History of the Salzburg Advent Singing

since 1946 in Salzburg

History of the Salzburg Advent Singing

The Salzburg Advent Singing is regarded as the nucleus and the great model for numerous “Advent Singings” throughout the German-speaking world. Over two million visitors have already attended this unique Salzburg Advent event. Currently, around 36,000 people flock to the Salzburg Advent Singing in the Grosses Festspielhaus every year. With over 150 singers, musicians, actors and shepherd children from Salzburg and the neighboring cultural regions, the Advent events are viewed from a new perspective every year.

Das Salzburger Jubiläumsadventsingen - Stille Nacht - Ein Blick zurück in das Jahr 1818 Foto: Mike Vogl - VOGL-PERSPEKTIVE.AT -  29.11.2018
2018 The Salzburg Advent Singing from the crowd onto the stage

Living traditions and memories of one’s own childhood are an essential element for visitors at the Salzburg Advent Singing. Traditional folk songs and tunes are combined with classical elements, new compositions and a scenic plot to create a harmonious whole.

2021 The Salzburg Advent Singing in the Großes Festspielhaus Salzburg

The artistic direction, program and event management has been in the hands of Hans Köhl for over two decades. The Salzburg Advent Singing is a non-profit event organized by Kulturwerk Salzburg GmbH and is the second largest cultural event in the province of Salzburg after the Summer Festival.

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1953 Salzburg Advent Singing Memories of the beginnings of Hiatabuam in the Aula Academica


On November 26, 1946, the Salzburger Heimatwerk was founded under the Glockenspiel by the Salzburg provincial government under the management of Tobi Reiser the Elder. On December 2, 1946, Tobias Reiser the Younger (1946-1999) was born and three days later, on December 5, 1946, Tobi Reiser the Elder (1907-1974) invited his friends and companions for the first time to a Salzburg Advent carol sing in the company home on Salzburg’s Rudolfskai.

1952 Salzburg Advent Singing Riedering Singers in the Kaisersaal of the Residence

After the Advent gathering became increasingly popular, it was moved to the Kaisersaal of the Salzburg Residence in 1950. For the first time, the Salzburger Heimatwerk and the Salzburger Heimatpflege officially invite people to this event. The broadcaster Christl Reisinger reads texts by Anette Thoma (1886-1974). Other contributors: Kleine Hackbrett-Musik, zither and guitar trio, fiddle and flute group Kammerer, Rudi Rehle, Saalfeldner Dreigesang, Viergesang Windhofer-Leitner, a Klöpflergruppe, the Sternsingerkinder, the Tanzperchtengruppe der Alpinia and the folk song choir Sepp Dengg. Choral singing with the Salzburg Folk Song Choir is still a defining element of the Salzburg Advent Festival today. At the same time, the first Advent carillon is blown from the Glockenspiel Tower as a prelude to Advent singing.

1967 Tobi Reiser gratuliert K.H. Waggerl zu seinem 70. Geburtstag
1967 Tobi Reiser congratulates K.H. Waggerl on his 70th birthday

However, even this venue quickly becomes too small. In 1952, the event is moved to the Great Hall of Salzburg University. Karl Heinrich Waggerl (1897-1973) makes his debut and reads the “Little Christmas Stories” for the first time. His cheerful and contemplative readings delight the audience and give the Salzburg Advent Singing another unmistakable touch. He remained faithful to the Salzburg Advent Singing until shortly before his death in 1973. More and more people from all over the German-speaking world became aware of the Salzburg Advent Singing. The “Salzburg Advent Singing” became synonymous with numerous other events of a similar format.

In 1960, at the invitation of LH Dr. Josef Klaus (1910-2001), the Salzburg Advent Singing took place for the first time with seven performances in the newly built Grosses Salzburger Festspielhaus. Quite a few critics prophesied the end of Advent singing. The opposite is the case and Tobi Reiser’s courageous move has proved to be a stroke of luck. From year to year, more and more visitors come to this unique event. In 1974, the founder of the Salzburg Advent Singing and director of the Salzburg Heimatwerk Tobi Reiser the Elder died

1977 Salzburger Adventsingen Ensemble Tobias Reiser, F. Keller Orgel
1977 Salzburger Adventsingen Ensemble Tobias Reiser, F. Keller Orgel

Tobias Reiser the Younger takes over the management of the Salzburg Heimatwerk and the Salzburg Advent Singing. He endeavors to develop this valuable heritage responsibly and carefully. From 1980, major changes are made to the stage design, lighting direction and program with the involvement of stage designer Siegwulf Turek. The Salzburg Advent Singing developed into a scenic oratorio with impressive parallels and links between the biblical events and the present day. Tobias Reiser the Younger gives the Salzburg Advent Singing a new, artistically sophisticated profile. Under his direction, the Salzburg Advent Singing developed from 12 performances in 1974 to up to 18 sold-out performances annually. In 1996, the Salzburg Heimatwerk celebrated its 50th anniversary with the Salzburg Advent Singing. The scenic oratorio “Es ward der Engel Gabriel” with compositions by Wilhelm Keller became the highlight of the artistic work of Tobias Reiser the Younger, who died unexpectedly in 1999 at the age of 54.

1998 Salzburger Adventsingen Es ward der Engel Gabriel
1998 Salzburger Adventsingen "Es ward der Engel Gabriel"

Hans Köhl and Stefan Sperr, Tobias Reiser’s two long-time companions and Heimatwerk board colleagues, take over the management of the Salzburg Advent Singing, with Hans Köhl being given the main responsibility. Together with his artistic team, he will continue on the path of careful further development at a high level of quality. Ideas such as placing the Advent events in a socio-cultural context with the creators of the Salzburg Christmas carol “Silent Night, Holy Night” or, as this year, focusing on the Jewish history of the Holy Family, are brought to the stage every year in sophisticated, scenically and musically composed complete works and are enthusiastically received by the audience. However, this is an enormous challenge for Hans Köhl, his leading team and the 150 or so performers.

Adeventsingen 2017 im großen Festspielhaus Backstage Foto: Neumayr/Leo 30.11.2017
2017 Salzburg Advent Singing Welcome of the guests by Hans Köhl

In 2022, the Salzburg Advent Singing will be spun off into the non-profit subsidiary of Salzburger Heimatwerk – Kulturwerk Salzburg GmbH. Johann (Hans) Köhl acts as managing director.

Despite the now countless “Advent Singings” throughout the German-speaking world, the influx to the Salzburg Advent Singing remains unbroken. Around 36,000 visitors every year, over two million guests since 1946. In 2022, the 1000th performance of the Salzburg Advent Singing since its foundation will take place. These figures speak for themselves and for the great popularity of this Salzburg cultural event.

Artistic direction

A life's work for three personalities

1946 – 1973

Tobi Reiser d. Ä.

1965 Tobi Reiser am Regiepult im Großen Festspielhaus

1974 – 1999

Prof. Tobias Reiser d. J.

1982 Tobias Reiser am Regiepult im Großen Festspielhaus

seit 2000

Johann (Hans) Köhl

Salzburger Adventsingen 2019 im Großen Festspielhaus Salzburg
Im Bild Hans Köhl
Foto: Franz Neumayr      22.11.2019