Editor Note: The Lake Arts Council has continuously delivered local talent and regionally and internationally known performance and artistic professionals to the Lake of the Ozarks stage. Find out what the Lake Arts Council and its many groups have up their sleeves during this column, which will publish every other week in The Lake Today.
Each year, the Vienna Boys Choir gives only 300 concerts. On Nov. 9, the Lake Arts Council at the First Baptist Church in Eldon hosted one of those concerts.
The choir arrived early in the day, two boys needing medical attention, which was promptly and expertly provided by the staff of the Capitol Region Medical Center in Eldon. After an early dinner of sandwiches catered by Paul's supermarket of Lake Ozark, the boys entered the sanctuary and began their warm-up while guests began to arrive at the church. As the crowd swelled so did the overwhelming excitement - everyone knew that we were all about to see and hear something very special.
Soon the choir returned to their dressing room and the audience was admitted into the sanctuary. Quickly everyone chose their seats among the pews on the floor and in the balcony and truly, there was not a bad seat in the house. No matter where one sat, they were granted a fantastic view. With the dimming of the lights, the boys, ages 10 to 14, dressed in their traditional white sailor suits, entered the sanctuary and took their positions on the risers surrounding a piano. Choirmaster, Kerem Sezen, bowed before the expectant audience, turned and the night blossomed in song.
After opening with several short pieces by Haydn, Gallus and Caldara, the program soon turned to more difficult and soaring compositions by Mozart, Bruckner and Brahms. The audience sat, mesmerized as the voices of the young men enveloped them in gentle waves of harmony. After nearly 45 minutes, the first intermission was called.
In the church's spacious foyer, the audience shared stories of their favorite songs, so far, in the performance while enjoying presentations by lake area artists Jackie Bray and Robert Barker. Friends shook hands and strangers were introduced to new acquaintances. Smiles flashed and hugs were exchanged as the euphoria of the evening's performance washed through the crowd. Within moments, the audience was called to re-enter the sanctuary and quick vows to stay in touch or meet-up after the concert were exchanged as everyone hurried back to their seats.
No sooner had everyone found their pews then the voices of the choir could be heard entering the sanctuary. Through a door in the front of the sanctuary, the boys emerged, walking casually to the stage, while harmonizing in Billy Joel's "The Longest Time." Where the first half of the program focused on the more traditional pieces, the second presented more informal, yet no less skillful, compositions. As if to remind everyone that these heavenly voices were issued from young boys, often prone to mischief, the audience was treated to a light-hearted "Taubenvergiften' or Poisoning Pigeons by Georg Kreisler. Matching the enraptured awe of the first hour, smiles and laughter filled the sanctuary as the audience was uplifted with pieces where sometimes a boy would step forward to conduct or letters of the alphabet were raised into the air (sometimes upside-down or backwards) as the boys mock-stumbled through the English Alphabet.
Three standing ovations greeted the Vienna Boys Choir and their choirmaster and encores were generously provided. In a once-in-a-lifetime moment, choirmaster Kerem Sezen invited the audience to join the choir in a sing-a-long. Quickly, the audience rose from a shy whisper to a booming sea of voices as everyone realized that after that night, they could claim that they had "sung with the Vienna Boys Choir."
After the concert, after the choir had returned to their hotel and the guests had returned to their homes, I knew I had seen something incredible that night in Eldon. I had witnessed a population, which two days earlier had been split between lines of Democrat and Republican, Conservative and Liberal, unite in joy. Art transcended politics and brought the community together. New friendships, new memories and new bonds based on shared interest had been created. And that is what Art does. It gives us all a common ground to enjoy and experience life, to share our triumphs and tears, and to come together in a celebration of the gifts we have been given.