BRITAIN Boys’ Choirs: The BROMLEY BOY SINGERS CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR LIBERA SFX BOYS’ CHOIR STEFFANI’S SILVER SONGSTERS Note: Choirs included in this list are not necessarily all-treble choirs, and may be man-boy choirs. Examples of all-treble choirs can also be found listed under Cathedral Choirs (in e.g. “Choristers of …” releases), or under School Choirs. THE BROMLEY BOY SINGERS THE BROMLEY BOY SINGERS: MUSIC BY BRITTEN, GABRIEL FAURÉ, MICHAEL HURD, MENDELSSOHN, BACH/GOUNOD Compact Disc: 32 Tracks. Playing Time: 61m. Ref: ACTCD 200111. Price £ 10.95 Those who enjoy the sound of boy trebles singing find that the South London area offers some very successful and highly- trained choirs of young boys, who regularly give public concerts, are seen on tv and tour abroad. One example is The Bromley Boy Singers, one of the very few secular concert choirs for boys in Britain, which was founded in 1977 and celebrated its Silver Jubilee back in 2002,. Offering an extensive and varied repertoire, which encompasses both classical and popular material, the boys are particularly well-known for their performances of Benjamin Britten’s music, and it is his Missa Brevis in D, Op.63 and his Friday Afternoons, Op.7 that are among the 16 tracks on this CD (including three tracks which feature treble soloists). The quality of these soloists is immediately apparent from the opening track of Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod), and later in the four tracks of the Messe Basse (Gabriel Fauré). The last part of this release includes Michael Hurd’s Nine of anon, a set of nine songs combining texts with diverse musical settings, which were specially commissioned by this choir. And, finally, there is O for the wings of a dove, part of Mendelssohn’s “Hear my prayer”, a work long associated with boys’ voices. When one attends a recital by this choir, one is immediately struck by their relaxed yet totally professional approach – and by the fact that some of the “trainee” members of the choir are only aged 6, or so. All credit, therefore, to the choir’s former Director, Richard Apsley, who for almost ten years guided this choir to the enviable position they hold today. BROMLEY BOY SINGERS: SWEET SILVER SONG Compact Disc: 12 tracks. Playing time: 43m 54s Ref: ACTSCD 032983. Price £ 10.25 This talented choir of some 35 boys devoted its second CD to showcasing its range of treble repertoire. Although much of the programme is relevant to the Christmas season, the quality of the singing is such that it can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Besides Harold Darke’s In the bleak midwinter, and Jean Hasse’s What do I want for Christmas? (specially commissioned by the choir for their December 2002 concert), there are other well-known festive-season compositions such as Mary’s boy child, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu, and O Holy night. However, the boys are equally at home with the works by Rutter (For the beauty of the earth and Look at the world) and with ever-popular songs such as Shenandoah and You’ll never walk alone. Two of the choir’s best treble soloists, Harry McAleer and Alexander Stiggear, are featured in three of the tracks, the Pie Jesu by Fauré and the version by Lloyd Webber (with both soloists), but other songs also include substantial parts for treble soloists – both In the bleak midwinter and Mary’s boy child rely on the soloists (a whole panoply of them in the latter case), and in O Holy Night the solo voices merge into lovely duets before the full treble-voice choir joins them. The traditional Sans day carol, in a new arrangement by the choir’s inspired former choral director, Richard Apsley, reaches new heights with its introductory soloists and gentle background piano accompaniment. Not only does this choir present regular concerts throughout the year in the London region, but they have also built up an enviable international reputation, with tours to Malta, The Netherlands and the Provence area of France This second release presents a most enjoyable selection from a very distinguished choir. Photos show some of the boys at practice and at recital. Bottom picture, right, taken as soloists worked in the recording studio for the second disc (with, far left, Alexander Stiggear and, second from left, Harry McAleer). CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR CANTATE SINGERS: MUSIC FROM THE MALVERNS Compact Disc: 14 Tracks. Playing time: 58m 9s. Ref: CBC 003. Price £ 7.99 The Cantate Singers – later to become the Cantate Boys’ Choir – was a group formed in the 1990s as a means of gathering together some of the best boy vocalists from various choirs in the South-East counties of England. Although not based in any specific cathedral or church, it has the form of a traditional British man/boy choir, but with a wide repertoire since the various members bring to it their particular abilities and musical knowledge. The choir has traditionally sung in various cathedrals during the year, and also performed in an annual concert tour of Britain and Germany. Many of these events were recorded live in front of the various audiences and form the basis of the choir’s CD releases. This particular release, of works performed at Malvern Priory, Pershore Abbey and Tewkesbury Abbey, features a choir of 24 trebles and 13 adult male voices. They sing Jesu, joy of man’s desiring (Bach); Magnificat in F – with treble soloist Gary Strutton – and Nunc dimittis (both by George Dyson); If ye love me (Thomas Tallis); Pie Jesu (Andrew Lloyd-Weber – with Gary Strutton as treble soloist); together with works by Ernest Bullock, David Evans, Herbert Howells, George Handel, Simon Lole, John Rutter, Ernest Walker, and others. CANTATE SINGERS: O PRAISE YE THE LORD Compact Disc: 11 Tracks. Playing time: 49m 9s. Ref: CBC 006. Price £ 7.99 Recorded live at Tewkesbury Abbey and Leominster Priory, with 21 trebles, 4 altos, 5 tenors and 5 basses, this release includes Sumsion’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in G; Oldroyd’s Kyrie, Sanctus and Benedictus; Noble’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis; and works by Byrd, Parry, Rutter and Wesley. The treble soloist Paul Robertson can be heard in Sumsion’s Nunc dimittis and in Wesley’s Blessed be the God and Father. At the end of the disc there is a brief treble practice session. CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR: IN PERFECT PEACE Compact Disc: 13 Tracks. Playing time: 60m 45s. Ref: CBC 010. Price £ 7.99 In mid-1995 the choir changed its name, and then visited Hereford Cathedral to record this CD, which features composers Howells (Jubilate and Like as the Hart), Stainer (Magnificat and Nunc dimittis), Oldroyd (Mass of the quiet hour – with Jonathan Baker as treble soloist), Byrd (Ave verum), and Bainton (And I saw a new Heaven). There is also a lovely traditional Welsh number, Suo Gan, sung by treble Christian Palmer. And a secret organ “knees-up” long after the service has ended! THE CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR: RHINELAND TOUR Compact Disc: 13 Tracks. Playing time: 58m 19s. Ref: CBC 013. Price £ 11.25 In Summer 1996, this choir of 24 trebles and 15 adult male voices visited the Rhineland area of Germany to give a series of concerts. A selection of the live recordings made in mid-August at St.Peter & Paul, in Bad Hönningen, and at Stiftskirche, in St.Goar, are made available on this release. Included are Bruckner’s solemn Locus iste, Rutter’s Pie Jesu (with treble soloist Peter Vernon), the Agnus Dei and Kyrie from Vierne’s “Missa Solenelle”, Mozart’s Arve verum corpus (in which the trebles excel), and works by Brahms, Farrant, Handel, and Kallinikov. THE CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR: LO, HE COMES! - MUSIC FOR ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS Compact Disc: 13 Tracks. Playing time: 47m 7s. Ref: CBC 015. Price £ 12.75 Tthere is a fine selection of much-loved carols here, with some in new arrangements. The rousing O come, O come, Emmanuel opens the proceedings, to be followed by Jesus Christ the apple tree (treble soloist: Oliver Taylor-Medhurst), Sans day carol, Away in a manger and Once in Royal David’s city (both with Robbie Watson as the treble soloist), Ding dong merrily on high!, and so on. Three carols, Silent night together with O little town of Bethlehem and In the bleak midwinter, are sung by the outstanding treble soloist Gary Strutton. THE CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR: SING WE MERRILY Compact Disc: 16 Tracks. Playing time: 73m 55s. Ref: CBC 017. Price £ 8.95 The choir has travelled widely in recent years, and we have here a selection of the music sung at their recitals at Exeter, Norwich, Peterborough and Windsor, as well as at Bad-Hönningen and Bonn in Germany. Included are the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in D by Brewer, and another version by Howells St.Paul’s, together with Darke’s Gloria in E, and choral works by Arlen, Bainton, Bairstow, Batten, Joubert, Stainer, Stanford, Walker and Wesley. THE CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR: PASSIONTIDE Compact Disc: 14 Tracks. Playing time: 60m 5s. Ref: CBC 019. Price £ 8.95 The interplay of trebles and adult male voices is always a joy to hear in Bruckner’s Locus iste, the opening track of this compilation. Recorded live in the cathedrals at Chichester, Norwich, Portsmouth and Worcester, at St Alban’s in Holborn, and at Bad-Hönningen and Bonn in Germany, the selection includes Psalm 55 and Psalm 86 (both by Goss), Noble’s Magnificat in B minor, and works by Boyce, Byrd, Crüger, Morley, Ousley, Pratt, and Purcell. THE CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR: GERMANY 2000 Compact Disc: 14 Tracks. Playing time: 57m 2s. Ref: CBC 029. Price £ 8.95 In a more recent visit to Germany, the choir visited St.Peter & Paul in Bad-Hönningen, Marktkirche in Neuwied, and St.Maria in Kupvergasse, Cologne. This CD contains live recordings from all three locations, and includes choral works by Bach, Bairstow, Bruckner, Duruflé, Elgar (the Ave verum, with treble soloist James Pedrick -- and the church bells!), Farrant, Goss, Ireland (Ex ore innocentium, with treble soloist Oliver Lincoln), Lotti, Stainer and Wesley (Blessed be the God and Father, with treble soloist Chris Seymour), and organ compositions by Bach, Dubois and Widor. THE CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR: THE CANTATE BOYS’ CHOIR Compact Disc: 16 Tracks. Playing time: 70m. Ref: CBC 012. Price £ 7.99 Issued in 1996, this is a collection of the choir’s best live performances over the preceding four years. However, it also includes material not otherwise available, particularly treble solos and a duet featuring the lovely voice of Gary Strutton, whose recordings are no longer to be found. He is heard as a soloist in Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod) and in I wonder as I wander, and also duets with another treble in the traditional song O men from the fields. Above: The complete Cantate Choir LIBERA LIBERA: LIBERA Compact Disc: 12 tracks. Playing time: 49m 17s. Ref: 3984 290 532. Price £ 13.99 Under their Director, Robert Prizeman, this choir of young boys developed an evocative and unique sound, where the treble chorus is used almost as a musical instrument, providing background accompaniment, and contrasting with the voices of the individual soloists. When Libera first launched this sound, it was regarded as a very controversial departure from the norm, especially as this was originally a boys’ choir based in a South London church (see picture, above). Thus, for various reasons, their first release was withdrawn before it sold many copies. However, some years later this new disc appeared and found universal favour, featuring the superb soloists Liam O’Kane (on five tracks), Alex Baron, Steven Geraghty and Adam Harris. This is a disc where the individual voices can be likened to colours coming together to create a beautiful picture. Listen not to the words but marvel in the sheer beauty of treble voices, floating ethereally. LIBERA: LUMINOSA Compact Disc: 12 tracks. Playing time: 52m 21s. Ref: 0927 40117-2. Price £ 13.99 Audiences have been captivated by the sound of Libera and by their spectacular staging of concerts, and the choir is regularly seen on British television. Although this second release does not feature Liam O’Kane, the four featured treble soloists (Simon Beston, Sam Coates, Ben Crawley and Steven Geraghty) are very impressive. The music is similar to the first release except that it may seem more solemn, as in the Sacris solemnis and the Silencium. The Semele (from Handel’s Where ‘ere you walk) sung by Ben Crawley is absolutely beautiful. LIBERA: FREE Compact Disc: 13 tracks. Playing time: 51m 25s. Ref: 57823. Price £ 13.55 After a break of some years Libera released this title, one which many regard as their best. The unique way in which the solo treble voices entwined with each other to create moods, is one of the Libera trademarks, and here the boy soloists (on 11 tracks) again reach ethereal heights. Since the days when soloist Liam O’Kane was the lead treble, Libera has continued to develop their music and their performance art. There are presently 24 boys in the choir, and five soloists are named in the insert, in which all the words to the compositions are also given. This release is also another tour de force for choirmaster Robert Prizeman, who composed the music. LIBERA: VISIONS Compact Disc: 13 tracks. Playing time: 51m 46s Ref: 3 39862 2. Price £ 12.55 Ten of the tracks on this release introduce us to the new treble soloists Tom Cully, Conor O’Donnell, Michael Horncastle, Callum Payne, Joseph Sanders-Wilde and James Vereycken. Libera’s music has been variously described as mystical, as shimmering, as unique, but one thing it always proves is that the treble voice is both captivating and magical -- and has absolutely no boundaries. There were two dozen boys aged from 7 to 16 in this choir, and their musical prowess is always breathtaking. One example is an unusual arrangement of Ave Maria, with Libera offering a version that is extraordinary, visionary, and superb. Most of the tracks are entirely new compositions, each carefully designed to showcase the talents of the individual soloists, or the harmony achieved by the whole choir together LIBERA: ANGEL VOICES Compact Disc: 15 tracks. Playing time: 58m 47s Ref: 3 70523 2. Price £ 13.65 If is a certainty that on every Libera release the listener will be presented with the glorious sound of supremely perfect treble soloists, and every track will offer some new insight into the extraordinary range and expressiveness of a boy’s voice. This release introduces a number of soloists we have not heard before: Anthony Chadney, Ben Crawley, Ed Day, Joshua Madine, Joseph Platt and Christopher Robson are all new since the group’s CD “Visions”, appeared. They join five other soloists whom we have heard before (and the voices of Tom Cully and Michael Horncastle have surely reached new heights of perfection, especially in Going home, where they duet). This choir has a range and vocal abilities that always astonish. Sometimes they are majestic (as in Be still my soul), sometimes powerful (as in Salva me), sometimes plaintive (as in Voca me). This variety is largely due to the musical arrangements created by Robert Prizeman, the musical director of Libera, whose compositions nurture and support the different voices of the boys, enabling them to create that interweaving tapestry of treble sound for which the choir has become justly famous. LIBERA: ANGEL VOICES – LIBERA IN CONCERT Compact Disc: 13 tracks. Playing time: 50m 17s. Ref: 03172-2-6. Price £ 14.95 This latest release from Libera was recorded in 2007 during the choir’s visit to Leiden, in Holland, nut of the thirteen tracks on this disc, all but one (entitled Lacrymosa) will have been heard by those who have already purchased the last three Libera CDs: “Free” and “Visions” and “Angel Voices”. However, this is a nice compilation of some of the most popular Libera songs. LIBERA: ANGEL VOICES – LIBERA IN CONCERT DVD. Running time: ca. 56m. Ref: 03172-2-6. Price £ 19.50 The group’s first DVD – and a marvellous one at that – is not easily found in Britain, and usually has to be imported. Those who have attended the choir’s recitals know that they are incredibly relaxed in front of their audience, and introduce themselves by name, age, etc., so that one immediately empathises with these white-robed boys. They also have absolutely beautiful speaking voices, very noticeable nowadays, when we have become used to illiterate youngsters grunting and swearing at each other, with every phrase including “Like” and “Init”. The camera-work throughout is extremely good, and has a warmth about it, with shots of the whole choir interspersed with intelligent close ups (and no “BBC-type” filming, with the camera examining the ceiling whilst a young soloist is singing!). One has the very strong impression that one is actually at this concert as it is being filmed, and it is doubtful if a better film could be produced of this superb group. The DVD menu allows the concert to be played right through, or for specific songs to be selected. The insert has the names of the soloists in each track, and there are also three bonus tracks that are not on the CD (above): Ave Maria (soloist: Ed Day), and Always with you (soloist: Tom Cully), together with Libera in their own words, in which each boy in the group introduces himself by name and then they chat in a series of relaxed mini-interviews about what it’s like to belong to this glorious group and what they want for the future. Absolutely marvellous stuff. LIBERA: NEW DAWN Compact Disc: 14 tracks. Playing time: 54m 43s. Ref: 5 19354-0-5. Price: £ 13.99 Those familiar with Libera will once again enjoy the harmony and the sound of soaring treble voices. However, it is the perfection of the solo performers which always sets this choir apart, and the disc is arranged so that almost every track features a solo voice. The general tendency is towards music based on religious compositions, such as Ave Maria and Rest in peace (both featuring Tom Cully), Sancte (Liam Connery), Jerusalem and The lamb (both of which feature Benedict Philipp), and Tallis’s canon and In paradisum (both featuring Edward Day). The lovely tones of Joshua Madine can be heard in Secret, in Love and Mercy and in Never be alone. One of the joys of listening to Libera is that all of the boys have perfect pronunciation (a fact that is even more obvious when they give live performances). The accompaniment is piano or orchestral, always gentle and always complimenting these beautiful voices. Another Libera triumph. Above: Libera relaxing – when they are not being ethereal they are just normal boys! LIBERA: ETERNAL – THE BEST OF LIBERA 2-CD Set: 32 tracks. Total playing time: 2h 2m 37s. Ref: 2 42696-2-9. Price £ 13.65 Those who are new to the Libera sound will probably benefit most from this massive two-disc compilation of the group’s most famous tracks. Although six new songs are listed, some of the others appear to have been re- arranged and/or re-recorded, but anybody who already has Libera’s “Free”, “New Dawn” and “Visions” CD releases will already have heard and enjoyed most of the content of this latest compilation. However, having such a huge selection of songs “under one roof” will appeal to many Libera fans, and others will want the new tracks, one of which (You were there, with beautiful solos by Tom Cully) introduces the first disc. Also new on the first CD are the evocative Mother of God, a new version of Gaudete (soloist: Liam Connery) and a remix of Sempiterna with gentle background percussion. Tom Cully is also the soloist in Caccini’s Ave Maria, allowing us to marvel at his absolute control of a truly lovely voice. CD- 2 opens with the delightfully harmonius Orinoco flow, and those entranced by Tom Cully’s voice can hear him as the soloist in both Rest in peace and May the road rise up. The haunting version of Ave Maria on this disc is a Robert Prizeman composition with Conor O’Donnell as the soloist, and he is also heard in Recordare. New tracks here are How can I keep from singing? sung by Joshua Madine, who many consider to have one of the most beautiful treble voices one could ever hope to hear. He is also the soloist, with Liam Connery in Heaven, another new track. There are other soloists (and mention must be made of Joseph Platt’s golden voice in Stay with me) and as with other Libera releases, almost every track in this two hours of enjoyment features the sound of a superb treble. SFX BOYS’ CHOIR THE SFX BOYS’ CHOIR + THE FARM: ALTOGETHER NOW 2004 CD-Single: 4 tracks (3 of them music) Playing time (music): 10m 39s. Ref: ENGLCD 2004. Price £ 3.99 For those unfamiliar with the SFX choir, the initials stand for St.Francis Xavier, a Catholic college in Liverpool where the 42-boy choir is based. The group had an exciting 2004. First they sung for the Pope and then, after the college’s Head of Music had a chance meeting with the lead singer of the pop-band The Farm, they collaborated on the re-working of the band’s 1990 hit for use as the anthem of the Euro 2004 international football tournament. This single shot to No.5 in the Charts, and eight of the boys performed their hit live in “Top of the Pops” in June 2004. The choir also performed the song for a crowd of 43,500 at the England-Iceland match. The fourth track is not music, but a virtual tour of the new Wembley Stadium; you will need a computer to view this. STEFFANI’S SILVER SONGSTERS STEFFANI’S SILVER SONGSTERS: THE JUNIOR MALE VOICE CHOIR FROM WALES Compact Disc: 24 tracks. Playing time: 74m 42s. Ref: C100. Price: £ 11.50 On Special Order In the early 1930s, unemployment was rife in parts of Wales, but singing has always been in the Welsh blood, two things in Arturo Steffani’s favour when he decided to form a boys choir which he named the Sixteen Singing Scholars. To begin with, many of the boys, aged 12 to 14, came from Cardiff, but as the group’s fame grew Steffani recruited boys from all over the country. His offered each newcomer a white suit, a guitar and an exciting life on stage, touring Britain. Steffani’s Silver Songsters, as the choir subsequently became known, usually comprised between 20 and 30 trebles, varying as boys left when their voices broke and others joined the troupe. The songs on this CD give a taste of the professionalism of these young singers, who followed a hectic schedule around the country for more than ten years, and also visited the Scandinavian countries. World War II made touring more difficult but it was 1947 before the group disbanded, partly because new post-War regulations demanded that youngsters should concentrate on education during their childhood years, rather than on making music.