“When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?” -Billy Joel, Vienna.
As our bus inched closer and closer to our destination, these lyrics from Billy Joel’s iconic tribute to Austria’s capital sounded again and again in my mind. It was fitting, I suppose. In the song, he paints Vienna as a sort of paradise—a romantic, timeless center of culture and music. The city didn’t just live up to these lofty expectations. It exceeded them. By the time we bade Vienna goodbye, I found myself already eagerly anticipating my next visit.
In a tour packed with visits to sites integral to our musical heritage, I felt especially moved by Vienna. The city is regarded worldwide as one of civilization’s most beautiful and historic cities, but for us, it took on added significance, thanks to its role in shaping the development of modern music. For instance: In addition to visiting the House of Music museum, I spent our free day touring Mozart’s apartment. Where else can you do that? Sorry, Memphis, but Graceland isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Going through Mozart’s abode was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. At the risk of sounding slightly (ok, extremely) melodramatic, I literally had goose bumps throughout the entire self-guided tour. With Mozart’s “Requiem” playing lightly in the background, the narrator described how Mozart lived his most productive years (1784-1787) in that Vienna apartment. In these years, he cranked out an average of five full sheets of music per day, including his famous opera “The Marriage of Figaro” and some of his Haydn Quartets. As a pianist and a singer, I felt like a pilgrim of sorts, blessed with the opportunity of paying tribute to one of the greatest musicians the world will ever know.
(An original piece of Mozart’s sheet music)
As if that wasn’t enough, the Haus der Musik (the House of Music museum) was equally impressive. Focusing on the full scope of Vienna’s musical history, it tells of not only Mozart’s role in shaping musical history, but also of greats such as Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Strauss, all of whom spent significant time in Vienna. Once again, I was hit in the face by the magnitude of Vienna’s musical history. In this one single city lived an incredibly disproportionate number of musical legends, the works of whom are still performed to worldwide appreciation (most notably by the Glee Club, of course). And yes, in case you were wondering, there was a piano in the lobby where I was able to accomplish my dream of playing Billy Joel’s “Vienna” in Vienna.
(One of Beethoven’s personal pianos)
The non-musical parts of our Vienna experience were notable as well. Our Clubbers were wowed by the size and splendor of Vienna’s two palaces (Schonbrunn and Hofburg), as well as by the architectural brilliance of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Parliament. The food also was a hit, as Vienna marked the start of a very sausage-heavy diet for the club!
Our concert was held at St. Maria Rotunda, a beautiful baroque parish in the historic area of Vienna. The church, steeped in history, was both architecturally and acoustically magnificent, and the concert was a big hit with the audience. Once again, I found myself marveling at the fact that our very own Glee Club was performing in the same city where Mozart and co. performed hundreds of years ago. I can only hope that our performance made them proud.
The Glee Club’s experience in Vienna was a special one, and, to me, symbolized what our tour was all about. We saw a magnificent city, gave a great show, and were also given a taste of what makes music so darn special. Music is the world’s great transcendent force, bringing joy to people from across the world, and breathing life back into the great men and women that have long since left Earth behind. Don’t believe me? Well, then, as Billy Joel would say: Vienna waits for you.
Nick Barella is a rising sophomore studying Business and Economics. He is notorious for sitting down to play any piano he encounters, so we were really hoping that he’d find one he loved in Vienna and just stay there. Unfortunately, we were thwarted, and he’s spending his summer back in South Bend. If you want to reach Nick, email him at Nicholas.Barella.firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the sixth post in a twelve part series chronicling the Glee Club’s recent tour of Europe. Be sure to read the next post about Munich, which, as anyone who has been on a Glee Club tour to Europe knows, is a classic.
To see more photos of Vienna, head over to our Flickr Album!