Libera Historical Timeline Part 1: 1981-2007; Introduction and Overview

Last revised/updated on:
May 15th, 2020


This Libera history with video and photo illustration was begun in 2007, covers the period from 1981 to the present, and is continually updated as new information, links, and photos come to light. Part One, in addition to providing early history, also serves as an introduction to and overview of the Libera experience. 

This ongoing documentation is based primarily on multiple online sources and correspondence with Libera enthusiasts, with no formal connection to the Libera organization. 

 I welcome suggestions, questions, corrections, disputations, official photo credits, and potential additions to this material at 

Please Note:  More changes/photos/videos/links/updates to all parts of the Timeline  may appear at any time. As sites are continually being updated/revised, please excuse any temporary small errors. All photos/videocaptures that are not otherwise credited are from the Official Libera visual archives.

Also: this Timeline is best thought of as an illustrated, animated book series. Posts are added sequentially to the end, rather than to the beginning, of each blog section. It cannot be taken in all at once, so the best approach seems to be to read and enjoy a bit at a time, as with a book, and then return to it at convenient intervals.

I also apologize for any strangeness in spacing, margins, typeface sizes, etc. I'm a writer, not a techie, and importing text/photos, as I do frequently, creates some aberrations. I do my best to keep things readable.

A NOTE ON LINKS to VIDEOS  and FANSITES: Since the Timeline now contains hundreds of video links, and fansites come and go, it's inevitable that a few have gone inactive, and it's unrealistic to keep policing the entire work. If you come upon a rare inactive video link, Google "youtube libera" and the name of the song or video event in question. This will take you to a YouTube listing of all Libera videos under that name; it's also quite an interesting way to compare different versions—A. Hill
 (NOTE going into Part 13 of this Timeline, I realized that the accumulated tables of contents had grown long, unwieldy, and, in some cases, difficult to read. I've therefore transferred them to a separate link.

For the listing of Tables of Contents for each section, and some sidebar features, please go to:

For Part Two (2008-2009)

For Part Three (2010)

For Part Four (2011)

For Part Five (2012)

For Part Six (January-May 2013):

For Part 6A (May-December 2013)

 For Part Seven (January-July 2014)

For Part 7A (August-November 2014)

For Part 7B (December 2014)

For Part 8 (January-March 2015)

For Part 8A (January-March, 2015)  

For Part 8B (August-December,2015)

For Part 9 (January-July, 2016)

For Part 9A (July through December, 2015)

For Part 10 (January 1st, 2017 August 11th, 2017)

For Part 10A  (August 12th to December 31st, 2017)

For Part 11 (January 1st, 2018 – Present, please go to:

For Part11A ( October 21st to December 31st, 2018)

For Part 12 (January 1st to August 17th, 2019)

For Part 12A (August 18th-Present, 2019:

Part One: Overview and 1981-2007 

(An Unlikely Story)
(Libera Footnote: Pre-Angel Voices)
(Historical Note: Early Theatrical Hijinks) 
(But Why This Boys' Choir?)
(Libera Footnote: Early Recording Details)
(Libera Footnote: Recordings 2000-2007) 
(Digression: On a High Note) 
(Fashion Notes)
(Songs in a Memorial Key) 
(SANCTUS: A Diversion)
(Fan Tributes)
(The Event)
(The Music) 
(Libera Footnote: All In the Family)

                  Once upon a time in the early 1980s, Sal Solo, a snake-hipped, bald-shaven British leather/goth/pop/rock star, visited an Italian shrine called San Damiano (dedicated to St. Francis and a vision of the Virgin Mary with roses), had a religious experience, and wrote a song about it.

Sal Solo (born Charles Peter Smith) in wilder days with 1980s group Classix Nouveaux
"San Damiano," actually quite a pleasantly sincere, catchy and singable number, 
premiered in 1984 on a BBC-1 TV Christian-music program. As backup vocalists (in the interests of religious cred), Solo chose six ruffed-and-gowned choirboys from the small South London parish church of St. Philip's, Norbury, with its then-80-plus-year history of excellent boy singers. (At that point, three St. Philip's choirboys had recently placed in the top three of Britain's annual "Young Chorister of the Year" competition.)
1903 consecration plaque, St. Philips Church, Norbury; obviously a singing kind of place from the very beginning.

Happily, this performance was preserved on video: (San Damiano/Sal Solo/members of St. Philip’s Boys’ Choir/BBC-1/1984)

A toned-down Sal Solo performing "San Damiano" with row of St. Philip's choirboys on the right, 1984. 1981 British Choirboy of the Year Andrew Hopkins (see below) is third from R.

The song subsequently took off, made the British charts and was featured on England's Tops of the Pops in 1985 (with the entire St. Philip's Choir boy-treble section warbling angelically behind Solo). (San Damiano/Sal Solo/St. Philips Boys Choir/Tops of the Pops/1985)

This lineup included several boys from the 1984 video, as well as future standouts Jaymi Bandtok and Sam Harper.

Sam at left, Jaymi on the right
 The song hit #1 in several European countries; and was turned into another produced video. (The St. Philip's boys were replaced for Solo's 1985 European tour with a Warsaw boys' choir called Lutnia, but part of the Tops of the Pops footage was included.)

Sal Solo (R) with unnamed Lutnia choirboy in European "San Damiano" video (San Damiano/combined European-tour and Top of the Pops footage with Sal Solo/ St. Philip’s Choirboys/Lutnia/1985

His conversion obviously genuine, Solo subsequently devoted his talents to Christian music, and has recorded over a dozen more albums.

Libera Footnote: Historical Moments:

Here’s another historical glimpse, even further back, as St Philip’s choirboy Andrew Hopkins, 1981 British Chorister of the Year, sings Felix Mendelssohn's “O For the Wings of a Dove” in 1982 on BBC-TV's Sunday Best, accompanied by Sir George Thalben-Ball. (At this point, their combined recording of this well-worn classic had sold several million copies.) This rendition is in traditional "choirboy" style, in contrast to today's characteristic Libera blend of personality with musicality.  (solo/Andrew Hopkins “O For the Wings of a Dove”/Sunday Best/1982)

Hints of Early Theatrical Hijinks: In May of 2011, Andrew Hopkins himself posted several 1982 home videos (no longer available) of St. Philip’s Choir performances of the now-Libera-classic "Deep Peace/Gaelic Blessing" (sung in 1982 as part of a homemade show, Carry On, Choirboy), along with scenes from a costumed/choreographed performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. These segments featured Vincent Penfold (third place in the 1982 British Choirboy of the Year competition) singing in harmony with Hopkins himself (1981 Winner). 
These murky videos revealed clearly that a number of fairly elaborate musical productions staged by Robert Prizeman and the St. Philip’s Choirboys preceded Angel Voices' music videos and TV-show appearances by at least a decade.

But Why This Boys' Choir?
Parish Church of St Philip's, Norbury, South London
The primary reason for the odd emergence of so many superior boy singers from such a modest source as the St Philip’s Choir was its young director Robert Gordon Prizeman, a former chorister and wunderkind who had taken over the position in 1970 at age 18. At the time that Prizeman assumed leadership from former director Alan Tonkin, the boys' choir had few members and was not particularly active. That was to change fairly quickly, as Prizeman's talent and enthusiasm made the choir into a magnet for young singers, with the new leader demonstrating an uncanny ability, not only to choose promising singers, but to help formerly untrained boys find their voices and become accomplished musicians.

As time passed and choir membership and visibility increased, some influential folks at the BBC began to keep an eye on Prizeman and his growing composing/directing/arranging skills; by 1985, he had, among other responsibilities, become a musical advisor to the BBC-TV program Songs of Praise (for more on same, see below and in all Timeline sections).

The often camera-shy Robert Prizeman at age 57 in 2009
Under Prizeman’s direction, by the late 1980s the St. Philip’s lads had become go-to choirboys for occasional TV appearances, vocal backgrounds and/or music videos, and had begun to gain somewhat of a public following. These extracurricular gigs created a small dilemma for St Philip's church officials, quite understandably concerned that pop-idolatry was not an appropriate part of worship services.

 The occasional side excursion into the world of showbiz, however, provided a source of positive exposure for the church, healthy activity for the boys, and occasional royalties for the ecclesiastical coffers.

Thus, decisions were made, as years passed and demand increased, to allow the young singers to appear in Christian videos, holiday TV appearances and worthy BBC programs. In 1987, it was decided that those boys who chose to participate in these ex cathedra activities (not all did) were to be known separately as "Angel Voices." 

St Philip's Choir in a 1987 video, just prior to the formation of Angel Voices.
Here's an early made for-TV video shot in 1987, the same year that the "Angel Voices" contingent was formed. It includes the entire St. Philip's choir in traditional cassocks/ruffs/surplices, and is an exquisite example of the excellence that has always informed all Robert Prizeman arrangements and presentations, even those recorded more than two decades ago. Many familiar faces from subsequent Angel Voices productions are in evidence, including future producer Ian Tilley on the far left of the boys' section, next to Andrew Hopkins.  (Be Still My Soul/St. Philip’s Choir [boys and men] Songs of Praise, July, 1987)

Wacky Libera Footnote: (Optional, but fun)

Angel Voices on 1991 Going Live Christmas program
In spite of all good intentions, however, the following hilarious (and rather brilliantly done) holiday radio number featuring Angel Voices slipped through the cracks in 1990, apparently with the complicity of Maestro Prizeman, who is known for his puckish sense of humor. (For non-British folks: "Walking in the Air" is the theme from The Snowman, an animated feature that airs ritually on British TV each holiday season [see also section VII below]. "Wogan" was shorthand  for a popular chat-show hosted by Terry Wogan in the 1980s. A "gobstopper" is usually a large piece of candy, not a yo-yo, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a wildly popular animated feature. Liam O' Kane was the hapless soloist.)  (Christmas Wrapping by Tony Robinson and Angel Voices/Nico Polo Records 12/16/1990)

Early soloists Jaymi Bandtok (L) and Sam Harper (C) appear with Angel Voices at mid-day on Pebble Mill at One in 1988.

 Other notable repeat appearances for the evolving group were on a popular BBC-1 lunchtime magazine program called Pebble Mill at One (1988); Titchmarch on Song (1992); Thora on the Straight and Narrow (1993) (see below for more on Titchmarch and Thora); plus a number of appearances on the programs Blue Peter; Classic FM TV; Sunday Live; Christmas Cooks; and on a venerable (1961-present) BBC-TV institution called Songs of Praise, on which today's Libera is still featured. (A 2001 recording with Steven Geraghty [see below] as soloist, is the show's theme song.)

"SOP," as the name of this program is often abbreviated, started out as a simple black-and-white TV broadcast of a congregation singing hymns, but over the years, has branched out into color, fancy visuals, famous guest artists, specials, VIP interviews, and production numbers. It is currently watched by more people than attend actual church services in the UK, and is also beamed to Canada and Australia. 
From the first Songs of Praise broadcast on October 1st, 1961

American country singer LeAnn Rimes performs at the Songs of Praise giant 50th Anniversary broadcast in 2011 (See Part 4 of Timeline). Behind her, Libera fills the front rows of one section of the large backup chorus.
The video below shows the group's first official TV appearance on this program, as the St. Philip's Choirboys, presented  in July of 1987, with the game little tykes barefoot under the earliest draped version of what were to become Libera's trademark white robes (also seen on the  CD-cover photo below).

Barefoot boys in robes: Songs of Praise, 1987

Early Soloist Gareth Lowman
 Soloist Matthew Arthey

CD Soloist Robert Chee-a-Tow  (Light the Candles Round the World)/Solos by Jaymi Bandtock, Matthew Arthey, and Gareth Lowman/1987)

Many of the same boys as in the July video, along with virtuoso recorder player Michala Petri, backed singer Val Doonican in a delightful Christmas-broadcast number in December of 1987. (On the Way to Bethlehem/ St. Philip’s Boys’ Choir/Angel Voices and Michala Petri backing Val Doonican/December 1987)

As the Angel Voices contingent continued to evolve, one of their primary appearances in the early 1990s was on Titchmarsh on Song: A Musical Pilgrimage. This appealing program was a six-part travelogue-style series hosted by versatile TV personality Alan Titchmarsh, with the boys singing in and around England's landmark churches and cathedrals. The opening credits give a good view of early soloists Oliver Putland, Daren Geraghty and Gareth Lowman.

Opening credits for Titchmarsh On Song, 1992; Oliver Putland is the soloist (top photo); Daren Geraghty is at left in the bottom photo. (Opening Credits/Praise to the Lord/Titchmarch on Song/1992/ solo by Oliver Putland)

As demonstrated above, most of these earlier performances were and are quite watchable, if occasionally a tad heavy-handed; the Thora on the Straight and Narrow episodes in particular, a four-part series that took the lads through a kind of musical pop-up-book version of Pilgrim's Progress (with participation and commentary by beloved British actress Dame Thora Hird), sometimes tipped a bit overboard. Witness the sheer intensity of the mini-episode below, with the boys tearing into Mozart's "Dies Irae" (Day of Wrath). (Dies Irae/W. A Mozart, arranged by Robert Prizeman/Angel Voices on Thora on the Straight and Narrow, 1993)
Dame Thora Hird enters, stage left.

Frequently, however, the singers on Thora also got to kick up their heels in catchy religious-themed production numbers; the romp below, an adaptation of “We Beseech Thee,” from Godspell, was filmed in 1993.

Future soloists Liam O' Kane and Daren Geraghty as scruffy street urchins on Thora, 1992 (Father, Hear Thy Children's Call/St. Philip's/Angel Voices Ensemble/ music/lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak/1993)

 Angel Voices performing the same song on the concert stage in 1996 ...

...with planned reactions to the word "Guilty!" (Steven Geraghty is playing innocent in the center, Liam O' Kane about to bop him, Adam Harris to their right.)

It was in the late 1980s that certain of the young St. Philip's singers began to achieve a wider fame than that usually accorded to choirboys. One of the first soloists to appear on TV with Angel Voices (as seen above and below) was Jaymi Bandtock, appropriately angelic of looks and voice, performing Robert Prizeman's "Sing Forever,” which was released as a single in 1987. This song was chosen as the national 1988 UK "Children in Need" telethon anthem, hit Britain's Top 40, and became a hardy perennial number for the group.

Jaymi Bandtock, front and center with second-from-the top billing for the single "Adoramus;" Sam Harper is to the right of him, Robert Chee-a-Tow second from the last in the right-hand row. (Sing Forever, by Robert Prizeman/solo/duet by Jaymi Bandtock/Sam Harper/1988)

Jaymi Bandtok,1988

Sing Forever was also the name of the St. Philip’s boys’ first CD, released in 1988 on the MCI Label. (Their version of Robert Prizeman’s “Adoramus,” written with Ian Tilley, was also released as a single in that year.) Soloist on the CD were Bandtok, Jonathan Arthey, Sam Harper, Gareth Lowman and Mathew Arthey. Bass Ian Grimley also soloed on "The Lord's My Shepherd" (1.The Lord’s My Shepherd/ solo by Ian Grimley/ & 2. Footprints/solo by Jaymi Bandtok/1988/7:43)

It should be noted that Robert Prizeman frequently used the men of St. Philip's chorus as backup in the earlier albums, up to and including Free in 2004. For a complete discography and lists of soloists, go to:

Or: (Discography of St. Philip's Boys' Choir and Angel Voices releases/1987-1999)  (Discography of official Libera releases/1999-present)

(Photo credit and names for any of these boys would be appreciated.)

Angel Voices' second CD, New Day, released in 1990 (photo below in "Fashion Notes+ section), was the first to use the “Angel Voices” name, with a note inside mentioning that the group was also known as the St. Philip’s Boys’ Choir.

Libera Recordings Footnote: (Optional) In late August of 2011,  a compilation of excerpts from the first three Angel Voices CDs (Angel Voices I [1992-93], and Angel voices II [1996]) was re-issued as The Best of Angel Voices by a company called Varese Sarabande (the cover photo below is taken from the 1993 Angel Voices re-issue of the 1992 CD). The 16 songs on the 2011 release featured solos by Oliver Putland, Daren Geraghty, and a single appearance by Liam O'Kane (see below for details on all three singers). One of the songs on the CD, "Adoramus Te," was composed by Sal Solo. 

There were, by the way, to be at least five more CDs with "Angel Voices" in the title: a Christmas compilation called Angel Voices: Peace on Earth (2003); another Christmas-oriented album, Angel Voices III (1997); a 2006 CD called simply Angel Voices [revisiting the name at a time when the group itself had been firmly re-established in the public eye as "Libera;" the DVD of a 2007 PBS-TV broadcast (based on the 2006 CD) called Angel Voices: Libera in Concert; and, most recently, Angel Voices 2012, a compilation also known as the "Japan Commemorative CD." Confused yet?

Although the faces on the photo above (used for the 1993 re-issue of the first Angel Voices CD) are well-known from YouTube videos of early Angel Voices TV appearances, not all here have been identified by name. Oliver Putland, frequent soloist at this time, was absent at a recording session when the photo was taken, but he identifies soloists Glen Tilen (front row, 3rd from L), Daren Geraghty (4th from L. and Anthony Maher (front, 3rd from R). According to Putland: "The blond boy just above Anthony Maher was Luke something [thought by many to be Luke Avery, a Libera staff member in the 2000s]], and the tallest boy in the back row was called Brandon."

Jaymi Bandtock's 1988 co-soloist, the often-underrated Sam Harper, appeared frequently as second voice with Jaymi and other top singers, soloed on the Sing Forever CD, and seems to have had a talent for showing others to advantage. (Note: although the titles on the slightly murky telecast below (from the Children In Need television fund-raising program with Terry Wogan hosting) have been post-edited to read "Libera," it definitely took place in the St. Philip's/Angel Voices era of the late eighties.) As an added visual perk for Libera-watchers, a very young Ian Tilley, who would go on to play a vital role as producer, instrumentalist and songwriter with Libera, appears at Harper's shoulder around 0:30 in the video above.

 (L) Jaymi Bandtok and Sam Harper duet in 1988 on Pebble Mill at One. (R) Sam Harper) with Ian Tilley at left on Children in Need broadcast.

Another early soloist was a handsome boy named Oliver Putland, who joined the St Philip’s Choir at age six in 1987 and had a brief (late 1991-93) but outstanding stint with Angel Voices. Putland is shown below in a short Titchmarsh on Song interview with a teenaged former choirboy star named Aled Jones (remember that name), and then, as part of the same series, singing a lead part in Robert Prizeman's arrangement of Andrew Lloyd Webber's diabolically simple "Pie Jesu," joined by stalwart second-voice Anthony Maher and by Daren Geraghty, another of the Angel Voices' earliest front-line soloists. The setting is St. Alkmunds Church in Shropshire.

Oliver Putland, 1992

Daren Geraghty in 1995

Anthony Maher, 1993 (Pie Jesu/Oliver Putland/Daren Geraghty/Anthony Maher/1993)

Despite the relative brevity of his Angel Voices career (which took place in the pre-tenor-section era), Oliver Putland displayed a formidable talent: out of the 20 songs on the 1992 Angel Voices CD, he performed as first soloist on 14 of them, leading some wags to designate this his “solo album with boys' chorus.”

The selection below gives two versions (from the 1990 and 1992 Angel Voices CDs) of the lovely song "Sailing," with a rare-on-YouTube solo by early Angel Voices member Gareth Lowman, and a second version by Oliver Putland. An interesting progression to observe is the increased sophistication of both solo work and arrangement in just two short years during this era of change, concentration, and frequent performances by the group.

Gareth Lowman, mid-1980s (Sailing [Sutherland, arr. R. Prizeman] from Angel Voices 1990 [solo by Gareth Lowman] and Angel Voices 1992 [solo by Oliver Putland])

The 1992 CD was re-released in 1993, still under the name of the St. Philip’s Boys’ Choir, but with a different cover (see photo on "best of" compilation above). Putland currently works as an actor and animator, and in May of 2011, wrote a reply, full of memories of his Angel Voices years, to an email sent by Lexi, Chicago-based coordinator of the fine Mini-Angels blogspot.

Oliver Putland, grown up  (Copy and Paste if link doesn't work on your viewing site)

 An excerpt of Putland's delightful commentary:

"Most of the time, if a TV show wanted the choir on it, I would be placed at the back or at worst, left out altogether.

This wasn't because I couldn't sing. On the contrary, I've always had perfect pitch and can hear a duff note in a choir of thousands. My problem was I couldn't keep still. In most of those appearances, we were required to appear like angelic monoliths, resolutely singing into a mystic ether of dry ice-framed limbo. While all the others stood with a solemn gaze into the middle distance as if in saintly reverence, I jittered about like a grasshopper with the equally saintly reverence of St Vitus. It was only when I was about ten when my body finally calmed down and my volume increased that I became a viable option for Robert Prizeman (our Choirmaster) to put me more centre stage in his productions."
And that angelic blue-eyed blond child who answered Thora’s question about the nature of hell, and pranced winsomely to end the Godspell production number? Remember that face. The Great British Public did, and little Liam O' Kane became one of the first Angel Voices to more or less star in his own music videos.

(Above and below: Littlest Angel Voice Liam O' Kane in 1991 and 1993)

(Libera Footnote: The four boys in the video below [Liam O' Kane, Glen Tilen, Anthony Maher, Daren Geraghty], along with Oliver Putland, formed the entire solo roster for both the Titchmarsh on Song and the Thora on the Straight and Narrow Angel Voices appearances. Both series were shot in compressed periods of time during school vacations in July of 1992 and 1993.)

Soloist Glen Tilen on Thora, 1993

The following song was actually recorded by Christopher Robin Milne (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame) as a child and became a torment and embarrassment to him when he went away to school and one of the other boys had a phonograph record of it. After surviving bouts of teasing with dignity, the young Christopher Robin was allowed to ceremonially smash the record. (Christopher Robin/solo by Liam O' Kane; chorus: Daren Geraghty, Anthony Maher/Glen Tilen/1993)
L to R: Daren Geraghty, Anthony Maher, Glen Tilen

Over time, young Liam O' Kane developed that childish soprano into one of the finest voices ever to come out of St. Philip's. In the video below, he's in angel-faced top form at age 12 in 1997, standing on a chilly rock formation in Matlock Cave in Derbyshire and soloing in Robert Prizeman's spine-tingling "Salva Me," which would become another of Libera's signature pieces. The high descant notes (now one of the group's recurring trademarks) are sung by the crystalline-voiced Adam Harris.

Adam Harris

The ever-luminous Liam O' Kane (Salva Me-Liam O' Kane/Descant by Adam Harris/1997)

Another small blond boy, Steven Geraghty (younger brother of Daren), can be seen at the left side of the first chorus row in the video, poised to emerge as a strong high-note solo presence. The two talented brothers were to appear onscreen together only twice, in a blurry 1995 performance of "Libera/De Profundis" for the TV program Blue Peter, and in the ABBA video below. 

This is one of Angel Voices’ more professionally produced music videos, and another of the group’s initial incursions into pop music, with an ethereal take on ABBA’s “I Have a Dream.” (Other pop composers whose work was recorded by Angel Voices included Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lionel Bart, Enya, Joe Cocker, Jennifer Warnes, Cat Stevens, Josh Groban, and Barry Manilow.) 
 (L to R) Baby Voices Liam O' Kane, Alex Baron, and Steven Geraghty in ABBA's "I Have a Dream," 1995

 The resulting video is interesting in that it includes close-ups of so many of the early solo “stars:” Liam O’ Kane, Gareth Lowman, Adam Harris, Steven Geraghty, Daren Geraghty, Oliver Putland, Glen Tilen, and Anthony Maher. Liam O' Kane is principal soloist.  (I Have a Dream/solo by Liam O’ Kane/c. 1995)

The curly-haired child standing next to Steven Geraghty in the 1997 "Salva Me" video (and behind him in the poster below) is his best friend Sam Coates, who, like Steven, is still very much associated with Libera. Sam's voice changed early, but he seguéd neatly into a role as the group's electronics wizard and sound engineer, while Steven continued as accompanist and staff member. In 2014, the duo received second billing on concert programs (following Robert Prizeman) as assistant musical directors. In 2015, Sam Coates was credited with three arrangements performed on the Libera in America CD/DVD, and his brilliantly lively work features in at least half of the 2019 Christmas Carols With Libera CD.

Libera longevity: Steven Geraghty and Sam Coates (top and on poster) as little Angel Voices in 1997; (center) as Libera singers in 2002; and (bottom) working in the studio with soloist Josh Madine in 2009. Both have been on the Libera staff since retiring from onstage performance with the group.

(Optional but Historically Interesting) 
The video below is of "Salva Me" as performed live in 1999 on the then-popular Blue Peter children's TV show. The quality is poor, the acoustics are unkind, and new soloist Steven Geraghty (who took over the part from Liam O' Kane) was not having his best performance, but it does show Libera in the throes of transition from their Angel Voices identity. A much-taller Adam Harris had not yet vocally grown out of the high "Salva" descant that he performed in the 1997 video above.
 Angel Voices/Libera singers Alex Baron and Chris Turner, Blue Peter, 1999

The five front-row singers in the video are Alex Baron, Chris Turner, Steven Geraghty, Sam Coates and Liam O' Kane. Behind Sam, at around 2:25, a very young Simon Lewis and Robert Ogilvie can be seen, and a surprisingly small Ben Crawley  (see several paragraphs below for why this is surprising) is on the right end of that line. The older boys, some of them original Angel Voices, were, for the most part, left behind in the next two Libera years. (Salva Me 1999 on Blue Peter TV show/descant by Adam Harris/Solo by Steven Geraghty)

(Optional but outstanding) Here's another piece of exquisitely straightforward singing by the young Liam O' Kane (who went on post-Libera to perform with a British ska band and start his own recording career). This video was filmed in London’s Highgate Cemetery in 1998.  (How Can I Keep From Singing (Lowry/Santay; arr. R.Prizeman): solo by Liam O' Kane/Vision TV program/1998

Liam O' Kane, MySpace publicity photo c. 2011 (print interview with Liam O’ Kane/6/2012 /LeftLion interviewer: Parisa Elliott)

Meanwhile, quiet little Adam Harris also grew up within the Angel Voices ranks to become an even more accomplished and unaffectedly beautiful Libera soloist in his teenage years. This moving Robert Prizeman composition appeared in 2000, on a September 15th Songs of Praise anniversary program commemorating the Battle of Britain. It was filmed at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Câpel-le-Ferne, located near Folkestone in Kent.

Adam Harris, 2000  (Lux Aeterna/solo/second voice by Adam Harris/Steven Geraghty/2000)


Simon Lewis and Robert Ogilvie in background of one of the group's first appearances as Libera (Blue Peter, 1999)

By the mid-to-late 1990s, in spite of occasional holidays in the world of pop music, Robert Prizeman had begun to grow a little restive within the confines of choirboy convention, ordinary musical accompaniments, and the overall British perception of boys'-choir music as "churchy, hidebound, and, frankly, not very exciting." Fortunately for the future Libera, the boys' choir at St. Philip's Church, which was then less than a century old, was not yet mired in the set-in-stone traditional approach of many English choirs founded as church institutions in medieval and Renaissance  times.

In a 2013 interview, Prizeman explained:

"To be honest, we didn't sort of come up with some incredible visionary plan. It just emerged out of things that we were doing, and it seemed fun to do choral things in a slightly different way. I was a soundtrack composer, among other things, so it was kind of natural to use all sorts of different sounds—orchestral and keyboard and drums and lots of other things in the music. So it's not choirboys with a beat, but it is choirboys with a good range of different instruments and different sounds. And the ways that the boys harmonize with each other is quite distinctive, really, but it's using the sounds of the treble voices that hark back to ancient choral traditions of the church."
Robert Prizeman on a 2010 tour

Prizeman began composing and experimenting with arrangements for his ideal choir, a boys' group that would be free to perform any kind of choral music, escaping ecclesiastical and classical limitations, while using boy-treble voices in unexpected new ways. In 1999, his experiments resulted in the evolution of the Angel Voices choir to "Libera," a group whose very name means "free." This was, however, not a uniformly smooth procedure:

Libera Footnote/Early-Recording Details:  (Optional) In 1995, Robert Prizeman released, on the Warner Classics label, a single of his original song, "Libera” (taken from the “Libera me” and “De Profundus” sections of the requiem mass), and a CD (also called Libera). that contained seven remixes of the same piece. The first four tracks featured the Angel Voices group under the name of Libera for the fist time, with Daren Geraghty as the main soloist. One can see from the titles that Prizeman was in full experimental mode. 

Libera (1995)
1. Rjb Radio Mix (soloist: Daren Geraghty) 
2. Soulful Radio Mix (soloist: Daren Geraghty) 
3. Old School Mix (soloist: Daren Geraghty) 
4. Power Mix
5. Tintinout Club Mix 
6. Goan Moon Mix 
7. The Secret Knowledge Fallen Angels Mix

The "Libera" name, although first used briefly by the group in 1995 (see above and below), was not to become official until 1999, when they released a self-titled CD, also on the Warner Classics label. Liam O' Kane and Steven Geraghty can be glimpsed at the end of the TV commercial promoting the album. (Short commercial promoting Libera CD/1999)

With each name change there was usually a year or so of overlap and confusion, especially as the group also switched record labels several times, recording for MCI as St. Philip’s Choir and Angel Voices (Angel Voices 2 was released in 1996 and Angel Voices 3 in 1997, both by MCI). The group’s involvement with Warner Classics began/coincided around 1995, and continued until the move to EMI in 2004. In 2013, after a year or so of being tossed around in various corporate mergers and acquisitions, EMI became part of a group calling itself Universal Music, which then re-assigned Libera to—Warner Classics. In 2017, beginning with the Hope CD, the albums were produced by a company called Invisible Hands, an independant record label based in the Soho district of London.

Here's another early "historical" moment—a 1995 appearance, on ITV’s Sunday Live. (Here the boys participating are calling themselves “Libera,” though the larger group continued to record as Angel Voices through 1997) This video features their first "boy band" imitation (obviously influenced by early "Thora" appearances), performing "Libera" (the song), and trying to find a place in the world of pop before they (quickly) discovered that what they did best in the realm of music was to be themselves. 

Daren Geraghty and friends bust a move as the newly-minted
 "Libera" on ITV in 1995.
This version is mildly embarrassing, but also gives us at least the first names of several nebulously identified boys who were in the group at that time: L to R in the interview: Richard (last name unknown), Kit Weston, Chris Baron, Daren (Geraghty) and Gary Francis, all 12 years old with the exception of the 14-year-old Daren. (In the short interview that follows, by the way, one of the boys uses what sounds like a common obscenity; what he's actually saying is "funked up.") (Libera/Early boy-band attempt/solo by Daren Geraghty/1995/interview by Gloria Hunniford.)

Possibly another early attempt to portray Libera (c. 2001) as an up-from-the-streets boy band. L to R: Steven Geraghty, Joseph Sanders-Wilde, Matthew Horsewood, Sam Coates, Raoul Neumann, George Tarleton, Ben Crawley, Robert Ogilvie, Jake Shortall, Alasdair Gordon, Chris Robson, Simon Lewis, Joe Platt (photo by James Harrison).

(Editor's Note: Sometime in the mid-2000s, the following tag line appeared in a London Evening Standard review of the group: "They come from the mean streets of South London, but sing like little angels." This line struck some sort of popular chord, and has been repeated frequently in reviews and outside advertising through the years, appearing as late as their spring tour poster in 2014. In fact, though the boys come from many different backgrounds, none, as far as is known, have been rescued from the "mean streets" [unless one counts the suburbs],  and the majority appear to reflect distinctly lower-middle-to-upper-class origins. It's a catchy line, though.)

Sam Coates, Steven Geraghty, Ben Crawley, Anthony Chadney, Matthew Horsewood, Raoul Neumann, and Chris Robson get their street faces on, c. 1999.

A break during the recording of Luminosa, 2001 (L To R): Raoul Neumann, George Tarleton. Jake Shortall, Robert Ogilvie, Joe Sanders-Wilde (seated), Steven Geraghty, Alisdair Gordon, Simon Lewis, Anthony Chadney, Joe Platt seated), Matthew Horsewood, Ben Crawley, Chris Robson.

Another interesting transitional video was made in 2001, after the permanent shift from Angel Voices to Libera mode had taken hold. Robert Prizeman’s arrangement of “Te Lucis,” also known as “Vespera,” ties together the "old guard," in the form of Alex Baron, Simon Beston, Grant Smith, Liam O' Kane, and one other former Angel Voices singer performing as adult males (a Prizeman choice on several arrangements of this era before the incorporation of a lower-voice section into the actual group), while Steven Geraghty soloed and then-newcomer Ben Crawley took on the soprano descant.
This song was later revived for the 2011 concert season (See Part Four).

Alex Baron, Simon Beston, Grant Smith, Liam O' Kane, ?.  (Te Lucis /Vespera/solos by Steven Geraghty/Ben Crawley/2001)
Libera’s somewhat basic rendition of “Te Lucis” was embellished to great dramatic effect several years later, as Libera backed former boy soloist Aled Jones in a glorious production number on the 2003 Classical Brit Awards show. A poised Joe Platt sang the spine-tingling soprano descant. Platt would go on to be one of the group's finest soloists and descant singer.

Dramatic setting for Aled Jones and Libera performing "Te Lucis" (Vespera/TeLucis/Aled Jones/Descant by Joe Platt/Classical Brit Awards/2003)
Joe Platt
Libera Footnote: Recordings 2000-2007

Following the 1999 Libera CD and the name change from "Angel Voices" to "Libera," the group slowly began to find its stride in the recording studio as well as on the TV/video screen. 2000 saw them doing extensive soundtrack recording for the eerie Hollywood film Hannibal

In 2001, both the exquisite Luminosa CD and the Songs of Praise TV theme appeared

2002, a year filled with live and video performances, also saw Libera teaming up with Libera enthusiast and former boy soloist Aled Jones on a CD called Aled. They also appeared extensively on a trendy recording with the amusing title of Monastery of Chant: The Essential Guide to Classical Chillout

 In 2003 the Libera and Luminosa albums were re-issued by Warner Classics as a two-disc set called The Complete Libera, and the boys again backed Aled Jones on his CD Higher.

In 2004, the group's first year with EMI Records, they recorded Free, from which one song, "Voca Me," was chosen for inclusion on Harmony, the official Athens Olympics classical album.  Ben Crawley sang on the soundtrack of a film of The Snow Queen (directed by Paul K. Joyce). Here is a section of the film, with Crawley singing an entirely different version of "Do Not Stand" from those subsequently recorded by him, and by Tom Cully (See Leiden concert below for the later versions). (Do Not Stand from The Snow Queen/solo by Ben Crawley/ 2004)

Libera also sang backup for Aled Jones on Aled Jones: The Christmas Album. Free was released in modified forms in both Japan and Korea.

2005 saw another solo appearance by Ben Crawley in a film of The Merchant of Venice, with Libera also appearing briefly on the soundtrack. Libera also recorded their own Visions CD and were heard extensively on The Songs of Praise Album in selections taken from earlier recordings.

Ben Crawley (r) dons doublet and wig to sing "Song for Bassanio" in a 2005 film of The Merchant of Venice. It appears that either the camera perspective was adjusted, or Crawley was kneeling on something, as he had reached his full height of 6'5" by then. (Song for Bassanio/solo by Ben Crawley from film soundtrack of The Merchant of Venice, 2005/music by Jocelyn Pook)

In 2006 the Libera group's CD, now an annual undertaking, was yet another with the title of Angel Voices. Following an initial 2005 tour in Japan and Korea (see below), 2006 also saw the first of many only-in-Japan Libera releases, Welcome to Libera's World, a combination of new and earlier recordings.

Among an increasing number of appearances in 2007, The boys traveled to Leiden, Holland to record a combination TV show (for the American PBS network) and concert DVD/CD called Angel Voices: Libera in Concert (see Section IV below). Soloist Tom Cully also appeared on the soundtrack of a British film called Foyle's War, and on a CD called Silence, Night and Dreams. Music for both was composed by Zbigniew Preisner. (Tom Cully sings in background of film Foyle’s War/2007/music composed by Zbigniew Preisner)

Another movie-score appearance was in the 2007 French film "A Secret" (Un Secret), the story of a love triangle during the Nazi occupation of France as seen through a young boy’s eyes. The music was by Zbigniew Preisner.  Robert Prizeman is credited as Choir Master. Libera is credited as Children's Choir, with the soloist un-named.  A segment may be downloaded here. (“Holidays Before the War” from Le Secret/2007/Libera credited as “children’s chorus”)

The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film - 2008 National Board of Review, and was presented at the 2007 London Film Festival, the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival, the 2007 Montréal World Film Festival, and the 2008 New York Jewish Film Festival. ‪ (New York Times review) 

Details of subsequent recordings can be found in parts 2-5 of this Timeline. A link to a complete listing of all Libera appearances on non-Libera/non-collaboration-with-other-artists CDs can be found in Part V below.

Digression: On a High Note

Adam Harris

The slightly unformed sweetness of Steven Geraghty's voice, as heard above in the first “Te Lucis,” soon matured into an instrument capable of impressive musical pyrotechnics, as evidenced by this breathtaking performance (taken from Libera’s 2001 Luminosa CD) in a version of "Ave Maria" that is usually attributed to Giulio Caccini, but was actually composed in 1970 by Vladimir Vavilov. The video clip is accompanied by still photos of the then-current singers. Maria [Caccini/Vavilov]/ solo by Steven Geraghty/2001)
Steven Geraghty

For comparison, here is a composition by Robert Prizeman, who recreated and simplified "Ave Maria" for concert use; it's here exquisitely (though less showily) sung in 2005 by Conor O’ Donnell, who otherwise provided second harmonies and descants and/or stayed pretty much in the background. Up-and-comer Tom Cully, who would  eventually record the Caccini "Ave Maria" lead part, sang the second harmony here, the two boys’ voices blending almost seamlessly.

Conor O' Donnell and Tom Cully, 2005 (Ave Maria [Caccini/Vavilov]/ solo/harmony by Conor O’ Donnell/Tom Cully/2005)

Libera Footnote: This version of "Ave Maria" was to become beloved Liberan Tom Cully's all-time favorite piece. He continued carrying the second part for several years, singing it with Ed Day for the Leiden PBS concert ( /Leiden/Ave Maria/Caccini-Vavilov/ Solo/second part by Ed Day/Tom Cully/2007), only to emerge at age 14 as a mind-blowing soloist in the 2008 version of the Caccini "Ave Maria" from the New Dawn CD. It's hard to recognize the joking imp of early videos and interviews in the singer of this breathtaking, mature, and definitive rendition of a signature piece. (See "Fan Tributes," below, for more on Tom Cully's career).The song was recorded once again on the 2018 Beyond CD, with Gabriel Collins taking the solo part. (Ave Maria/Tom Cully/ New Dawn 2008/with Fiona Pears and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra)

This "sampler" of the 2018 CD Beyond leads off with the Caccini "Ave Maria" performed beautifully by Gabriel Collins (2012-2018) (Samples from Beyond CD/2018/12: 57)

            Tom Cully in 2007

Conor O’ Donnell also excelled at high descant work, as evidenced by this YouTube presentation of “Recordare,” a Robert Prizeman-arranged piece of traditional plainsong in which O' Donnell performs beautifully and hits a creditable high B. The lower soloist is Joe Sanders-Wilde, whose earlier descant career took him to high C. The song is combined here with impressive computer-generated video/light imagery.

Joe Sanders-Wilde  (Recordare/descant/solo by by Conor O’ Donnell/Joseph Sanders-Wilde/from Visions CD, 2005 or Angel Voices CD, 2006)

For a brief period in the late 2000s, Libera live-concert audiences were treated to a between-songs demonstration of singers’ ranges, moving from lowest to highest in a line, with the high trebles garnering most of the gasps and applause. This was a relatively short-lived “bit,” possibly because of the “show-off” factor and implied competition, although a full-group demonstration of warm-ups and high scales was re-introduced briefly in 2013. 
Tom Cully (R) with Ben Philipp, reacts during a meet-and-greet when a fan asks him to sing one of his famed high notes, c. 2008.
While it’s very clear that the group's distinctive sound is created by the entire range of voices (rather than being just a distracting demo of “how high can they go?”), those soaring upper-register treble notes are, after all, one of Libera’s trademarks, and boys who can hit high B and above without straining are very much sought after in auditions. 

In the mid-2000s, a fan who went by “merewynbramble” compiled what she called “The Libera Ladder of Really High Notes,” which now resides in the fine AngelVoices database

Four of the exquisite übertrebles of 2008 (Ed Day, Tom Cully, Josh Madine, and Liam Connery) go for their highest notes in J. S. Bach's demanding "Air on the G String."
("Air on the G String" by J.S. Bach/New Dawn CD, 2008)

According to the "Ladder," the highest note ever hit on a Libera recording up to that time was an amazing E-flat-above-high-C, in a never-videoed Robert Prizeman/Ian Tilley piece called “Sancta,” recorded on the group’s first Libera CD in 1999. Liam O’ Kane is listed as soloist, but as the big note came during a choral section, he isn’t officially credited, especially as his “official” recorded high was a B-flat. (The singer of the note may have been brilliant descantor Adam Harris, who, however, is not credited with other recorded notes in the high B-flat to E-flat range)

Liam O' Kane

In that range, five other singers—Steven Geraghty, Ben Crawley, Joseph Sanders-Wilde, Liam Connery, and Tom Cully—regularly achieved high Cs up to the time of the Ladder's compilation. The amazingly unassuming Joe Platt could, and frequently did, hit it out of the park with a D-above-high-C. 

Joe Platt joined the group in 2001, and soon displayed an exquisitely pure and precise voice and talent for descant/solo work that made the 2001-2006 years an astounding era for high-treble solos, especially as his good friend Joe Sanders-Wilde was almost able to match him note for note, and other greats like Ben Crawley and Steven Geraghty were in the mix. Future changes in arrangements may have been influenced by the fact that no one could match Joe P. for sending chills down the spine with his unearthly descants( In several numbers, he was replaced by a flute or violin).

Since that list of highest notes was made, a number of boys may also possibly have qualified for it: Liam Connery, Ed Day, Joe Snelling, Stefan Leadbeater, Ralph Skan, Matthew Rangel-Alvarez, Michael Ustynovych Repa, Lucas Wood, Isaac London, Gabriel Collins, Leo Barron, Alex Montoro, Taichi Shinokubo, and Luca Brugnoli, among others. 

Here's an interesting video compiled by fan Will Shaw in 2016. In his words: "I decided to compile together a collection of when Libera sings super freaky high! Its SWEET!" The solo voices, though not specifically indicated, include Ben Crawley, Joe Platt, Tom Cully,  and Conor O' Donnell. The song fragments are identified by name. (Libera High Parts/compiled by Will Shaw/2016/11:31)

 "Voca Me" (see also below, following "Fashion Notes"), a superb Robert Prizeman composition, was recorded and videoed in 2003, but had never been performed live. In 2012, however, the first staged performance of the song occurred in Northern Ireland, with a small blond ten-year-old named Thomas Delgado-Little not only hitting that high D with aplomb, but even (by mistake during a concert) extending it to an E-flat.
 In a  DVD recording session held in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, in August of 2013, Delgado-Little's high notes (or the warmth of the studio lighting) supposedly caused a family of bats to fly out of the vaulted upper regions of the Cathedral. He subsequently became one of Libera's most valued soloists. In 2014, another youngster, Lucas Wood, was able to step in for Delgado-Little with his own high D in the same descant, and in 2015-2016 Alex Montoro did the same. The 2017-2018 high-note specialists were Leo Barron and Taichi Shinokubo, with Samuel-Francis Collins taking over in 2019. In late 2019, little Luca Brugnoli, only nine years old, burst onto the scene as both high-note singer and masterful soloist.

Tom Delgado-Little

Lucas Wood

Alex Montoro
Taichi Shinokubo (top) and Leo Barron.
Samuel-Francis Collins

Luca Brugnoli


Luminosa CD cover (2001)

In 2003, Warner Classics released the Libera and Luminosa CDs as a 2-disc set called The Complete Libera.
(Libera Footnote/Fashion Notes) 

Hooded boys follow Robert Prizeman like ducklings in 2009; the white slip-on shoes and socks indicate that they are on their way to a concert appearance.

A switch to lace-ups somewhere around 2012

As seen in several photos above, the boys occasionally appeared wearing an alternate version of Angel Voices/Libera white: loose three-quarter-sleeved hooded white tops, worn with matching white trousers for concerts.
The boys in two-piecers are (L to R): Stephen Geraghty, unknown, Liam O' Kane, Adam Harris. 

This was a time of careful experimentation with the Angel Voices “look.” As a defining change from the classic blue-and-white cassock/cupcake-ruff combination of their churchly duties (seen in the first "San Damiano" video, above); early St. Philip’s/Angel Voices variations had included: an early draped-front version of the later traditional white robes; light blue dress shirts, dark slacks and ties for informal appearances and early videos, coordinated playclothes in bright colors and strong patterns for a number of the Titchmarsh  on Song episodes; a mélange of boy-clothes styles for the Thora appearances; baggy dark-blue tunic/pants or black T-shirts with badges for  Blue Peter; and blue-patterned tunics with dark trousers for their third CD cover. In 1996, they appeared in red robes, backing Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti on a TV performance of "Live Like Horses."
(Cover for New Day CD; 1990)

Monk-like blue robes with rope belts for a TV appearance, c. 1991

Coordinated patterns and solids for Titchmarch, 1992 

In street urchin garb for Thora, 1993

Early Libera (as opposed to Angel Voices) garments included black full-length robes with hoods (used in the 1998 video of “Jubilate"); and black hooded tunics with woven shoulder bands in earth colors, as seen in several 2001 videos from the TV program Blue Peter. The bands were visually effective, but difficult to keep in place, and were discontinued.
Black-robed boys in the 1998  "Jubilate" video. The boy on the left can be seen as an adult singer in "Te Lucis," above.

Steven Geraghty, Sam Coates, and Liam O' Kane wear banded tunics, while backing chorus (including Ben Crawley at R.) are dressed in black trousers and Tees-with-badges. ("Salva Me,"Blue Peter, 1999)

By the early 2000s, however, the basic performing robes, after several transitional stages,
(see Robes Through the Years for details) were essentially the same as the present garment—graceful A-lined white constructions with long, loose sleeves and voluminous hoods. One can only imagine the work-hours (by volunteers and mothers) that go into making, hemming, shortening, lengthening, repairing, laundering, and replacing the pristine snowy garments worn by a succession of constantly growing and lively boys.
 This shot, which was probably taken around 1999, includes adult choir members, as well as Anthony
 Chadney, Simon Lewis, Chris Robson, Alisdair Gordon, Robert Ogilvie , Liam O' Kane, George Tarleton,
 Steven Geraghty, and Sam Coates. These full-sleeved white robes are clearly two-pieced.)

Ben Crawley in belted white, c. 1999

 This unusual "spoof" photo with skateboard appeared in the early 2000s. The boys' white robes are still fuller-sleeved than today's and feature a side slit. L. to R: George Tarleton, Alisdair Gordon, Raoul Neumann, Sam Coates, Anthony Chadney, Robert Ogilvie, Joe Platt, Steven Geraghty, Simon Lewis, Ben Crawley, Chris Robson.

Also in the early 2000s, the group also adopted its present-day “uniform” of black or white hooded sweatshirts, worn with black or gray trousers and light-blue long- or short-sleeved shirts (usually worn uniformly untucked by all, as attempting to get small boys to tuck in shirttails is an exhausting proposition), for traveling and for informal appearances and performances.

Blue-shirted boys in Manila, c.2010

 Peace CD booklet, 2010: boys in white hooded sweatshirts are, L to R: Liam Connery, Ben Philipp (top), James Mordaunt, Alex Leggett, Daniel Fontannaz (top), Josh Madine, Jakob Wood (top), Freddie Ingles.

Eventually a lightweight ensemble of black or white hooded T-shirts worn with gray cropped pants and high-topped black sneakers was added to the group wardrobe for sightseeing/playing, as were heavier hooded all-weather coat and jackets in black for winter wear.

In early white version of T-shirt play hoodies, c. 2003 (L to R): Joe Platt, Ben Crawley, James Vereycken, Chris Robson, Joseph Sanders-Wilde, Nathaniel Webb, Anthony Chadney, Simon Lewis, Michael Horncastle, Steven Geraghty (top), Tom Cully, Callum Payne. Choice of trousers apparently still varied at this point. 

Libera in Athens, Greece, styling uniformly in black play hoodies, cropped gray pants, and Converse™ sneakers while returning the long way around from a tour of Japan, Korea, and the Philippines in 2010 (See Part Four of this Timeline for the full story.)

An informal uniform ensemble of plaid long-sleeved shirts worn over T-shirts and jeans was used in 2004 publicity shots.
 L. to R.: Soloists Ed Day, Ben Philipp, Tom Cully, Josh Madine, and Liam Connery in publicity photo for New Dawn CD
In 2010, as seen in the Japanese tour video of that year, the onstage performing look was augmented for certain songs with black robes in a larger size worn over the singers’ usual flowing white.

Jakob Wood, Stefan Leadbeater, Jonathan Barrington, Ben Philipp, and Liam Connery in black-over-white (2010)

An amusing note (and almost a trademark, beginning in the mid- 2000s) is the practice of having the boys wear their hooded jackets backwards over their robes when snacking/drinking backstage before concerts. The jackets serve as bibs protecting the pristine white of the robes, and the jacket hoods are positioned to catch stray crumbs or drops.

Josh Madine and other boys wear their jackets backwards over their robes for pre-concert snacking in Japan, 2010.

Hoods up!
(End of Fashion Notes)
Meanwhile, back in 2002: I'm inserting this quasi-Christmas ensemble song (filmed in St. Sophia’s Greek Cathedral, London, for a “Songs of Praise” Advent series) here just because I find it so delightful. A number of 2002-2009 Libera members and soloists are seen here as tiny trebles, and current staff members "Big Ben" Crawley, Steven Geraghty, and Sam Coates appear in their soprano/alto/tenor prime. (Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day/2002)

Also from the early 2000s, we find the only known complete YouTube video of “Mysterium,” an atmospheric piece by Robert Prizeman that has several times been revived as a concert selection (most recently in 2010-11). (Mysterium/St. John’s Church/2002)

(OfficialLibera Photo; "Mysterium" being performed on 2011 US tour) 
The dim video above was shot at a concert in St. John’s Church, London early in 2002, with the boys backed by a mens' chorus. There is some controversy surrounding the identity of the blurred soloist; some observers believe that an earlier version of Adam Harris’s voice was dubbed onto this video, but with so many breathtaking high sopranos in the filmed group (Joe Platt, Steven Geraghty, Joseph Sanders-Wilde, Ben Crawley), the source of the exquisite solo voice remains somewhat of, well, a mystery. (From video analysis, it was most probably Ben Crawley.)

Ben Crawley
The formidably talented Ben Crawley joined Libera in 1999 at age 12 (an anomaly in a group where most boys start at six to eight years of age). He quickly became a dominant presence, not only because of his lovely voice and outstanding singing ability, but also because of his height and regular growth spurts (ultimately topping out at 6'5") that had him still piping high soprano solos while approaching six feet tall and dwarfing the diminutive trebles around him. (2002 was an amazing growth year for this singer in every way—note the difference in height and appearance between the early-2002 "Mysterium" video above and the December-filmed "Voca Me" video at the end of this section)

In this mid-2002 videocapture, Ben Crawley stands on ground level with fellow highest trebles Joe Platt  (first row, left) and Tom Cully (C.). The three boys in the back row (Joe Sanders-Wilde, Robert Ogilvie and Simon Lewis) are standing on wooden risers.

Ben Crawley in 2011 towering during an onstage sound check with Robert Prizeman amid a lively swirl of Liberans. (Photo by Jimmy Riddle)

Crawley also took part in several films in 2004-2005, including solo work in The Snow Queen, and a role as a boy singer The Merchant of Venice (music by Jocelyn Pook), with Libera also appearing on the soundtrack. When his voice finally changed, he sang tenor with the group up through the mid-2000s, served as stage director, voice teacher, composer, lyricist and chaperone with Libera, and finally left to begin composing and recording under the name of "Ben See," to avoid confusion with his Libera persona.

Here is a 2002 performance, filmed in July for Songs of Praise at American University's Chapel at Bushey Campus, that shows the amazing quality of Crawley's voice and the impact of his presence on the early Libera scene. The second voice is Chris Robson (1998-2004), who sang alone beautifully on occasion, but was so good at second parts that, like other fine singers before him, he spent most of his time in Libera enriching the work of soloists. The music is by Robert Prizeman, the lyrics by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander.

The sweet-voiced Chris Robson (L. above) with George Tarleton and Joe Sanders-Wilde, and (below) singing harmony with Ben Crawley. (Twilight is Stealing/solo by Ben Crawley/second voice Chris Robson/American University Chapel at Bushey Campus/2002)

(Optional) For pure unadulterated classical Ben Crawley, listen to this 2001 solo version of Georg Friedrich Händel's "Semele,"from the CD Luminosa. The lyrics are somewhat uninspired, but Crawley manages to transcend them exquisitely. (Ben Crawley/Semele/Where’er You Walk/2001/ Luminosa CD)

(Likewise optional) In 2013, a German fan assembled a collection of Ben Crawley's videoed solos. This video is a bit choppy, since the non-solo portions have been removed, but provides a nice historical record.

Both Crawley and Robson appear (along with the brilliant Joe Platt as high-descant soloist) in a somewhat amazing Libera video of this era, "Voca Me,” filmed in December of 2003 the middle of Fryland Woods, Croydon, on a winter night (you can see the singers' breath, mixed in with the smoke from the very dangerous-looking flaming torches they hold).

The adorably lost Michael Horncastle
Michael Horncastle, an outstanding Libera treble soloist (and later tenor) from 2002 through 2009, appears adorably as a little boy lost in the night. The marvelous otherworldly quality evoked by the lovely voices of Chris Robson and Anthony Chadney (another beautiful singer who was for some reason seldom featured as lead soloist in videos), has made this timeless production a perennial favorite. On its release, it was selected to appear on Harmony, the official 2004 Athens Olympics classical album, and named to EMI's "Best Sacred 100" list; it appears on Pandora Online Radio stations and Classical MTV programs to this day.

In 2012, the piece was performed onstage (for the first time ever) in the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland tours, with 10-year-old Tom Delgado-Little singing the high descant, and Ciaran Bradbury-Hickey  and Matthew Jansen performing the solo verses. In 2013, "Voca Me" was videoed during the Christmas concert DVD shot in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, Northern Ireland (see Part 6A), but did not appear on the DVD. A 2014 version with the Delgado-Little descant appeared on the Libera in America CD/DVD in 2015.

A new version of "Voca Me," re-worked by Robert Prizeman with lyrics entirely in Latin, appeared on the 2018 CD Beyond (no Youtube version yet available, except as samples of Beyond at: (Samples from Beyond CD/2018/12: 57) (The "Voca Me" clip is at about 6:15.)

Anthony Chadney with torch in "Voca Me;" Callum Payne is in background.

Joe Platt goes spookily high as only he can.
Michael Horncastle, as seen in in "Voca Me" video, on an advertising poster Me/ solos by Chris Robson and Anthony Chadney/ descant by Joseph Platt/2003)

For another beautiful example of Anthony Chadney's solo work, as well as an impressively arranged piece of music, try this 2004 version of "A New Heaven," composed by Robert Prizeman using quotations from the Book of Revelations. Chadney's opening note might easily be mistaken for the sound of a trumpet, and the "expanding" quality of his voice added unmistakeable color to arrangements in this era.

Anthony Chadney  (A  New Heaven/Solo by Anthony Chadney/Free CD/2004)

It  was around this time, as a promotion for their Free CD, that the first short "Introducing Libera" video appeared, featuring informal footage of the boys talking about the group and the songs on the CD, and a look behind the scenes on the chilly “Voca Me” nighttime video shoot, as well as a snippet of  rare footage of choirboy-turned-producer Ian Tilley speaking about Libera.
v= (2004 Introducing Libera)

Free was to be re-issued by Warner/Japan in 2014, and for good reason: it includes as soloists two Libera greats, Ben Crawley, who solos on “I Am the Day,” “Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep,” “I vow To Thee My Country,” “Twilight is Stealing,” and the little-noticed but exquisite “Song of Enchantment”), and Joe Platt, who performs as lead voice on “Stay With Me” and When A Knight Won His Spurs,” and whose descant vocals throughout are brilliant. 
Other soloists are Anthony Chadney and Chris Robson in the original “Voca Me,” with Robson doing other second vocals and Chadney taking a strong-voiced lead in “A New Heaven.” (Raoul Neuman joins Robson for “Adoramus.) The CD also contains one of the loveliest versions of “Be Still My Soul” ever recorded.

Also in 2004, the group opened for two major Hayley Westenraa "Pure Tour"concerts, held in March at the London Palladium and the Eastbourne Congress Theatre. For the finale, Libera sang along with the entire cast on "Hine e Hine", a Maori lullaby. (See the video below.) Libera enters the stage around 1:42 mark. Cast was 34 people - Hayley Westenra, Sophie Westenra, Isaac Westenra, Katherine Jenkins, Brandon Pou, 16 members of Libera, five Maori warriors, string quartet, guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion. Libera is on the right in the photo below.  (Hine e Hine/ Hayley Westenraa, Libera and friends/2004)
Admittedly, Ben Crawley's accomplished performances as a front-line soloist were a tough act to follow, but young Michael Horncastle did just that by simply being himself. An adorable kid who grew into an appealing youth, Horncastle seemed to maintain at all times a deep emotional connection to anything he sang, and his sweet-voiced delivery was always simple, sincere, soulful, and skilled without being artificial.

Michael Horncastle 

Horncastle's voice matured just in time to fill the soloing gap between Ben Crawley and the brilliant, slightly younger, group that contained Tom Cully, Ed Day, Ben Philipp, Liam Connery and Josh Madine (most of whom sang second parts to Michael's solo work before moving into their own individual spotlights). The song "Far Away" might have been written for Michael, and he made it particularly his own, appearing in several video versions of it. (It didn't hurt that he was almost ridiculously photogenic.) 

After his voice changed in 2007, Horncastle sang tenor with the group through 2009. by 2015, he had become a successful fabric and clothing designer, while still continuing to compose music..

Michael Horncastle, post-Libera 2015

The video below, filmed for Songs of Praise in 2002 at the American University Campus, Bushey, is notable primarily for the brief but sweet-voiced solo debuts of both Horncastle and a very small Tom Cully (aged nine and eight respectively). Two other outstanding and slightly older soloists, Joe Platt and Joe Sanders-Wilde, also appeared here.
Tom Cully
Michael Horncastle
Joe Platt (L) with Jake Shortall
Joe Sanders-Wilde (There is a Green Hill Far Away/solos by Tom Cully and Michael Horncastle/2002)

An unusually demonstrative Robert Prizeman with Libera boys in Singapore, 2012 (Photo by Lauren)

Since 1970, St Philip's/Angel Voices'/Libera's principal source of both material and inspiration has been musical director Robert Prizeman. Given free rein and non-traditional (in addition to liturgical) contexts for Libera performances, Prizeman has continued to write original songs for the group, as well as producing brilliant arrangements based on the work of modern songwriters/composers (Enya, Brian Wilson, Billy Joel, Joe Cocker, ABBA, John David, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Akira Sanju, Takatsugu Muramatsu), as well as that of classical composers (Pachelbel, Beethoven, Holst, Franck, Sebelius, Saint-Saens, Chopin, Debussy, Mozart, Dvorak).

Prizeman blends all these influences with traditional melodies, Gregorian chant, plainsong, and the group's trademark sound—ethereal, almost unearthly, high solo parts as punctuation. (In a 2009 Libera BBC-TV special [see Part 2 of this Timeline] when the boys are asked what their favorite music to sing is, the response is an unequivocal and spontaneous "Anything Rob writes.")

 Prizeman directing a rehearsal in 2009
The quality of Prizeman’s imagination can be seen in a 2005 video of “We Are the Lost” (first recorded on Libera’s Visions CD), in which he sets to original music John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field,” also incorporating words from Robert Binyan’s Poem “For the Fallen,” and a line from Isaac Burns’ hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” to create a poignant memorial to all fallen soldiers. It includes scenes (all in London) set at Grosvenor Place/Hyde Park Corner, the Borough War Memorial, Paddington Station, and the Imperial War Museum. A shortened form of the song was subsequently used to great effect in a Songs of Praise WWI remembrance program in 2014. (We Are the Lost/solo by Michael Horncastle/2005)
 Songs in a Memorial Key:  

Callum Payne face to face with a figure of a young soldier in a WWI memorial grouping for "We Are the Lost," in 2005. James Vereycken is in the background.
Much of Prizeman's best writing/arranging has been done in what might be called elegiac mode—in the form of memorials like the above "We Are the Lost," the Adam Harris "Lux Aeterna" in Section II above, and, below in Section XI, the touchingly lovely "Lullabye" video from the "deluxe" version of the 2010 Peace CD. 
Others include "Do Not Stand," and "I Vow to Thee My Country," (seen in concert version below in Section IV), and "Rest in Peace," sung here by its composer, Peter Skellern, in a poignant performance backed by Libera and filmed at the Steam Museum in Swindon, England, in 2004. The song was originally written by Skellern in memory of those who died at the World Trade Center in NYC on September 11th, 2001. It was also used in the 2014 Songs of Praise WWI remembrance program, and recorded on the 2015 Libera in America CD/DVD. (Rest In Peace [arr. Robert Prizeman]/solo by Peter Skellern with Libera/2004)

Libera backing the song's composer Peter Skellern (at piano in foreground) on "Rest in Peace"
(Optional) This all-Libera version of "Rest in Peace," from the 2007 New Dawn CD, is remarkable for the beauty of the arrangement, and for Tom Cully's singing on the solo bridge. (Rest in Peace/solo by Tom Cully/2007)

Photomontage in videocapture of "Be Still My Soul"

Another side of Prizeman’s brilliance is that he restrains himself from tinkering with perfectly beautiful straightforward pieces of music, as in this 2002 elegiac video of a hymn with a melody taken from Jean Sibelius’ FinlandiaNo fancy solos or descants, just the song simply sung. (Be Still my Soul/2002)

And finally, a Holoaust-memorial arrangement of "Abide With Me" that showcases the poignant strength and sweetness of Michael Horncastle's emerging solo voice.   (Abide With Me/Holocaust memorial/ solo by Michael Horncastle, 2005)

(End of Songs in a Memorial Key)
Prizeman's writing and arranging skills (especially since he was, in effect, continually creating, shaping, and adjusting his own ideal instrument) continued to improve through his work with Libera, resulting occasionally in arrangements with a capella harmonies so close that the mind boggles at their simultaneous simplicity and complexity. One of these is John David's "New Day," from Libera's 2005 album Visions. It’s accompanied by delightful still photos of the 2005 Libera boys.
This Visions CD-cover mock-up (the original featured another in the ongoing series of atmospheric semi-abstract designs) shows James Vereycken, Michael Horncastle, Callum Payne, Joseph Sanders-Wilde, Josh Madine and Ed Day. New Day/2005)

In contrast to the complexity of the above, the elegantly simple "Sempiterna" was inspired by a classic hymn "Creator of the Stars of Night" and videoed for Songs of Praise in Blytheburg Church, Suffolk, in 2006.

Poster based on "Sempiterna" video, featuring (top from L) Callum Payne, Ed Day, and Benedict Philipp (his first appearance with the group), with Josh Madine and Joseph Sanders-Wilde below. (Sempiterna/2006)

Callum Payne

Second treble Callum Payne joined Libera in 2002. He occasionally sang solos, but for the most part provided a steady presence and beautiful support vocals through 2007. He was also one of the first boys to assume an announcer's role, speaking onstage between songs. In 2008, he joined the Libera staff for a year or so before moving on to training for, and a job in, elite-security work.

In 2006, the CD Angel Voices appeared, accompanied by a rare TV commercial. (30-second commercial promoting Angel Voices CD/2006)

As his prime soloists matured, Prizeman also began to add more low alto and tenor voices—boys who had spent years absorbing Libera's style—to set off the clarity of the high trebles, and began composing solos/duets/trios/quartets with individual boys in mind, even using their vocal sounds to generate synthesized accompaniments for the group. In 1999, as mentioned, they began recording and performing officially as Libera (Latin for "free;" pronounced with a short "i," as in "liberty," and apparently difficult for many people to remember). In 2007, the boys presented a short humorous video on how to pronounce their name correctly (hint: it's not "Lee-BEAR-ah" either). (Lib-er-a: a pronunciation guide/2007)
2009: Libera performing on TV in Japan, where their name is often rendered as variations on "Rivera;" note caption.

The backbone of Libera’s production team at this point came primarily from the ranks of Angel Voices/Libera choristers, including brilliant choirboy alumnus Ian Tilley, (ex-St. Philip's head chorister, from the late-1980s era), who acted as producer and instrumentalist, with former standout singers Ben Crawley, Steven Geraghty, and Sam Coates helping out in their various areas (stage-managing, producing, public relations, electronics, instrumentals, composition, lyrics, vocal coaching, kid-wrangling). 
Ian Tilley in 2004
Staff members Sam Coates, Callum Payne and Ben Crawley in  2011
Steven Geraghty (center), 2007
Andy Winter with Philippine fan, 2011 (photo by OrangeCat)

Other alumni helpers have been Andy Winter and Simon Beston, early St. Philip’s singers who appeared on the Free CD in 2004 as adult voices. Beston also appeared on the 2001 Luminosa CD singing in trio with Ben Crawley and Steven Geraghty, in this positively luminous performance of Robert Prizeman's "Veni Sancte." (Veni Sancti/ Solos/trio by Simon Beston, Ben Crawley, Steven Geraghty)
 Simon Beston
Long-time chorister Tom Cully briefly joined the staff in 2010, but was essentially gone to concentrate on this own musical career  (as "Jamie Isaac") by 2011.  Ben Crawley began concentrating on other projects in 2012, by which time Jonathan Barrington (2005-2012) had become a stage manager, sometimes joined by Kavana Crossley (2007-present) and Eoghan McCarthy (2010- present) who also continued to perform occasionally with the group. They were joined in 2017 by Matthew Jansen (2010-2015), and Kavana Crossley (2008-2015). and in 2018 by Alessandro Mackinnon-Botti (2012-2018).

Staff members in 2012 also included alumni Jonathan Barrington, and Simon Lewis, along with Luke Avery and Ben Rentoul

An ebullient Simon Lewis on tour

Jonathan Barrington

In the early 2010s, former choristers Sam Coates and Steven Geraghty had been named as assistant musical directors, and 2015 saw the debut of Coates as and arrager for several songs on the Angels Sing: Libera in America DVD.
With an increasingly capable support crew, Libera began to take on a  visibility apart from (but including) its church-choir roots. The group, at this point primarily limited to church services, CD recordings, occasional TV/video/soundtrack appearances, and at-home concerts, began touring in a small way in 2000, with concerts outside of London in Torquay and Plymouth, England. As mentioned above, for the next few years, through 2004, they occasionally toured as backup singers for Hayley Westenra and Aled Jones.

Following the establishment (around 2004) of Libera as a not-for-profit organization, under the leadership and trusteeship of a board composed of a number of the boys' parents, the group began touring in other countries. They headed to Japan in 2005, quickly achieving near-rock-star status in both Japan and Korea. The video below shows a somewhat breathless play-by-play review of the group’s initial 2005 visit to Japan at the time that their Visions CD was released. 

 For a list of all tours through 2013 see: This useful archive also lists the members participating in each tour. 

For another complete list of tours, with participants, locations and music performed, see:  (Listing by year of Libera Tours and Concerts)

A delighted newswoman interviews the ever-personable Tom Cully on a shopping trip.  (Japanese news coverage of Libera visit to Japan/2005)

To give an excellent idea of which singers were actually touring with Libera at this time, here is a Japanese-to-English fan page with photos of all members, unusually accompanied by personal comments, which were transcribed from a TV interview. (2005 Japan Tour /boys photo gallery with comments by each Libera member/translation by Ryuichi [thanks to Johan from the Netherlands for rediscovering this]) 

A young fan is overcome at meeting Libera boys in person.

Between April 2005 and April of 2007, Libera performed in Japan three times. (One trip, in 2006, was made by just seven boys to promote a Japanese TV series called  Ice Wall, for which the Libera song "Far Away" was used as a theme; for other Japanese theme music sung by Libera, see Part Four of this Timeline.) This cluster of tours was the beginning of the group's runaway popularity in Japan, and resulted in a glossy limited-edition commemorative booklet celebrating their visits.

Another souvenir of the 2006 promotional tour was a rare TV interview with Robert Prizeman and several of the boys. (Robert Prizeman/Libera 2006 Japan Interview)

A second full-group tour to Japan and Korea took place in 2007; bright T-shirts were used here to give the boys a more "pop" image.

Fans reach out to touch Libera boys in 2007; such close contact with crowds is now rare (also see parts 2 and 4 of this Timeline).

March, 2007; Libera edition of Chopin Magazine
In 2007, the group filmed yet another "Introducing Libera" video, informally previewing songs from their upcoming (and first) concert DVD (see section IV below). (Introducing Libera 2007)
Also in 2007, Libera took an odd sidestep into the bright lights of reality TV, with 13 boys performing “Sanctus” and winning $10,000 on a variety show called “When Will I Be Famous?” Returning the next week, they sang “Salva Me” beautifully, but were, alas, defeated by a man who performed in a giant Slinky™ costume. (For this version and more on the history of "Sanctus," see below)

SANCTUS: A Diversion 

Libera performs "Sanctus" at the Crystal Cathedral, Los Angeles, 2009

"Sanctus," sometimes found under the title "Locus Iste," is perhaps the most filmed and videoed of Robert Prizeman's compositions for Libera. With melody and counterpoint based more or less on those of Johann Pachelbel's beloved Canon in D"Sanctus," since its 1999 debut, has been amped up, filled in, dressed down and endlessly re-arranged to become an eight-part-harmony crowd-pleaser seldom missing from the group's performance schedule. Below you'll find either links to, or synopses of its major video/DVD appearances to date. These also provide a lovely record of Libera's changing roster of singers and the group’s dynamics from 1999 through 2012. (= Most Recommended)
I. This 1999 version, known as "Sanctus I," was filmed in St.John’s Church for Songs of Praise, with a men’s chorus providing one section of the counterpoint. The final solo is by Steven Geraghty (Sanctus I/ St. John’s Church/Songs of Praise with men’s chorus/solo by Steven Geraghty/1999)

*II:  Candles, percussion, men's chorus, dramatic lighting, staging and filming—"Sanctus II," from a Songs of Praise Advent program, has it all.  (Sanctus II/Songs of Praise Advent 2: Journey into Christmas/12/8/2002) 

*III: Here's another rendering (from a 2002 Songs of Praise show broadcast from St. David's Hall in Cardiff, Wales) that really shows off the song's lovely counterpoint. It also shows clearly a number of boys who seldom sang solos, but provided a strong and beautiful chorus backup for the early Libera—Alisdair Gordon, Raoul Neumann, Robert Ogilvie, Simon Lewis, Jake Shortall, Nathaniel Webb, and George Tarleton.  
Alasdair Gordon
Nathaniel Webb
George Tarleton
Robert Ogilvie and Simon Lewis
Raoul Neumann, who has occasionally performed as a French-horn player with other musicians accompanying Libera. (Sanctus on SOP/Cardiff, Wales/presented by Aled Jones/ 2002)

 IV: An excellent 2006 version of "Sanctus," sung mostly as a processional, with Ed Day as soloist, appears on the 2011 Canadian-tour interview with three of the boys on Salt and Light TV (also appears in the Canadian-Tour section  of Part Four).
"Sanctus" processional, 2006 (Interview with Freddie Ingles, Liam Connery and Kavana Crossley on Salt and Light Canadian TV program, April, 2011/host: Pedro Guevera Mann/opens with 2006 "Sanctus")

*V: This heavenly "Locus Iste" version of "Sanctus" was broadcast on Songs of Praise in January of 2006.
It alternates shots of the boys singing against a sky-and-clouds background with a loose "plotline" of them exploring two City of London churches—Christ Church, Greyfriars Tower, Newgate Street, London, and St Dunstan in the East on St Dunstan's Hill. Both structures, according to the fine Angel Voices site database, (see"Links" section below ) date from medieval times, with rebuilding by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Both were heavily damaged by bombing in WWII and have been left as ruins, now containing public gardens. Fitting backgrounds for another lovely "Sanctus." 

Conor O' Donnell, Jake Shortall, and Joe Sanders-Wilde in "Locus Iste," 2006.
" (Locus Iste/Sanctus/Christ Church, London & St. Dunstan's Church/2006) 
*VI: This video version of "Sanctus," as performed on the Free CD, also includes the "Locus Iste" prelude and ending, and is remarkable for its complex visuals. 
(Locus Iste/Sanctus III)
(Top, L to R:) Conor O' Donnell, Zack Lockett, Liam Connery, Joe Platt, James Vereycken, Jonathan Barrington, Tom Cully; (Bottom): Callum Payne, Michael Horncastle, Sam Leggett

(Optional) (Behind the scenes of Visions video and CD: the making of "Locus Iste")
VII: Again in 2006, the boys performed the song live at the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of a concert with legendary tenor José Carreras. (Sanctus Live at Royal Albert Hall in concert with José Carreras/12/2006/ still photos only)

 VIII and *IX: The 2007 performance on When Will I Be Famous? (video  in the regular text above) demonstrates "Sanctus"'s adaptability to a variety of settings, as does its appearance in the PBS Concert at the Leiden St. Pieterskerk, seen in Section IV below.  (Sanctus/ When Will I Be Famous?/Solo by Tom Cully/2007) 

In the bright lights of When Will I Be Famous

*X:  The performance of the song during a Papal Mass with Pope Benedict XVI in Yankee Stadium at the end of the group's 2008 US tour was a true "cultural event." This is the only entire filmed version (looped from live CNN internet feed) of this performance, and, as mentioned elsewhere, the boys' "squinting" appearance was caused by the reflection of overly bright lights, combined with a windy day. This version is worth watching (even though the sound is mediocre), both for its cultural context and for the excellent event photography.  (Sanctus/4/20/2008/ Papal Mass in Yankee Stadium/looped from live CNN internet feed/solo by Liam Connery)

Libera boys leave the stage to great applause in Yankee Stadium, 2008.
*XI: In the Songs of Praise Libera special of 2009 (see it in Section VIII/Part 3 of the Timeline), an entirely new version of the song was videoed, skillfully incorporating footage from older versions. Marvelous alto and second treble Sam Leggett here performed the only onscreen stand-alone solo of his career.

Sam Leggett on Songs of Praise, 2009
One of the most beloved members of Libera to date, Sam Leggett joined the group in 2004, remaining a part of it until early 2012 and paving the way for his brother Alex (2006-2013) and five cousins who also became Libera singers (See "A Family Affair" below.) Shy, kind, good-natured and unassumingly beautiful to watch, Sam soon developed a strong, melodious alto voice that, combined with his pure sense of pitch, made him nearly indispensable in mixed-voice small-ensemble work and overall. Sam sang regularly with the group until around 2012, and returned as the oldest white-robed singer in Libera history (at 18 years and 10 months) to perform on the 2013 Christmas in Ireland DVD, following that up in 2014 as a chorus member on the Libera in America CD/DVD. He became a member of the Bristol University Cathedral Choir, and eventually its conductor, while also singing tenor for a group called Genesis Sixteen.

The angelic Sam Leggett in 2007

XII: The randomly videoed 2010 Crystal Cathedral "Sanctus" in Los Angeles, like the Papal Mass above, qualifies more as a cultural event than as an ideal performance. Other Crystal Cathedral performances can be seen in Part 3. (Sanctus/Crystal Cathedral 2010/violin: Fiona Pears)

And there you have a round dozen of the many recorded and videoed versions of a song for the ages.
SANCTUS UPDATES: In 2011-2012,the song was used in the background of a Latin American telenovela, played during news coverage of a visit by Pope Benedict IV to Syria, and featured in a staged appearance for a Japanese travel documentary about the River Thames. (Libera on Japanese TV-Asahi/June 7, 2012/Traveling Along the River Thames - London, Cotswolds, Classical Travel/broadcast July 15)
In August of 2013, Libera recorded a Christmas DVD in Armagh Cathedral in Northern Ireland. A radiant "Sanctus" was one of the songs featured. (Sanctus/Christmas in Ireland DVD/2013/Solo by Matthew Jansen)

The piece, by then becoming somewhat of a replacement for "Libera" as a theme song (probably because of its recognition factor), was also recorded on the 2015 Libera in America CD/DVD, with solo by Bertie Smart. (Sanctus /solo by Bertie Smart/from Libera in America DVD, 2015) 

In 2018, yet another version of "Sanctus," with a new extended version of the lilting counter-melody of "Sanctus II," appeared on the Beyond CD, and was quickly dubbed "Sanctus III." (Sanctus 2019/Beyond CD/3:28)

L to R in Leiden CD/DVD cover photo: Tom Cully, Zak Lockett, Jakob De Menezes Wood, Josh Madine, Ed Day
Later in 2007, Libera traveled to Holland to record an entirely different sort of TV program, called Angel Voices: Libera in Concert, in the lovely Leiden St. Pieterskerk (see excerpts below). The resulting concert was shown in the US as a PBS-TV special and is available in CD and DVD from In this performance, violinist Fiona Pears, who occasionally accompanies the group in concert, was first brought to the public eye. In the same year, the boys also performed before a distinguished audience in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Brilliant violinist Fiona Pears was married to Libera producer Ian Tilley
 To cap off the year, in December nine Libera boys traveled to Washington DC to serenade Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson at the Kennedy Center Honors, with President and Mrs. George W. Bush in attendance. The Kennedy Center performance is not included here because of a dreadful job of sound mixing at the event, but is briefly shown in the 2009 Songs of Praise BBC special that can be viewed in Part Three of this Timeline, along with a newer video of the song with commentary by Brian Wilson. A fan subsequently put together this well-done pastiche of the two events. (Love and Mercy by Brian Wilson/footage from 2009 Songs of Praise special and 2008 Kennedy Center Honors)

Liam Connery, Zach Lockett, Sam Leggett, Josh Madine, Tom Cully, Ben Philipp, Joe Snelling, Ed Day, and Michael Vereyken onstage at the Kennedy Center Honors, 2008.

Facing the President of the US and an audience of Very Famous People

Michael Vereycken, Josh Madine, Liam Connery, and Zach Lockett meet Kennedy Center Honors recipient Brian Wilson. Tom Cully and Ed Day are in the background.

In spite of all this attention, the 2007-2008 crop of lads (who continued to attend their various schools and [many] to sing at St Philip's as part of the Sunday choir when not touring) were a lovable and fairly unaffected collection of scamps, as illustrated in this third "Introducing Libera" promotional video for their 2008 CD New Dawn. On this CD, Tom Cully's exquisite version of the Cassini "Ave Maria" was accompanied by Fiona Pears and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
(L to R: Josh Madine,Ben Phillip, Tom Cully, Joe Snelling, Ed Day, Liam Connery, Michael Vereyken, Zack Lockett. Sam Leggett.) (Introducing Libera 2008/New Dawn Promo)
Libera Footnote: Fan Tributes: 

Fan Poster from around 2007; L to R: Josh Madine, Ben Phillip, Zach Lockett (top), Tom Cully (bottom), Ed Day, Joe Snelling (top), Liam Connery (bottom).
An interesting development,  as Libera became more and more of a widespread fan phenomenon, was the compilation, by fan clubs or individuals, of "tribute" videos, either as celebrations of outstanding singers who had moved on from the group, or showing the career-to-date of one of the boys, usually one of the featured soloists. The later tributes feature video clips and/or still photos, and over 100 have been made, featuring not only soloists, but also “unsung” chorus members who became fan favorites.
The subject of the following tribute is 2002-2009 treble soloist Tom Cully, somewhat of an impish cutup and goof-off offstage, but one of the group's most serious and accomplished singers when it counted, (and, as seen above, master of the group’s highest range of notes).

Tom Cully spontaneously sighs in relief after completing a toe-clenchingly difficult on-camera solo in 2007. Liam Connery is behind him.

 From his start as Libera's littlest treble in 2002, Cully soon developed an uncanny vocal maturity and flexibility which would have him singing both the highest of descants and the most difficult of solos, all the while turning out flawless second-, third-, and fourth-part harmonies on demand—and all this without a working understanding of Latin. The background song here is Tom's lyrical rendering of "May the Road Rise Up to Meet You," based on a popularized Irish blessing. When his voice changed in 2010, he briefly joined the Libera staff, then took off on a solo recording career in a much different musical style, eventually billing himself as "Jamie Isaac" in order to sever the Libera connection that continued to dog his musical presence.

The irrepressible Tom Cully in 2007 

Tom Cully onstage post-Libera in 2011 

As Jamie Isaac in 2013
Another fan video focused on the winsomely eccentric and intensely popular Benedict Philipp (2006-2012). Known by this time as “Mini-Ben” to avoid confusion with “Big Ben” Crawley), this handsome and outspoken boy was at this point also coming into his own as a soloist; this piece showcased his sometimes-edgy voice in its most dulcet range. Philipp went on to become a strong and reliable soloist in his later treble years, and sang tenor up to 2012. Ben went on to Exeter University and starring musical theater roles.  (William Blake's "The Lamb"/Solo by Ben Philipp)

Ben Philipp through the years

This next tribute clip showcases the cherubic, reliable, and vocally brilliant Edward (he preferred Ed) Day (2003-2010).

In his quiet way, Ed Day was a contradiction in terms, a shy and reticent boy who paradoxically could sing almost anything—solos, duets, descants, choral parts—and never showed a trace of nerves when performing. Never very articulate in interviews in comparison to his ebullient choirmates, It was Day, nonetheless, who, in the 2009 Songs of Praise special on Libera (see Part 2 of this Timeline), made the most powerful statement about the Libera experience. Surprisingly, in 2015 he began appearing successfully in comedy clubs and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a stand-up comic, and subsequently changed his stage name to Ed Night.. (Ed Day Tribute Video/2004-2010)

Ed Day in 2009

One of the rarest “tributes” concerned the Baron brothers, Chris and Alex, who were featured as Angel Voices soloists from 1996 through 1999 (Alex sang occasionally as an adult with the group as late as 2004). Their solos appeared on the Angel Voices CDs, and were never videoed, (The Baron Brothers; 1996-1999; this YouTube video can be best watched on the pop-out version, the icon third from right on the bottom)

Alex Baron. 1998
Chris Baron, 1998

Another set of sturdy rosy-cheeked boys were the Vereycken brothers, James and Michael, both an integral part of Libera in the 2000s. James sang the occasional solo, and Michael sang second parts, but it was their unwavering support vocals that inspired these tributes. The second video also celebrates another non-soloist but outstanding chorus member, the diminutive and outspoken Zachary Lockett, who left the group in 2008. (James Vereycken Tribute)  (Tribute to Michael Vereycken (2004-2010) and Zachary Lockett (2004-2009)  

Zach Lockett

Jonathan Barrington
Alex Leggett

Thomas Cole

Other never-soloing stalwarts at this time were the Cole brothers Thomas and Oliver, Jonathan Barrington, Tiarnán Branson and Alex Leggett, all members who, like Michael Vereycken and Zach Lockett, performed on the 2007 Angel Voices: Libera in Concert DVD (see below) The latter three sang with the group into 2012, but Jonathan Barrington and Alex Leggett left early in that year (see Part Five of this Timeline). Alex Leggett, his brother Sam, Josh Madine and Tiarnán Branson returned, along with other alumni, to appear on the 2013 DVD Angels Sing: Christmas in Ireland, and Sam Leggett, Madine and Branson (who became a choral scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford) guested on the 2014 Angels Sing: Libera in America concert DVD 

Oliver Cole
Tiarnán Branson 


Must-see: One of the most useful fan tributes to date was created by a European Libera enthusiast, Liberic1, in June of 2011. This is a beautifully assembled video that combines (alphabetically by first names) individual portraits of choristers from the 1980s on. Although a few choristers are missing from the early days, this is essentially an all-time Libera roster up to mid-2011, indispensable for putting names to faces.
 (The Large Book of Libera V4 (with names) by Liberic1/2011)

(End of FanTributes)


IV: THE LEIDEN PBS SPECIAL: Angel Voices: Libera in Concert

 DVD cover, with Tom Cully, Zach Lockett, Jakob Wood, Joshua Madine, and Ed Day

                                 The Event:

 St. Pieterskerke. Leiden, Holland
One of the richest sources of Libera performances under ideal conditions is the aforementioned 2007 concert DVD filmed in Holland's venerable Leiden St. Pieterskerk with near-perfect acoustics, specially designed lighting, subtle choreography and excellent camera work. In addition to keyboard accompaniments by Robert Prizeman and Ian Tilley, certain of the 15 songs were accompanied by Fiona Pears on violin, Steven Geraghty on recorder, clarinet, flute, or keyboards, and Il Novecento Orchestra. (Descriptions of Concert DVD performances in 2013 and 2014 can be found in Parts 6A and 7A)
Fiona Pears accompanies Libera in Leiden
It can be observed in this concert DVD that modern technology had by this time made it possible for the singers in the group to perform with tiny microphones hidden in pouches under their robes (or, in other performances of the time, using barely-visible wireless-microphone headsets) that allowed the volume of individual voices to be adjusted from a control board. The small single-ear receivers worn by soloists here at various times allowed them to receive cues from directors or instrumentalists. (See also "Creating the Libera Sound on Tour," in Part Five of this Timeline [link above, or below at end of Part One]).

Josh Madine, wired for sound

This was also one of the earliest videos in which several of the boys were seen speaking briefly (with great charm, though not extemporaneously) between songs, giving information about the group, introducing production staff, and describing selections and soloists. A YouTube video was made of these introductions alone. ([Optional] Leiden Concert introductions/Josh Madine, Sam Leggett, Liam Connery, Ben Phillip and Joe Snelling/2007) 

Sam Leggett introduces "Libera" the song, as Liam Connery waits to solo
(Optional) Included on the DVD as a companion piece to the concerts, a collection of interviews with the boys reveals them delightfully as individuals. Libera: In Their Own Words, from Angel Voices: Libera in Concert/ 2007: Pt.1 Libera: In Their Own Words, ibid./2007: Pt.2

The Music:
 (selected from 15 pieces released on the DVD):
Chandelier view of Leiden concert in St. Pieterskerk

View of lighting setup (photo by lighting designer Jeroen Jans)
 1) This first DVD selection is a simple song made grand, as the unflappable Ed Day leads off with a solo that demonstrates amazing poise and clarity (you can watch him enjoying the play of his voice off of the excellent St. Pieterskerk acoustics).

1A) This is the group's umpteenth video version of "Sanctus" (see "A Sanctified Diversion" above) inspired by the Pachelbel Canon in D, and a staple of the group's repertoire almost from the very beginning. Tom Cully and Ed Day provide the initial high harmony, Fiona Pears the violin accompaniment that substitutes for the high descant voice found in earlier arrangements.


2) In this signature piece, from which the group takes its name, the angelic-looking Liam Connery demonstrates that he has a voice to match his face, and he (or perhaps Tom Cully) hits a D-above-high-C at the end. 

Liam Connery
(Libera/Solo by Liam Connery/2007)

Connery, who joined the group in 2003, and left in mid-2012, is not seen performing as many videoed solos as other members, probably due to a combination of his natural reticence, the amazing number of other brilliant singers during his prime treble years, and the timing of his voice-change, but his every solo appearance, like the above version of "Libera," is a classic of its kind. 

He was also regularly in the mix for duet, trio, quartet, and small-ensemble parts. After his voice changed, he sang with the lower voices for some time, returning to sing on the 2013 Christmas in Ireland CD/DVD, and moving on to attend  Oxford University. In 2015, he toured China as part of a university vocal ensemble. A blog devoted to Liam Connery and many videos in which he's featured can be found at

2A) For a lovely (and totally surreal) video version of "Libera," watch this; the "buried" (and then resurrected) soloists are Michael Horncastle, Ed Day and Joe Sanders-Wilde.
Boys visible (from front) Michael Horncastle, Joe Sanders-Wilde, Sam Leggett. Callum Payne is at center back. (Libera/ Ed Day/Michael Horncastle/Joe Sanders-Wilde/c. 2005)

 3) Another audience and fan favorite from about 2005 on was a charming boy named Joshua Madine, who seemed to attract the eye wherever he stood, and whose unaffected singing style consistently produced quietly breathtaking performances. Here he was joined by Ben Philipp and Tom Cully in a song with a well-known melody, the Largo from Anton Dvorak’s 9th Symphony “From the New World,” with words by Dvorak student William Arms Fisher. This is by far Libera's most-downloaded YouTube video. (Going Home/Josh Madine/ Ben Philipp/Tom Cully; intro by Josh Madine/2007)

In time, Josh Madine confounded all expectations by: 1) remaining part of the white-robed singing group past his 18th birthday (also helping with vocal coaching and accompaniments); 2) singing the group's first onstage tenor solo; and 3) growing to well over six feet tall. In 2013, he became a full staff member and accompanist, playing both piano and electronic keyboards, and appeared as a singer and keyboard player on both the Christmas in Ireland CD/DVD and the Libera in America concert CD/DVD filmed in Washington DC in August of 2014.

Josh Madine (L) and Tom Cully in 2007

Ben Phillip and Sam Leggett  in "Going Home."

Josh Madine (at left) in a 2012 concert
4) In this version of the now-classic "Salva Me," little Joe Snelling made the difficult soaring descant part (expanded since the Angel Voices days) look and sound effortless.  (Salva Me/Tom Cully/Josh Madine/Ed Day/Sam Leggett/Descant by Joe Snelling/2007) 

Joe Snelling, 2007
4B) (Optional) In the late 2000s, a fan produced a YouTube Video of notable "Salva Me" pairings.  In this video, it can be noted that Adam Harris sang the "Salvas" with both Liam O' Kane and Steven Geraghty between 1997 and 2001, Ed Day with a trio combination of Josh Madine, Tom Cully and Sam Leggett in 2006; Joe Snelling descanted with Madine, Cully, Leggett, and Ed Day in 2007 (above); and Stefan Leadbeater in 2009 with a larger group, including Josh Madine, Sam Leggett, Alex Leggett, Kavana Crossley, Zach Lockett, Daniel Fontannaz and Tiarnán Branson. Matthew Rangel-Alvares inherited the descant in 2010, Michael Ustynovych-Repa in 2012, Alex Montoro in 2013-15, Gabriel Collins in 2016, Taichi Shinokubo in 2016, and Oliver Watt-Rodriguez in 2018. (Salva Me 1997-2009/edited by waukon)

Stefan Leadbeater,  hooded for "Salva" in 2009

Matthew Rangel-Alvares (rear) provides the "Salvas" from an elevated platform in 2012
 5) The vocally demanding "Stay With Me," is another Robert Prizeman composition, in which the self-effacing Ed Day showed off his remarkably poised and mature solo capabilities, and Liam Connery shone in the descant. (Stay With Me/Solo by Ed Day/Descant by Liam Connery/2007)

"Stay With Me" debuted as a video on October 3rd, 2003, as a vehicle for the voices of Joe Platt and Joe  Sanders-Wilde, and was included on the Free CD in 2004, an ideal showcase for these two high-flying singers. The spooky setting is the Roundhouse, a railroad storage facility in Islington.

Joe Platt in the Roundhouse (Stay With Me/Solo & Descant by Joe Platt, Joe Sanders-Wilde/Free CD/2004)

"Stay With Me" became another perpertual favorite, and its solo part was sung by Daniel Fontannaz (2008-2013) for several years, by various duets and trios, and in 2017 by Oliver Mycka (2015-)

6) This well-known piece by Engelbert Humperdinck, written in 1890-93 for his classic German opera Hänsel und Gretel, became a showpiece for Tom Cully and Ed Day. These two boys were one of the most memorable duet pairs in Libera’s history, each performing leads and secondary parts with equal ease. They were accompanied by Il Novocento Orchestra and by the other Libera boys at their most angelic. Watched closely, it provides an illustration of how Libera singers are not ranged in separate sections singing the same part, and how the various parts are dispersed throughout the group. On occasion here, no two boys appear to be singing the same part.

Tom Cully and Ed Day (Prayer by Engelbert Humperdinck/duet by Tom Cully and Ed Day/Il Novocento Orchestra/2007)

6A & B) This is the exquisite Cully/Day Leiden version of “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” which can be compared (just below it (Optional)) to the equally lovely video version by Ben Crawley and Joseph Platt, another of Libera’s most memorable duet pairs. In 2018, it was recorded on the Beyond CD by Gabriel Collins and Leo Barron. (Do Not Stand/Solo/duet by Tom Cully and Ed Day/2007)  (Do Not Stand/BenCrawley/Joseph Platt/ c. 2004)
Jaymi Bandtock and Sam Harper, the first of the great duet pairs, 1988. Other outstanding pairings have included Liam O' Kane with Adam Harris (1990s); Ben Crawley with Joe Platt or Chris Robson (early 2000s; see above); Oliver Putland and Anthony Maher or Daren Geraghty (1990s); Tom Cully with Michael Horncastle,  Ed Day, Conor O' Donnell, Josh Madine (or almost anyone else) from 2005-2010; Stefan Leadbeater and Ralph Skan in 2011-2012; and too many to mention in 2013-16, although Ciaran Bradbury-Hickey emerged as a great second voice in that era. in 2017-18, Oliver Watt-Rodriguez shone as both second voice and soloist.)

7) The following video shows another interesting example of how solos are passed along as soloists' voices drop out of range and younger boys’ vocal skills develop. The lovely solo part in "Far Away" taken here by Tom Cully with great aplomb was formerly the specialty of Michael Horncastle (seen in this concert a grown-up 14-year-old auburn-haired boy on the left side of the tenor section, next to former treble standouts Callum Payne and Conor O' Donnell). The secondary harmony, originally sung by Tom Cully, had, in this version, been passed on to Ed Day. In the 2009-12 sections, Parts 3-5 of this Timeline [links below], you'll see the solo part passed down several more times, to Ben Philipp (2009), Ralph Skan (2010), and Isaac London (2012). (Far Away/Takatsugu Muramatsu, composer/duet by Tom Cully/Ed Day/2007)

L to R: Ben Phillip, Sam Leggett, Liam Connery, Ed Day, Oliver Cole
 8) This beautiful full-choral piece, co-written by Robert Prizeman and Ian Tilley, is one of the few songs of this era in which the tenor section is (however briefly) highlighted. Also included here is a version from the 2004 album Free, with a rare solo appearance by Raoul Neuman, and the astounding descant voice of Joe Platt, which in the Leiden concert was (perhaps out of necessity) replaced with a flute.

Raoul Neumann in 2002 (Adoramus/ soloists Raoul Neumann/Joe Platt/ Free CD/2004)

9) And finally, a marvelous Robert Prizeman composition, originally sung by the group in 2002, that demonstrates the deep emotional power of a child's whisper. (I Am the Day/ Josh Madine/Sam Leggett/Ed Day/Tom Cully/2007

"I Am The Day," sung by Ben Crawley with Joe Platt on Descant, was first aired in this dreamy and mystical video, shot in 2002 at the Charterhouse School, Godalming, Surrey, for a Songs of Praise Advent series. (I Am the Day/2002/Ben Crawley/Joe Platt)
Two aspects of the fanciful revolving "zoetrope" set used in the 2004 video of "I Am The Day." The young scholars in the bottom photo are, from left, Sam Coates, Joseph Sanders-Wilde, Jake Shortall and Tom Cully.
The 2002 video, impressive as it was, now seems almost like a dress rehearsal for the amazing and complex 2004 version, with the same lead soloists, recorded in Sumner Studios, Manchester for Classic-FM TV. The director was Chris Salt of Pinch of Salt productions. (Notice how more and more boys are pulled into the center of the zoetrope.) (I am the day/zoetrope/ 2002)

Again, for coverage of Libera's second concert DVD, Angels Sing: Christmas in Ireland, and for the 2014 DVD please go to parts 6A and 7A of this Timeline.



Luke Collins, Jonathan Barrington, Liam Connery, Ben Phillip; 2010
In the end, there are a number of factors that separate Libera from the run of boys' choirs: There are, of course, Prizeman's shimmering arrangements, which are somehow universally spiritual instead of just Anglican or Christian.  Some of this comes from the fact that (except in settings of traditional pieces, a more recent occurance since the group began touring frequently in the US) standard Christian references are seldom sung in English, although they do occur frequently in Latin as part of the soaring chorus sections and backgrounds taken from Gregorian/plainsong chant or Anglican liturgy. For non-Latin-mass audiences, Libera might as well be singing nonsense syllables, except for the almost unconscious joyous reverence that shines through their music.

Matthew Jansen and Kavana Crossley, Arundel Cathedral, 2010

Then there's the fact that the boys don't come from the hothouse environment of a dedicated choir school, but from different schools, backgrounds and areas of South London. (The group now accepts boys from all religious denominations and those with no religious affiliations.) 

To this day essentially a mostly-volunteer, (including staff), not-for-profit organization, by the second half of the 2000-2010 decade Libera had expanded to include about 40 boys, with about half of them performing and touring, and the younger ones learning the repertoire, attending three-hour rehearsals several times a week with the performing singers, and readying themselves for the (sometimes sudden) promotion to public appearances.

(A very tiny eight-year-old Freddie Ingles speaking onstage and on TV in Japan, 2010)

"We're just normal children, really," the boys often comment in interviews, never mind that they get VIP treatment from their adoring public when touring, and that the numerous (over 50 by 2013) websites and blogs dedicated to them indicate a huge growing international fan base (This Timeline, for example, is read by fans in 95 countries and counting).
"Really, we're just normal children, really." New Jersey, April, 2014
Unlike many other boys' choirs, which are often seen as a fairly uniform group, with a few elite soloists, all Libera members are encouraged to try their solo wings, to let their personalities shine through, and to speak (and even joke when appropriate) between their disciplined and polished performance of songs, thus becoming familiar and beloved individuals to their fans.
Don't look so serious, it's your hobby; "Mini-James" Mordaunt, Cassius O' Connell-White, and Sere Akpobome in the spotlight in 2010

Another fan, from Florida in the US, gave this 2014 summation  of the  reasons behind Libera's enduring popularity:

To me, Libera embodies a unique combination of qualities that are altogether endearing....Being an all-young group distinguishes them in some sense from other cathedral choirs. Their on-pitch clarity of tone and ethereal studio recordings set them apart from ensembles with only live recordings. Having humble (and almost accidental) beginnings, and still having a non-pretentious character about them has an attraction all its own. Their mix of music, which includes original compositions and arrangements, showcases their range of talent, and widens their appeal. Having the boys be their own spokesmen allows fans to become engaged at an additional level, not to mention teaches them confidence and public-speaking skills. And of course, for me, to see young men (our future leaders perhaps) taking time to sing about eternal concepts and not just fluff, is hopeful and encouraging.—hiskeys

And yet another fan reported on a 2014 concert:

My fiancé came to the concert with me. He is studying elementary music education and was impressed with the ability of the boys to do a two-hour concert—and to be so focused! He said “Getting them to sing is probably the easier part… How does he [Robert Prizeman] get that many boys to do THAT for two hours?!”

So, to recap, Libera (under its various names and with successive ranks of boy singers) has now made over two dozen CDs (plus well over 20 more if you count Japanese releases and appearances on the annual EMI Classics, Sacred Music, Choirboys From Heaven and other Christmas music series/charity-CD recordings; not to mention on the CDs of other artists: (Neil Diamond, Hayley Westenraa, Björk, Aled Jones. Sir Cliff Richard, Michael Crawford, The Berlin Philharmonik, Sir Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras, the late Luciano Pavarotti and even Dame Edna Everage). 

 In August of 2011, Fan de LoK, from the French website Libera-Dreams, compiled a list of other artists' CDs on which Libera had appeared at that point; he came up with a total of 100, and grouped the CD covers in a collage. 
(2011 collage/photo by Fan de LoK)
He has also made a point of collecting information about all of the CDs and soundtrack recordings on which Libera tracks have appeared—196 as of January, 2015, not counting all-Libera CDs and compilations, or even collaborations with other artists. Some of these are fairly unbelievable.

Libera has now toured in Europe, Southeast Asia, China,the US, and Canada, and appeared in numerous TV-film and movie soundtracks, TV commercials, over a hundred TV programs and music videos, charity galas, three concert DVDs (Angel Voices: Libera in Concert in 2007, and Angels Sing: Christmas in Ireland in 2013, with a third PBS concert DVD, Angels Sing: Libera in America, recorded in August of 2014), several BBC specials and two video games. They've sung for two popes, for royalty, for European and Asian heads of state and for two US presidents. Quite a hobby.

2010 Philippines poster boys are Henry Barrington, Freddie Ingles, Matthew Jansen, and Jude Collins 

In spite of all this attention (much more intense on foreign tours than in England, where only a scattering of worshipers might show up at St. Philip’s Church for evensong on a rainy night), there seems to be very little internal competition in Libera for solos and/or "face time," and an egalitarian and mutually helpful attitude is fostered, with the boys’ families very much involved in making it all work. 

New faces making it all work on tour, 2011 (Clockwise from L Front): "Nano-Ben" Fairman (preceded in Libera by "Big Ben" Crawley and "Mini-Ben" Philipp), Matthew Madine, Orlando Woscholsky, Eoghan McCarthy, Tom Delgado-Little

If one watches the special feature seen above in the section on the 2007 Leiden PBS concert, it shows the results when the boys were asked individually if they considered themselves "the star of the show;" most of them, even the principal soloists, seemed to either find that idea totally humorous or have a charmingly individual take on it.

Left to right on both a 2009 concert poster and the cover of  Libera's Angel Voices CD: Sam Leggett, Liam Connery, Tom Cully, Ed Day, Josh Madine

It hardly needs to be said how important it is, when considering the Libera phenomenon, to make the distinction between children who perform for the joy of it, and performing children who are attempting to carve out show-business careers; Libera definitely fits into the former category. 

Soloists, of course, occasionally get more exposure than the other boys (more photos on CD covers and posters, etc., although these are also sometimes designed to provide a mix of ethnic looks), but otherwise seem to fit seamlessly into the all-for-one-one-for-all ethos. 

One reason for this is that the older boys are kept keenly aware of the fleeting nature of their youthful fame (and changing voices) by being enjoined to take an active role in mentoring and teaching their eventual replacements, younger boys who may even (occasionally) be ready for performances and public acclaim at seven or eight years of age.

Tom Cully coaches Kavana Crossley on hitting top notes, 2007.
 A poised and confident Kavana Crossley in 2011

Robert Prizeman, in the 2009 Songs of Praise Libera special, says:

"We encourage the older boys to be sort of like uncles to the younger ones, to teach them and look out for them." This goes a long way in explaining the "team spirit" and open affection within the Libera group, a subject of frequent audience and onlooker comment. In 2009,  Josh Madine, when asked in an onstage interview what it was like rehearsing, performing, and touring with Libera, replied laconically "Bit of a big party, really." The boys speak often of "friendship" and "friends" as one of the best things about being part of Libera.
Josh Madine and Michael Vereycken, c. 2005

Tom Cully (C) with Ben Crawley and Steven Geraghty (2005)

Callum Payne hugs Zak Lockett after a concert (c. 2005)

Michael Horncastle and Zak Lockett  between video takes in 2008

Ben Philipp and Kavana Crossley, 2009
Luke Collins (top) and Barney Lindsell, c. 2010
Little guy Cassius O' Connell-White gets a reassuring hand in Japan, 2010. He has said in interviews: "On my first tour, I had a mum, a dad, an uncle and an auntie—all members of the choir."

Featured soloist Ralph Skan hangs out with brand-newbies Isaac London and Tom Delgado-Little, Chicago, 2011.

 Cassius O' Connell-White, Kuba Niedermaier-Reed and Isaac London surround one of their favorite "uncles," Josh Madine, on his birthday, Philippines 2011.

Ben Fairman hugs Marc Alvares (and Tom Delgado-Little reacts) at an autograph signing after Marc has been discovered napping on the table by a fan following a long DVD recording session; Washington DC, 2014

Program photo, 2014: Ben Fairman, Eoghan McCarthy, Isaac London

Friends Camden Stewart, Leo Barron, and Taichi Shinokubo 
Libera Footnote: A Family Affair

Brothers/Brüder/Frére collage by Sue from Germany

Testifying to Libera’s appeal to young singers, even those with an “inside view,” a remarkable number of brothers (and cousins) have appeared within the Angel Voices/Libera group, with sibs appearing either sequentially or simultaneously. In late 2012, members of the Libera Dreams Forum site counted 13 sets of brothers and four groups of cousins appearing onstage between 1987 and 2013. Another two sets appeared in 2014-15, and eight more sets in 2016-2017. As of 2019, there have been 18 sets of brothers. in Libera

The earliest known of these are Jonathan and Matthew Arthey, both Angel Voices singers in 1987.

The Winter brothers, Matthew, Clive, and Ron, participated chiefly in the 1980s and '90s. Their dad, Andrew (now a member of the Libera managerial staff), Ron, and Clive all appeared as adult singers (on Libera's Free CD and elsewhere) as late as 2002. Close on their heels are the Geraghty brothers, soloists Daren (c. 1990-1997) and Steven (1997- through his present role as staff member, assistant musical director, and instrumentalist).

The Baron brothers, Chris and Alex, were part of the Angel Voices-to-Libera transition in the late 1990s, and Alex appeared as an adult singer as late as 2004. The Beston brothers, Alex and Simon (the latter continued as an adult singer, staff member and instrumentalist) were also in the mix around this time.

Three Vereycken brothers, Sam, James, and Michael, were part of the group over a long period, ranging from Sam in the late 1990s to James (2001-2006)  to Michael (2005-2009).

The top row of this photo from 2010 includes Michael Vereycken ( L), Jakob De Menezes-Wood (nearly hidden), Jonathan Barrington (tallest at C), Oliver Cole (4th from R), Josh Madine (3rd from R), Alex Leggett (2nd from R), and Thomas Cole (R), Front row includes James Threadgill (L) and Flynn Marks (R). All named are part of brother or cousin configurations.

The Cole brothers, Oliver and Thomas (both 2006-2009), were part of the 2007 Leiden concert DVD, and joined and left the group simultaneously.

The Barrington boys, Jonathan (2005 - 2012) and Henry (2008 - 2014), sang at opposite ends of the vocal range for four years, with Jonathan exiting the stage in 2012 to become a staff member.  Luke Collins (2009 - 2013) and his younger brother Jude (2010 - 2014) were in a similar situation in 2012. Their younger brother Gabriel (2013-2018) was already a mini-boy in spring of 2013 (the Guildford Cathedral concert of that year was the very first instance of three brothers performing together in Libera). Gabriel sang as a full Libera member on the 2013 Christmas DVD, as did Jude, though Luke had left the group. Samuel-Francis Collins, the youngest of the four brothers, became a mini-boy in 2014.

The Collins brothers

Mine Akpobome (2008-2011), and little brother Sere (2008-2010) appeared in England-based concerts and videos, but never went on tour. Alfie Smart (2008-2010) left before younger brother Bertie Smart (2011- 2013; 2014-2015) arrived on the scene. Bertie took a year off in 2013 and returned in 2014, leaving in 2015. Michael Ustynovych-Repa (2010 - 2013) was joined by little brother Mark, who became part of the touring group in 2015, but left that same year. Finn Wood, the younger brother of Lucas Wood (2011-2016) became a mini-boy in 2014 and began touring in 2016.

Cousin clusters have included Tiarnán Branson (2006-2013) and Oliver and Thomas Cole; Flynn Marks (2008-2011) and James Threadgill (2008-2011); and Matthew Rangel-Alvares (2009-2015) and Marc Alvares (2012 - ) 

But by far the most fascinating family configuration to most Libera-watchers was the Madine-Leggett-De Menezes-Wood clan, which, for a brief moment in 2012, boasted six active Libera  members. The group included the Madine brothers, Josh (2005- staff) and Matthew (2010-2017); their cousins (also brothers) Sam Leggett (2004-2014); and Alex Leggett (2006-2013);  (these "long-timers" continued to return for special concerts); plus two more cousins, Jakob De Menezes-Wood (2006-2012) and Michael Menezes (below, 2011-2016). In 2013, Michael's little brother James Menezes (2014-2017) performed in his first concert in May of 2014.

Michael Menezes

James Menezes (Photo by Patrick)

In 2016, four sets of brothers appeared in the February tour to the Philippines: Lucas Wood (2011-2016) and Finn Wood (2014-2016); Alex Montoro (2012-2018) and Mathias Montoro (2015-); Michael Menezes (2011-2016 ) and James Menezes (2013-2017); and Josh Madine (2005-Staff) and Matthew Madine (2010-2017).

In late 2016, another four new brother combinations arrived on the scene: Below from left: Sam Wiggin (2011-2017) with brother Victor (2016-); Lucas Wood with yet another sibling,Theo (2016-2018); Rocco Tesei (2012-) with little Romeo (2016-); and Taichi Shinokubo (2013-) with Koji (2016-). This brought the number of 2017 Libera sibling pairs to  eight (counting the Madines).


By the end of 2017, Laurence Taylor (2016-) and Leo Barron (2015-) had been joined by miniboys Nicholas Taylor (2017-) and Ethan Barron.(2017-).
And who knows what other little boys are growing up in Libera families, ready to make a try for the white robe?

End of A Family Affair

Libera auditions, dealing as they do with such young boys, are usually informal and low-key, with each applicant asked to sing a bit of a children's song or hymn verse, enough for Robert Prizeman, as he has said in interviews, to identify the "spark" that characterizes Libera boys

As mentioned, the group typically has around 40 singers either performing or in training, with the younger ones (known as "mini-boys") taught the basics by a singing coach, who works with them on sight-reading and vocal technique. This position is currently occupied by Eleanor Lewis (mother of former singer and current staff member Simon Lewis), who travels with the group and also serves as a chaperone.

The miniboys work with Eleanor Lewis, with older boys in the group, and then with Robert Prizeman; when they are deemed ready, they are slowly and carefully integrated into the performing schedule. This process usually includes joining the main group at least once for an "at-home" concert at a London-area  venue.

Not all miniboys become performers with Libera, for many different reasons, including schooling conflicts, and boys (or parents) who are overwhelmed by the amount of  time, dedication, and visibility to the public that being a member of Libera entails.
L to R: Alfie Smart, Sammy Moriarty, unknown boy, Liam Connery, Josh Madine, James Mordaunt, and Carlos Rodriguez rehearse at St. Philip's in 2009
Once a boy is part of the group, however, he may stay for as many as seven or eight years, moving to lower singing parts as his voice changes. Older singers often leave Libera to follow their own musical careers; some may become Libera staff members and/or graduate to the St Philip's adult choir (which in 2013 contained 10 ex-Libera singers). Around 2012-2013, combined events featuring both the current performing group and Libera graduates began to take place. In the aerly 2010s, former singers Stven Geraghty and Sam Coates became assistant musical directors, and by Libera's 2019 Christmas Carols With Libera CD, Coates was doing many of the group's arrangements.

In a 2013 interview, Robert Prizeman explained:

"[The older boys] don't actually have to leave when their voices change, because there are now different manifestations of the group, and they can carry on still singing with the group as tenors and basses in the future. The stage shows that we take round the world, and the recordings we do are centered around the boys from the age of 7-8 through 14-16, but the older boys don't, as I say, have to leave. Obviously all sorts of different circumstances prevail, interests change, but an awful lot of them stay around, and we combine in different ways to make music."

Josh Madine as a Libera accompanist in 2013

The boys themselves are encouraged to write songs, most play instruments, and many say they intend to continue with music.

But, of prime importance, when Libera sings, it's obvious that these kids are having a wonderful time creating those glorious sounds, and you'll often see one or another of them break into a smile in mid-song for the pure joy of singing.

 Now that's spiritual.

Michael Horncastle

Ben Crawley 

Sam Coates
James Threadgill 
Josh Madine

Sam Leggett

Joe Snelling

Michael Vereycken

Kavana Crossley 

Alex Leggett and Daniel Fontannaz

Jonathan Barrington

                                   Flynn Marks                   

Ed Day

Freddie Ingles

Stefan Leadbeater

Eoghan McCarthy

Kuba Niedermaier-Reed and Anthony Blake

Sam Wiggin

Alexander Gula

Taichi Shinokubo

  End of Part One. For Part Two (2008-2009) go to: