Celebrating 14 years of production with the newly-reset and re-issued Volume 1 & 2.
PRICES WHICH CANNOT BE BEATEN - £55 for the set (plus postage). Offer includes a FREE copy of Stephen R. Beet's book and guaranteed discounts on other CD's offered by Stephen R Beet.
This unique series of discs presents dozens of long-lost boy soprano recordings from the first half of the 20th century, many of which have not been heard since before World War II. The remarkable training technique which kept boys singing soprano until the age of 17 or 18 has nearly been completely lost, and these historical recordings are testament to the beauty and power of that forgotten sound. The success of "The Better Land" series, featuring boy sopranos of the 20th century has awakened interest in that great choir to which several of the boys belonged, the Temple Church Choir, and in the man who trained them. Several of the "boys" have been closely involved with the preparation of these CDs.
Pictured: Ernest Lough, Douglas Horton & Ronald Mallett, c.1927.
It always been a privilege in the past to include unpublished records if they meet the stated criterea and we hope to continue this tradition. Stephen Beet would be pleased to receive suggestions both from the UK and overseas.
To order CDs of The Better Land, please email StephenRBeet@gmail.com PayPal or personal cheques/checks are acceptable in any currency - all profit goes towards further research and preparation for the next CD.
In 1999 at Stephen R Beet's suggestion, and on the recommendation of Trevor Ford the then editor of the Royal School of Church Music journal CMQ (Church Music Quarterly), Amphion issued what was intended to be a single volume compilation of the recordings of the best boy sopranos of the 20th century. The title The Better Land was taken from the 1942 recording of that name sung by Master Denis Wright and the Kentucky Minstrels, the BBC Male Voice Chorus, which broadcast regularly from Bangor during the dark days of the Second World War.
It was Stephen R Beet's intention to include recordings of boys trained only in the traditional 'head tone' method of singing, so - as a consequence - many of the boys featured were singing either in the pre- or immediate post-war periods before training methods changed, and what was then described as a 'continental sound' introduced. There was no intention to exclude more modern recordings and several of the boys featured are from this later period. The fact that boys are no longer trained to use head tone has meant that most modern recordings had to be excluded. The demise of head-tone teaching has created innumerable problems for choirmasters in recent years: not only is the new choirboy tone 'an ugly sound' (so described by the celebrated alto and singing teacher Frederick Hodgson) but it is not a safe method; and it has led to the early termination of countless boys' singing careers, and also to spurious claims that boys' voices break significantly earlier nowadays.
So popular was the original The Better Land that a further five albums were to follow. The series excited a debate on the methods of training boys in particular and voice production in general. These issues are discussed in A Voice for Boys - The Key to the Better Land, published by Rectory Press and available directly from them or from the author at the e-mail address below.
When the original The Better Land CD was released, the majority of the artistes featured were still alive and so willingly gave their co-operation in the production. Now they have in the main gone to their rest, but have left behind them a great legacy, and a unanimous wish that their example should never be forgotten but stand as testament to what may be achieved given talent, correct training and dedication to the art of singing.
Amphion Recordings has granted to Stephen R Beet permission to continue the series and has agreed to co-operate with Stewart Orr Sound Services in the production of future volumes. We here present a revised and re-set version of volumes One and Two (the latter first issued in 2000) as a double CD album, making no changes to the track listings or content. But as better copies of some of the discs have recently been discovered we have taken the opportunity to substitute those for the originals.
It was thought not appropriate to reproduce the content of the two original CD booklets, but for full details of the lives and singing careers of the boys featured on The Better Land - Great Boy Sopranos of the 20th century please see the book of the same title by Stephen R Beet which may be had directly from him at StephenRBeet@gmail.com.
Those featured on this double-CD album include some of the most illustrious names in the recorded history of the boy soprano. Beginning with one of the first known boys to make a record, Walter Lawrence of All Hallows Church, New York we move on to present the fine early electrically-recorded discs of Frederick Firth from Norwich, the first boy known to have broadcast on the BBC from Savoy Hill, London in the early days of the wireless.
The tracks of John Bonner and his cousin Gordon Carter of Manchester Cathedral are fine examples of that old 'Cathedral Tone' so beloved of our forefathers; and the recordings of Master Denis Barthel stand as testament to the superb training the boys of the Temple Church, London received from their legendary choirmaster Sir George Thalben-Ball. Again from the 1930's we hear Trevor Schofield, Morris Stevens and Steffani's Silver Songsters, and the sentimental songs of Graham Payn who arrived in London from South Africa in 1930 to sing in the music halls and cinemas. The full-toned voice of Thomas Tweedie of Tyneside, the lyrical Robert Harris of Eastbourne, and the rich tones of Iwan Davies of the London Choir School are also included, as are the wonderfully expressive and artistic voices of those two great names of the 1940's and 50's - Derek Barsham and Billy Neely who each in his turn dominated the airwaves during the final days of the Second World War and the first years of peace.
Following a long search, the true identity of Master Leslie Day has now been discovered in the guise of Frank Yeomans. Each boy presented on this double album has his own story to tell and thankfully Stephen Beet was able to trace the majority of them in time to record their histories. Of all the boys featured just Derrick Jones remains to be traced.
Finally, we hear Denis Wright himself, the inspiration behind the title The Better Land. His records, although few in number, are some of the finest and most artistic ever made. Sadly several test pressings have been lost and the one remaining disc thought to have survived has not yet been retrieved form the HMV archives. Denis Wright died in January 2010 shortly after making a major contribution to Stephen R Beet's book A voice for boys - The Key to the Better Land and it is to him and to all the boys featured that we dedicate this album.
Copyright Stephen R Beet March 2012
This CD is available directly from Stephen R Beet only by e-mail at StephenRbeet@gmail.com
£16 plus postage
Track list as below.
The choristers of St Nicholas' College Chislehurst feature by popular request in their famous 'Brother James' Air and O Lovely Peace. Master Thomas Criddle's amazing voice has excited much comment by reviewers and singing teachers. ----------------
This disc is quite remarkable for the wide range of vocal qualities and styles displayed, spanning a period of nearly 60 years. The two tracks by John Gwilym Griffith (new to CD) are alone worth the price of the disc, being sung with exquisite tone, style and feeling. Walter Lawrence, the New York choirboy, shows us in a track from 100 years ago, an amazingly easy vocal mastery of coloratura in "Rejoice Greatly" (Messiah), despite the slightly hurried tempi necessary to fit the (abridged) aria onto a 4-minute disc. The French song on his other track is another example of excellent technique and breath control. Thomas Criddle again shows a very attractive, pure, clear voice and good style in his May 1943 items. Frank Bird (also newly on CD), sounding younger than his 15¼ years, is a fine example of the English parish choirboy between the wars.
Other tracks are perhaps not quite as pleasurable, but rewarding in their own way as historically illustrative. Michael Lumb and John Evans-Pugh sing in an over-refined or "precious" manner now outdated and probably not to most tastes. Robin Fairhurst lacks the necessary "steel" in his voice and has less than ideal breath control, while Raymond Kinsey (so prized in volumes 4 & 5) here sounds tired in a laboured account of Gounod's "Ave Maria". Mansel Squire's rendering of "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Messiah) is rather curious: worryingly hesitant and inexpressive, without the progress from conviction in the opening lines, through triumph to awe and wonder at Divine grace, which the very best singers bring to the piece. He is not helped by an uninspiring organ accompaniment. One can only assume that limited studio time precluded a re-take.
In summary, with a total playing time of 76 minutes this is a valuable document for those interested in the singing styles of boy soloists (both choristers and entertainers) since the earliest days of recording and the disc bears repeated careful listening.
Order directly from Stephen Beet to avail of the special price: Each CD is £10 plus postage.
The Better Land set of six CDs is £55 plus postage. (This includes a copy of Mr. Beet's book "The Better Land - In search of the lost boy sopranos." Please contact Mr. Beet StephenRBeet@gmail.com. PayPal address: firstname.lastname@example.org Prices quoted in Euro and other currency on request.
You can order the Better Land CDs directly from producer Stephen Beet for £10.00 plus post and packing. £55 for the set of 6 CD's (which includes, as a special offer, Stephen R. Beet's book "The Better land - in search of the lost boy sopranos" E-mail for postage quotes: StephenRBeet@gmail.com
PayPal address: email@example.com
Please make cheques payable to "Stephen Beet".
Master Derek Barsham Recorded 30 Apl. 1947 (AR11093 & 11094), with Gladys Palmer, contralto, Norman Lumsden, bass & London Symphony Orchestra cond. Stanford Robinson. Issued June 1947 on Decca K.1601. ["Better Land" the two parts separately in vols. 3 & 4]
Available from the producer at £10 plus postage, or £55 plus postage for the set of 6 CD's (which includes as a special offer Stephen R. Beet's book "The Better Land - in search of the lost boy sopranos"
Contact StephenRBeet@gmail.com Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Master Derek Barsham. Recorded 3 or 4 May 1946 with piano accomp. Live direct-disc recording at the Royal Albert Hall during the Boys' Brigade Annual Display, Physical Phantasmagoria. First issue on "Better Land" vol. 2.
Master Derek Barsham & Norman Lumsden, bass Recorded 30 Apl. 1947 (AR11093 & 11094), with Gladys Palmer, contralto, Norman Lumsden, bass & London Symphony Orchestra cond. Stanford Robinson. Issued June 1947 on Decca K.1601. ["Better Land" the two parts separately in vols. 3 & 4]
Individual CD's £10 each plus postage. The Better Land set of 6 CD's is available from StephenRBeet@gmail.com
Price £55 plus postage. Included in this offer is a FREE copy of "The Better Land - In search of the Lost Boy Sopranos" (retail value £10)
Paypal address: email@example.com
As well as chapters on Iwan Davies, Derek Barsham, and Denis Wright, amongst others there are also chapters under the following headings: The Temple Boys, The Manchester Boys, The Music Hall Boys, The Fleeting Boys, and The Broadcast Boys.
This book is available directly from the author: Contact StephenRBeet@gmail.com
Price £10 plus postage
This book is available for the cost of postage and packing only if the set of six The Better Land CD albums is ordered.