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This is how many lucky passers-by seemed to feel back on November 12, the night featured in the video above, when the St. Thomas Boys Choir—the 800-year-old musical legends from Leipzig, in Saxony—put on a surprise “pop up” concert in the middle of Times Square. For ten minutes, the 42 boys (dressed more casually than usual) lent New Yorkers (and visitors) their remarkable voices, and for ten minutes, witnesses were able to trade the Manhattan bustle for a serene and snow-covered European Christmas market or a well-lit castle.
That’s the power of the St. Thomas Boys Choir. As The New York Times put it, “To comprehend the legacy of the St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig, consider this: When Bach became its music director, called Thomaskantor, in 1723, this eminent institution had already been around for 511 years.”
That’s Johann Sebastian Bach, of course, one of the greatest ever composers. (Wagner and Strauss also hailed from Saxony, which is clearly a place of great musical heritage, but neither served as Thomaskantor.) This choir is an institution, and it must have been pretty incredible to see them in person on a random New York night—and in the middle of the New York street!
If you noticed that the boys are spelling out “SimplySaxony.com” as they sing, that’s because the choir is an official ambassador of its home—Saxony. With that in mind, it makes sense that they are touring around this time because the Free State of Saxony, like much of Germany, is a particularly special place during the holidays. It’s a place of Christmas markets and castles but also of history and tradition, which is what makes the St. Thomas Boys Choir what it is. It’s even the oldest cultural establishment in Leipzig. Through eight centuries worth of political and cultural changes and even musical and religious changes, the tradition of Bach and countless others has lived on!
If you missed out on November 12 (I did too, don’t worry), the boys and current Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller have unfortunately already finished their American tour and have returned to Germany. But in Saxony, in Leipzig, at their St. Thomas Church, they sing every weekend (when they’re not traveling)—a motet on Friday and a composition by Bach on Saturday or Sunday. It’s a great time of year to go to central Europe anyway (I’m cruising the Rhine myself right now!), so why not add 800 years of music and history to your holiday with a trip to Saxony?
You can visit SimplySaxony.com to learn more about this culturally rich area of Germany, which includes castles and palaces, famous museums, the beautiful views of Saxon Switzerland, the vineyards of the Elbland region, the festive Saxon holiday traditions—and of course, the legends of Leipzig, the St. Thomas Boys Choir.
That was really lovely. I wish I had been in the area that day!