Michael Morley was known as the 'boy with the golden voice' as his 1950s records are quite exceptional. He was the first boy to record on LP for Decca and is one of the later boys featured on the CD series The Better Land.He was around 15 years of age at the time of his recordings.
Where is Michael Morley?
Stephen Beet has managed to trace most of the former boy sopranos who recorded on disc in the early-to-mid 20th Century and many of these boys' records have been featured in a series of CDs entitled 'The Better Land - Great Boy Sopranos of the 20th Century'. However one of the boys who features extensively has yet to be traced: Michael Morley.
He is not the Michael Morley who was Head Chorister at Christ Church, Oxford in 1953. Nothing was known at all about him until Stephen Beet found a scrap of paper in a file at the Caversham archives of the BBC stating that Michael had done several broadcasts in the Children's Hour and that his manager was Malcolm Parker from an organisation entitled Saturday Morning Concerts for Children based at 'Holmdale', Foley Road, Claygate, Surrey. His records would have been made during the early 1950s and he was probably the first boy to be recorded on LP as opposed to 78rpm disc.
A concert programme was found dated 29th July 1951. Michael appeared at the Manor Theatre Sidmouth, Devon, in a series of 'International Celebrity Concerts'. Michael is described as "England's Phenomenal Boy Soprano of Television and Decca Record Fame", and appearing with him were Thirza and Vivienne Wtsall -- Cello, Violin and Piano. Anyone living near Sidmouth may be able to investigate a little and help find clues leading to the discovery of Michael Morley. The programme mentions that Mr and Mrs. Roberts of the "St Helen's Hotel" kindly reserved accommodation for him.
Stephen Beet would be grateful for any leads. Email: email@example.com
Some details of the original issues below are taken from or confirmed in the Decca 78rpm "F" series discography compiled by Michael Smith (2003) and Decca archive microfilm (NSA).
Michael Morley Four items came from earlier 78rpm recordings (q.v.), the remainder were also recorded during the three sessions of 2, 5 & 10 April 1951. Additionally the LP has: "If I can help somebody" / "Mighty lak' a rose" / "On Wings of Song" / Brahms' "Lullaby" all with John Wills, piano.
Review in "The Gramophone" (Dec. 1951, p. 158) by J.F. [? John Freestone]: "Michael Morley has a very pretty voice, especially in its upper range, and he sings well in tune, and with excellent diction for the most part. His voice does, however, lack the steadiness necessary for some of the songs. In 'The lass with the delicate air' the obvious pause between 'delicate' and 'air' shows that he has been carefully taught, but he rather overdoes it, and the effect is not what was intended, I am sure. . . . [He sings] in a way likely to appeal to a wide public. The accompaniments are well done by John Wills, and the recording, apart from a few blasts, is good."
Details of the items not previously issued on 78rpm are: -- Mighty lak' a rose (incipit: Sweetest li'l' feller, everybody knows.) (song, 1901: wds Frank Lebby Stanton (1857-1927) - music Ethelbert Woodbridge Nevin (1862-1901)) (DR.16014-1) -- If I can help somebody (as I pass along = incipit) (song, 1945: Alma (Irene) Bazel Androzzo [Alma I. Thompson] (b. 1912), arr. George L. Zalva) (DR.15991-1) -- Lullaby (incipit: Slumber softly, good night.) (Johannes Brahms (1833-97): Fünf Lieder, op. 49 (1868), no. 4: "Wiegenlied" - Ger. wds of verse 1 adapted from the anthology of old German folksongs "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" in Karl Simrock "Die deutschen Volksbücher" (1851); verse 2 by Georg Scherer: Ger. incipit: "Guten Abend, gut Nacht" - here sung in Engl., transl. ?) (DR.15994-1) -- On Wings of Song (Mendelssohn (1809-47), op. 34, no. 2) (DR.16012-1)
Michael Morley A: Bird Songs at Eventide (incipit: Over the quiet hills, slowly the shadows fall.) (song, 1926: wds Royden Barrie (pseud. of Harry Rodney Bennett (1890-1948)) - music Eric Coates (1886-1957)) Rec. 10 Apl. 1951 (matrix DR16013-1) B: Bless this House (incipit: Bless this House, O Lord we pray. [orig.: Bless the House.]) (song, 1927: wds Helen Taylor (d. 17 Apl 1943) - music May Hanna Brahe (Mrs Morgan) (1884 [not 1885]-1956)) Rec. 2 Apl. 1951 (DR15993-1) Both with John Wills (sic), piano These pieces were also released in Nov. 1951 on Decca LP (10-inch) LM.4543 and are now on Amphion CDs "The Better Land" vols. 5 & 3 resp.
Michael Morley A: The Lass with the Delicate Air (incipit: Young Molly who lives at the foot of the hill.) (song, publ. anon. with seven verses in "The Universal Magazine" (London), vol. 31, p. 95 (Aug. 1762): wds date from 1740 or earlier - music by Michael Arne (c.1740-86)) Rec. 2 Apl. 1951 (matrix DR15992-1) Morley sings verses 1,2 & 7. B: Hark! Hark! The Lark! (serenade: F.P. Schubert (1797-1828): Ständchen "Horch, horch, die Lerch", 1826, D889 composed to wds by Shakespeare "Cymbeline" II.iii.22. The orig. German has verses 2 & 3 by Friedrich Reil; here Morley sings the Shakespeare verse twice in Engl.) Rec. 5 Apl. 1951 (DR16011-1) Both with John Wills (sic), piano. These items were also released in Nov. 1951 on Decca LP (10-inch) LM.4543 and are now available on Amphion CD "The Better Land" vol. 3 (erroneously dated to 1950).
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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]