Saturday, August 21, 2010

Vienna Boys Choir Goes Pop

One of the most controversial, well okay, the most controversial CD I have in my collection is a 2002 release, The Vienna Boys Choir Goes Pop. I first learned of it when I saw three of the songs on another CD, Les Plus Belles Chorales D’Enfants, which is a great compilation album of lots of great choirs.

The three songs there were My Heart Will Go On, All You Need Is Love, and Eternal Flame. I liked all three and thought they were much better than the originals. I would rather listen to WSK than Celine Dion any day.

Other songs on the CD are perhaps less… wisely chosen. I’ve made no secret of my admiration for the Vienna Boys Choir, but I wasn’t anxious to hear them cover Talking Heads with Burning Down the House or Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. Actually, I kind of liked the soloist’s voice on the Metallica song. Their covers of Enya and The Police were pretty good, too.

If there is any disappointment in this CD it can’t be blamed on the boys, but is solely the responsibility of the director who chose the songs. I’m not saying that I didn’t like it, but a lot of people criticized it. Try to imagine WSK covering Prince, Madonna, Back Street Boys or Earth, Wind and Fire.

To make sure that it wasn’t just my opinion I went to to read some of the reviews there. They seemed to be one extreme or the other, one star or five stars. Here’s some comments:

“How Sad”, “Not their style”, “What horrid crap!”, “Perhaps the greatest gag gift ever”, “The worst CD ever”, “Are you people deaf?”

Those were one star comments, but several people praised it instead. They said, “Better with each listening”, “Wow!”, “I think it’s great”, “… It grows on you”.

There are a couple of comments from the boys themselves on the inside of the CD.
Matthias said, “I liked the project. It was fun to sing songs which you usually hear on the radio or on MTV.”
Josef said, “We weren’t sure initially how some of the songs that we normally just like to listen to would sound sung by us - but the result is pretty cool.”

The Vienna Boys Choir is very versatile and I think it’s fun to see them branching out and experimenting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Saw Libera

I just got back from Atlanta where I saw Libera perform at the Peachtree Presbyterian Church, a large complex in the swankiest part of town. It was really nice.

The thing I usually don’t like about general admission seating is that I never know what to expect about the size of the auditorium, what sort of crowd will attend, and what time to arrive in order to get a good seat without standing around for hours before hand.

This time everything worked out well. The place was pretty full and by counting the number of pews I estimated that there were around 500 fans in the audience. At ten dollars each that doesn’t add up to a lot of revenue so they made a low key pitch for donations.

I had hoped that Atlanta, a city of 2 million people, would turn out in bigger numbers for such a special occasion, but the people who did come were enthusiastic, even if they had never heard Libera before.

My friend and I headed to the balcony and grabbed the front row center spots. We had lots of elbow room, which is always good, and a great view of the stage. Despite the paucity of the ticket sales, Libera didn’t stint on their programs. They gave us full-color, eight page booklets with good pictures of all the boys who came. It was an excellent thing for them to autograph.

I was curious about which boys would be there and especially which veterans. Alex, Ben, Jakob, Jonathan, Josh, Liam, Sam and Tiarnan were all there plus 14 younger boys. Kavana and Freddie Ingles were excellent speakers and made us all laugh. Ben is always wonderful at clowning around.

When I saw Libera in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago the atmosphere was electric. The theater was packed with excited fans and so many people wanted autographs afterwards that the boys had to sign in shifts which meant that I only got half of the autographs that I wanted. This time I was determined make up for that so when we had coaxed an encore from the boys and everyone was standing up applauding I made a dash for the fellowship hall where, it had been announced, a queue would form after the show. I managed to buy a couple of things from the merchandise table and still was first in line for signatures.

While we waited for the kids to change and unwind we chatted with the church’s music director who told us that Libera wouldn’t be going home until Saturday so some fun activities had been planned for them. Someone was hosting a pool party and there was a chance of going to Six Flags Over Georgia. Fiona was ill, although you couldn’t tell it from her playing, and was flying back today.

I passed down the line with my program and all of the boys were super friendly and sweet. In Pittsburgh I got nervous and tongue-tied and forgot all of the things I wanted to say, but this time I was a lot more relaxed. I found out that they don’t actually get tired of people telling them how wonderful they are, that they are excited to be touring and meeting people, and that Josh’s little brother, Matt, will probably be on the next tour.

I also found out something that few other people know. This is a scoop. Remember, you saw it here first… Mini-Ben’s birthday is January 6th.
In other lists that I’ve seen of Libera birthdays, Ben’s was just listed as January, with the day unknown, so I asked him.
Okay, so I’m not really the first to find out, but I’m ahead of the BCSD site.