Robin Fairhurst was born in London in 1941. Already a singer with considerable experience, at the age of 14 he was selected to be the first Head Boy when the choir at London's Temple Church was re-established in 1955. At the Temple, he made a great impression as a soloist and remained Head Boy until his voice broke in 1957 at the age of sixteen.
Robin Fairhurst A: The Lord's my Shepherd (hymn: wds of Psalm 23 from "Scottish Psalter" of 1650 - tune "Crimond" by Jessie Seymour Irvine (1836-87) in "The Northern Psalter" (1872) where credited to the arranger David Grant, but now acknowledged to be by Irvine) (matrix DR19120) B: There is a green hill far away (hymn: wds Cecil Frances Humphreys (afterwards Mrs Alexander) (1818-95), publ. 1848 in "Hymns for Little Children" (pp. 31f; no music) where the first lines run "There is a green hill far away, /Beside a ruined city wall" rather than the now familiar ". . . without a city wall" (HA&M) - tune "Horsley" by William Horsley (1774-1858), publ. in "Twenty-Four Psalm Tunes" (1844)) (DR19119) Both rec. 24 May 1954, Kingsway Hall, London, accomp. Charles Smart, organ.
In a brief review in "The Gramophone" (Sept. 1954, p. 167) W.A. Chislett calls this a "very desirable" disc. "No one can quite replace Master Ernest Lough either in artistry or quality of tone, but Master Robin Fairhurst is the nearest approach I have heard for some time."
At this session a "special recording for Lord Beaverbrook" was made of A Few More Years Shall Roll (Horatius Bonar-Hayne) (DR.19121).
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: email@example.com Prices quoted in Euro and other currency on request.
Robin FairhurstDavid HemmingsMichael IngramLyn Vaughan Wandsworth School Boys' Choir A recording made in 1955 by Alleyn's School Choir / English Opera Group Orchestra with David Hemmings (as Sam), Jennifer Vyvyan, Nancy Evans, April Cantelo, Trevor Anthony, Sir Peter Pears, Michael Ingram [Michael Crawford] (as Gay Brook), Marilyn Baker, Robin Fairhurst (as Jonny Crome), Lyn Vaughan, Gabrielle Soskin,
Conducted by Benjamin Britten
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.