Choir Boys

Choir Boys MC

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The Basel Boys Choir (Knabenkantorei Basel, KKB) is a Swiss boys' choir based in Basel; it grew out of the Boys' Choir of the Protestant Church of Basel-City, founded by Hermann Ulbrich in 1927. Today the choir is non-denominational. They sing both sacred and secular works. The choir has been under the leadership of Markus Teutschbein since 2007.

In addition, the choir has been invited to participate in important music festivals, including the Lucerne Festival under James Conlon, Mario Venzago, Riccardo Chailly and Mariss Jansons, the European Music Festival in Berlin under Roland Bader, the International Festival of Boys Choirs in Poznań (Poland), as well as festivals in Nancy, Maastricht, Venice, Basel, and the Schubert Choir Festival in Vienna in 1997. The Basel Boys Choir is also the host choir of the well-known and highly successful European Festival of Youth Choirs (Europäisches Jugendchorfestival, EJCF).

Structure[edit]

The choir consists of approximately 45 unchanged and 35 changed voices. The changed voices are, as a rule, former trebles and altos who have been in the choir for at least a year. The singers dedicate a considerable amount of their free time to the choir: in addition to rehearsals, there are church services, concerts, concert tours, radio and television appearances as well as CD recordings. A choir camp takes place each year for the purpose of learning repertoire.

Repertoire[edit]

The choir's a cappella repertoire ranges from Renaissance to contemporary music (Miskinis, Tormis). Performances of oratorios, masses, and cantatas by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Britten, and Rossini are the choir's main focus. Additionally, the boys' choir has participated in the Lucerne Festival as well as the following opera performances in Basel: Die Zauberflöte, Tosca, Mefistofele, Carmen, La Bohème, Carmina Burana und Macbeth. Soloists from the KKB could also be heard in performances of Die Zauberflöte in theaters in Bern and Freiburg im Breisgau.

Founding and first year[edit]

The founding of the choir goes back to the initiative of the then-school teacher Hermann Ulbrich, who sang in the Basel Bach Choir and attended the Thomanerchor's many concerts under Karl Straube in Basel. Ulbrich turned to Ernst Lipp, a fellow singer in the Bach Choir and president of the Kommission für den Unterricht in der Biblischen Geschichte ("Commission for the Teaching of Biblical History", KUBG), and suggested that he found a singing school for the preservation of choral tradition that was in the service of the church, but independent of the YMCA. Lipp passed the idea on to the consistory, where it found little support. Nevertheless, the KUBG approved the charter, which Ulbrich had previously written together with Lipp and YMCA youth secretary Jakob Staehelin, and he took responsibility for the still-to-be-founded choir.

At the beginning of June, 1927, Ulbrich sent out advertising for the Choirboys of the Protestant Church of Basel-City, institutionalized in May. On June 15, 1927, the first informational meeting took place with 33 interested boys; this date is taken to be the KKB's founding date. The first rehearsal took place on August 19, 1927 in the Bishop's residence of the Basel Münster; soon, though, they moved due the heating problems in the Katharine Chapel of the cloister. The first public appearance occurred on October 30, 1927, as a part of a church service in the Martinskirche, but it was such a fiasco (the 19 boys who did show up sang very poorly) that Ulbrich threatened to resign. Lipp encouraged him to continue, however, and on Christmas, 1927, the choir enthralled the congregation of a church service in the Theodorskirche.

Their third appearance, a Bach concert in April 1928, was also their last before a long summer break, during which a large advertising campaign was carried out to ensure the continued existence of the group. Adolf Hamm, an organist at the Münster, played an important role in the campaign; he ensured that after the successful campaign, the choir, which had grown to 63 boys, was able to perform the Christmas Oratorio for Christmas, 1928, and a Passion concert for Easter, 1929. In August, 1929, a working party was founded on the occasion of the first parents' evening, and Jakob Staehelin was elected its first president, making him also the first president of the KKB.

In August, 1929, the Chorschüler der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche Basel-Stadt ("Choir students of the Protestant Church of Basel-City"), which consisted of former choirboys whose voices had changed, was founded. The expansion of the choir to include changed voices had already been considered by January 1928, but the proposal did not resonate with the older students; the consistory also refused it because of the unintentional competition it would create with the adult community and church choirs. Nevertheless, the choir students appeared at Hamm's Free Organ Recital in December, 1928, but the group was ultimately unable to survive (for the time being).

On December 22, 1929, the boys' choir organized their first full concert: a Christmas liturgy at the Münster with the locally renowned soprano Helene Sandreuter, which was a big success.

The quality of the singing, which was still modest in comparison with large boarding school choirs, was such a cause for concern among the choir parents that, after a weak appearance in a church service in Kleinhüningen, they demanded that the choir refrain from further public appearances for the time being. For that reason, the rehearsal time was extended from 75 to 120 minutes and divided into 60 minutes each of singing technique and choir rehearsal after the summer break in 1930. Meanwhile, the choir had grown to 88 boys, which necessitated changing the rehearsal space from St. John's Chapel to a larger and considerably more expensive location in Nadelberg by the Peterskirche. In December, 1930, the choir celebrated its 25th appearance. Their quality and proficiency had gradually increased, and soloists were already emerging from the choir.

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