In each of the years 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006, approximately 45 University of Montana students representing many majors from across the campus formed the Chamber Chorale. The program was originally founded by UM choral music professor Don Carey and it was handed off to Dr. Gary Funk for continuation and development. In each of the Vienna Experiences, the participants were in residence in Vienna for 14 weeks. During their time in Europe, the choir traveled to places such as Salzburg, Budapest, Kecskemet (Hungary), Krakow, Prague, Mauthausen, Baden, Slovakia, Venice and Florence. While in Vienna, the choir performed an average of 20 concerts and studied academic courses such as The Art and Architecture of Vienna, Human Values and the Aesthetic Experience, Vocal Literature, Vocal Master Classes, Music History, German, Eastern European History, History of Opera and Advanced Conducting. Many of the courses were delivered by Viennese faculty.
The point of the program was to provide students with the opportunity to live in one of the cultural centers of the world for enough time (over three months) to allow the Viennese culture to seep in. Becoming part of Vienna influenced the students' willingness to explore the world.
The program was designed to engage students with great music, art, architecture and literature with the hope that students would return to the U.S. with better abilities to discriminate between Art and that which is not Art. The Vienna Experience, in that regard, is a cultural "boot camp" during which, around every corner, students saw remarkabl statues, gazed upon and toured beautiful architecture, listened to the very best music performed by some of the best musicians in the world. Students came to the understanding that it is possible to be that good. With this powerful infusion of art, students must have become better parents, better spouses, and better citizens. They may have insisted on living their lives artfully because the lives of the minds were fertilized by touching elegance, enlightened by sensing the rightness of genius and challenged by the perfection of the artistic creations in which the programs' participants became aware.
Shown the human condition through the mind's eyes of artists, the power of the experience un-numbed the brain and assisted in the struggle against "hollow living".
The students came to understand that is through creativity that human beings know they are alive, that artists expose the expressive self and teach that discriminating between the "best" and "not-so-good"is crucial to living a quality life.
For one semester, the Vienna Experience displaced and disturbed the students for they were placed in another culture where everything was different: the customs, money, culture and language. There was no escape.
For three months, the students settled in and absorbed another culture's priorities and the aesthetic was indelibly printed on them.
It was Robert Frost who wrote, "My two eyes make one insight." The Vienna Experience opened the other eye to provide dimension and depth to experience, to discriminate between right and wrong, to appreciates beauty and become sensitive to goodness and show respect for genius.
When society places higher value on aesthetic education, its citizens will become more than vocationally viable. It is through the education of the senses that the arts penetrate the human intellect and spirit to encourage freedom of thought to help people realize and idenfity the self and assist in the development of sensitivity and sensibility.
The University of Montana Chamber Chorale members participated in a semester-abroad program in which students enrolled in academic courses such as: Chamber Chorale, Human Values and the Aesthetic Experience, The Art and Architecture of Vienna,, History of Opera, Vocal Literature, Music History, Vienna History, German, History of Eastern Europe. Advanced Conducting, Music Education Seminars (Orff-Institute-Salzburg and Kodaly Institute - Kecskemet, Hungary) and Vocal Masterclasses.
Conducting students studied orchestral works including Symphony No. 9 - Shostakovich, Firebird - Stravinsky, Symphonie Fantastique - Berlioz and Mass in B minor - Bach and other great works. Those students were provided the opportunity to observe great conductors leading 3-hour rehearsals of those works with the Vienna Philharmonic such as Ricardo Muti, Simon Rattle, and Valery Gergiev.
The Art and Architecture class visited the great art museums and architectural structures of Vienna and Italy. The students peered at the actual brush strokes of master painters and marveled at the lift of great stone structures, the massive arches of which seemed to be as "light as sails on some great ship" buffeted by centuries of song.
Students who enrolled in the Opera History course attended ten operas in the renowned opera houses of Vienna. The vocal literature and masterclasses led by excellent Viennese voice teachers helped the singers improve vocal techniques required to sing art songs and arias. In 2000, the students met and celebrated with one of the most famous opera singers in the world: Otto Edelmann. Singers were scheduled for a masterclass with Edelmann in 2006, but he passed away just two days before the class. The great opera halls of Vienna went dark for one week in his honor. Human Values and the Aesthetic Experience was a centerpiece of the Vienna Experience. The History of Eastern Europe involved in-class lectures and narrated trips to Budapest, Krakow (Auschwitz), Mauthausen (concentration camp) and Prague. Pre-trip, the students took German courses and participated in what was called "Deutsch Stunde" during which only German was spoken. Upon arrival in Vienna, they continued their studies of German and because of the requirement to speak German as part of daily life there, many students developed good fluency in the language.
Over the course of the four Vienna Experiences, The Chamber Chorale performed more than 100 concerts in various churches and performance venues in Austria. The Choir performed in the Musikverien's Golden Hall on four different occasions, singing masterworks such as "Psalmus Hungaricus" with the Conservatory of Vienna Orchestra and Chorus and the "Te Deum" both by Zoltan Kodaly with the chorus and orchestrat of the Vienna Musickgymnasium, the "Dona Nobis Pacem" by R. Vaughan Williams with the Conservatory of Vienna Chorus and Orchestra and works by Brahms with the Männergesgangsverein. The choir also performed Mozart's "Requiem" in the Konzerthaus and F.J. Haydn's "Stabat Mater".
The ensemble was specially invited to sing a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the rebuilding of Stefansdom and participated as the only U.S. Choir in an annual choir festival in Pezinok, Slovakia.
The choir performed 16 total concerts at Austrian "homes for senior citizens" as part of a nationally sponsored program called "Kunst auf Rädern" (Art on Wheels) directed by Herbert Fischerauer. The tour culminated each year in benefit concerts at St. Stephan's-Baden featuring our Chamber Chorale and great singers from the Volkoper and Stadtsoper of Vienna.
The choir also presented exchange concerts at the Orff Institut-Salzburg and the Kodaly Institute in Kecskemet, Hungary,
The choir members attended the final ball of the Vienna Ball season. After taking waltz lessons for several weeks, the singers, dressed in ball gowns and tuxes, danced the night away at the Imperial Palace and the Rathaus along with thousands of Viennese who swirled to live orchestras playing Strauss.
In contrast to those nights of elegance and splendor, the choir traveled to Krakow/Auschwitz, Poland and Mauthausen, Austria and toured WWII Nazi concentration camps.
The choir visited Mozart's grave and contemplated his genius among the blooming lilacs while his well-known "Ave Verum" as an ode to his life. The Chamber Chorale also performed that piece and Mozart's Requiem at St. Stephan's in Baden where "Ave Verum" was premiered. The choir was joined for that performance by renowned tenor Sebatian Reinthaler.
We toured with the Mozart Orchestra led by conductor Georg Kugi and performed Mozart's "Requiem" at the famed Konzerthaus and in other Austrian cities.
The Chamber Chorale toured Austria with the Friedrich Lessky Choir and performed Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy" with pianist, Paul Gulda, a European vocal quartet and orchestra. The Chamber Chorale traveled to Florence and Venice for spring break.
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Recordings include performances of the following choral selections:
Haydn's "Stabat Mater" Movement I
Haydn's "Stabat Mater" Movement VI
Haydn's "Stabat Mater" Movement IX
Haydn's "Stabat Mater" Movement XII
Dr. Gary Funk addresses his theory that engagement with beautiful Art, Music, and Architecture has the capacity to influence human values.
Collection of Vienna Experience Recordings:
Alleluia – R. Thompson (Baden)
Schlummerlied –G. Funk (Baden)
Come, Sweet Death – Bach (Baden)
Agnus Dei - S. Barber (Baden)
Elijah Rock – Hogan (ORF)
Sometimes I Feel – R. Shaw (solo Kari Donavan)
Everyday I Have the Blues – arr. Funk (Don Bosco)
O Shenandoah – D. Erb
Cindy – M. Wilberg (LSD Church Wien)
Wien, Wien, nur Du Allein – arr. Funk
Requiem – Mozart (Konzerthaus)
Te Deum – Z. Kodaly (Musikverein)
Ave maris stella - Busto
There is no rose - Caraciolla
Ave Maria – F. Biebl
I'm gonna sing – Hogan
Mata del anima sola - Estevez
Ride on King Jesus – Fleming
I can tell the world – Hogan
J'entend le moulin – Patriquin
Psalmus Hungaricus – A. Kodaly (Musikverein)
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The University of Montana Chamber Chorale joined with the Choir and Symphony Orchestra of the Konservatorium der Stadt Wien and the Amadeus Knabenchor Wien, Tenor – Neal Banerjee and conductor, Kurt Richter to perform Zoltan Kodaly's "Psalmus Hungaricus, op. 13. The performance was held at the Großer Musikverinssaal on Tuesday, June 3, 1997. Just imagine 45 University of Montana students – almost all of whom had never been out of the United States before – were performing on the stage of one of the great concert halls in the world – the golden hall of the the Musikverein!
The above performance of Mozart's Requiem was recorded at the Konzerthaus in Vienna as part of a series of concerts with the Mozart Orchestra. The conductor, Georg Kugi, the soloists and orchestra were donned in costumes of the early 18th century – white wigs and all.It was a packed house!
Here we were, a choir from the University of Montana, performing one of the great choral masterworks – the Requiem by Mozart – in Mozart's city of Vienna, in one of the great concert halls in Vienna with the renowned Mozart Orchestra led by Mozart, himself, as played by conductor Georg Kugi!
The Chamber Chorale joined forces with the choir and orchestra of the Musikgymnasium of Vienna for a performance of Zoltan Kodaly's "Te deum" The presentation was conducted by Georg Kugi.
Cornelia Hosp, Soprano, Gertrud Schulz-Dozler, Alto, Helmut Wildhaber, Tenor, Benno Schollum, Bass.
What is remarkable about this performance is that the choir and orchestra members of the Musikgymnasium range in age from 14-19. That these youngster were able to perform this difficult work at such a high level is a testament to the quality of students and faculty at the MG and a reminder that the combination of talent with high expectations can result in remarkable musical experiences.
Vienna Experience 2000, 2003, and 2006 students danced the night away at a Vienna Ball – part of the Vienna Ball Season. This powerful interaction with traditional Vienna culture exposed the students to a world entirely unique and different from their own.
The students took three weeks of dance lessons to learn the basics of waltzing at the Rueff Tanzschule. Then they attended an official Vienna Ball held in the Imperial Palace of Vienna: six ballrooms, including the main ball room, with live orchestras and bands playing different styles of dance music. Lots Viennese food and drink.
To be a part of the elegance of Strauss, ball gowns and tuxedos was critical to the Vienna Experience immersion process through which students learned first-hand about one of the aesthetic priorities of Viennese culture! Marvelous to behold!
In addition to many course offerings, concerts, architecture/museum tours and travel, I believe that "just being there" had the most powerful influence on the Vienna Experience participants.
The Vienna Experience was overwhelming. Like being tossed into the deep end of a swimming pool, the students had to learn to swim in a foreign sea. Everything – I mean everything – was different: the language, the food, the currency system, the city, the health system, the transportation system, the daily schedule, how items were labeled in grocery stores, the computer keyboards....
At first, it was exciting because they were finally in Vienna, the city of their dreams. There was a light in their eyes, a spring in their steps. It must have been difficult to sleep because on their first evening they rode the streetcar (Straßenbahn) #1 around the Ring. They travelled along a string of diamonds with well-lit architectural jewels from the Renaissance and the Baroque gleaming against the black sky.
After the initial explosion of observing so much beauty in this new environment, things settled down into the routine of classes, rehearsals, performances and travel.
Then it hit! Something they'd heard about but believed would never happen to them. It occurs predictably at the 3-week mark.
They collectively ran into the wall called Culture Shock! This was not Culture Conflict which is relatively speaking a disturbance. They still had 10 weeks to go, and they weren't happy campers. There were disputes between moody students. The "real" persons had finally shown up. There was no more pretending. They were spending a great deal of time together, rooming together, eating together, taking classes together, traveling, concertizing together. They were rarely apart.
Each of the years of the program when culture shock blasted them, a few students threatened to fly back to Montana. They were that unsettled.
As a group, the participants met, argued and some cried. Eventually the meetings took a turn, and the students began to laugh with each other upon feeling such great relief at the venting of long withheld emotions.
From that point on, the Vienna Experience took off like a rocket ship.
In all of the years of the Vienna Experience, not one student vacated but instead many, since their graduations from the university, have traveled and lived abroad. Some are living in Vienna today and in other places around the world. The VE gave these students permission to explore the world because the program demonstrated that it was possible to do so.
The photos below show some of the student activities..
In 2003, The University of Montana Chamber Chorale performed Haydn's "Stabat Mater" during Holy Week in a church just outside of Vienna.
The approach to the church was through a cemetery that surrounded the church. As is typical in Austria, the gravestones were bedecked with floral arrays – a beautiful display of color that represents a deep reverence for the departed. Cemeteries with bouquets at every gravestone are common practice in grave yards in Europe all throughout the year.
Unbeknownst to the packed sanctuary inside the church proper, the choir was standing on makeshift risers constructed of wooden beer crates. The juxtaposition of the choir's platform with the serious subject of the "Stabat Mater" somehow made the sacredness of the upcoming performance even more striking.
Finding as secure a footing as possible on the somewhat wobbly structure, our choir was poised behind the orchestra that was tuning up for the performance.
At 7:30 p.m., the sanctuary lights dimmed, and there was that moment of quiet as the audience settled and waited for the soloists and conductor to enter.
The soloists walked forward followed by the conductor. There was NO applause. It was Holy Week. The soloists bowed in unison and then conductor, Georg Kugi, took his bow – all to no applause.
I had never before observed such a scene wherein formally dressed performers (orchestra, choir, soloists and conductor) and well-attired audience members understood that a performance during Holy Week was not a performance at all but rather a musical meditation that provided dimension to the power of Good Friday, one of the most somber days of the church year.
We sang the long work. The choir performed beautifully; the soloists were excellent; Maestro Kugi conducted flawlessly and the orchestra presented Haydn in just the right manner.
At the conclusion of the long, tragic piece, there was again NO applause. There was no standing ovation. The soloists stepped forward and bowed in silence. The conductor bowed and the five of them walked off stage right. After a few moments, the featured ensemble re-entered the stage and bowed once more but again to no applause. It was a stunning experience of respect for Holy Week and recognition of the quality of the performance in that setting.
I talked with Georg after the concert and asked him about the lack of applause. He responded, "These situations beg questions about why we perform in the first place and why people clap their hands. To whom are performers bowing and why do they bow." He continued, "We bow in servitude to the art of music. It is not for personal acclaim that we bow as if saying 'aren't you lucky to have heard us perform?' or more directly, 'We deserve your praise'."
When we bow as if servants of the arts, we are stating, 'We are in the service of Art'. Aren't we fortunate to serve as the medium for the music? This is all about the music. It is not about the performers.
In that context, audience applause is the recognition of how well the ensemble serves the art.
I have attended many performances during my year and half in Vienna. These were performances by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the State Opera and the Arnold Schönberg Choir, among others. Never did they receive standing ovations in Vienna and these ensembles are among the best in the world. The only standing ovations I observed in Vienna were given by Asian and American audiences attending "touristy" concerts.
In the U.S. "standing O's" have become very common even after mediocre performances. They are even expected as affirmation of a good performance.. The attention in the U.S. is often placed upon the artist-performer and not on the act of serving Art. I am reminded of attending gallery exhibitions where the attention is on the art and not the painter. H/She may be wandering around in the exhibition, but everyone is looking at the paintings and not the painter.
Our performance of the "Stabat Mater" reminded us that the performers are the medium through which the music is brought out into the air. To the degree that Haydn's music was presented as he intended, we serve the Art and the composer well.
It is our dedication to serving the art at the highest level for which we ought to guide our preparation and offering.
The "Stabat Mater" is just one example of the many major choral works the Vienna Experience Choir performed from 1997-2006 in Vienna. Including the Bruckner E minor Mass, Dona Nobis Pacem of V. Williams, Kodaly's "Te Deum" and "Psalmus Hungarius," the Choral Fantasy of Beethoven "Requiem' of Mozart.
During each of the years (1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006) of the Vienna Experience, our Chamber Chorale performed four concerts at Homes for Senior Citizens throughout Vienna. The concert series was part of a national program (Kunst auf Rädern - "Art on Wheels") in Austria that brought the very best performers in the world to Austiran rest homes. Each of the rest homes in Vienna was equipped with a nice stage, a grand piano and a good sound system.
Every year of the Chamber Chorale's participation, the concert series culminated with a big finale event held in St. Stephan's in Baden, Austria. The final concert brought our choir together with some of the best singers in the world.
The recording above features Vienna Volksoper tenor, Sebastian Reinthaller singing favorites with the Chamber Chorale including "Recondite Armonia" from Puccini's "Tosca".
I will never forget Doug Andrew's face when I asked him if he would be interested in singing the baritone solo in "Recondite Armonia" with Sebastian Reinthaller.
As listeners will observe in the above recording, Doug stepped up and did an excellent job.
Since then, Doug married a beautiful young woman from Salzburg. They live in Vienna where he is active in the music scene..
During the VE, Doug came into his own. He began to realize that he was a very talented young man who had something important to offer. In communications I've had with Doug since his participation in the Vienna Experience, I believe that the Vienna Experience fundamentally changed Doug for the better!
While in Vienna, it was very important for program participants to visit at least one of the Nazi Concentration Camps from WWII. During each of the 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006 Vienna Experiences, the students toured Mauthausen and/or Auschwitz. The latter involved a three-day stay in Krakow during which students lived in the Jewish section of the city.
To prepare for the experience in 2006, UM Philosophy Professor Richard Walton helped develop and discuss a series of readings and films for the "Human Values and the Aesthetic Experience" course: "Schindler's List," Victor E. Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," "The Nuremberg Trials," readings from Plato's "Dialogues" and Sophocles' "Antigone".
The choir also prepared music to coordinate with those visits including Arnold Schönberg's "Friede auf Erden", Samuel Barber's "Agnus Dei," and "Something Like a Smile" by Eric Funk, based on the poetry of the great Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova.
I recall the Chamber Chorale's attempting to sing the Schönberg piece after touring Auschwitz in 2006. The choir members straddled the train tracks that entered the Auschwitz Concentration Camp through the so-called "Gates of Death". One set of tracks led to cremation; the other set of tracks led to the infamous "experiments".
"Friede auf Erden" means "peace on earth" and the composition was composed in 1907 by Arnold Schönberg, a Viennese, Jewish composer who emigrated to the U.S. to escape the dangers of living amidst antisemitism.
The choir began the piece strongly, but the music struggled to continue to push forward in the dark, historic context of Auschwitz.
As the choir neared the end of the song, overwhelming emotion took its toll on some of the choir members. Tears splashed on the rails below them, and singers' throats were throttled. Only a few singers made it to the end.
Because of the emotion attached to "Freide auf Erden," the Chamber Chorale was never able to sing the piece again in rehearsal or performance. We attempted to rehearse it after returning to Vienna but the music just couldn't be put into the air again by this choir.
Thus, there was no audio recording made of the Chamber Chorale singing "Friede auf Erden" in Vienna. The only recording is one of the seared memories from Auschwitz.
Picture 1: Students touring Auschwitz.
Picture 2; Train tracks leading from the "Gates of Death into Auschwitz.
Picture 3: A flower as a memorial on one of the rails in Auschwitz
Picture 4: Students touch the wall in a Jewish cemetery in Krakow.
Picture 5: Entrance to Mauthausen, a concentration camp that was even more dreaded by some than Auschwitz
Picture 6: A view of Mauthausen's "Todestiege" (death steps). There is a quarry in Mauthausen. During WWII, large stones were loaded onto the backs of emaciated prisoners. They were forced to carry these heavy stones up the many steps to contribute to the construction of the prison around them. When the prisoners faltered on the way up the steps, they were simply kicked off into the quarry below.
Picture 7: A closer view of the "Todestiege".
Picture 8: Arnold Schönberg's grave in Vienna
For more information about the Vienna Experience 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, please go
Chamber Chorale Sings "Friede auf Erden" at the Auschwitz "Gates of Death".