Hi! Sorry I haven't been able to post much lately. I've been working every day this summer from 9am-5pm. Hopefully I'll get a Libera video done soon also. But in the mean time, this is an interview that Libera did on BBC Radio before the Guildford concert. By request I am writing out the words for people who don't speak English, which can I just say takes forever to do! Ben Fairman, Michael Ustynovych-Repa and Robert Prizeman were talking. Thanks to Bullehynka and Inna for the upload.
Interviewer: Well, good afternoon. This is Graham Dean with you on BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey. Lovely, sunny Tuesday afternoon. It's just coming up to 10 minutes past 2. And time for "Tea for Two." Now if you're into choral music, you're going to love this because it's a group or a choir that I've been following for many, many years now since I discovered them anyway in the 90's. Libera are a boy vocal band, young lads. And if you've never heard the heavenly sounds of Libera, then be prepared for something very special indeed once I've spoken to them. The boys who make up the South London-based band called Libera have been described as normal and ordinary, so that's a relief, isn't it? And I'm very pleased to say that Rob Prizeman, who is the founding musical director of Libera, and also Ben Fairman and Michael Repa, they're 2 of the boys from the band, they're both 10 years old, they're joining me from our London studios right now. Good afternoon, guys!
Graham: Hello. I'll tell you what, Rob, let me talk to you first, Rob Prizeman. Maybe you could just tell us about Libera and how they were first formed.
Robert: Well, it just sort of happened really. To be honest we didn't sort of come up with some incredible visionary plan. It just emerged really out of things that we were doing, and it seemed fun to do the sort of choral things a slightly different way. And I was sort of a soundtrack composer, so it was kind of natural to use all sorts of different sounds and orchestral and keyboard and you know drums and all sorts of other things in the music. So it's not choir boys with a beat, but it is choir boys 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 kind of hark back to the ancient sort of choral music of the church.
Graham: Yes, I think I first discovered you back in the 90's, and it was the album, I think it was called "Libera," wasn't it, with the yellow cover, and it has "Sanctus" on it?
Robert: Yes, oh indeed, that was the first one.
Graham: Oh, we go back a long way.
Robert: Thank you.
Graham: And obviously the boys in the band change all the time. What's the age limit?
Robert: Um, well they don't really leave actually in a way because there's different manifestations of the group. So they carry on still singing with the group as tenors and basses and things in the future. But the sort of public form of it in terms of the sort of stage shows that we take round the world and the recordings are centered around the boys from the age of 7 through to the core group which is which is going to be 8 through 14. And they don't, as I say, have to leave. Obviously all sorts of different circumstances prevail, interests change, but an awful lot of them stay there, so we performed something a couple of weeks ago with over 60 all together. So it's quite a large group.
Graham: And do they find you, or do you find them?
Robert: Well, it's a combination really. But they come from lots of different schools, and I'm sure you would better speak to Ben and Michael about this really, as they come from one of the schools that we actually have a connection with. So they're all around south London. And sometimes they sort of talk to us, but to be honest, this is not something people tend to think about these days really, even with a vaguely sort of raised profile like we do have. People tend not to really think about it unless they know more about it, you know, personally or through some connection with a family or through the school, which schools are our greatest supporters really.
Graham: You must tell me about the name, because I've been sort of hedging my bet. Is it "Lee-bur-ah" or "Li-bur-ah" first of all?
Robert: Well, Ben'll correct you.
Ben: Yeah, well it is "Li-bur-ah." It's the Latin word for "free." And I guess it kind of makes a...we chose it because it kind of shows that we do our own thing. It's a bit like we're free to do what we want.
Graham: That's a good reason. So it's "Li-bur-ah," from the Latin.
Graham: Right, I can remember that. So Ben, how long have you been with Libera?
Ben: I've been with it 3 years, since I was 7, and I've enjoyed every part of it.
Graham: And how did you get involved then?
Ben: Well, Rob comes around to some of the schools, and he gives all the boys in year 3 an audition. So we have to sing a few notes, maybe a hymn, and the better boys come back for another, second interview. And if Rob thinks we're good enough, then we get invited to come along.
Graham: And have you enjoyed singing? I mean, was singing something that you wanted to do then, Ben?
Ben: Um, yeah, I always enjoyed singing, but I think Libera has helped me along with that quite a lot, to be honest. I mean, I used to be quite bad, but then Libera, Rob and all the older boys, have helped me and taught me how to sing properly.
Graham: Quite bad? You mean you didn't think you could sing at all, but then you found out perhaps, well I'm not so bad as I thought I was?
Graham: Yeah? I think you're being very modest, Ben. What about Michael there? Hello, Michael!
Graham: Michael Repa, also aged 10. And you don't happen to go to the same school as Ben, do you?
Michael: Yeah, I do!
Graham: OK. Did you know about Libera before Rob found you?
Michael: Uh, no I didn't.
Graham: And then when he found you, and he said, "Would you like to be part of Libera," what was your reaction to that?
Michael: Ah, well, it was a great feeling, cause I had something to be really proud of.
Michael: I'm still proud of it now and in the future.
Graham: Quite right, too. And it is the most wonderful choral sound, isn't it? And I've seen Libera on television. You've done "Songs of Praise." Have you been on TV yourself?
Michael: Uh, yes I have.
Graham: Which programs have you been on?
Michael: Um, "Songs of Praise."
Ben: We went on "Songs of Praise" when we were in year 4.
Robert: And you've done quite a lot on different television stations across the world, haven't you, of course as well.
Michael: We did a charity thing in America.
Ben: And we've also been guests on "The Philippines Got Talent."
Graham: How did that go?
Robert: It was a mad one out actually.
Graham: I think you better explain this then, Rob.
Robert: Well, we were guest artists only actually, but it is very much like the BGT actually, but much wilder if you can imagine anything even more hysterical. But they're both referring to a charity show which we did last year in the States in which they appeared...who were you with?
Michael: Yeah, we sung with both Meatloaf and Miley Cyrus.
Graham: Wow! There's a contrast.
Ben: We got to meet her afterwards.
Graham: And was she nice?
Ben: Yeah. One of the boys would have bragged if he was here, "I had a right chin-wag with Miley Cyrus."
Michael: That's what he likes to say.
Ben: No, I didn't, but one of the boys likes to brag about that.
Graham: Do you think he was overstating it, do you think?
Ben: No, he did actually have a conversation.
Michael: Yeah, he did.
Graham: Oh, well what did she talk to you about?
Robert: Well, that's a secret thing between Cassius and Miley Cyrus, isn't it?
Ben & Michael: Yep.
Graham: Have you guys sung with anybody else famous apart from those two?
Michael: Well, we sang TO the Pope once.
Ben: And at that charity thing in America, we also sang to Bill Clinton.
Graham: So in other words, your priorities there, you go Miley Cyrus and Meatloaf and then Bill Clinton and the Pope as sort of "also rans."
Michael & Ben: Yeah.
Graham: So guys, how do you fit in, you know the boys here, how do you fit in all these rehearsals, because you must have so many I imagine? With your school times and your studies, homework and the rest of it, how do you manage that? Where should we go? Um, Michael.
Michael: Oh, well, we have to be committed, but, um, sometimes you can't make it for reasons, but well we try and be there. And obviously you do have to kind of skip things which you want to do, but it's a good experience and it's worth doing.
Graham: It's worth it in the end, isn't it? Cause there's nothing, to me, nothing like the sound of the human voice, especially sung in harmony. I've been able to do that just with a few other guys, and when you hit it right, it just gives you that wonderful feeling inside, doesn't it?
Michael: Yeah, it does.
Ben: I mean, being with Libera is sort of like a hobby, cause you're doing what you want with all your friends whenever you go away.
Robert: Yeah, I think one of the characteristics of the group is that we are able to play around with the harmonies. And so someone like Michael, for instance, who's got a very high voice, we can use him doing some of those notes, and we can make the arrangements to suit the voices. So we are doing lots of interesting harmonies, and they will split into quite elaborate harmonies sometimes, which makes it more exciting. But it also makes it for the group, so we're not sort of bound by a particular repertoire which has to be performed with a particular arrangement. We can change it to fit the soloists and so forth. That's, I suppose, part of the "free" thing, really. That's not to say they don't also sing proper music as well. You know, I say "proper music" as opposed to music that I've sort of arranged. But we did a couple of weeks ago the Mozart Requiem, for instance, a full performance where the boys were doing all the solos and things. So they do a big range of music.
Graham: Now I should add actually that you're going to be performing at the Guildford Cathedral on May the 11th, just a few days away at 7:30.
Robert: Oh, yes. Do add that please.
Graham: Oh, I'll get it at the end, don't worry. And I would love to be there. I mean the most beautiful setting for just the most perfect kind of music as well, isn't it? So guys, let's go to Ben this time. Ben Fairman, do you get much free time?
Ben: Um, yeah, well on the tours we only do about 4 or 5 concerts, so at least half of the tour will be free time. But we also have some free time when we rehearse on Mondays and Fridays. We get to play a bit of table tennis, and we also have an N64 which is very popular with the boys. But yeah, we get quite a bit of free time.
Graham: So who do you like when it comes to music? Michael, let's go to you this time. Michael Repa. Who do you like to listen to obviously outside of Libera?
Michael: Well, lots of people are popular with Gangnam Style.
Robert: And we've just been there as well, haven't we? Just been to South Korea actually.
Ben: We performed on the same night that Psy was performing.
Graham: And Ben, who do you like?
Ben: I actually quite like old music cause my dad has kind of brought me in to the tradition of listening to rock music from the 60's.
Graham: Any particular names from the 60's? Who do you like?
Ben: The Beatles.
Graham: The Rolling Stones?
Ben: Yeah, all that kind of thing. Cream.
Graham: Yeah, that one's moving into the 70's and the 80's of course. So is that something you'd like to do later in life, Michael? To be a singer in later life?
Michael: Well, obviously, it takes a lot of commitment, but yeah, maybe. It's a thought.
Graham: And Ben?
Ben: Um, I've thought of it, and if I'm good enough then I'd like to be one, but I'm not so sure.
Graham: Just see how it goes.
Graham: Well, you've got a wonderful start, haven't you? So Ben and Michael, thank you so much. Both 10 years old, part of Libera. Rob, just before you go, for people thinking of coming along to Guildford Cathedral on the 11th, what kind of things can they expect to hear from you?
Robert: Well, it's quite a range really. We do have quite a lot of things which will be familiar to people. I mean tunes like "I Vow To Thee My Country." We do our own arrangement of the "Pachelbel Canon" with the boys going up to sort of top C's and things like that. There's a little bit of Enya. There's also quite a lot of stuff which is original to us and stuff which is done quite atmospherically using the acoustics of the building, with the orchestra. And also because we have it all lit and staged, so it's really a pop concert in one way, but it's also a very imaginative way, well, I hope people with think it's a very imaginative way of doing it.
Graham: And I guess this must have evolved quite greatly since the early days cause you started in the 80's I think, didn't you?
Robert: Well, the whole business of presenting something like that has become, of course, much more elaborate nowadays because it's possible to do so many more interesting things really with the lighting and so forth. And so we, of course, use all that kind of technology. We don't, as it were, try to present it in a sort of monastic style. Although the boys would go and sing a Mass or something in a very traditional style. They quite often do. But in this context, of course, it's very much show biz, and although they don't dance or do anything like that, they do move on stage. The whole thing is a staged experience. It isn't just done from the choir stalls.
Graham: So Michael, just before you go, and Ben as well, what's Rob like as a boss then? Is he a hard task-master?
Robert: Sneaky trick.
Ben: He does push us quite hard, but then again he rewards us with so much free time and so much opportunities to do all of the stuff that Libera do. We go on tour to many countries, and all this is basically free of charge.
Graham: Well, good for you. Thanks for joining us. They're telling it like it is there. Ben Fairman, Michael Repa, both 10 years old, of Libera. Rob Prizeman, thank you for joining us as well. The founding musical director of Libera. I'm going to play "Sanctus" from the album I mentioned earlier on from the 90's, wasn't it? I think round about the mid-90's.
Robert: Well, that's the one we're doing on Saturday which is based on the "Pachelbel Canon."
Graham: There we are. I was going to ask you to lead us in nicely. You have done that. Libera will be performing at the Guildford Cathedral on May the 11th at 7:30. And go along, and you will enjoy music like this. Thank you very much for coming along today.