Tuesday, March 16, 2010


For the past several days I’ve been listening to Libera’s new CD Peace and I’ve been trying to figure out just what I think about it. I hate to say it, but it’s not my favorite Libera album. It’s nice, of course, very nice and pretty. It has those special Libera harmonies that we all love. The music and the singing are both just great.

I guess it’s just that none of the songs really stand out from the others. Even though I’ve played it a dozen times I still can only name a couple of them. All of the songs have a similar, slow tempo, which I suppose is intended to make us feel peaceful, like the title says.
I expected a few dramatic choruses like in Far Away or You Were There. It would have been nice to hear something powerful like Sanctus or a fun song like Orinoco Flow.

My favorite song is Exsultate which is an Irish sounding tune by Ben Philipp. He handles the bouncing rhythms like a pro.
Daniel Fontannaz sings a good version of Panis Angelicus.
I’m sure everyone has heard Sanctissima by now so you know how pretty it is. The others are similar.

As I said, all of the songs are pretty and it’s fun to hear the new boys getting a turn in the spotlight. There are new soloists but Josh, Tom and Ben are still going strong, too.
One interesting thing about the CD is seeing who is no longer listed as being part of Libera. The Cole brothers are gone and so is Zac Lockett, Joe Snelling and Michael V.
There are 26 choristers shown on the back side of the folding liner notes and their names are listed inside but I have no idea which boy is which. I think we need another DVD so they can introduce themselves again.

This is another Opendisc CD from EMI and it is supposed to give us access to other Libera information but my six-year-old computer won’t connect to it. My office computer tries to but the company filters prevent it. Maybe something there identifies the new boys. I suppose I’ll never know.

I'm sure everyong has their copy by now but in case someone doesn't,  buy the CD and support Libera. You’ll like it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Toronto Boys Choir

Springtime is coming fast and I’m ready. I volunteered again with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization and everything has been approved so now I’m just waiting for them to find a little friend for me.

I’ve already got a lot of outings planned, like the aquarium, picnics in the mountains, the amusement park and stuff like that. It’s going to be so much more fun with a boy along to laugh with me.

The way things are today he will probably be into rap music but I have a plan to steer him in a more classical direction. I have a new CD called Mr. Bach Comes to Call. It’s part of a series of CD’s for kids that includes “Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery”, “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” and “Mozart’s Magical Voyage”. There are several other CD‘s, as well.

The Bach one starts out with the NASA technician counting down the first Voyager launch, the first of two where they sent a craft into space carrying information about the Earth and it’s people. Besides the many pictures there was music, including several pieces by Bach.

On this CD a young girl is bored by practicing the piano so Bach magically appears and gives her some encouragement and demonstrations. He brings along some choir boys from the Toronto Boys Choir.
Bach talks about his life, his music and his family in a very interesting way and introduces her to some of his most popular music.
The boys are charming and it’s fun to hear them talk but they only sing one song and that’s the last one, “We Hasten, Cantata #78”. They do it so well it makes me want to hear more.

I can’t find out much about this choir and I have to assume that they have disbanded, which is too bad.

BCSD lists two albums, the Toronto Boys Choir, Volume 2 (1976) and the Toronto Boys Choir, Volume 3 (1979). They were founded in 1976 so it seems odd that there would be a Volume 1 and Volume 2 in the same year but it must so. Both of these albums are Jewish music and I would have to guess that Volume 1 was, also.

Interestingly, there is another album shown, “The Toronto Boys Choir-The Hanson Singers”, which is a traditional Christmas album.

I did find a website whose writer reports hearing from a former member of this choir and who says that some of the boys suffered abuse at the hands of Ned Hanson, who is now deceased.

All that BCSD has to say about them is this. “The Toronto Boys Choir, founded in 1976, allows boys to participate in a variety musical experiences, ranging from the most demanding classical repertoir and specially commissioned new works to cameo roles in SCTV and MGM movie production in Toronto.”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dresdner Kreuzchor

I knew I would have something better to write about. I do hate having negative things to say about choirs and CD’s so this post is more upbeat.

This 2005 CD is by that famous German choir, Der Dresdner Kreuzchor, and it’s called “Volkslieder” (folksongs), which is great for people who enjoy folk music, like me. There are 25 songs and many of them are quite short. One is only 61 seconds.

I want to quote a little something from the liner notes, “People kit themselves out with surround sound in their living rooms, CD and radio in their cars, MP3 players as they walk about, to be fed with synthetic sounds and perfect orchestral balance. Where can we find space for the original popular song, invented a long time ago, somewhere else and in some seemingly distant context, simply passed on from one singer to the next? More to the point: who can still sing such a song?”

The answer to that last question is Der Dresdner Kreuzchor. The writers go on to talk about the lyrics but the lyrics don’t mean much to those of us who don’t speak German. All of these songs are in German and are sung without instrumental accompaniment and it doesn’t matter at all. They are still really nice. I even recognized a couple of them, “Feinsliebchen” and “Der Mond ist Afugegangen”.

There are deeper, more mature voices on this CD but they are kept in the background, which is as it should be. The focus is on the treble voices. Altogether it’s a very rich sound and a lot of fun to listen to and another good thing about it is that, because it’s in German, I can’t sing along and ruin it.

The Dresdner Kreuzchor is from Dresden, Germany and goes back more than seven hundred years which makes it one of the oldest boys' choirs in Europe. It was founded as a school for Latin at the present Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross).
The choir has 150 members between the ages of 9 and 19. They perform mostly as a mixed boys' and men's choir, the number of singers depending on the works being performed. For guest performances, about 80 singers go on tour. Most of the boys live in a boarding school.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back at last

I hope you haven’t given up on me. Finally the big project at work is over and out the door. We had to work for three weeks without a day off and anywhere from ten to fourteen hours each day. I was exhausted.

Now I have the time to get back to the things I enjoy, like blogging, but there is another little problem. I don’t have any good music to write about. I’ve been listening to the CD’s that I received at Christmas and frankly many of them are sort of boring. I found these CD’s on Amazon and I had to search a lot to find music by groups that I don’t already have in my collection, because I like to sample new music. Unfortunately there isn’t always a good selection and I’ve wound up with some that I just don’t enjoy very much.

Two albums in particular have let me down. The first is one that I suspected I wouldn’t like but I decided to give it a try anyway. It’s the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys album “Most Sacred Banquet”, and the selections here are just too high-toned for my taste. I’m probably being cynical when I say this, but sometimes I think that choir directors choose music only to show that they have sophisticated tastes. Unfortunately, I’m not sophisticated enough so Poulenc’s “Exultate Deo” and Messiaen’s “O Sacrum Convivium” make me yawn. I find it hard to pay attention to Tournemire’s “Cinq Improvisations for Organ” without becoming distracted by my surroundings.

The second CD is “Favorites From the Past” by the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale. This is a live recording that would have benefited from some studio polishing. It sounds like the soloists are standing too far from the microphone and some songs like “God Bless America” and “My Country Tis of Thee” seem sort of unmelodic. “Ezekiel Saw the Wheel” is an old spiritual but here it’s lacking soul. “Philadelphia Pride” on the other hand is very nicely done so maybe show tunes are a better choice for this director.

I have to emphasize that there is nothing at all wrong with the singing on either of these albums. The boys are very talented and professional and they sound like violins. I fault the directors and arrangers.

However, don’t take my word for it. These may be the most wonderful albums in the world and the problem may be that I’m just tired. I prefer pretty music and I don’t hear it here.

The good news is that I’ve got new stuff coming in the next day or two so I will be posting something fun and interesting very shortly.