along the Silk Road”, Curt Faudon’s 2008 film about the Vienna Boys Choir.

Antonio Vivaldi wrote his Glorias around 1715 for the orphans at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà where he was employed as a music teacher and composer. The Ospedale was initally founded as a hostel for Crusaders. After the Crusades, it changed into a charity for orphans and abandoned girls. Unwanted infants could be left at the scaffetta, an early form of baby hatch. There were four ospedali in Venice, their purpose was to provide for abandoned and orphaned children. Boys were taught a trade, and girls were given a formal musical education. All four ospedali had choirs, all four competed with each other, trying to hire the best musicians in Venice. During the seventeenth century, the Ospedale della Pietà in particular became famous for its girls’ choir and sixty-strong all-girl orchestra. Vivaldi joined the Ospedale’s staff in 1703 as a young priest. His health was so poor that he was given a dispensation from celebrating Mass; and he was unable to play wind instruments. But he was known as a violin virtuoso, and had extensive musical knowledge. Vivaldi taught violin and music theory and composed as maestro di coro for his charges – he wrote motets, choral works, and later concerti. Under his direction, the girls’ choir and orchestra became more famous then ever.

The girls played behind a screen to aristocratic audiences. Tourists flocked to Venice to hear them perform: In 1770, long after Vivaldi’s death, Jean-Jacques Rousseau attended a concert. He described the experience in his Confessions; the playing behind a screen, the beauty and impact of the music, the layout of the buildings, and finally meeting the musicians.

The Vienna Boys Choir sing part of Vivaldi’s Gloria in Curt Faudon’s film “Songs along the Silk Road”.

Text: Domine fili, unigenite, Jesu Christe.
Translation: Lord, son, only begotten: Jesus Christ.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Sub tuum praesidium (Under Your Protection)
Offertory K. 198 (158b)

Sub tuum praesiduum is the oldest extant Marian prayer; the oldest known copy is found on an Egyptian papyrus, written in Greek and published in 1938 as Papyrus Rylands 470. The papyrus probably dates to the third century AD, which might mean that it was written in the midst of the persecution of Christians. According to the Coptic rite, the prayer was apparently part of the Christmas liturgy. The second part of the text (from „Mediatrix nostra“) is found in a Marian prayer ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153): Per te, o Maria, accessum habemus ad filium (Through you, oh Mary, we have access to the son).

The 1964 edition of the Köchel catalogue lists the motet as “doubtful”. Newer research thinks it is genuine, after all; there are thematic connections between the short motet (probably written in 1773) and Mozart’s Missa brevis, K. 192, composed in 1774, also in F major.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix:
nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
virgo gloriosa, Domina nostra, advocata nostra, et benedicta.
Mediatrix nostra, nos reconcilia tuo Filio,
tuo Filio commenda, nos repraesenta tuo Filio.
We seek refuge under your protection, holy Mother of God:
Do not deny our prayers in need
But save us always from from all dangers.
Glorious virgin, our Lady, our advocate and blessed one.
Who intercedes on our behalf: Through your son reconcile us,
To your son commend us, and speak on our behalf before him.


Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)
Der Gondelfahrer (The Gondolier)
Text: Johann Baptist Mayrhofer (1787 – 1836)
D. 809, opus 28 (1824)

Mayrhofer, a poet from Upper Austria, met Schubert in Vienna in 1814; they became close friends. Schubert set 47 of Mayrhofer’s poems to music, and Mayrhofer wrote the libretti of at least two unfinished operas for his friend.

“The gondolier” is typically Romantic. It can be read as a poem describing a night in Venice and celebrating escapism: It is midnight, the poet (or the skipper, as the case may be) is out on the waters in Venice, having a grand old time basking in the moonlight. There is however a gloomy undertow: “meine Barke”, my skiff, might also refer to the poet himself, who – unfettered, is being rocked by “des Meeres Schoß”, literally the bottom of the sea. The choice of words would support this, a “Barke” is the kind of boat Charon uses to ferry the deceased across the River Styx. Death is seen as the ultimate freedom.

Finally, St. Mark’s campanile strikes midnight – the pianist strikes the same chord twelve times.  Everybody is asleep, only the skipper – the poet – is awake, or should we say conscious. No one else has seen or understood.

However one chooses to interpret the words, one thing remains clear – the first verse conveys a feeling, a longing to be shot of mundane worries, to be free. This certainly applied to Mayrhofer, who was forced to work for the censor’s office, a job he loathed. In the end, sadly, Mayrhofer, who suffered from depression, killed himself; he jumped out of his office window in Vienna.

Es tanzen Mond und Sterne
Den flücht’gen Geisterreih’n
Wer wird von Erdensorgen
Befangen immer sein!
Du kannst in Mondesstrahlen
Nun, meine Barke, wallen
Und aller Schranken los
Wiegt dich des Meeres Schoss.
Vom Markusturme tönte
Der Spruch der Mitternacht:
Sie schlummern friedlich alle,
Und nur der Schiffer wacht.
Moon and stars dance
A fleeting ghostly round –
Who wants to be caught
In earthly worries forever!
My little skiff, you can
Sail by the moonlight now,
And unfettered and unhampered
The sea will rock you.
From St Mark’s campanile
Sounds the midnight hour:
They all sleep peacefully,
Only the skipper is awake.


Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847)
Laudate pueri Dominum (Praise, Boys, the Lord)
Text: Biblical (Psalm 113:1-2)
Opus 39, 2
Motet for three part women’s choir and organ

Mendelssohn grew up surrounded by culture. His family was wealthy and generous with it. They travelled widely, and had a large house where they entertained many prominent visitors, among them Humboldt and Hegel. The Mendelssohns, members of the assimilated German-Jewish aristocracy, converted from Judaism to Christianity in 1816.

The Mendelssohns saw to it that their four children had every possibility to learn. Felix, the second child, studied piano with Ludwig Berger and theory and composition with Karl Friedrich Zelter. At the age of nine, he gave his first public recital, at the age of ten, he became a member of the Berliner Singakademie. He was eleven when his own first compositions were publicly perfomed. A year later, he met Goethe, Carl Maria von Weber and Cherubini. Thereafter, he turned out sonatas, concertos, string symphonies, piano quartets and Singspiele which revealed his increasing mastery of counterpoint and form.

In 1829, at the ripe old age of 20, he directed a pioneering performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Berlin Singakademie (with a reported chorus of 600 singers): this one performance (an ‘event’) put Bach firmly on the repertoire list for choirs. Mendelssohn was also famous as a festival organiser, he was associated especially with the Lower Rhine and Birmingham music festivals. Mendelssohn’s most significant achievements as a conductor and organiser were in Leipzig (1835-47), where he conducted the Gewandhaus Orchestra to great acclaim. In 1843, he founded the Leipzig Conservatory and managed to recruit Robert Schumann and Moritz Hauptmann as teachers. His death at the age of 38, after a series of strokes, was mourned internationally.

Mendelssohn’s music shows influences of Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven. He clearly liked to be inspired by his surroundings; his music often has literary, artistic, historical, geographical or emotional connotations; the underlying ideas are easily accessible.

Laudate pueri is a motet for Advent, scored for high voices and organ. It is one of three moving pieces written for the nuns of Trinità de Monti in Rome; the others are Veni Domine (opus 39/1) and Surrexit pastor bonus (opus 39/3). Just before completing the pieces in December of 1830, Mendelssohn wrote to his family in Berlin, “When the sun goes down, the entire landscape and all colours change; when it is time for the Ave Maria, I go to the church of Trinità de’ Monti, where the French nuns sing, and it is truly beautiful. By God, I am becoming very tolerant, and am listening to bad music with devotion, but what can one do? The composition is laughable, the organ playing completely mad, but it is dusk, and the entire colourful church is filled with people on their knees, lit by the sinking sun whenever the door opens. The two singing nuns have the sweetest voices on this earth, movingly frail, and when one of them in particular sings the responses which I am used to hearing from gruff priests, I start to feel quite bizarre. And since you know you may not see the singers, I have made a strange decision: I shall write something for their voices, which I have memorised well, and I shall send it to them – there are various ways of doing that. It will be pretty indeed when I shall listen to my piece sung by people I have never seen, and when they have to sing it to the Barbarian German whom they in turn do not know. I am really looking forward to this. The text is in Latin, it is a prayer to Mary. Don’t you love the idea?”

Laudate pueri Dominum,
laudate nomen Domini.
Sit nomen Domini benedictum ex hoc nunc et usque in saecula.
Praise, children, the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord.
May the Lord’s name be praised, from now on and into all eternity.


Ola Gjeilo (*1978)
Ubi Caritas (Where there is charity, 1999)

Ola Gjeilo is a young contemporary composer, originally from Norway; currently serving as composer in residence to Voces8 in New York, NY.

The medieval text by an unknown author echoes the thoughts outlined in the Gospel of St. John; essentially, without love we are nothing. With love, we are with God. The prayer it part of the liturgy for Maundy Thursday.

The piece, written in 1999, is clearly influenced by Gregorian chant. It is one of Ola Gjeilo’s most popular works, performed by choirs all over the world. This is the first time a touring group of the Vienna Boys Choir sings it.

Ubi caritas et amor, ibi Deus est.
Congregavit nos in Christi amor.
Where there is charity and love, there is God.
He has gathered us in the love of Christ.


Sat-cit-ananda rupam and Bolo bolo
Two bhajans from India
Arr. Gerald Wirth

Bhajans, traditional songs of worship and devotion, are an important part of a Hindu revivalist movement during the Mogul period, known as the Bhakti (devotion) movement. Its members believed that spiritual salvation could be attained by anyone who had a pure and selfless love of God; whether or not a person practiced certain forms of worship. Bhajans are defined by a sense of devotion. They cover a broad spectrum of musical styles from simple chant (dhun) to highly developed versions comparable to thumri. Their poetic content ranges from chant to incantations or hymns. Traditional bhajans by great saint musicians such as Mira, Surdas, or Kabir are considered to be of the highest literary quality.

The expression sat-cit-ananda rupam is used in yoga; the yogi desires only to accept reality, i.e. universal truth or Brahman. Cultivating sat, true existence, through spiritual practice leads to cit, awareness, which in turn provides the key to true happiness, ananda. sat-cit-ananda rupam might therefore be used to describe even moments of perfection and insight into Brahman. In this first bhajan, the phrase invokes the Hindu god Shiva, the destroyer or transformer, one of the Hindu trinity Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva.

This is followed by the second song, a prayer addressed to Shiva.

Text: Sat-cit-ananda rupam Shivoham
Translation: Existence (truth), consciousness, bliss, Shiva.
Bolo Shiva Shiva Shambhu bam bam bam
Are gao re  ye nam har.dam
Jab.tak hai bhayi dam me dam
Bolo Shiva Shiva Shambhu bam bam bam
Let us all take the divine name of Shri Shiva Shambhu and sing his praise;
Oh, brother, let us sing and praise these divine names of the Lord with all our strength.
Let us sing, O brother, from the depths of our soul;
Let us all take the divine name of Shri Shiva Shambhu and sing his praise.


Marc Shaiman (*1959)
Hail, Holy Queen
from the movie “Sister Act” (1992)
Arr. Roger Emerson

Hail, Holy Queen from the movie Sister Act is a choral favourite, bound to make the audience smile. Starting as a demure chant, it soon explodes into a jubilant choir with rhythmic clapping.

In the film, a group of nuns performs them under the direction of Whoopi Goldberg, who plays a Las Vegas singer hiding from organised crime. She manages to transform the languishing nunnery choir into a spectacular ensemble singing with such pizzazz they manage to fill the hitherto empty church.

The solo interjections, “Mater ad mater inter marata” and “Virgo respice” are not Classical Latin, and somewhat lacking in grammar, but then so are quite a few medieval texts. The first line might be rendered “Mother among mothers” (which should really be “Mater inter matres”; if “ad” is correct, it would require the accusative matrem). However, perhaps it should just be understood as an exclamation, “ah”, Mother, oh, Mother. “marata” is not a word at all; it may be a typo for either merata/meraca “pure”, or murata “walled” – inter murata might then mean “surrounded by walls”, as in a nunnery perhaps. As the words were written for the movie, and the character who comes up with them is a Las Vegas singer, they were perhaps not meant too seriously.

Susanne Sommer’s choreography quotes the scene in Sister Act and at the same time allows the boys to make it their own.

Hail holy Queen enthroned above, oh Maria,
Hail mother of Mercy and of Love, oh Maria,
Triumph all ye cherubim!
Sing with us ye seraphim!
Heaven and Earth, resound the hymn!
Salve Regina!
Our life, our sweetness here below, oh Maria,
Our hope in sorrow and woe, oh Maria,
Triumph all ye cherubim!
Sing with us ye seraphim!
Heaven and Earth, resound the hymn!
Salve Regina!
Mater ad mater inter marata
Sanctus sanctus dominus
Virgo respice mater adspice
Sanctus sanctus dominus


Part 2

Petar Liondev (*1936)
Kaval Sviri (A Kaval flute plays, 1979)
Text: Tanya Parvanova

Petar Liondev, born in Harmanli, Bulgaria in 1936, made his name as a collector and editor of folk music in the 1960s and 1970s; he transcribed more than 40,000 songs. His own compositions were mainly written for choral ensembles, male and female choirs, children’s choirs, and mixed groups.

A kaval is a chromatic, end-blown flute played in Turkey and throughout the Balkans, mainly associated with shepherd music. Playing the kaval requires considerable skill; a player uses the air flow and the position of mouth and lips – the embouchure – to change pitch and key. Some players employ a technique known as circular breathing, which allows them to play without pausing for breath. This skill was and is widely admired – the kaval player mentioned in the song clearly was a virtuoso.

Another first in the Vienna Boys Choir repertoire – Oliver Stech has his choir sound like a group of Bulgarian fieldworkers. Their recording of “Kaval sviri” was used in Curt Faudon’s upcoming “Good Shepherds” film.

Кавал свири, мамо,
горе доле, мамо, горе доле, мамо.
Кавал свири мамо,
горе доле, мамо, под солено.
Я ще ида, мамо, да го видя,
 мамо, да го чуя.
Ако ми е нашенчето
ще го любя ден до пладне,
Ако ми е ябанджийче
ще го любя дор до живот.
Kaval sviri, mamo,
gore, dole, mamo, gore, dole, mamo.
Kaval sviri, mamo,
gore dole, mamo, pod seloto.
Ja shte ida mamo, da go vidja,
 mamo, da go chuja.
Ako mi e nashencheto,
 shte go lubja den do pladne,
ako mi e jabandzhijche, shte go lubja dor do zhivot.
The kaval is playing, mother,
up, down, mother, up, down, mother.
The kaval is playing mother,
up, down, mother, below the village.
I will go, mother, to see it,
 to see it, mother, to hear it.
If it is a lad from our village
, I will love him from dawn till dusk,
If he is a stranger, 
I will love him all my life.


Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809 – 1847)
Bunte Schlangen, zweigezüngt! (You spotted snakes, with double tongues)
Text: August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767 – 1845), after William Shakespeare
Elves’ chorus from: Ein Sommernachtstraum (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), opus 61/4 (1842)

In 1826, 17-year-old Mendelssohn read the Schlegel’s translation of Shakespeare’s famous play; this prompted him to compose an overture for the piece. The other ten movements of incidental music for the play (including the famous “Wedding March”) were written in 1842, commissioned by King Frederick William IV of Prussia.

The Vienna Boys Choir have devised its very own interpretation of Puck’s magical woods, and the creatures who inhabit them. Some of the singers will surprise you, and hopefully make you smile. To choir director Stech, this piece is the first of three night pieces or lullabies.

Erste Elfe
Bunte Schlangen, zweigezüngt,
Igel, Molche, fort von hier!
Dass ihr euren Gift nicht bringt
In der Königin Revier!
Nachtigall, mit Melodei
Sing in unser Eiapopei!
Eiapopeia! Eiapopei!
Dass kein Spruch,
Kein Zauberfluch
Der holden Herrin schädlich sei.
Nun gute Nacht mit Eiapopei!
Zweite Elfe
Schwarze Käfer, uns umgebt
Nicht mit Summen! Macht euch fort!
Spinnen, die ihr künstlich webt,
Webt an einem andern Ort!
Erste Elfe
Alles gut, nun auf und fort!
Einer halte Wache dort!
Translation / Shakespeare’s English Original:
First elf
You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong;
Come not near our fairy queen.
Philomel, with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby!
Never harm,
Nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby.
Second elf
Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg`d spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence.
Second elf
Hence, away! now all is well:
One aloof stand sentinel.


Eric Whitacre (*1970)
Seal lullaby (2004)
Text: Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

The Seal Lullaby is the opening poem in Kipling’s story The White Seal; the mother seal sings to her pup. Whitacre originally wrote it for an animated feature, which in the event was never realised. So instead, Whitacre used it to sing his own son to sleep – with a success rate of less than 50%, according to his website. The tune has since become a favourite with choirs.

Oh! Hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us,
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
Oh weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow swinging seas!


Venezuela / Cuba
Duerme negrito (Sleep, little black one)
Latin American lullaby
Arr. Emilio Solé

Atahualpa Yupanqui (1908 – 1992) came across this lullaby in the border region between Venezuela and Colombia; it is also known in the Carribean. Atahualpa Yupanqui recorded and published it. Duerme negrito has since been sung by artists such as Mercedes Sosa and Victor Jara. Over time, it became hugely popular in Spanish speaking countries. There are Classical versions as well – including a recording by French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky.

The text, which invokes a white devil, seems curiously at odds with the hauntingly sweet, soothing melody. There is a whole slew of Latin American lullabies referring to a bogeyman known as (El) Coco, or Cuco, whose chief occupation seems to be devouring children. However, while bogeymen are used to frighten children into good behaviour (in this case, going to sleep), it is also understood that they are not real.

Duerme, duerme, negrito,
que tu mamá está en el campo,
Te va a traer codornices para ti.
Te va a traer rica fruta para ti.
Te va a traer carne de cerdo para ti.
Te va a traer muchas cosas para ti
Y si el negro no se duerme,
viene el diablo blanco y ¡zas! Le come la patita,
Duerme, duerme, negrito,
que tu mamá está en el campo,
Trabajando, trabajando duramente, trabajando sí.
Trabajando y no le pagan, trabajando sí.
Trabajando y va tosiendo, trabajando, sí.
Trabajando y va de luto, trabajando sí.
Para el negrito chiquitito, trabajando, sí.
Duramente, sí. Va tosiendo, sí. Va de luto, sí.
Duerme, duerme, negrito,
que tu mama está en el campo,
Sleep, sleep, little black one,
while your mama works in the fields,
little black one.
She will bring you quails,
she will bring you rich fruits,
she will bring you pork,
she will bring you many things.
And if the black one will not sleep,
the white devil will come, and – wham! – he will eat your little foot.
Sleep, sleep, little black one,
while your mama works in the fields,
little black one.
Working, working hard, working, oh yes.
Working and they don’t pay her, working, oh yes.
Working and she will cough, working, oh yes.
Working and she wears mourning clothes, working, oh yes.
For the tiny little black one, working, oh yes.
Hard, oh yes. She coughs, oh yes. She wears mourning clothes, oh yes.
Sleep, sleep, little black one,
while your mama works in the fields,
little black one.


Quirino Mendoza y Cortés (1859 – 1957)
Cielito lindo (My sweet little one)
Arr. Valentino Navarro y Cortés

This quintessentially Mexican song, written in 1882 by Mendoza y Cortés, has Spanish roots. The rhyme scheme corresponds to the classical Spanish seguidilla of the 17th century, and the Sierra Morena mentioned in the text is a Spanish mountain range known as a haunt of bandits and highwaymen. Nowadays, it is associated with all things Mexican, and sung, with fervour, at international football matches.

De la Sierra Morena,
cielito lindo, vienen bajando,
Un par de ojitos negros,
cielito lindo, de contrabando.
Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Canta y no llores,
Porque cantando se alegran,
cielito lindo, los corazones.
Pájaro que abandona,
cielito lindo, su primer nido,
Si lo encuentra ocupado,
cielito lindo, bien merecido.
Ese lunar que tienes,
cielito lindo, junto a la boca,
No se lo des a nadie,
cielito lindo, que a mí me toca.
From the Sierra Morena,
Pretty darling, they come down,
a pair of black eyes,
Pretty little heaven, which are contraband.
Ay, yai, yai, yai,
sing, don’t cry,
because singing gladdens,
Pretty little darling, the hearts.
A bird that abandons,
pretty darling, his first nest,
if he finds it occupied,
Pretty little darling, that is well deserved.
That mole you have
pretty darling, next to your mouth,
don’t give it to anyone,
Pretty little darling, because it is mine.


Terry Gilkyson (1916 – 1999)
The Bare Necessities
from the movie “The Jungle Book” (1967)
Arr. Greg Gilpin

In the original animated film, “The Bare Necessities” was sung by Baloo the bear Phil Harris and Mowgli the man-cub Bruce Reitherman. Baloo instructs Mowgli in the ways of the jungle – bears know. The reprise at the end of the film was sung by Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera and Phil Harris. The song, which was famously covered by Louis Armstrong, received an Oscar nomination in 1967.

The Vienna Boys Choir, whilst not expecting a nomination, performs this with several dancing bears, a corresponding number of mancubs, and a shrewdness of apes.

Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature’s recipes
That brings the bare necessities of life
Wherever I wander, wherever I roam
I couldn’t be fonder of my big home
The bees are buzzin’ in the tree
To make some honey just for me
When you look under the rocks and plants
And take a glance at the fancy ants
Then maybe try a few
The bare necessities of life will come to you
They’ll come to you!
Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That’s why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life
Now when you pick a pawpaw
Or a prickly pear
And you prick a raw paw
Next time beware
Don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw
When you pick a pear
Try to use the claw
But you don’t need to use the claw
When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw
Have I given you a clue ?
The bare necessities of life will come to you
They’ll come to you!
So just try and relax, yeah cool it
Fall apart in my backyard
‘Cause let me tell you something little britches
If you act like that bee acts, uh uh
You’re working too hard
And don’t spend your time lookin’ around
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
I’ll tell you something true:
The bare necessities of life will come to you.


Nacio Herb Brown (1896 – 1964)
Singin’ in the Rain
Text: Arthur Freed (1894 – 1973); Arr. Anita Kerr
from the MGM motion picture Hollywood Revue (1929)

Singin’ in the Rain, originally written for MGM’s Hollywood Revue of 1929, is the eponymous and most famous song from the 1952 film directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen and starring Gene Kelly, Jean Hagen and Debra Reynolds. To all intents and purposes, it is a musical made for film, using known hits. The story of silent film stars Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Hagen) trying to “make it” in a talking film, placed 10th on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 great films; the AFI ranks it as the last century’s best musical. Lockwood, who can dance, survives as a star, whereas Lamont, who has a grating foghorn for a voice, fails and is replaced by her vocal double Kathy Selden (Reynolds).

Kelly choreographed the song as a soaking wet dance: Lockwood has just realised that he has fallen in love and therefore rather enjoys the bath, dancing with his umbrella in the middle a puddle. Kelly, who was running a fever at the time, actually danced in a mix of water and milk, so that the water would show up on film. The scene is often quoted or parodied; this year, the Vienna Boys Choir perform their take on it,  umbrellas and all. Watch out for the sun and clouds.

I’m singin’ in the rain
Just singin’ in the rain,
What a glorious feeling,
I’m happy again.
I’m laughin’ at clouds
So dark, up above,
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love.
Let the stormy clouds chase.
Everyone from the place,
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face.
I’ll walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And singin’, singin’ in the rain.


South Africa
Hlonolofatsa (Blessing)
Transcription: Henri William Otsomotsi
Sesotho song
Arr. Oliver Stech

Hlonolofatsa, also known as Hlohonolofatsa, is a spiritual hymn of the Sotho people. Of the approximately 8 million Sotho, 5.6 million live in South Africa, 2 million in Lesotho; they are the second largest ethnic group in Southern Africa, after the Zulu.

Today, most Sotho are Christian; they belong to the Roman Catholic church, to Protestant, or independent African churches.

Iyo yo yo hlonolofatsa
Iyo hlonolofatsa
Iyo ka lebetso la Ntate
Iyo yo yo, blessings,
Iyo, blessings,
Iyo, in the name of the Father.


Austria: Two folk songs
Singa is unsre Freud (Singing is our joy)
Jocular song from the Tyrol, sung all over Austria
Arr. Gerald Wirth

This song represents in many ways the Vienna Boys’ Choir’s motto; singing is our joy. It is about the pleasure derived from singing, especially communal singing. The oldest reference comes from the Tyrol: In 1935, the song was recorded there by Adalbert Koch and Norbert Wallner, two collectors of folk songs. Further verses can be (and are) invented on the spot to suit the singers, ad infinitum. Until you are out of breath.

Singa is ins’re Freud,
Singa tuan mehrer Leut;
Wer si net z’singa traut,
der hat koa Schneid.
Singa tuan alle gern,
Bauern und noble Herrn,
und wer nit singa mag,
soll si fortschearn.
Singa tuat jeda Bua,
a mit da Geign dazua,
und wer net singa wü,
der hat koa Gfü.
Singing is our joy,
many people sing.
He who doesn’t dare sing
Has no courage.
Everyone likes to sing,
Peasants and aristocrats
And who does not want to sing,
Should be off.
Every boy sings,
Alone or accompanied by a fiddle,
And he who won’t sing
Has no feeling.


Und wanns amal schen aper wird (And when it starts to thaw again)
Alpine song with yodelling from the town of Eisenerz, Styria
Arr. Gerald Wirth

A cheerful alpine song, which describes the ascent to the alpine pastures in summer and the jolly relations between the herdsmen and women. The Austrian and Bavarian word “aper” literally means “(partly) snowless”, from Latin apertus “open”.

The song was used in Curt Faudon’s film Silk Road (2008); where the choir boys sing it standing on the Great Wall of China, prooving that yodelling serves as a means of communication across valleys and mountains.

In tonight’s concert, you will see five choristers dance a “Schuhplattler”; an Alpine dance performed by young men.

Und wanns amal schen aper wird und auf die Almen grean,
wann der Goaßer mit die Goaßlen geht und Senndrin mit die Kiah.
Die Senndrin führt ihr frischer Muat schnurgrad der Alma zua,
sie sagt: „Juchhe, mir geht’s schon guat, wann kimmst das erschtmal Bua?“
Und wiari auf die Alma kimm, da brummelt schon der Stier,
da siach i schon di Hittn stehn und jauchz vor ihrer Tüa.
And when (the ground) turns nice and snowless and (when) the pastures turn green,
When the goatherd goes with the goats and the dairymaid with the cows.
Her good cheer leads the dairymaid directly to the pastures,
She says, “Hello, I feel well, when do you come for the first time, boy?”
And as I reach the pasture, the bull bellows,
I see the hut standing and I shout before her door.


Johann Strauss II (1825 – 1899)
Vergnügungszug (Pleasure train)
Text: Ewald Seifert; Arr. Helmuth Froschauer
Fast polka, opus 281

Johann Strauss was the second Strauss with the first name Johann, but he is undoubtedly the most famous. At least four members of the family were active as composers: his father Johann (1804-1849), Johann himself and his brothers Joseph (1827-1870) and Eduard (1835-1916). When Johann was ten years old, his father became Hofball-Musikdirektor (Music Director at the Court Balls). A high honour, but father Strauß did not want his sons to become musicians (a rather suspect profession) and enrolled his son in a trade academy. Johann (aided and abetted by his mother) had music lessons behind his father’s back. At nineteen, he founded his own very successful orchestra. Much of his work is influenced by gypsy music and Jewish Klezmer music. There is an inherent ambiguity in it: Strauss, who made the entire city of Vienna dance, was a nervous, ill-tempered and lonely man, and he could not dance.

Vergnügungszug is a typical Strauss polka painting a picture of contemporary life: It was a favourite Sunday pastime in the nineteenth century to explore a city’s surroundings by steam train; the ride, not the destination was the point of the exercise. Vergnügungszug (literally ‘pleasure’ or ‘amusement train’), a cheerful polka, tells the story of such an outing, complete with pushing and shoving to get on to the train, sandwiches, rabbits on the tracks, bird-calls and train whistles.

Bitte Leute eingestiegen
Jeder soll ein’n Sitzplatz kriegen
Heute geht’s hinaus ins Grüne
Tante, Onkel und Cousine
Vater, Mutter und die Kinder
Alle fahren mit:
Dritte Klass, ist a Spaß,
harte Plätz’, um die geht’s.
Hauptsach’ ist, mir haben an Sitz
Denn um die ist das größte Griss.
Gleich wird’s losgehen,
denn der Schaffner gibt’s Signal
und wir kommen hin auf jeden Fall.
Erst geht’s langsam, aber kurz nur,
dann geht’s an, dann kommt ein kurzer Pfiff,
das ist die Lokomotiv!
Der Dampf wird immer dichter
Und schwarz die Gesichter
Im Vergnügungszug.
Vater, was ist des dort für an Dom,
fragt begierig jetzt der kleine Sohn.
Doch der Vater weiß das nicht so schnell,
gibt dem Bub a Wurstbrot auf der Stell.
Aber damit gibt er noch ka Ruh,
macht das Fenster immer auf und zu.
Das tut den Herrn Vater furchtbar ratzn,
kurzerhand gibt er dem Buben a Watschn.
Die ist gsessen, wie angemessen
Und der Bua reibt sich die Wangen.
Ja, wie kann man denn nur gleich schlagen,
tut die Mutter voll Mitleid sagen.
Wein net, hörst du, gib Ruah,
schau jetzt beim Fenster hinaus.
Jetzt muss der Schaffner blasn
Auf den Schienen, da sitzen Hasen.
Langsam hoppeln die zwei davon
Schaun vom Gebüsch auf den schnellen Überraschungszug.
Bitte Leute eingestiegen . . .
Everybody board the train,
Everyone shall have a seat
Today we are headed for the countryside:
Aunty, Uncle, and our cousin,
Father, Mother, and the children
Everyone aboard:
Third class, great fun!
Hard seats, you have to fight for them.
Main thing, we get a seat
They are really in demand.
There! We are about to leave,
The conductor gives the signal,
We’ll arrive anyroad.
First slowly, but only briefly,
Then we pick up speed, a whistle blows,
That is our engine!
The steam thickens
And blackens the faces
Aboard the pleasure train.
Father, what’s that cathedral over there,
The little boy wants to know.
But father doesn’t know this off the top of his head
And gives the boy a sandwich.
But the boy won’t keep still,
He opens and shuts the window.
This annoys his Father,
And he boxes his ears.
That hurts, as intended,
And the boy rubs his cheek.
How can you lash out like that,
Mothers says, with feeling.
Don’t cry, do you hear, be quiet
And look out of the window.
Now the conductor blows his whistle:
There are two rabbits on the tracks.
They hop off eventually
To watch the fast train from the bushes.
Everybody board the train . . .


Johann Strauss II (1825 – 1899)
Kaiserwalzer (Emperor Waltz)
Arr. Gerald Wirth
Opus 437 (1889)

Strauss composed Kaiserwalzer for the inauguration of the new concert hall in Berlin in 1889. Emperor Franz Joseph had visited Emperor Wilhelm II that year, and toasted him with the words “hand in hand”, and Strauss had originally intended to use the quote as title. His publisher Fritz Simrock suggested the catchier title “Kaiserwalzer”. It sounded far more imperial, and had the added advantage that it could be taken to refer to either monarch. Kaiserwalzer was first performed in Berlin on 21 October 1889, with Strauss himself conducting.

Right from the beginning, the majestic waltz proved extremely popular with audiences everywhere: It is one of Strauss best known pieces. There are three feature films that make extensive use of the music; they even use its name as their title. Among them is a 1948 film by Billy Wilder starring Bing Crosby.

The Vienna Boys’ Choir has been singing this particular waltz since the 1920s. In 1953, they recorded it for the soundtrack of Franz Antel’s movie by the same name. In the film, it is sung before Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”).

Wenn Wien erwacht in Frühlingspracht
Im Wienerwald Vogelsang hallt,
dann sei bereit, liebe Maid,
denn s’ist jetzt holde Frühlingszeit.
Burschen, Mädel, alt und jung vereint,
freu’n sich alle, Sonne wieder scheint.
Liebe, Küsse, holde Seligkeit,
denn so liebt der Wiener Frühlingszeit.
Klingen Walzer von ferne
Die er tanzt, ach so gerne
Nimmt er’s Mädel gleich fest unter’n Arm
Das macht den beiden warm.
Und mit leichten Schritten
Fast mit Elfeleins Tritten
Dreh’n sich beide im Tanz.
Von dieser Melodei
Wird man ganz verrückt
Eins, zwei, drei, tralalei,
singt das Herz dabei.
Seht, das ist unser Wien
Dort geboren ich bin,
Vater, Mutter sind dort,
s’ist ein himmlischer Ort.
Stephansdom und der Ring,
Preislied darauf nun erkling,
o Wien, Perle von Schönheit,
bleib so in Ewigkeit.
When spring begins in Vienna,
You hear birdsong in the woods,
Be ready, dear maiden,
It is spring time!
Lads and lasses, old and young together,
Everyone is cheerful, the sun shines again.
Love and kisses, happiness,
That’s how the Viennese like their spring.
You hear waltz music from afar:
The young man likes to dance
And takes his girl by the arm
Warming both of them equally.
Almost like elves,
They both waltz away.
This music can make you quite mad,
One, two, three, tralala,
The heart sings along.

Look, this is our city,
Where I was born.
Father and mother are there,
It is an excellent place.

St Stephen’s Cathedral, the Ring Road,
Let’s sing to them,
Beautiful Vienna,
May it stay like this forever.


Notes © Tina Breckwoldt