Upon beginning his professional career as pianist and singer, Frederick William Wisker adopted the stage name Freddie
Northcoat and by 1934 had formed two choirs - "The Sixteen Singing Scholars" and "The Abbey Singers", and had assumed the stage name of Arturo Steffani. Around 1935 he picked
the best boys from the two groups and formed Steffani and his Silver Songsters.
The group originally comprised twenty-one boys aged between twelve and fourteen years and it is thought that most originated from the Tiger Bay area of Cardiff. The boys sang with many of the well-known stars of the day in theatres throughout the country and made a number of recordings in the mid to late 1930s. In 1936 they even appeared in a film, "Dodging the Dole". There were also broadcasts for the BBC and a five-week tour of Denmark, Norway and Sweden early in 1939. The schedule was always tough, performing at least twice daily
six days a week before moving on to the next town. Steffani's other choir, "The Harlem Pages", comprised a group of twelve black boys from the Cardiff area who sometimes appeared on the same bill.
The curtain came down on the Silver Songsters in 1947. Although most of the boys left show business when their voices broke, some remained and a few became quite famous, including Norman Vaughan, The Cox Twins and the whistler Ronnie Ronalde. Several recorded soloists also emerged from this remarkable singing troupe. Those featured on "The Better Land", Dai Thomas, Morris Stevens and Cyril Lewis, were trained by Steffani, although Lewis was not a member of the group when he made his record.
Arturo Steffani formed his Singing Scholars in 1934 and enlarged the group and changed their name to Silver Songsters in 1935. He did not form The Abbey Singers until 1937 when they toured with Florrie Forde in her revue "Swing is King" until it finished at the end of the year.
Norman Vaughan was not a Silver Songster - he was a member of another boys' choir called "The Twenty Eton Boys" who were under the direction of producer Tom Moss. (ref. Who's Who in Variety,1950). They were around in the early 1930's and gave Steffani the idea of forming his own choir.
For further information on the Silver Songsters see www.freewebs.com/silversongsters
Steffani's Silver Songsters Information on Steffani's Silver Songsters and other associated boys's choirs who toured the U.K. Variety theatres between 1934 & 1948
Steffani and his Silver SongstersAldwyn Humphries Recording dates: 4 July 1935 (tracks 17, 20); 29 Sept. 1935 (3, 6, 21); 19 Nov. 1935 (11, 12, 22); 1 July 1936 (7, 13); 3 July 1936 (4, 5, 23, 24); 7 Jan. 1939 (8, 14); 9 Feb. 1940 (1, 2, 15, 16); 18 May 1940 (9, 10, 18, 19); all in Decca studios.
This CD has now been re-released due to heavy demand.
Aldwyn Humphries Steffani and his Silver Songsters The soloist Aldwyn Humphries is named in R-Z catalogues, with organ accomp. & Steffani and His 21 Silver Songsters. Recorded 7 Jan. 1939. Advertised in The Gramophone in March 1939 and listed in R-Z catalogues up to July 1943.
This disc, retailing at 1/6, was reviewed anonymously in The Sound Wave (London, March 1939, p. 72) as follows: "Every boy soloist has sung these beautiful numbers by Mendelssohn (yes, I plead guilty!) and every boy has put his heart and soul into them. The unnamed boy who has put them on record here seems to be just lacking in something, but has everything else - words, voice and diction. The choir have evidently been drilled, and drilled, and drilled. They respond to their cues just like the Guards, one can almost hear their eyes go back with a click!"
This recording has been transferred to CD in two parts as tracks 14 & 8 (sic) with other recordings 1935-40 by Steffani's Silver Songsters (24 tracks in all) catalogue no. C100 published by the subscription magazine This England of Cheltenham: see their website www.thisengland.co.uk . The CD is of the kind which one either loves or loathes. (BJP)
Steffani and his Silver SongstersMorris Stevens A: Lay my head beneath a rose (song, 1926 by G. Falkenstein) (matrix TB2077) B: By the Lazy Lagoon (song, 1935 by A. Keuleman (or Kenleman), B. Bernard & P. Roberts) (TB2076) Both rec. 19 Nov. 1935 by Steffani and His Silver Songsters with piano accomp.
Steffani and his Silver SongstersLeyshon Watkins Recorded 29 Sept. 1935 by Steffani and His 40 Silver Songsters, with piano accompaniment. The soloist in the second piece is said to be Leyshon Watkins (see note in heading), but his name is not on the Decca recording sheet. (Matrix numbers TB 1928/29)
The second item has been reissued on CD by This England magazine as C100 (see Steffani's page for details).
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.