Princess Kako of Akishino at Augarten

Princess Kako, the younger daughter of Japanese crown prince Fumihito, visited Austria from 15 to 20 September 2019, to mark 150 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Austria. Part of the official programme was a visit to the choir’s school at Augartenpalais.

Hagen of Schubertchor recounts the experience. “We were very fortunate and honoured today by the visit of Her Imperial Highness Princess Karo of Akishino. As part of her official visit to Austria, the Princess came to our home, Augartenpalais. Everyone in the choir was very excited and nervous, because we had never met a real princess before. I was selected to greet her with a bouquet of flowers. After bowing to the Princess, I quickly ran upstairs to join the choir in our oval reception hall, with the painted ceiling. It dates from the 17th century, and many famous people have been there. Brahms and Mahler were there, the Dutch Queen Beatrix, Princess Diana, and of course the former Emperor Akihito and the former Empress Michio of Japan.

The Princess Kako entered the room, and everybody felt very solemn. Professor Wirth spoke a few words, and then we sang. First a motet by Maurice Duruflé, which is about the beauty of Mary. This is for choir a cappella, and I love how the voices weave together. The second piece was “Zigeunerleben”, gypsy life, by Robert Schumann. Professor Wirth said that this matched our own lifestyle, because we travel a lot. And finally, we sang a polka by Josef Strauss, Auf Ferienreisen, which is fast and fun. The Princess listened closely, and she seemed to like it. Afterwards, she went over to us and shook the hand of every single boy. We felt deeply honoured. When the Princess asked for an encore, we had to think quite hard. It had to be just perfect for her. We finally decided on a prayer from Southern Africa, Akekho ofana no Jesu, which we sing in Sesotho, and we do a formal dance when we sing it. The Princess Kako smiled, and applauded. We felt elated, and we are now really looking forward to our tour of Japan next April.”

Photos: Lukas Beck