The Regensburger Domspatzen (Regensburg Cathedral Choir) is the official choir for the liturgical music at St Peter's Cathedral in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany. The choir consists of boys and young men only.
History and organization
The Domspatzen, literally "Cathedral Sparrows", trace their origins back to the year 975 when bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg founded a cathedral school that – among other things – instructed boys to sing in the liturgy. The choir has seen various ups and downs during its more than 1,000-year history. In the 20th century, however, the Domspatzen became world-famous, especially through the achievement of the two directors who were to shape them over the course of 70 years: Theobald Schrems (Domkapellmeister 1924–1964) and Georg Ratzinger (Domkapellmeister 1964–1994).
Schrems laid the foundations that enabled the choir’s success by giving the Domspatzen their current institutional makeup: a boarding school for boys aged 10–19, a private secondary school with emphasis on musical education, and the choir at the center of the structure. In this way the boys can practise singing together and learn under the same roof, which allows for greater efficiency and thus also helps to avoid exhaustion of the students. Ratzinger oversaw the choir becoming a stable concert presence and consolidated and enhanced its quality.
Since 1994 Roland Büchner has been Domkapellmeister; after centuries the first layman to hold the position. He has so far continued the choir's success story.
Sexual abuse scandals
In the wake of worldwide scandals, incidents of sexual abuse at the choir school became public in March 2010, some of them dating back to 1958. The two named perpetrators both died in 1986. Former choir director Georg Ratzinger has denied knowledge of sexual abuse. The case has taken additional prominence because Georg Ratzinger is the brother of Pope Benedict XVI.
The choir has made numerous recordings (e.g. J. S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio, J .S. Bach: Motets, H. Schütz: Psalmen Davids; G. F. Handel: Messiah) and concert tours throughout the world (among others to the United States, Scandinavia, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Ireland, Poland, Hungary and the Vatican; and a tour through Germany every year).
The choir performed in honor of Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her State Visit to Germany in 1978, and at Pope John Paul II’s visit to Munich in 1980. They also gave a concert in Bonn for the state guests at the NATO summit in 1982 under the auspices of then German president Karl Carstens. In 2006 they gave a concert in the Vatican City for Pope Benedict XVI, the brother of the former Domkapellmeister Georg Ratzinger. The main purpose of the choir, however, remains the music in the liturgy of St Peter's, where the religious services of Holy Week constitute the prime event of the liturgical, and thus also the musical year.
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