"Online concerts are an option"
Gerald Wirth has been the artistic director of the Vienna Boys' Choir since 2001. In the current situation, he creates a good mood in the school with his glove puppet "Toni" and will shortly be moving singing lessons online.
We spoke with him about his unusual methods for getting the choristers and their fans inspired about singing and about his plans for reopening the school.
Mr. Wirth, what are the biggest challenges at the moment?
Keep calm. We're doing quite well at that. Distance learning is a challenge but we're learning – and growing, at least we hope we are. A big challenge for us is the financial side – we don't have any income at the moment, which is very difficult for a charitable organization like us.
What is particularly on your mind on a typical school day? Perhaps even the challenging pupils?
We love our challenging pupils – but we still have them, even over the internet. What is missing is the direct personal contact, the energy in the school. Eating together, laughing, the happy noise. The rehearsals and concerts, the interaction with the audience. We all miss this.
Gerald Wirth, artistic director of the Vienna Boys' Choir, and glove puppet "Toni" sing a serenade together.
A few weeks ago, you surprised us on the YouTube channel of the Vienna Boys' Choir with a new format that gets everyone to sing along with a glove puppet. Tell us a little about that.
Toni – that's the puppet's name – is very well received. He already has a small community of fans. The clips are accompanied with scores and information about the songs – initially also in English. And we have planned songs from other countries and cultures – Toni sings Japanese and Hindi. That's something to look forward to! The clips are aimed not only at our pupils but also at all children and adults who enjoy singing.
How does the Vienna Boys' Choir try to engage with its fans away from the everyday concerts?
You have mentioned our clips with Toni: These are also intended for fans. Online concerts are, of course, a long-term option we are thinking about.
Are the children already looking forward to going to school as normal again? What will you start with as soon as everyone can return to the school?
Yes, I think they are! We'll begin with a party, with lots of music, of course. Everyone should be there, pupils, teachers and staff. When we sing, the whole building swings along.
What songs do you sing or listen to in private to gain strength in times like these?
I am currently listening to "Verzage nicht, o Häuflein klein" by Johann Sebastian Bach. It comes from a cantata and ends with the very comforting phrase "It won't last for long". Naturally, I do the singing with Toni, and we've selected the songs that give one strength. "Singa is insre Freud", for example. In the next episodes, there will be a yoga song, which I'm already looking forward to.
Vienna Boys' Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben)Am Augartenspitz 1, 1020 Wien