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Luminosa Review

(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

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