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His name sounds quite Danish?

 
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MessagePosté le: Sam 20 Déc 2008, 01:39    Sujet du message: His name sounds quite Danish? Répondre en citant


His name sounds quite Danish?


Daly City youngster touring with famed Vienna Boys Choir
Jens Ibsen, 12, at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna before his first concert in the Hofkapelle in May. Photo by Eric Ibsen



Jens Ibsen barely spoke a word until he was 2, and even a year later, complete sentences were few and far between. But there was another voice inside, a musical impulse that would propel him from an isolated Daly City childhood into a rich new life 6,000 miles away as the first African-born member of the world-renowned Vienna Boys Choir.
At a time of the year when choral music fills concert halls, theaters, churches and school auditoriums, Jens' personal story also speaks to the power of choral singing, which not only moves listeners in a particularly immediate way but can also open pathways of discovery for those who do it. Young choral singers can literally find their voices in the process. That's especially true for boys, who must often overcome social pressures to either stop singing in choruses or never join one in the first place.
Jens, who is fluent in German as well as English at age 12, chatted easily by telephone from Hanover, Germany, this week about his music and world travels, his Austrian roommates and his math class.
"We're doing a lot of church music and chamber songs and getting ready for Christmas," he said. Many of the texts the group sings are in German. "But we also sing in Czech and some other languages. It's definitely hard, but it's fun." Math, he added, was also "hard at first, but maybe not so much fun."
Jens is on a 15-city tour of Germany with the Haydn Choir, one of four 25-member ensembles that comprise the Vienna Boys Choir. He moved to Austria in May, enrolled in the organization's boarding school and has already toured Asia.
"China kind of smelled bad," he said, "but it was pretty interesting. I was seriously surprised by how modern Shanghai was." Singapore impressed him, too, but Taipei left a different kind of mark: "I got stitches there," he said. "I fell down when I was ice skating."
Jen's accomplishments, confidence and sense of adventure are a source of wonder and gratitude for his parents, Eric and Agartha Ibsen of Daly City. Their once painfully withdrawn son is now a musical citizen of the world, performing and touring with one of the most famous boys choirs in history. He lives in a dorm in Vienna, loves potatoes and schnitzel and chatters away in German to his new friends from around Europe and the world.
The family's pride extends to the fact that Jens, according to choir spokeswoman Anna Weingant, is the first African-born singer in the choir, which dates from 1498. Jens and his twin sister, Yasmina, were born in Ghana in 1995. His father is white, and his mother, a native of Ghana, is black. The family moved to California when the children were 9 months old. Another son, born to Agartha and adopted by Eric, was 9 years old at the time and now is a 21-year-old student at UC Santa Cruz.
As the sole nonwhite member of the Haydn Choir, Jens' complexion can stand out onstage in Vienna and on tour. But race is apparently just one more thing he's taking in stride. Asked if he thought anyone treated him differently because of his racial background, Jens replied, "Well, I don't think they should. And if anyone did, I don't think I'd notice it."
There was a time when no one would have predicted such breezy conversational ease for Jens. "He was very much a loner as a child," his father said one recent evening at the family's home on a quiet street near the ocean. "He'd walk around the playground by himself at school and then come home and be off by himself with his Legos."
Agartha recalled the "strange things" her son would say - " 'I want to eat your brains.' " She said they thought Jens might be autistic or have Asperger's syndrome. He was tested several times for language delay.
Eric, an enthusiastic amateur musician who sings and plays drums in his church group, Gospelicious, remembered his son's early signs of affinity for music. Well before Jens could talk, he would sing along with the theme from "Star Trek" and other TV programs. He liked to climb under one of his father's many African drums and fall asleep to the pounding and vibrations.
Agartha wonders if Twi, the tonal Ghanian language she sometimes used around the children, might have had an effect. Like Jens, his twin sister Yasmina is musical, and she has a fondness for performing in musical theater. She is in rehearsals for San Francisco's Marsh Youth Theater production of "Siddhartha, The Bright Path," which opens Dec. 14.
Marilyn Wells, a music teacher at Ocean Shore School, the Pacifica elementary school Jens attended, encouraged him to pursue his singing. "He had a naturally sweet and pretty voice," she said. "And I just liked him. He was fun to be around."
At age 8, Jens joined Ragazzi, a respected Peninsula boys chorus that is marking its 20th anniversary this year.
"I was looking for something to do after school," Jens said in something of a casual understatement. "I saw the poster." In fact, he acknowledged, Ragazzi was a life-altering experience for him. "Singing wasn't something I talked about unless I was in a place where doing it was acceptable. Certainly I had that at Ragazzi."
An air of camaraderie was apparent at a recent Ragazzi rehearsal at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Redwood City. Boys ages 7 through 18 streamed from practice rooms to sanctuary to courtyard in a blur of bustling musical energy. Founder Joyce Keil was working with a group of 16- and 17-year-olds.
"Start to loosen it up," she told her singers, who were rehearsing for Christmas concerts around the bay. They responded with a warmer, more limber sound. Someone in the bass section sang a wrong note on two passes through one phrase.
"Someone's singing an A," said Keil.
"I did that," one of the boys volunteered.
"I did it right," kidded another.
Keil believes that boys learn to sing faster than girls because "they are very task-oriented." But they are often reluctant to join choruses because of the social stigma. "From kindergarten through third grade it's still cool," she said. "After that, they have to be supported. It has to be a male thing."
The Ibsens credit Ragazzi for opening Jens up to the possibilities that music might hold for him. "He learned to focus on the conductor there," said Eric. "And then this love of opera came out." Riding in the car one day, Jens heard a few minutes of "The Magic Flute" on the radio and "fell in love with it," Eric said. The boy had never attended an opera. Last year, when he was 11, he was cast as the lead in two separate Peninsula productions of Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors."
Early this year, when Eric was in Europe on business, he contacted officials at the Vienna Boys Choir on a lark and asked if they would be interested in receiving a DVD of Jens singing. They were. In March, after a concert by the touring Haydn Choir in Saratoga, Jens had his audition.
Mildred Owen, a private vocal coach who worked with him for a few months in advance, felt confident of the results. She ticked off her student's attributes: "He has a crystalline clear voice. He has perfect pitch. His grasp of music and his expression are developed far beyond his years. Plus, he's a very nice person."
The audition took place onstage as stagehands noisily broke down the set after the Saratoga concert. Jens sang some scales and exercises and Bach's "Bist du bei mir." Eric recalled conductor Kerem Sezem's response. " 'Wow!' " he said. " 'How soon can we have your boy?' " Six weeks later, after clearing a few bureaucratic hurdles, Jens was living in Vienna. He hopes to remain a member of the boys choir into 2009 - or until his voice changes. When that happens, boys are "retired" from singing with the group.
Before Jens left for Vienna, his father made a home video of him. Sitting on a leopard-print sofa at his house, Jens talked about the affectionate reactions of his California schoolmates when they heard he was leaving. "I thought no one likes me," he said. "I'm so worthless. Singing was my secret life. I realize now everybody really did care about me."
Jens said from Germany that he didn't know what he would do "for a job" when he's grown up. "It might be in music, or it might not." But whatever happens to him, as his father sees it, he has been transformed. "The best thing about all of this," said Eric, "is that Jens is more social and happier than he's ever been in his life. It's a funny thing that he had to move to Vienna to really find a place where he belongs."
Jens mentioned an amusement park he had visited the other day and the bowling he and the other Haydn Choir boys had squeezed in between concerts in Hamburg. "I've got to go now," he said. "We're leaving for Frankfurt."


-- To hear selections from the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, go to ragazzi.org/cd/cd_holiday.html

The emperor relocated, brought the boy singers
The date of the founding of what we now call the Vienna Boys Choir is a bit vague, but the choir itself and historians say it was 1498, the year that the Emperor Maximilian I relocated his court from Innsbruck to Vienna and brought the court musicians along. He also decided to include boy singers among the musicians.
The choir performed primarily for court functions, Masses and private concerts until 1918, when the Hapsburg Empire dissolved and the Austrian government took control of the court musicians, but not the boys choir.
The choir became a private institution, and its imperial uniforms were replaced by sailor suits. The choir began to give public concerts in 1926, and today, with 100 members, it's the world's most famous boys choir. It is comprised of four ensembles of 25 boy sopranos and altos, ages 10-14. The choirs are named for the composers Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert and tour the world. Their recordings are widely available. Visit http://www.wsk.at/http://www.wsk.at. for more information and video and audio clips.





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