The Regensburger Domspatzen

One of the things I’ve wanted to do since I arrived in Regensburg was to see a performance- any performance- of the Regensburger Domspatzen.

The Domspatzen (literal translation= Cathedral Sparrows) is a world famous boy’s choir based at St. Peter’s Cathedral, the tall pointy church known to Regensburg locals as The Dom.  The choir was founded in the year 975 by Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg, and they’ve been present here ever since.   The institution is not just a choir-  it’s a boarding school for boys aged 10–19 and a private secondary school with emphasis on musical education.

The Domspatzen sing both regular mass services as well as concerts around Germany.  Jenny also was curious to see them sing, so we went to the Holy Mass services on the Sunday before Christmas.   Advantage:  It’s free, at least until the collection plate comes by.  Disadvantage:  It’s a Roman Catholic Holy Mass, so there’s a ton of ritual, chanting, kneeling, and the swinging of incense which is catnip for migraines, as I discovered.  I’ve been to Catholic mass services before, and my ability to follow the ritual was about the same in German as it is in English.  Still, it’s a good way to see the Domspatzen in their native habitat, and you get a sense of what they sound like without going out of town to attend a full concert.

The Dom is an amazing structure.  The altar space is very tastefully appointed, and very large:

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I didn’t take very many photographs, because this was a religious service.    The majority of the people present were locals attending their church, not tourists.  I try not to be too disrespectful.  Still, you can get an idea of the size of the Domspatzen by seeing the group fully assembled:

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Since I wasn’t partaking of Communion, I used that time to try to get a little bit of the Domspatzen singing.  This clip is the older boys with the black vestments in the back.  If I’d kept the video running for another ten seconds, the younger group in red would also have been audible.

Because my video isn’t a complete song or a very good example of what seeing this group is like, I’ve gone out to the Tubes Of You, and found two pretty good clips that will give you an idea of how they sound.

Have you ever seen a world famous boy’s choir? What did you think?

Under The Dom

I’ve put up external pictures of the Dom before.  Here’s one to remind you before I continue with the post.

The Dom, sometimes known as the Regensburger Dom or the Cathedral of St. Peter, is well known as an example of pure German gothic architecture.  It was completed in 1634 except for the towers, which were finished in 1869.   The Dom is so integral to the identity of Regensburg that pretty much all of the touristy stuff (postcards and so forth) show the cathedral spires along with the Stone Bridge.  This town loves the Dom so much that they even made a chocolate version:

In addition, the Dom is the home of the Regensburger Domspatzen, literally “Cathedral Sparrows.”  The Domspatzen is the oldest boy’s choir in the world, founded in 976.  It’s also a boarding school for young boys.  The Domspatzen is quite famous, and has performed for Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II.  (Both of those events were in the 1980s though, so it’s obviously not the same kids.)   Here’s a sample performance-

I digress wildly.   The original point I intended for this post is that I finally had a chance a few weekends back to go inside the Dom and look around.  The interior contains a lot of interesting sculpture, an small catacomb, and a pretty huge pipe organ.  It was also considerably colder than the temperature outside-  I’ve been told that it’s always that cold inside the church.   Here are some pictures from that day: