The Vienna Boys’ Choir sang to a full house at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, and celebrated their 40th sold-out performance since the Luhrs Center opened in 2005.
The concert sold out in record time and there was a considerable amount of anticipation, with many people starting to line up in the cold for the 7:30 p.m. show as early as 6:30 p.m. This performance was also special because seven years ago last week, the Vienna Boys sang for the Luhrs Center dedication ceremony.
Entering the Christmas-themed stage, the Vienna Boys opened with “For the Longest Time” by Billy Joel. The choirmaster, Kerem Sezan, welcomed the packed audience and introduced the choir. The boys are as young as 10 and as old as 14, which is around the age for “retirement” Sezan said.
Vienna Boys are from all around the world, with strong German accents occasionally being heard during a few of the songs. One boy named Chandler was from Virginia — making him the only American in the choir — and he received applause and cheers from the crowd as he was introduced.
After the introduction, the boys began singing their collection of songs from Mozart, Franz Schubert, Beethoven and even the 1980s band, Queen. The first portion of the show was dedicated to more eclectic and classical songs, while focusing on Christmas songs after intermission.
They covered popular Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” but gave it a twist by singing it in its original Latin. They later sang a beautiful and eerily serene version of John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas (War Is Over)” that embodied the song’s message for peace. In moments like those it was easy to get lost in the music and forget that the voices were coming from a group of children. But, there were small moments during the show where they would break character, by bumping elbows with a neighbor or scratching an ankle when bowing, which showed they were genuinely just children on stage.
During one of the first songs, Sezan got up from the piano and stood with a few of the boys off to the side, as another boy took his place at the piano. The boy skillfully played while Sezan and the small group sang along, with the remaining boys in the background. It was a nice change of pace and showed the dexterity of the choir.
Throughout the show, the choir re-arranged itself, which allowed different boys to step forward for solos during songs or small solo groups, while the rest of the choir sang backup. It kept the show interesting.
The choir did not use microphones, so the stage was fitted with tall, white panels that enclosed the group and helped carry the sound all the way to the back of the theater. The audience was so absorbed into the performance that their silence was only interrupted by a small cough or the turning of a page. Everyone seemed mesmerized by the children with the angelic voices.
The choir finished the first portion of its show by singing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Queen and its lead singer Freddie Mercury. As one boy played an electric guitar, another stood up front with a microphone and sang Mercury’s part, with the choir in the background leading the chorus. Mercury himself may have been impressed. The crowd erupted into applause as soon as the song ended.
After a standing ovation for their last song, the boys sang a bouncy and upbeat encore that led to the front of the stage to sing directly to the crowd. They clapped and encouraged the audience to sing along to the words of, “Let’s Sing All Together.”. When the song finished, the audience remained standing and cheered as the Vienna Boys’ Choir bowed and exited off stage.
Celebrating the 40th sold out performance at the Luhrs Center, The Vienna Boys’ Choir brought an energetic and angelic concert to Shippensburg and mesmerized the full house. Returning to Shippensburg after christening Luhrs for the first performance, the Vienna Boys’ Choir filled the theater with harmonious tones and interesting song selections, making this performance just as memorable as the first.