are no angels
St Florian Boys’ Choir
They’re a well-known Upper Austrian institution. Seen laughing on the covers of CDs and DVDs, dressed in the sailor suits so typical of boys’ choirs, they dazzle their audiences with vocal performances of the highest standard. And not only in Upper Austria.
The choirboys contribute to opera productions in Vienna and go on concert tours around the world. In short, these youngsters are fully trained, seasoned pros of the music business.
Stage fright? Not likely. “You get used to the concert routine after a while, so you don’t really get nervous any more,” says choirboy Christian, coming across as a hardened professional. Then, with an impish grin, he adds: “During the solos, you might be scared for a moment that you’ll forget the lyrics.” Here, we get a glimpse of the child behind the choirboy uniform.
Christian lists the countries he’s already visited with the choir. Countries that many adults never get to see in their entire lives. And yet he sits with his colleagues in the rehearsal room looking distinctly relaxed, like any other boy his age.
Just normal children, then? Yes, until Franz Farnberger, artistic director of the Boys’ Choir for forty years, turns to the piano and they start to sing the “Emperor Walz”. Then you can immediately hear how these boys enchant people all over the world as musical ambassadors of Upper Austria.
Anyone who observes the “Florianer” in their “home” in the venerable baroque monastery will quickly realise what managing director and concert manager Christa Steinkellner means when she says that “Choirboys are no angels.” Sometimes a grand piano is “put into operation” without permission if they’re impatient for rehearsal to start. One or two sneak into the cafeteria queue to grab a second helping before everyone has been served their first. The boys run barefoot through the baroque corridors in Star Wars T‑shirts and, from time to time, an ice pack has to be applied to a football injury during choir rehearsal.
Those who rehearse diligently ...
... and sing with concentration ...
... really deserve to cool off in what is probably the most beautiful "baroque" pool in Upper Austria. The outdoor recreational facility of the St. Florian Boys' Choir boarding school under the walls of the high baroque monastery complex is impressive.
Letting kids be kids
In moments like these, it’s clear that choirboys are perfectly ordinary 11- to 14-year-olds, whose minds are filled with all the mischief typical of other youngsters their age. And the team around the choir is very careful to make sure that the boys can express this “childishness”. So that the young musicians can let off steam, the boarding school grounds boast what is probably the most attractive and largest baroque football pitch in Upper Austria. Next to it is a pool where they can cool off. And a handful of boys can be seen sitting in the cherry tree, enjoying the fruits of summer without a care in the world.
With these words, head of the boarding school Wolfgang Gruber raves about this outdoor space with its ruggedly picturesque pond used for rafting and a firepit for long summer evenings. The lack of around-the-clock access to smartphones doesn’t seem so important all of a sudden. Outside of specific time slots, the boarding school is a mobile phone-free zone – and personal devices are locked away in the mobile phone cupboard.
The team of teachers and support staff led by Franz Farnberger and choirmaster Markus Stumpner treat the children in a particular way, but one that is markedly cooperative. Franz Farnberger explains why this is the case with admirable precision: “We’re not normal teachers who test the children and then give them marks. We’re engaged in a joint project. Whether we succeed or fail on stage, we always do it together.” And the choirboys feel the same way, too. Yes, Kevin knows that there will always be boys who feel homesick when they first come to the boarding school as choristers. But, he says, “We help each other. We’re a supportive family.”
One big family
It’s a family whose members often maintain their relationship many years after they have ceased to be choir “boys”. The men’s chorus, composed exclusively of former boy choristers who have not lost their love of singing, is 25 strong. Aged between 16 and 55, its members travel long distances to attend the weekly rehearsals.
They also accompany the choirboys on their tours to expand their repertoire by offering the support of their deeper men’s voices. Sometimes they even take unpaid holiday so that they can participate in a foreign tour. After all, it’s for the good of the “family”.
St Florian Monastery
After the death of Saint Florian in 304 CE, the martyr’s grave became a place of pilgrimage. Written evidence from around the year 800 suggests that there was a monastery on this site. In 1071, the Augustinian order took over the monastery. The baroque building was built in its present form from 1686 onwards.
The Boys’ Choir
There have been choirboys at the St Florian Monastery since 1071 – although not in the form of a choir as we know it today. Anton Bruckner, probably the most famous “Florianer” of them all, was one of only three choirboys during his membership, which began in around 1837. In 1997, the Friends of the St Florian Boys’ Choir assumed financial responsibility for the institution.
Fifty choirboys live as boarders at the monastery and attend the St Florian secondary school. In singing lessons, teaching is coordinated with the needs of the choir.
More concerts 2023
- 8 December - Advent concert in the St. Florian Abbey Basilica
- 13 December - Atrium Bad Schallerbach
- Performances of the St. Florian Boys' Choir