Manolo Cagnin, center, conducts the Vienna Boys Choir Bruckner Chor, which will perform in Albany on Thursday. (Special photo)
ALBANY – Vienna Boys Choir Conductor Manolo Cagnin received a dose a southern hospitality Monday in Atlanta. On a rare day of rest from the choir’s busy tour, Cagnin spent his birthday visiting the Coca-Cola Museum and Georgia Aquarium.
Shrugging off traditional “Happy Birthday” greetings, Cagnin jokingly suggested the day might be better off ignored. “Oh, I’m getting old,” he laughed. “But this will be a nice way to spend the day.”
The choir will perform Thursday night at the Albany Municipal Auditorium, in an event sponsored by the Albany Area Arts Council. Tickets are on sale now for 7:30 p.m. concert.
The choir arrived in the United States Sunday night, fresh off a tour in South America.
“Our time in South America was wonderful,” Cagnin said. “The language and culture is so beautiful, and the people are so gracious.
“Along with Australia, it has been one of my favorite places to perform.”
And Cagnin has seen a lot of places. The renowned Vienna Boys Choir travels all over the world, entertaining crowds with their melodic musical voices. The gifted musicians are considered by many to be the world’s preeminent boy’s choir.
A European tradition since the early 15th century, the choir is comprised of about 100 boys, ages 10 to 14, divided into four touring choirs. Cagnin was appointed in 2008 as choir master of the Bruckner choir, named for famed Austrian composer Anton Bruckner.
The choir’s repertoire employs a variety of styles, including everything from medieval to contemporary music, folk songs and symphonic works.
The boys themselves are on tour about three months of the year, and attend boarding school the remainder of the time. Beginning in kindergarten, boys and girls are provided a complete musical and general education through elementary grades. At age 10, the most talented boys are selected to join the choir and enter the choir’s grammar school, where they continue their studies and pursue individual interests in acting, writing, directing and film making.
In 2010, the choir launched a senior high school for boys and girls, designed to prepare young singers for university studies and a career in music.
Born in Treviso, Italy, conductor Cagnin developed an interest in music early in life and studied violin and piano at the Conservatory of Venice before pursuing further study in choral music, composition and conducting in Venice and Milan.
“Traveling and touring with the boys is always a lot of fun,” Cagnin noted. “From singing and playing orchestral accompaniment, to traveling and performing – we do a little bit of everything. It keeps me very busy, but I love it.
I enjoy working with the boys. They possess character and spirit, and this is reflected in the way they make music. The children learn from me, and I learn from them.”
Cagnin said that the boys adjust well to time spent traveling and life on the road.
“I’d say the biggest challenge is maintaining discipline, because they are still just boys, but they do well,” he said.
The choir is a private non-for-profit organization which finances itself through concerts, recordings and royalties.
“Music is a gift,” Cagnin said. “As musicians, we have the obligation to share that gift with our audience.
“We spend many hours preparing and rehearsing in Vienna in order to share this gift with all of the different people we meet in this world.
“But it’s definitely worth it,” he added.
For more information on Thursday’s concert or for tickets, contact the Albany Area Arts Council at (229) 439-2787 or visit the website at albanyartscouncil.org.