They are boys, and they sing, but don’t call them choirboys. Libera prefer to be called a vocal group – a real boy band, if you like. And from the first soaring atmospheric bars of their CD, you know that they are unlike any vocal group – or choirboys - you’ve ever heard. With shimmering mystical chords, and ecstatic harmonies, their music provides a truly liberating and uplifting experience, at times chillingly plaintive, at others climactic and transcendent. These are truly sounds to lift the soul.
Amongst the particular characteristics of Libera are the innovative textures, and the expressive range of the vocals. Chillingly intimate and meditative soloists contrast with vibrant ecstatic harmonies, sometimes at the very limit of the vocal ranges. The music is inspired by the particular sounds of the boy singers, with their special vocal characteristics.
The young performers of Libera, who sing together at a church in South London, are recruited by Libera originator and writer, Robert Prizeman. They sing a wide range of music, including much from the classical cathedral repertoire, so they use the full range of their voices. Libera is not children’s music, even though the average age of the singers may be 12.
‘We couldn’t have made Libera by booking a group of session singers', says Prizeman. 'The music is a response to the sounds of these boys, with their personal characteristics. Libera came about as a sound and a style, which seemed to flow naturally from the voices. It was getting enthusiastic reactions at concerts, even amongst bigger choral works, so it gave us the confidence that there might be a wider audience for Libera. Sadly, choirs do not easily cross musical barriers. I just hoped we could create a music that would creep up on listeners, and they would appreciate it without prejudice.’
The young singers who come together to form Libera attend schools in South London, where, amongst their peer group, rapping is the more accepted vocal style. An active recruitment system trawls for talented youngsters who may never have considered the idea of singing. The local schools are very supportive.
Aside from their chart successes, the boys have a high-profile CV to bump up the street-cred with their school friends. They are in demand for sessions and have appeared on film soundtracks like Romeo and Juliet, Hannibal and Shadowlands and on adverts like Walkers Crisps and Honda. They have recorded with Björk, Neil Diamond, Elton John and Pavarotti, sung on TV with Russell Watson and Cliff Richard, appeared with Dame Edna, and even on the music of a Playstation game. Earlier this year they were the chosen choir to sing at the wedding of Aled Jones, one of the most famous boy singers of all time.
Featured on the new Libera album are stunning soloists including:
13 year old Steven Geraghty has been singing with the choir since he was 7. Top C’s and beyond have never been a problem, as exemplified in his pyrotechnic rendition of the Caccini Ave Maria, which includes some of his own improvised variations on the original melody. He is a talented aspiring composer himself and, fired with enthusiasm from sessions earlier in the year with film writer Hans Zimmer, is hoping to compose movie soundtracks.
13 year old Ben Crawley creates a picture with every note he sings, and is an exceptional artist as well as musician, with a voice and interpretation as distinctive and mature as performers many times his age.
Sam Coates is 12 and another budding composer who already has his own jazz ensemble. Sam often contributes his own harmonies and ideas to Libera.
The youngest singers in Libera are 8 years old. Boys often join the choir shortly after leaving infants school. The older members are 14, and they are joined on this album by some of the choir’s previous treble soloists, like Liam O’Kane, who sings some of the tenor backing vocals. Also featured on lower harmonies is Simon Beston.