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It's not the voices - it's the music
on 15 February 2010
It's not the voices that disappoint - average or not - but the choice of music. It seems that every time a new set of boy's voices have been discovered or founded, the same old warhorses are flogged to display their qualities, including Allegri's Miserere, Webber's Pie Jesu, Franck's Panis Angelicus and Fauré's In Paradisum, alongside a fair amount of New Age music. It seems that the producers are less inclined to follow less-trampled choral paths - which is indeed quite difficult with a treble choir of only three voices - as well as giving the average listener a choice of average songs and hymns. Nowhere is this clearer than in Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer in which the final stanza - O for the wings of a dove - is stripped from its choir, leaving just a (boy) soprano. Yes, music from the past should and could be approached with frankness, but here this is not done for musical reasons; Mendelssohn's piece is just stripmined to sell a boy's voice. The boy in question sings indeed like an angel, but the dove is sorely missing its wings. This is instant music for instant consumption, and it is just harder to accept knowing that England has 700 years of magnificent choral traditions, from Byrd to Britten, so to speak. So, why settle for mediocrity?