Image © EMI Classics 2004
(18 October 2004) Choral music, especially featuring miraculous boy trebles, has been playing
a very traditional role through many centuries in Europe, and it is great to
see this tradition staying vital even until today.
One of the groups who has successfully been cultivating this tradition, is
the British Libera choir, having their roots in the 1980s known then as St.
Phillips Boys Choir and a bit later as "Angel Voices". Directed by Mr.
Robert Prizeman, the choir has regularly appeared in BBC's Songs of Praise
TV programs with e.g. Sal Solo, backed the albums of Aled "The Snowman"
Jones (of "Walking In The Air" fame), and released their music on CD. Three
of their earliest albums were released under "Angel Voices", and the latest
three under the name "Libera."
Especially the two previous albums under the artist name Libera, entitled
Libera and Luminosa respectively, have both been chart-toppers, entering
at no.3 to the British Classic FM's official chart right after their
releases. The new album "Free" did exactly the same thing just some time
ago, so I think these are evidence strong enough to proof the success again.
Just like the previous Libera albums, also the new album Free (EMI Classics (USA) 7243 5 57823 2 8, 2004) is a real
ear-charmer from the very beginning to the very end. Every single detail is
polished and exquisite, and the voices are stunningly clean, always
perfect-pitched and pure. Even during the most difficult and challenging
pieces such as "Lament" and "A New Heaven". The awesome harmony of the
voices, great instrumentation and the versatile usage of soloists from the
choir are all factors making the music very memorable, not forgetting of
course the clever move to use both higher and lower voices in the lovable
piece "Be Still My Soul" by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
Although many people often associate boy choirs with "serious" classical or
sacred church music, Libera has succeeded to avoid that stigma very well and
in fact, developed the choral tradition further in a very wonderful way. In
addition to the already mentioned Sibelius classic, there are also some
other choir standards such as "I Vow To Thee My Country" on the latest
album, but Mr. Prizeman and Libera have been able to find heaps of new
dimensions from these classic pieces. And, one cannot but admire the courage
of both the choir and its conductor of having recorded some very challenging
and more modern pieces throughout their Libera days so far! Of course the
pieces featuring modern pop beats and sacred lyrics at the same time may be
a bit too much for purists, but as Libera is far better than just an
ordinary amateur church choir--not to demote amateur musicians in any way,
in fact, Libera is not a church choir at all anymore--the usage of pop
elements suit to Libera's style very well, making them unique and stand out
on their own.
This approach, known also as crossover phenomenon, is hopefully one of the
factors behind Libera's success, because I believe that fusing various
styles together and experimenting like this brings more audience to the
choral and classical music genres from the pop world, leading to both
increased album sales as well as to growing interest of classical
music/choral music in general, not forgetting the concerts.
Libera has succeeded with their prior two albums and now may the success be continued also worldwidely with Free!--Suvi Kaikkonen in Oulu, Finland and Russ Elliot in New York