Phoenix Boys Choir rings in the holidays all across the Valley

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One of the oldest children’s choirs in the Valley has a full schedule this December, a tradition the group has kept throughout its 70-year run.

The Phoenix Boys Choir is known internationally for their music, having performed in Vienna, Portugal and – most recently – China. The 125-member choir is known for their wide range of music, both classical and contemporary.

The choir has performances Dec. 8, 16 and 17 in Mesa, Paradise Valley and Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona horizon," we will visit with the Phoenix boys’ choir celebrating with 70 years of song. Did you know most trout in Arizona are transplants? We find out how they got into our streams and lakes. Those stories next on "Arizona horizon."

Video: the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station, make “Arizona horizon” possible. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona horizon." I'm Ted Simons. President Trump's announcement that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capitol. Senator McCain released a statement saying I have long believed Jerusalem is Israel's true capitol. This should be thought of as a way to achieve peace between Israel. Martha McSally said by relocating our embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump is doing what our country should have done two decades ago, formally recognize the Jewish state of Israel's capitol.

Ted Simons: The president's decision changes seven decades of policy until the Israeli conflict was resolved. ¶ ¶ ¶ ¶

Ted Simons: That beautiful music is from the Phoenix voice choir. The choir has several upcoming concerts this holiday season. Here with more is the choir's artistic director. Welcome to "Arizona horizon."

Georg Stangelberger: Thank you so much.

Ted Simons: You have a nice group of kids over there. What is the mission of the Phoenix boys’ choir?

Georg Stangelberger:To educate boys in singing throughout the country and the world.

Ted Simons: How long have you been with the choir?

Georg Stangelberger: 18 years. This is my 19th year.

Ted Simons: When you first got there, was the mission the same?

Georg Stangelberger: Yes.

Ted Simons: As far as the training program, we can get to the music theory. Leadership, discipline, talk to us about this.

Georg Stangelberger: We try to educate our boys to have stage presence and take leadership amongst the choir. We travel internationally from a five-week tour to China, sold out concerts in some of the most spectacular venues I have seen. The food was Chinese. We are not in a fancy American hotel. We were in Chinese hotels all the way through. We had to learn the Chinese language. It was part of the program. The boys will get the words in Spanish and Portuguese becoming world citizens taking leadership when they go on tour without their parents, therefore they have to learn to take care of themselves and learn what it means to be punctual.

Georg Stangelberger: We won first prize in Vienna.

Ted Simons: When you go to the Phoenix boys’ choir, do they expect the kids to come out in cowboy hats? What kind of reaction do they get?

Georg Stangelberger: It's different wherever we go. Sometimes they expect the children's choir. A nonprofessional children's choir that just has no experience, just sings because they do not expect that there is a high level of culture.

Ted Simons: You work with them, right?

Ted Simons: Compare.

Georg Stangelberger: We have both organizations strive for excellence. The advantage the Vienna boys’ choir has is that they can train every day. Our boys come from all over the valley, two to three rehearsals a week. We have to get everything accomplished in that time. That makes us part of that. Otherwise, some of the pieces we perform are at the Vienna boys’ choir.

Ted Simons: Age range?

Georg Stangelberger: We start at seven. We have four levels. They start at the training level and move on to the cadet level. The top level is the tour choir, the boys you saw here are between 10 to 14. There is a master choir. They join us for classical stuff. We are doing the classic concert by masses by Mozart, Beethoven. We did it last year on our own.

Ted Simons: Wow. As far as the music education, I like to think if you can understand music, read music, that has to help in things like English, math, sciences, the whole nine yard.

Georg Stangelberger: There are several studies that prove that. Being immersed in music in any form opens paths in your brain, that otherwise are left bare. It triggers things in your brain that make you smarter. We see that most of our kids are in advanced programs at school.

Ted Simons: You mentioned different levels. Say the kid comes in and starts at the first level there. How often does someone come in for the training choir wind up here?

Georg Stangelberger: We have between 30 to 40 boys in the choir. 40 to 60% make it through the program.

Ted Simons: How much of the foreign language is taught? You have to get the words right in the song. What else is going on there?

Georg Stangelberger: Either I send them on the internet to translate the pieces themselves or I translate it for them. I want them to know what words they are singing. They have to know each individual word that they are singing to understand how to present that.

Ted Simons: And you talked about what kind of education that is. Along with just being able to read music.

Georg Stangelberger: And the culture. Every piece we do, we talk about what time period was that written? History going on there? Always. That's very much a part of what I'm doing and the culture of the country to bring that to the boys.

Ted Simons: As far as going on tour and getting all of these experiences, when you have kids, you have been here 18 years, when you have kids that started with you, they are not kids anymore. Do they come back to say thanks?

Georg Stangelberger: We invite our alumni to join us. They join us on stage for silent night and the hallelujah chorus. We have an opportunity for the alumni to reconnect and for me to see them again. I'm on Facebook with them.

Ted Simons: This has to be rewarding. You get to see people grow up, train them. It has to be rewarding.

Georg Stangelberger: It is, but it's bittersweet in ways. You build a choir over a year. You have a choir like we had in China. And then, the top voices come into voice change. It is fun doing that, but you are nervous because you wonder if you will get there again.

Ted Simons: Can you do me a favor? Can you stick around and get the young men to stick around as well. We would love to close the show with them.

Georg Stangelberger: We would love to do that.

The Phoenix Boys Choir
Georg Stangelberger: Artistic Director, Phoenix Boys Choir

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