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Recordings

Angel Voices
14 Nov 2007

Libera — Angel Voices

"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."

Angel Voices

Libera

EMI Classics 0946 70523 2 7 [CD]

$13.99  Click to buy

So begins the short note on the inside of the booklet from Angel Voices, a new release on EMI Classics in the endlessly replicating lifeform called "classical crossover." if the emphasis on Libera being a band of boys doesn't produce a slight grimace of distaste, perhaps the page after page of photographs of the "lads," if you will, will begin to make one wonder to what particular demographic EMI Classics has aimed its marketing expertise. Their shining, smiling faces are caught in a blur of white, as they are posed before a white background and all war identical white jerseys. Is this in Michael Jackson's collection yet?

The CD booklet credits a Robert Prizeman as having directed and conducted the proceedings. He wrote some of the selections himself, with either title or some of the lyrics in Latin: "Salva me," for example. Prizeman has also arranged familiar melodies such as Sibelius's "Finlandia" ("Be Still, My Soul") and Gustav Holst's "Jupiter" theme from The Planets ("I Vow to Thee, My Country). In the end, everything sounds pretty much the same. Keyboards dominate, especially a bland synthesizer supplying an all-purpose harmonic haze. Occasionally a solo instrument, such as violin or recorder, will toot a few notes.

Shamefully, your reviewer must admit that despite all his reservations regarding the genre of classical crossover and this particular enterprise, Angel Voices actually does a decent job of fulfilling its own mandate (boydate?): presenting a suitable background for some lovely boys' voices in light, unchallenging fare. An hour is a bit much, but in small doses the singing of Libera has a purity of tone and sweetness in delivery that insists on pleasing the ears. Strangely, one of the least satisfactory tracks is repeated. There is a "radio edit" of Prizeman's adaptation of Dvorak's "Going Home" theme from the New World Symphony, and at the end of the disc comes the same performance except with the moody opening chords from the symphony movement included, all of about 20 additional seconds of music. The boys' aural loveliness here gilds the lily of Dvorak's melody, and a listener hearing this tune for the first time would likely never guess that it was long mistaken as a folk tune Dvorak appropriated from African-Americans.

Of course, any number of CDs are available of actual choirboys singing great music of authentic scores. Libera, as declared in the booklet note quoted above, make no claims to such status. This is a "boy band," and if unlikely to reproduce the success of NSYNC, at least Robert Prizeman's little legion of lads makes some appealing sounds.

Chris Mullins

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