Or: Now, What Did I do with that Wish List?
“Those things must be heavy to move on your own” I ventured to the man who I’d seen painstakingly moving each pew by a couple of foot. I could see why he was doing it; making the aisle narrower – but that didn’t matter ‘cause the aisle was plenty wide anyway – but making sure there were fewer seats obstructed by the large stone pillars. “Not at all, he said, “they’re surprisingly light”. Still, better him than me. In the photo, you can see (well just about; I was at the back of the Cathedral!) Ben Crawley far left, unknown person sat next to him. Standing is the mysterious, phantom pew mover. Standing just to the right of the aisle is Sam Coates and on the far right, you can see Tom Cully.
I’d arrived at St George’s at roughly 2:30pm (yes, I am mad!) and said hello to Patrick and introduced myself to Yorkie and Dani, all from the Libera Dreams Forum. 5th in the queue = excellent! The temperature was around 10c but there was a raging wind which brought it down significantly and Patrick suggested I stay warm inside the Cathedral. I have a medical condition which is affected by cold and I use a walking stick, so any excuse not to stand outside in the cold was welcome. I stayed at the very back of the Cathedral as I didn’t want to muscle in on the boys’ setting up for the show. All too soon, Sam Coates came along to throw me out of the building; well, to be fair, he was asking everyone to leave (a few were using the Cathedral for their own personal reasons). They were closing the Cathedral as the boys had arrived and they were going to rehearse.
So it was back to the cold, cold, bitter cold outside. Didriz had arrived (the Murkskis) not long after me and I heard him comment that he was frozen – indeed everyone looked chilled to the bone! Note to Libera: Southwark concerts in the summer please!! One of the Cathedral staff came out to close one half of the main door, to make it look to the casual observer that the building was closed, for which I was exceedingly grateful as by now I was shivering! I was able to stand behind the closed door and shield myself. Around 5.30pm, one lovely lady came from inside and brought me a chair (she saw I was leaning on my walking stick!). I was totally shocked and thrilled with her act of kindness!
By 6.15pm, you could tell the place was preparing for action, people were arriving by the car load, the queue stretched around the corner and out of sight and endless people were coming to the front of the queue to ask where the box-office was. About 6.30pm (fifteen mins before door opening time), a lady appeared from inside the Cathedral and said to me “I’ll come and get you in five minutes”. Well. This was utterly unexpected. And five minutes later, she did! She beckoned me inside and said “Where I’m placing you, you can place your stick on the floor and it will not be in anyone’s way”. Well, gosh, this was all so unexpected. I felt truly humbled that two ladies had helped me in such a kind way! Being settled before the doors opened, also meant that I wasn’t trampled to death in the rush – always a bonus! And where did this fair maiden place me? OMG, only in the front row!!! Bless you my darling, bless you. Steven Geraghty was within a few feet of me, busily tidying wires, and I begged his momentary indulgence and asked if he had remixed Gaudete. He did. I thought so. He asked if it was now on iTunes; I said yes and that I loved the track. “It pumps” I said. “Oh yes!” he replied with a beaming smile, “It really pumps!”. I suggested the next album should contain a free, bonus CD – The Geraghty Remixes! “It’s been suggested” he said with a smile on his face. Free album? Actually I’d pay good money for that! I thought he added depth to his remix of Sempiterna and I enjoyed the disco-y Heaven but Gaudete … well… pumps! So that was number one crossed off the wish list!
Finally at 7.30pm the lights dim – surprisingly dark in there! – and Robert Prizeman came out and gingerly made his way to his piano. I felt that it would be so easy for him to trip over the various mics, wires or speakers but he managed it without breaking his neck (always a bonus!). Then Libera trooped out, took their positions and started in a glorious fashion with Jubilate Deo segueing into Libera. Still Still Still followed with Song of Life with Ralph taking lead as one would expect. Oh such a
shame that that amazing track is only available on the Japanese Mini Album which is so expensive as an import. My all-time fave Libera track was performed next, Sanctus. Pachelbel’s Canon and Libera vocals – just how perfect could anything be?? And yet at the concert, I felt as though the boys were a little drowned as it did not have the impact it should. Oh well.
Salva and Stay With Me (the quintessential Libera song) were next and then the revelation of the evening. Veni Veni Emmanuel sung by Josh Madine and backed by Ralph Skan. Oh my word ! Nay, OMFW! Like most Libera fans, no doubt, I have been an admirer of Josh’s voice for some time – Secret and Time are amazing. But nothing – NOTHING – could prepare me for the richness, depth, beauty and sonority his tenor voice possesses. Standing almost perfectly still he totally nailed the carol. The first half ended with Exultate; a song I love on record but somehow seemed to lack substance this evening. Was it because it sounded wrong without Ben Philipp opening it? Or perhaps, as with Sanctus, the boys were a little drowned.
So the interval then. Nothing exciting then. Save for queuing behind several men & women for about 10 mins for the one available loo … until someone pointed out that there were further loos down the other end of the room. Umm. Thanks. A sign would have been nice! (FYI, for any non-Brits reading this, a “loo” is a colloquial term for a lavatory!).
Getting back to my seat proved very fortuitous as I saw the legend that is Mr Tom Cully talking to someone. I have a friend in Manila who is insanely potty about Mr C (yes, I am talking about you Hannah!) so I waited (at a sufficient distance to not impose) for him to finish talking to his friend and asked him if I could take a picture as it would make her very happy. I use a walking stick and I will admit that taking photos single-handedly is less than easy. Mr Cully showed that he has the patience of a saint as I attempted three times to snap him … and three times nothing. “I think you’re turning the camera off” he offered. Hmm. The on/off button is next to the picture-taking-button. And, yes, I was pressing the wrong one! Thanks for the advice Tom! (And – yes! – I did feel stupid!).
And so the second half opens with the most dramatic carol ever written, Carol of the Bells and … hmm, dare I say this? … the campest choreography! Carol must be one difficult song to sing! The boys did RP proud as I thought their performance totally brilliant (even if the swishing is a bit camp!). (OK, OK, stop throwing bricks at me now!) Gloria followed and then the only song of the evening that I really disliked, The Fountain. Nothing to do with Ralph’s solo, I just find it dreary like the Chopin it’s based on. Eternal Light and Sing the Story were followed by Liam’s speech about the older boys exploring their new voices. The point was duly driven home by Liam’s amplified low, low, low voice booming out (not sure he even needed a mic!). The many teenager’s lower voices were well used and prevalent in Ave Verum with clever choreography which culminated in their trademark “V” formation headed by Josh. Class.In contrast, the impossibly-pretty arrangement of In Dulci Jubilo followed (anyone remember Mike Oldfield’s brilliant arrangement in the mid 70’s?). The last two songs of the main set were Glory to Thee and How Shall I Sing That Majesty. Without leaving the stage and returning, we were treated to one final song White Christmas. Technically, is it an encore if the artist doesn’t leave the stage and return? Hmm not sure.
I captured the applause and bows in my little old film here.
Show Over. Robert Prizeman steps onto the stage before the boys take their bows.
Of course, aside from the vocalists one must mention the speech makers! Quite simply, they were all a class-act. From a stage in a theatre you may see the people in the first couple of rows and then nothing but blackness beyond; but in a church or Cathedral, the boys would see the entire audience. And yet these lads were able to speak clearly and didn’t fluff their lines at all. One was nervous at the start of his first speech but showed no signs of nerves later. It’s slightly unfair to pick one boy out but other’s have commented on him elsewhere, so I will. The last speech was by Ben Fairman. “Hello, my name’s Ben. Nano-Ben.” He said, clearly and with a beaming smile all over his face! “I got my name because we have a Big Ben and a Mini Ben and because I am the smallest, I’m Nano-Ben! Thank you for coming to our concert and we wish you a very merry Christmas”. 100 mothers – at least – started filling in the adoption papers there and then! So congrats to Cassius, Barney, Jude and Liam – apologies if I left anyone out.
So that was it. Two hours seemed to pass in thirty minutes. Was it really two hours? Erm, yes it was but the time passed all too quickly. Couldn’t we have a four hour concert? Nah, guess not.
One aspect of the evening I really did enjoy was seeing the boys sing. That isn’t as daft as it may at first appear. I’ve always enjoyed watching music being played, seeing people play their instruments always adds more to the listening pleasure for me. And so seeing the boys sing added more to the listening experience. Some would remain almost perfectly still, others would move their heads or have beaming smiles. Kavana is very animated and clearly loves to sing. Ben Phillip has a permanent smile on his face and JB smiles with his eyes. Luke wobbles his upper body and slowly moved his left arm in a circular fashion and Stefan and Ralph move their entire body when they breathe in. Fascinating!
The wish-list? Oh. Well I am sure we all have one at a Libera concert: will they sing so-and-so, will there be a M&G (we knew there wouldn’t be) and will I be able to bump into so-and-so. My wish list would include Steven Geraghty (ticked), Ben Crawley and Sam Coates, partly because they were all fine sopranos and partly because I love that they have remained with Libera and co-write, co-produce, set up and play instruments. Also on my list would be Tom Cully (tick). Josh Madine and Ben Philipp.
Seeking out my adorable friend Yuki … I knew where she would be … just head for Big Ben! So I did. And there she was. With Big Ben. No change there then! Had an autograph from and quick word with Ben C and Sam Coates. Two more ticks.
Shortly after, the mysterious pew-shifter appeared by my side and asked if I enjoyed the concert. I said “you are obviously connected with Libera” (as opposed to being Cathedral staff) and he had a wry smile and said “You could say that”. “So whose dad are you” I enquired. It turns out that the mysterious pew-shifter was Mr Barrington. I commented on JB’s confidence in interviews.
I made my way to the front of the Cathedral and there was Daniel Fontannaz being the perfect gentleman; offering to sign anything and everything placed in front of him and posing for photos. Not just posing, but making sure he looked directly into the camera of everyone snapping him. A delightful young man. I was impressed.
I headed towards the large ante-room which had been used to serve refreshments during the interval (the loos were there too) and I went in as Steven Philipp was coming out. Much to my surprise he stopped and initiated conversation with me. Did I enjoy the concert? Had I travelled far? “Compared to some here tonight, not far. Plymouth (240 miles from London)”. “It’s far enough” Mr Philipp ventured “and we are truly grateful to everyone when they come and see us. It really means a lot to us”. A few more pleasantries were swapped and he was gone but I totally appreciated the two or three minutes he took to speak to me. As I said goodbye to him, RP walked by. I said “Fantastic concert tonight Mr P” and he stopped and said “I am so pleased that you enjoyed it”. Nice.
So then the pleasant surprise of the evening, I turned and there was Josh and Matt Madine. OMFW! Stupidly I said “Josh”. “Yes” he replied. Blimey Michael, how dumb was that! I then commented that I was truly amazed – truly amazed! – at his new voice and I said I thought Veni Veni Emmanuel was stunning. A bright smile lit his face and he said “oh thank you” or “oh that’s nice” over and over. He seemed genuinely pleased and humbled that I had enjoyed his singing so much. And all the time I was praising Josh, Matt stood there with a bright smile on his face. Two exceedingly nice young gentleman. Two more ticks off the wish-list.
And then one more. There was Ben Philipp. (Always a shy lad with not much to say. Not.). Ben was exactly what I’d imagined him to be. Pleasant, charming, very friendly and very animated. He was with three others but was happy to take five mins to chat and have his picture taken. Another star. And another tick off the wish list. Having finished chatting with Ben and preparing to leave, Tom Cully walked through the room, saw me (yes, the idiot who turns off his camera!) and asked if I’d enjoy the concert. Responding “yes, very much so”, he said “Good. I’m pleased. See you next time then”.
So there you go, Steven G, Sam C, Ben C, Tom C, Josh M, Matt M and Ben P, along with Steven Philipp and Rob Prizeman. And a front row seat. Not a bad way to spend an evening eh?
I was able to record a tiny bit of video and you can see this here
And to cap it all at the end, I drove by Olympia and noticed that The Doctor had landed the TARDIS at Olympia! OMFW! (Apologies if you have never seen Doctor Who!).
Below is a scan of each page of the concert program. Click on the scan to see a full-size image which you can save by right-clicking.