Two very different choirs, cultural traditions: one shared love

Created 500 years ago, today’s Vienna Boys Choir travels the world performing music by the great western composers.

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But on this day, they’re sharing the stage with a choir on its first-ever overseas trip, performing songs from an ancient culture: Australia’s Gondwana National Indigenous Children’s choir.

The tour has taken the children from their homes in North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands to Germany, Slovenia and now to the home concert hall of the Vienna Boys Choir.

Lyn Williams is the founder.

“Well they came over with the distinct idea that they were going to share their culture, and I think they’ve realised the great richness of culture all over the world and that to share means that you’re taking in other people’s culture and giving yours back. So I think it’s this sense of this incredible cultural heritage on both sides.”

The concert series aims to bring two rich cultures together says Professor Gerald Wirth, artistic director of the Vienna Boys Choir.

“And for our children it’s great for them to listen to music they have never sung before in their life and even have a chance to learn it. It’s a great experience. It makes them aware, especially our children in Vienna, what else there is in the world – so it’s very good – and the greatest reason actually to talk about the culture of Aboriginal people in Australia and the Torres Strait people.”

The choirs gave separate performances before the Vienna boys joined the Gondwana children for song and dance.

Lyn Williams says rehearsals were a hoot.

“Oh they thought it was great fun. We have these fun island songs and of course island songs on the whole can’t be done without dance and so they had to learn the dance. And I have to say, like boys anywhere in the world – 9, 10, 11, 12 year old boys – coordinating your hands and your mouth and your feet can sometimes be a challenge. But it was fun!”

Lyn says later this year the Vienna Boys will come to Australia, performing in Sydney and travelling to Cairns – renewing friendships; singing and dancing in the tropical north.

Gerald Wirth admits this is not an easy act to pull off.

“I guess the biggest difficulty is the distance – it’s far away and it takes a lot of money and I think this is one of the reasons why there is not a lot of interaction between Australian Indigenous people and European people so this is very rare and we feel very special to be involved in such an endeavour.”

Gondwana’s Georgiana talks about the music culture of the Vienna Boys choir: “It’s very professional I guess. We have a more islander voice I guess and theirs are more… opera, sort of.”

Reporter: “And what’s the impression that you want to leave behind from the Gondwana choir?”

“That we’re proud to share our culture with others.”

Siena says she was a bit nervous ahead of this concert, but in the end…

“We sang our hearts out because it’s the end of it and like, we might as well give it our all since it’s the end and since all these lovely people came to see us perform and dance and do our island songs and perform with the boys. Might as well give it all we’ve got!”