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Leipzig celebrates the 800th anniversary of the St Thomas' Boys Choir

Location: Germany
Choir type: Other Choirs

In 2012, the St Thomas' Boys Choir, School and Church are celebrating an 800-year tradition which still strongly influences and enriches the life of the city. In spite of the ups and downs over the years these three institutions remain true to their original mission of upholding the faith, creating music and educating the young. Here you will find the most important details about this major anniversary with its many highlights impacting well beyond the city's boundaries. 

The main events of the anniversary celebrations

Contemporary celebratory music provides the framework for 2012

Among many other highlights the anniversary year will be punctuated by a cycle of celebratory motets to be performed at St Thomas' Church. As partner in 'Thomana 2012' Leipzig's Bach Archive has commissioned five contemporary festive musical works which will receive their first performances on holy days during the 2012/2013 church year. The composers, Hans Werner Henze (Germany/Italy), Heinz Holliger (Switzerland), Brett Dean (Australia/Germany) and Krzysztof Penderecki (Poland), represent different nationalities, religions and compositional styles. 

First festive musical celebration: Epiphany 2012
Johann Sebastian Bach: Christmas Oratorio, Cantata No. 6, "Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben", BWV 248 
7.1.,15 hrs, Motet, St Thomas' Church

Second festive musical celebration: Easter
Georg Christoph Biller 
8.4., 9.30 hrs, Festive service 
21.4., 15 hrs, Motet 
14.6., 20 hrs, Bach celebration 

Third festive musical celebration: Whitsun
Hans Werner Henze 
26.5.,15 hrs, Motet 
27.5., 9.30 hrs, Festive service 
14.6., 20 hrs, Bach celebration

Fourth festive musical celebration: Reformation Day
Heinz Holliger 
31.10., 9.30 hrs, Festive service 
3.11., 15 hrs, Motet 

Fifth festive musical celebration: Christmas
Brett Dean 
22.12., 15 hrs, Motet 
25.12., 9.30 hrs, Festive service 

Sixth festive musical celebration: Epiphany 2013
Krzysztof Penderecki 
6.1., 9.30 hrs, Festive service 
11.1., 18 hrs, Motet 
12.1.,15 hrs, Motet 

The celebratory weeks

19.3 to 25.3.: St Thomas' Boys Choir celebratory week

Immediately after the Boys Choir returns from its anniversary tour of Korea, Japan and Great Britain their celebratory week begins in Leipzig on 19 March. Some of the main highlights of the festivities will be the opening on 19 March of a special exhibition in the city's historical museum (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum), the celebration at St Thomas' Church on 20 March, a public celebration in the new town hall (Neues Rathaus) on 21 March and the Festival of Boys' Choirs (Dresdner Kreuzchor, Regensburger Domspatzen and the Choir of King‘s College Cambridge) on 24 March, also at St Thomas' Church. 

17.9 to 23.9.: St Thomas' School celebratory week

In September the focus is very much on St Thomas' School. On 17 September the anniversary will be launched in musical terms with a festive performance at St Thomas' Church featuring the St Thomas' Boys Choir, St Thomas' School Choir and 'Amarcord'. Other highlight's of the School's impressive celebrations are an educational conference entitled "Classical Education in a Hedonistic Society" on 18 September at the Museum of Fine Arts (Museum der bildenden Künste), a theatrical festival on 19 September, a festive motet on 22 September and an anniversary ball at the Gewandhaus concert hall. 

31.10. to 4.11.: St Thomas' Church celebratory week

The Church's celebratory week begins with a festive service for Reformation Day on 31 October and the first performance of the fourth musical celebration composed by Heinz Holliger. This is the climax of the Luther decade, the focus of which in 2012 is "Reformation and Music". Together with the theological faculty of Leipzig University the Church is organising a two-day conference (1 - 2 November) on "The Church in Society". The week also features events such as the St Thomas' Concert with the Jazz Mass by Jaromír Hnilicka. Throughout the entire festival year lecture evenings are being held as part of the "God and the World" series. 

History of the St Thomas' Boys Choir

Today Leipzig's famous Boys' Choir has a prestigious reputation the world over. Its first foreign tour took it to Denmark and Norway in 1920, and ever since then the choir has been invited almost every year to give guest performances abroad as well as holding concerts all over Germany. However, the origins of its long and unique choral tradition go back an impressive eight hundred years. 

In the year 1212 a school was added to St Thomas' Church, for the particular purpose of training boys to perform the musical part of church services in place of the canons. In its eventful history the choir has survived not just changes in society but has actually provided the musical accompaniment to major historical events, for example the founding of Leipzig University at the St Thomas' Cloister in 1409. 

Since the establishment of the Reformation in Leipzig the St Thomas' Boys Choir has been directed by a number of prestigious cantors, including famous names such as Sethus Calvisius, Johann Hermann Schein, Tobias Michael, Sebastian Knüpfer, Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau. Without a doubt, however, the greatest influence has been that of Johann Sebastian Bach. During his 27-year tenure as Cantor of St Thomas' from 1723 to 1750 he shaped the choir in a way whose extraordinary effects still endure to the present day. 

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