Vienna Boys' Choir picks Halifax boy, 10, to join prestigious group

Max Freer of Halifax saw the Vienna Boys' Choir perform in January. That spurred him to pursue an audition for the prestigious musical school.

Youngster believed to be first Nova Scotian to join Vienna Boys' Choir

The Vienna Boys' Choir performs in Mexico in September 2013. (Facebook)

A 10-year-old boy from Halifax has joined the most prestigious musical choir in the world.

Just last month, Max Freer was singing with the Capella Regalis Choir in Halifax. On April 2, he flew with his father to Austria to begin his first year at the Vienna Boys' Choir.

Max's mother, Janya Freer, told CBC's Information Morning that Max set his sights on Vienna after seeing the choir perform in Halifax in late January. 

As far as Freer is aware, Max is the first Nova Scotian boy to attend the Vienna Boys' Choir. Right now, he is only one of two Canadians enrolled at the school. 

Max Freer of Halifax is believed to be the first Nova Scotian to join the Vienna Boys' Choir. (Submitted by Janya Freer)

"We went to the concert and he loved the music, of course," Freer says. "And after awhile he looked up at the stage and said, 'that's what I do already ... maybe I could be there.' "

Max had been honing his skills in Capella Regalis for two years. After seeing the Vienna Boys' Choir perform, he and Janya looked up its website and applied for an audition. Max sent in a resume outlining his choir work in Halifax and a video of him singing Lovely Stornoway.

Freer says the Vienna school was impressed and invited Max and her to visit the school for a week on a trial run in the middle of March. Max turned 10 on his way to Vienna for the visit. 

'Excited to learn a new language'

The Vienna Boys' Choir dates back to the 13th century, and is considered one of the most prestigious musical schools in the world.

In addition to several hours a day of choir and voice lessons, students take full academic courses.

About 100 boys aged 10 to 14 are enrolled in the school and choir. Classes and rehearsals are in the Augarten Palace in Vienna and the boys live in a boarding house attached to the palace.  

Freer says Max was a bit worried at first whether the school would be a good fit because of language barriers. 

Capella Regalis choristers, from the left, Max Freer, Dylan Chang, Leo Hanada and Peter Dietz are shown at All Saints Cathedral last fall. Max, 10, has joined the Vienna Boys Choir. (Submitted by Vanessa Halley)

"He had some hesitation when he heard the classes and instructions were in German," Freer says.

"But once he got there, he wasn't worried anymore. The school itself is quite used to kids from elsewhere, so they were equipped to help him. So he gets worksheets in German and weekly tutorial in German. He was actually excited to learn a new language, I thought it would bother him, but he likes it." 

Dedication to beautiful music

Freer says Max has committed to being at the Vienna Boys' Choir for at least a year.

She says Max and the family will re-evaluate at that point whether he will stay longer. Boys stay in the choir until their voices break, which is usually around the age of 14. 

The Capella Regalis choir performs at Saint John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg on Dec. 21. (Submitted by Vanessa Halley)

"The most common response from parents when I say we let Max attend is, 'you're so brave to let him go'," Freer says.

"He's leaving eight years before expecting him to, so at first it felt like that time with him — before he grew up — was being shortened. But when I saw it was the right thing for him, that feeling of excitement takes over.

"They are so dedicated to beautiful music, and that's their prime directive. This urge to make great music, everything else is second place. And that's why it's right for Max."