Thursday, November 3, 2011


 Part Two: c. 2008-2009
(Last edited/updated January 6th, 2018) 
VI: MOVING ON: 2008 US Tour, Papal Mass, and Aled Jones Christmas Special
(Christmas With Aled)
(What's in a [Nick]name?
VIII. TOURING: SPRING 2009 – Japan and Southern California
(Crystal Cathedral)
(Why Do Boys Leave Libera?)

VI: MOVING ON: 2008 US Tour, Papal Mass, and Aled Jones Christmas Special

2008 Libera (with newbies) at photo-shoot for"You Were There"
Although new Libera video releases were relatively scarce in 2008, the autumn brought a brand-new YouTube clip of a lovely song called "You Were There." This solo-with-chorus not only revealed long-time standout Tom Cully's morph from cute kid into teen angel (still soprano, but probably not for long), but introduced (by face at least) some of the newest and smallest 2008 Libera members.

Tom Cully  (You Were There/Solo by Tom Cully/ Takatsugu Muramatsu, composer/2008)


Libera Footnote: Oddly enough, the following song with the same title, sung here in 2002 by Libera’s Steven Geraghty, was recorded for a Japanese PlayStation 2 game called “ICO” and bears no relation to the 2008 Takatsugu Muramatsu composition, which (sung by Cully) was used that year as the theme song for a Japanese film called Nobody to Watch Over Me. (You Were There/Japanese Playstation “ICO” game [2002 version composed by Michiru Oshima]/solo by Steven Geraghty)


Here's a late-2000s performance that couldn’t be further from earlier ecclesiastical settings and really shows what Libera can do with a difficult arrangement, in this case the entirety of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” This clip is from a guest appearance on a wild British TV program called Last Choir Standing, a talent show (for choral-music groups only) that debuted on the BBC in July of 2008. The actual competition performances were mostly all-out no-holds-barred and slightly frenetic, but here Libera showed them effortlessly how it’s done. (Orinoco Flow/Last Choir Standing)

In the summer, the group embarked on its first official US concert tour, (in December, nine boys had traveled to Washington DC for a prestigious appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors; see Section I and Section VII below). The tour took them through the northeastern region of the US, and concluded rousingly with a windblown but much-appreciated appearance as part of a “Concert of Hope,” singing “Sanctus” to an SRO crowd of over 65,000 at New York’s Yankee Stadium, preceding a Papal mass with Pope Benedict XVI. As mentioned elsewhere, it was revealed in a 2011 interview that the boys’ slightly “squinting” appearance was caused by strong winds and overly bright stage lighting at close range.

Alex Leggett, Sam Leggett, Kavana Crossley, and James Threadgill get their squint on in Yankee Stadium. (CNN videocapture) (First US concert tour/2008)

Christmas with Aled

During the 2008 holiday season, a new crop of YouTube hits suddenly appeared, related to a Christmas program filmed in venerable St. Bartholomew's Church, London, and starring Aled Jones (as mentioned, former crowd-pleasing solo choirboy, popular Songs of Praise presenter, beloved tenor, and long-time enthusiastic fan of Libera).

Aled Jones in 2008 Christmas special, with Zach Lockett, Liam Connery, Ed Day and Josh Madine.

This holiday performance concentrated on a selection of England's most beloved Christmas carols by showing short travelogue-style histories of their origins (clips of Aled rambling about in the relevant countries), and presenting the carols themselves in spectacular fashion. The 100-plus singing participants included Jones, Libera, and members of several adult choirs, including St. Philip's. Here, four of Libera's soloists lead off and join with Jones in a  beautiful arrangement of song and setting.  (Once in Royal David's City/ Josh Madine/Liam Connery/Ben Philipp/Tom Cully/Aled Jones/2008)

Libera was also given several non-Aled appearances in the program, making it possible to see recent changes in the group. In "Gaudete," grown-up choristers Steven Geraghty and Sam Coates accompanied the group on recorder and drum. This video also allowed an even better look at the new crop of urchins aspiring to be the next Tom Cully or Liam Connery. Connery took the introductory solo with aplomb. 

 (videocapture) 2008 little guys: (front from L.) James Mordaunt, Kavana Crossley, James Threadgill, Flynn Marks, Ralph Skan. (2nd row): Sammy Moriarty, Stefan Leadbeater, Zach Lockett (hidden), and Daniel Fontannaz (ditto).

This clip also showed Michael Horncastle, whose lovely soprano had become a high, light tenor, still wearing the white robe and joined in the back row of lower voices by late-2007 altos Oliver Cole and Jonathan Barrington. In the video that follows this one, it can be seen that late-2007 Libera tenor Callum Payne had graduated to the adult choir   (Gaudete 2008: solo by Liam Connery/recorder: Steven Geraghty; drums: Sam Coates)

Alumni choristers in black above, from L: Steven Geraghty, Sam Coates, Simon Lewis, Raoul Neumann, Callum Payne, Samir Abouelfaid

The soft-spoken Samir Abouelfaid in Libera Days

And finally, another Libera-only appearance, with Ben Philipp soloing, and the boys joined by alumni dressed in the black robes of the St. Philip's Choir. Ben Crawley is at far right.  (While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night/solo by Ben Philipp/2008)
Ben Philipp
(Optional) Here’s a look at the complications and pleasures of coordinating 48 hours of shooting, five months' prep, eight countries, four choirs, one lead singer, 10 carols and over 2500 candles in a 492-year-old church. (Behind the Scenes at the 2008 Aled Jones Christmas Carol special/2008)



Discussing their "hobby" with host Aled Jones (R) on 2009 Songs of Praise Special are (clockwise from Flynn Marks in foreground): Ben Philipp, Kavana Crossley (perched on chair), Tom Cully, Josh Madine, and Liam Connery. James Mordaunt is behind Jones.

On January 25th, 2009, another treat for Libera fans appeared: Songs of Praise, celebrating its 48th year on BBC-TV, created a 30-minute special program about the group, hosted by the ubiquitous Aled Jones.

(Optional): To understand Aled’s remarks about “the theme from ‘The’Snowman’,” watch this lovely “duet,” featuring Aled and…Aled.) (Walking in the Air/Theme from The Snowman/ Aled Jones 1985/Aled Jones late-2000s)

(Optional): Angel Voices also recorded this song in 1997, with Liam O' Kane as soloist. (Walking in the Air/Liam O’ Kane 1997)

This Songs of Praise Libera program features some quite lovely singing, along with the world's ugliest socks. (Onstage in formal concerts, the boys wear white pants, white socks, and white slippers under their robes.) 

"Jumping" photos from New Dawn CD with white socks and slippers much in evidence.    
There is also quite a lot of exposure of the up-and-coming "mini-boys," including little "Mini-James" Mordaunt (the child who gets teased by the bigger boys during one of the group interviews, so-nicknamed to avoid confusion with the slightly larger James Threadgill) up-and-coming Thai-born singer Kavana Crossley (the one who says he wants to be either a singer or a NASA scientist); Flynn Marks (with chin-dimple and irrepressible grin); James Threadgill (cherubic wheat-blond boy with gorgeous smile); Carlos Rodriguez (dark-haired and self-effacing); Ralph Skan (reddish bangs and precise enunciation); and wee Freddie Ingles (blond hair, hazel eyes, endearingly prominent ears).
James Mordaunt
Kavana Crossley

James Threadgill (Libera BBC-TV Special/Songs of, Praise/2009)
Digression: What's in a (Nick)name?
OK, imagine that you're a choir director and his/her staff, in charge of up to 40 sweet-voiced boys, in an informal setting where all of the lively lads are addressed by their first names. Some of those first names are identical, so, in the middle of a full-on rehearsal, how do you minimize the confusion about which boy you're addressing? If it's Libera, you use nicknames as a helpful code. 

Since the mid-1990s there have been numerous cases of boys in Libera with the same, or very similar, first name. Seven of these ( Christopher [3], Jonathan [2], Liam [2], Oliver, [3], Nathaniel (3), Robert [2], Simon [2], Luke (3), Henry (2) and Ian [2]) have essentially been a non-issue, as they belong to singers of different choral generations. 

Liam O' Kane, 1991-1999
Liam Connery, 2005-2012
Certain names, however, have occurred simultaneously or in quick succession, compounded by the fact that several ex-choirboy staff members continued as an active everyday part of the group's activities. One of the most well-known examples of "code naming" is of course, "Mini-Ben" Philipp, who was most probably given the name under the influence of the "Mini-Me" character in the hilarious Austin Powers films of the 1990s-2000s. This nicknaming was, as mentioned elsewhere, to distinguish him from staff member "Big Ben" Crawley. 

"Big Ben" Crawley
"Mini-Ben" Philipp

"Nano-Ben" Fairman
When little Ben Fairman showed up around 2010, with the other two still very much a part of Libera, he declined to become "Mini-mini-Ben," or "Micro-Ben," and opted for (or was assigned) the nickname "Nano-Ben." (There always seems to be a Ben in the Libera ranks; in 2014-present it's Ben Bywater.)

 Carrying on this short-lived tradition, when James Mordaunt and James Threadgill became part of the group in 2009, the smaller of the two (Mordaunt) became "Mini-James." When all newbies subsequently began to be referred to as "mini-boys," the custom of applying the term to individuals was pretty much dropped. A brief exception was made in 2016, when the Libera careers of Cassius O'Connell-White (2009-2016) and a very tiny mini-boy blond boy named Cassius Collard intersected, and the temptation for "Mini-Cassius" became irresistible.

Cassius O' Connell-White in 2010

In 2007, soloist "Tom" Cully shared the stage easily with the younger "Thomas" Cole. Thomas Delgado-Little (2011-) became "Tom" or "Tom DL." Michael Horncastle (2002-2009) was always "Michael," and his contemporary Michael Vereycken invariably "Mike." Michael Ustynovich-Repa (2011-2013), aka "Michael U-R" had the name to himself until the advent of Michael Menezes in the spring of 2012. Luke Collins (2010-) and Lucas Wood (2012-) presumably had no problem; ditto with mini-boy Luke Jelley in 2015.
 A Tom (Cully, L) and a Thomas (Cole)

Jakob De Menezes Wood (2006-2012) and Jakub Neidermaier-Reed (2011-) made it easier on everyone by having nicknames ("Kob" and Kuba," respectively) already attached. Jacob Shortall, in the earlier 2000s, went by "Jake." Other examples of pre-nicknamed boys: Anthony "Chad" Chadney (2001-2005), Alfredo "Alfie" Smart (2008-2011), Bertramo "Bertie" Smart (2011-2013 and 2014- ), Frederick "Freddie" Ingles (2008-2011), Barnaby "Barney" Lindsell (2010-2012), Jonathan "JB" Barrington (2005-2012), and Kavana "Kav" Crossley (2006-2015).

 Oh-oh. Four Sams in Japan

 Aside from Sam Harper in the 1980s, five Sams had to be accounted for between 2004 and 2012. Samir Abouelfaid (c. 2000-2005) became "Sam2" or "Sam AB" to avoid confusion with (now staff member) Sam Coates (1986-staff), who was known as "Sam1" or "Spam," the latter possibly influenced by best pal (and also current staff member) Steven Geraghty (1996- staff)'s nickname "Hamster," which had been shortened to "Hamm."  Contemporary Sam Leggett (2004-2014) graciously accepted the somewhat inelegant "Sleg," and Samuel Moriarty (2008-2014) good-naturedly embraced the diminutive version "Sammy." Sam Wiggin joined the group in 2011, but his nickname, if any, was not known at this writing. By 2013, he was the sole Sam, that is, until the youngest of the four Collins brothers, another Sam (Samuel-Francis), became a mini-boy in 2014. 

Two little Josephs, Platt and Sanders-Wilde, showed up around 2001, and were known as "Joe1" (Platt) and  "Joe2" (Sanders-Wilde, who later graduated to "Joe SW") The boys were best friends and constant companions, loved high descants, and sang occasional duets, most memorably on "Stay With Me" (see Section II above). Descantor Joe Snelling (2006-2008) was the lone Joe of his time, as was Joe Walshe (briefly) in 2015.
Joe2 and Joe1 hanging out during an early photo shoot
Alex Leggett, Sam's younger brother, went by "Lex," which may or may not have been to distinguish him from a seldom-seen mini-boy named Alex Godden. Earlier, Alex Baron sang with Angel Voices, and then with Libera as an adult singer until 2004. in 2012-13 (see below), more Alexanders showed up.

Matthew Madine
Although Matthew Arthey had his name to himself in the 1980s and Matthew Horsewood in the'90s, three small Matthews popped confusingly onto the scene in 2009-2010. Matthew Rangel-Alvarez became "Matthew R-A," Matthew Madine presumably"Matt" or Matthew," and Matthew Jansen the efficient "MJ." By 2016, Matthew R-A had left, MJ and Matthew Madine had joined the lower voices, and little Mathias Montoro became part of the performing group.

Matthew R-A

Fortunately for the Libera staff, the days of every other boy being a John, a William, an Edward, or a Harry, are in abeyance. In recent years, certain Libera boys and mini-boys have rejoiced in names like Raoul, Rocco, Camden, Alessandro, Orlando,Shay, Mine, Sere, Cian, Ciaran, Eoghan, Tiarnán, and Eoin. Now how does one pronounce....?

UPDATES: 2012-into-2013 Libera similars included the three Matthews, two Michaels and Luke/Lucas mentioned above (along with newbie Sam Wiggin and veteran Sammy Moriarty), and had also acquired two Anthonys (Blake and Kerr-Munley [2012-2013]), the latter dubbed "Anthony KM"during his short time with the group.

In the spring of 2013, Libera performed a concert at Guildford Cathedral which included both alumni singers and mini-boys. Besides the three Matthews and two Michaels mentioned above, There was a new Marc/Mark (Alvares and Ustynovych-Repa) combination, not to mention two new little Alexanders (Gula and Montoro), and an Alessandro to contend with. 

 Alex Montoro

Alex Gula

Alessandro Mackinnon-Botti

Alex Leggett

For the Christmas in Ireland  DVD recorded in August, 2013, the Addition of Alex Leggett may have made for some confusing moments.

In August of 2014, for the Libera in America DVD recording, the similars included the three Matthews,two Michaels, two Alexes/ Alessandro, and three Sams (Wiggin, Leggett, and Moriarty), while little Sam Collins, the fourth Collins brother, became a mini-boy that year. (There has been at least one Sam in the group since 1996.) 

In 2015, the three Matthews were also still part of the main group, singing with the lower voices, and the two Alexes (Gula and Montoro) and Alessandro Mackinnon-Botti were all singing solo parts. Ben Fairman had left the group, leaving his name-legacy (unbroken since 1999) to mini-boy Ben Bywater. Marc Alvares was solidly a member of the group, but Mark Ustynovych-Repa did not tour in early 2015. 

Camden Stewart was joined at rehearsals by another Cam, mini-boy Cameron Taylor, and Tom Delgado-Little by little Tom Cooper. Along with the second Adam on the group's history, a fourth Joseph, and a Finn, some unusual new names also surfaced in the ranks of the 2015 mini-boys:  Leo, Neo, Tadhg, Taichi, Sejus,and Oliviero. Now how does one pronounce…?

In 2016, more new names appeared: Romeo (Tesei), Gregor (Lumsden), Peter (Kielty) and Emanuele (Borrelli). Shay Balsekar (2013 -) was joined in 2016 by miniboy Shea Duffy, though both were gone by mid-year.

2017 mini-boys 

In 2017 the Alex M/Alex G/Alessandro combo was joined by mini-boy Alexandre Menuet, and Oliver Mycka by miniboy Oliver Watt-Rodriguez.

2016-2017 also saw the introduction of a number of new-to-Libera names: Laurence, Fyfe, Koji, Victor, Theo, and Arthur (2016); Ethan,Louis, Calam, and the very first English versions of the ever-popular name John with miniboys Johnny Gardner and Jack Spicha (2017). A new little Benjamin (Wevill) was added, extending the solid string of Bens going back to the 1990s, and it was revealed that Ben Bywater has been added to the Big Ben-Mini-Ben-Nano-Ben legacy by becoming "Pico-Ben."

 Late-2017 crop of miniboys

End of What's in a (Nick)name?


 VIII. SPRING 2009 – Japan and Southern California Tours/Crystal Cathedral

Libera poses in front of the Crystal Cathedral, Los Angeles, 2009
In early February of 2009, a group of about 20 Libera boys spent a week in Tokyo appearing on various TV and radio programs and attending the premier of a film called Nobody to Watch Over Me, which used the recently released "You Were There," composed by Takatsugu Muramatsu and featuring Tom Cully as soloist), as its theme music.
About the same time, a CD of the same name, filled in with Libera songs from earlier eras, was released in Japan. During their visit, the group's recent single release, "Prayer," went to number one on the Japanese classical chart, and the boys delighted a Japanese audience by singing the theme from the Japanese animated feature Ponyo.  (Theme from Ponyo/2009)

Sam Leggett, Liam Connery, Tom Cully, Ed Day, Josh Madine

Meanwhile, a compilation of 32 Libera songs of all eras showed up in the early-2009 release of a double album called Eternal, a "best of Libera so far" offering. During the Japan tour, Eternal was riding high in the UK charts in both mainstream and classical listings. On, it was number one on the classical-album chart and number three on the main pop charts—third only to two Bruce Springsteen albums. Libera CDs also occupied the first 5 places on Amazon's classical chart.
Interior of St. Philip's, Norbury
March saw the group performing in England, at their home church, St. Philip's, and in the venerable Arundel Cathedral in West Sussex.

In April of 2009, Libera began a tag-team rush of concert touring. Twenty-four singers plus crew and musicians flew to Japan once more to perform concerts in Sendai and Tokyo. The group played to packed houses at major venues, made some charity appearances and appeared on live national TV. One of those TV appearances, with ten boys singing "You Were There," stirred up a mini-furor among Libera fans when the group appeared on You Tube with Josh Madine singing the solo and fan favorite Tom Cully nowhere in sight.

 (Optional)  (You Were There/Tokyo/Josh Madine/2009)

Rumors flew around the Internet that Cully's voice had changed or that he had quit the group for some reason; more agitation ensued when, having finished the first half of their tour by singing at St Ignatius church in Tokyo on Easter Sunday morning, the boys arrived (still on Easter, courtesy of the International Date Line) in Los Angeles, still without Tom Cully. The fuss subsided when friends of the group posted a note that Tom had taken a leave of absence to study for and take his GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams, similar to the US's SATs (Scholastic Achievement Tests).

Crystal Cathedral Performance, 2009 (L ToR) Ralph Skan, Stefan Leadbeater, Kavana Crossley, Flynn Marks, Josh Madine, Ed Day, Jonathan Barrington, Liam Connery, JamesThreadgill, Ben Phillip

In the days following, the Libera boys played on the beach, appeared onstage at Disneyland, and sang to full houses in Palm Springs and at pastor Rick Warren's giant glass-paned "Crystal Cathedral," where they also performed during the internationally televised Hour of Power.
This prestigious concert was arranged at the last minute by Jon van de Bos, Netherlands contact person for the program. The boys kept their cool, even when confronted by temperatures in the 90s and the enormous transparent structure of the Cathedral with its lofty stage and two-story pipe organ. 

To begin the concert, they launched into a Libera standard, Robert Prizeman's "Salva Me," whereupon a new little star was born, in the person of 11-year-old poker-faced Stefan Leadbeater, one of the group's "mini-boys" who previously had scarcely registered as a blip on the Libera video scene. With the departure of "Salva Me" soloist Joe Snelling the previous fall, speculation was rife about his replacement for this demanding descant. Well, meet Stefan.
Stefan Leadbeater in 2009 (Crystal Cathedral/Salva Me/descant by Stefan Leadbeater/2009) (NOTE: this video is no longer available without the  three-minute jumbotron introduction)


Libera Footnote: Why Do Boys Leave Libera? (Optional) Speaking of "Salva" soloists, “What ever happened to Joe Snelling?” was a phrase that appeared frequently on fansites after Joe’s somewhat sudden departure in 2008. In 2011, there was a hint of an answer, when a pop/rap video appeared on YouTube crediting Joe as the higher voice throughout the song, though with no photos of him. (You’re the One to Blame/Joe Snelling with Abolishkidd/2010)
Joe Snelling, aka "The Furby" 2005-2008
A recurring phenomenon among Libera fans is that some people discover the group, fall in love with it, but conveniently ignore the fact that it is by nature an ever-changing collection of boys. Voices change, family plans change, interests change. Older singers leave, and new mini-boys replace them; a fact of life in a boys' singing group. 

Some fans, however, seem to want to freeze time, and plaintive queries such as "Where's so-and-so? Tell him to him to come back/stay with the group!" or "Who are all these new boys? I can't tell them apart!" frequently appear on forums and YouTube comment sections. 
"Where's Josh?" is one of the most frequent of such queries. Joshua Madine (2005-present), seen at left with the equally popular Tom Cully in the 2007 PBS special Angel Voices: Libera in Concert (which introduced Libera to its first worldwide audience), and at right in 2016. Josh continued with his musical career, serving as keyboard accompanist for Libera and recording and performing with the vocal group Vox.

Assuming that a boy enters the group as a miniboy (as most do) at age seven, the "shelf life" for membership in the performing/touring group is perhaps seven years at most, though there have been notable exceptions, as with the 2013 Christmas in Ireland DVD, when the ages of the singers ranged from eight to eighteen, and the Libera in America 2014 DVD,where Sam Leggett was the oldest singer at almost 20 years of age.
When boys leave Libera, there is always a certain amount of lamenting and speculation among their devoted fans as to why. There are various reasons: 

1. Voice change; (an exquisite treble does not always mature into an adult voice that its owner considers suitable for singing in public; occasionally voice-change for a featured soloist can prove a letdown after heady years in the spotlight, causing some boys to move on to other pursuits.)

2. Desire to move into different areas of music or performing, as with soloist Tom Cully (2002-2010), who even changed his performing name to get away from Libera attention, or Ben Crawley (1999-2006) who performs under the name of "Ben See." 

3. Other growing interests that take precedence (Orlando Wolcholsky [2011], for instance, was also involved in several other high-powered performing situations, and only remained with Libera for a brief time.

4. Conflicts with schooling, as with beloved little soloist "Mini-James" Mordaunt (2008-2011) when he began secondary school, or 2013 up-and-comer Michael Ustynovych-Repa (2010-2013) when he received a scholarship to a more-distant school.

5. Families relocating (as with soloist Freddie Ingles [2008-2011]) The simultaneous disappearance of the three Woods brothers, Lucas (2011-2016), Finn (2014-2016), and miniboy Theo (2015-2016) would seem to indicate a similar situation.

6. The stresstraveling and performing before large audiences, often in foreign countries, with jet lag a factor.

Alfie Smart, who left the performing group in 2010 after only two years, reacts during an interview in Japan when asked about his solo part in that night's concert. His younger brother Bertie joined Libera onstage in 2012, left a year later, and returned as a soloist in 2014, leaving in 2015.

7. Difficulty in maintaining and coordinating the Libera rehearsal and performing schedule with family life and other activities.

 Libera demands considerable unpaid time, including that spent commuting to rehearsals, and effort from the boys and their families, and occasionally this may also be a factor in their leaving. Some parents decide that they prefer that their children not be public figures with a level of visibility that often results in a somewhat unnerving degree of fan adulation and, like it or not, a prominent online presence. Some boys decide (on their own or with their families) to perform only in London- or UK-based concerts, not to appear in videos, or to sing only with the St. Philip’s Choir rather than continuing to appear onstage.

Tired boys on tour crowd a couch in yet another city (Los Angeles) for yet another photo-op, 2009.

As mentioned, by its very nature, this is an ever-changing group, and the attrition rate is surprisingly small for a comparable group of its size. 

In 2012, however, the group contained seven singers over 14, all beloved of fans from the 2007 Angel Voices: Libera in Concert broadcast DVD, with changed voices. As younger trebles' voices were also changing, however, a sorting-out process was needed. The roster for that spring's Singapore-Japan tour surprised fans by including only boys 14 years old or under, with the reason given that all the older boys were studying for exams. 

By the summer, however, only one or two of the older boys had returned to singing; one had joined the staff, and the others were busy on non-Libera projects. Some had begun to work on choreography for the group and to assist in other ways, and to return to the group only for special concerts, as with the 2013 and 2015 PBS DVD recordings. 

By 2013, it had been recognized that the older boys needed a purposeful way to continue in the Libera sphere of activities, and more special events and opportunities were added to the St. Philip's Choir schedule. In 2013, ten former Libera singers were part of the St. Philip's Choir, and joined with them and the Libera group in a major performance of Mozart's Requiem. This, as well as other classical works and  various seasonal offerings, was repeated in later years, including 2017. In all interviews, boys had begun to stress that "You can be a part of the group for as long as you like." Robert Prizeman reinforced this in a 2013 interview:

"The boys don't actually have to leave anymore, because there are now different manifestations of the group, and they can carry on singing with the group as tenors and basses in the future. The stage shows that we take around the world, and the recordings we do, are obviously going to be centered around the boys from  the core group aged 7-8 through 14. The older boys don't, as I said, 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."

End of Why Do Boys Leave Libera?

Another highlight of the Crystal Cathedral performance was "Gloria," with Stefan Leadbeater shining again in the soprano descants, joined by Kavana Crossley. This piece, arranged by Robert Prizeman, was not originally written as a choral work and had no words when it appeared in 1886 as the "Maestoso" section of the fourth movement of Saint-Saens' Symphony #3 in C Minor for Symphony Orchestra and Pipe Organ. (Crystal Cathedral/ Gloria/2009)

(Optional) And finally, a charming "Hour of Power" interview with three fast-growing Libera soloists. (Rick Warren Interview/Josh Madine/Ben Philipp/Liam Connery)



Libera's main outing during the summer of 2009 was the "Celtic Tour," consisting of several concerts in Scotland (Edinburgh) and Ireland (Dublin and Belfast). The only videos from this trip come from post-concert onstage photo ops, but no actual concert footage is available, except for several blips on an August-released video that is mostly concerned with the boys' Japan and California tours. (Japan and SoCal Tour/2009)

The only other summer video of note was a lovely multi-presentation of the song "Far Away," originally written in 2006, and first sung by the charismatic Michael Horncastle, who joined Libera (and sang his first solo) in 2002, and left the group in 2009 in his 16th year. 

L to R: Liam Connery, Michael Vereycken, and Ben Philipp, with Michael Horncastle soloing in 2006 video of "Far Away"
This split-screen compilation does a fine job of alternating between Horncastle's rendition of the song, that of Tom Cully, who inherited it around 2007 when Horncastle's voice began to change, and the Crystal Cathedral rendition by "Mini-Ben" Philipp, who took it over briefly from Cully in the spring of 2009. The solo was passed down yet again to Ralph Skan in the 2010 concert season, with Kavana Crossley singing the second high harmony, and was later performed beautifully, beginning in 2012, by Isaac London. (Far Away/solos by Michael Horncastle, Tom Cully, Ben Philipp/c. 2005-2009)

The scarceness of summer 2009 concert videos was also probably the result of necessary adjustments to and re-calibrating of the Libera vocal lineup. Judging from reviews, fan forums, blogs and chatter on Libera YouTube video sites, change was definitely in the air. (The actual Libera organization and St. Philip's Church consistently decline to comment on individual boys, and/or their status in the group, whose non-worship-service activities are seldom even mentioned in the church magazine.)

On the bus: Ben Philipp and Liam Connery; Tom Cully (R) and Sam Leggett appear in the background

It became obvious during the Celtic Tour that Tom Cully's voice had officially deepened, and he made his first appearances in the back-row tenor section after seven heady years as a featured treble soloist (leaving shortly after that to join the Libera staff, and then to go on to his own recording career as "Jamie Isaac"). In fact, many of the outstanding solo sopranos of the past few years—Ed Day, Liam Connery, and Josh Madine, for example—seemed at this point to be just barely holding on to their treble ranges.

With Tom Cully no longer able to sing those high notes, it took three boys to cover his solo parts: the self-effacing Alex Leggett, in his first solo venture since joining the group in 2005, and Kavana Crossley (at age ten, already a three-year veteran) took over the solos for “Always With You,” while young Flynn Marks stepped in on “May The Road Rise Up.” 

Kavana Crossley
Flynn Marks

Alex Leggett

A handsome young back-bencher from 2007, Daniel Fontannaz, was assigned the vocally demanding "Stay With Me," formerly sung as a solo by Ed Day, while a real newbie, Matthew Rangel-Alvarez, was promoted into the song’s showy descant line, formerly sung by Liam Connery. Stefan Leadbeater and Kavana Crossley began carrying more and more of the high soprano lines overall. 

Daniel Fontannaz

Matthew Rangel-Alvarez
At this point, Liam Connery's singing voice was still soprano, but gone were those unearthly high notes formerly in his range, which eventually settled into a warm tenor.

The two smallest boys in the group, Freddie Ingles and "Mini-James" Mordaunt, took over the "Prayer" duet from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, formerly sung by Tom Cully and Ed Day. 
Freddie Ingles and James Mordaunt, 2010
Ingles and Mordaunt had big shoes to fill, and in one critic's opinion, although the "cuteness factor" was definitely upped, their rendition in the Edinburgh concert was a bit shrill. Still, these were the first solo concert performances by these eight-year-olds.
Around this time beloved long-time chorister Callum Payne (2002-2008) joined the adult staff as production assistant and chaperone.


Jakob Wood, Philippines 2009
Next on the concert agenda was a trip to the Philippines in October, with concerts in Manila on October 25th and 26th, and in Cebu on the 28th. The post-concert "meet-and-greets," common in Great Britain, Europe, and the US, had to be carefully restructured in other countries, because of the increasing tendency of fans there to swarm the boys, grab at them, hug them, and even, in the case of the littlest, pick them up and squeeze them like squeaky-toys.

This highly controlled "meet and greet" shown in a video taken in Cebu (similar to earlier events in Manila) gives an idea of the deafening "squeal factor” attending the Libera boys, who had become so wildly popular in the Philippines that, as can be seen in this footage, they were escorted everywhere by husky bodyguards. The entirety of the video is a bit much to watch, but the first minute or two and the 5:00-6:00 sections give an idea of the fans' vocal appreciation as they react to two separate groups of boys taking the podium, and Josh Madine's image appearing on the jumbotron behind the group.

The boys run a gantlet of ardent fans and security guards through a roped-off corridor on their way to a meet-and-greet.  (Cebu meet-and-greet/2009)

All the Philippines concerts, at least one of which was a benefit for victims of a recent typhoon, were packed, with front-row seats going for around USD $200. The soloists, according to fan-blog reviews, seemed to have settled well into their new roles and songs, with 12-year-old Jakob de Menezes-Wood (aka Jakob Wood) taking solo and secondary parts after three years in the background, and impish nine-year-old Henry Barrington also emerging as a support soloist, with big brother Jonathan still in the tenor section.

At each of their Philippine concerts, the boys presented the audience with a deeply meaningful encore: the beloved Tagalog anthem to Philippine love of country, "Bayan Ko." The audience's reactions on recognizing the melody, and then on hearing the boys performing the song in Tagalog, were uproarious and spontaneous.

Libera performs "Bayan Ko" in Manila, 2009  (Bayan Ko (My Country)/ solo by Ben Philipp/2009)

As the 2009 holidays approached, so did a harbinger of a new (at that point unnamed) Libera CD: a lovely version of "O Sanctissima," with an ever-more-sure-voiced Ben Philipp ethereal in the solo part.  (O Sanctissima/Ben Philipp/2009)

(Optional) Unlike 2008's rich holiday treat of numerous videos from the Libera/Aled Jones BBC-TV Christmas production, Christmas 2009 brought only the slimmest of pickings. This year's Libera holiday greetings took the form of a brief, somewhat improvised-looking video, with footage of the 2008 Aled broadcast interspersed with successive shots of robed boys in groups of three or four, draped in tinsel, spouting Christmas greetings and cracking up at fluffed lines and dumb jokes. (Libera 2009 Holiday Greetings)

From Left: Freddie Ingles, Jakob Wood, Daniel Fontannaz, Sere Akpobome (first video appearance for Sere)

This video was slightly intriguing, however, in that it showed four new "mini-boys" (without giving their names, though three of them have since been identified as Sere Akpobome, Matthew Jansen, and Cassius O’ Connell-White making their first video appearances).

Matthew Jansen (first video appearance), James Threadgill, James Mordaunt

 It was also frustrating for Libera-watchers, in that about eight boys, several of them on the edge of voice-change territory, were missing from the video. Both of these circumstances made it impossible to deduce the latest vocal lineup at that point.

Henry Barrington, Sammy Moriarty, Ralph Skan, Cassius O'Connell-White (first video appearance)


Coming up: Libera boys in 2010 video
                                  For Part One (1981-2007 and Overview), please go to:  

For Part Three (2010):
For Part Four (2011):

For Part Five (2012):

For Part Six (2013)

 EXTRAS/MISCELLANEOUS LINKS, Fansites, blogs, interviews, resources, disclaimer, author info.

 This essay-with-videos is strictly an informal ongoing history, and, while I've attempted to make it as accurate as possible, some of my sources (or my interpretation of them) may be flawed or inaccurate. If you notice errors that I have made, or facts that were taken from inaccurate sources, please let me know at my email address <>, so that I may make appropriate changes.

This piece of writing has not been authorized by, nor is it connected with, the Libera/St. Philip's organization, or with EMI Records. It is not to be posted on Facebook, MySpace or any other Internet site, (including other Libera fansites) without permission of the author.

 Amie Hill



LINKS to Official Sites, Blogs, Fansites, Groups, and Video Sites
(With Great Thanks to Timjanni from Germany)

 Official Libera Websites


Libera's Official Homepage

Libera's Official YouTube Channel: Libera performances and related videos

Libera's Official Facebook Site

Libera's Google+ Site   Google+

Libera Songs on

Libera's MySpace Site 

Libera's Official Twitter Account

Support libera directly here with Donations

Shop for LiberaCDs and other products (Libera gets a percentage if you use this site

 Forums and Communities


A discussion group with over 1000 members, Excellent research site, with files, links, database.

The largest Libera Facebook Group, with around 2000 members

International Fansite with about  6.000 members. Very active and innovative.

 Libera 360 Forum

International Forum with about 600 members

British/international Fan Community

 Libera-Fans-UK Forum

 Other Libera Sites


Largest Libera Facebook Group


Fan blog with profiles of Libera Members  

British Fansite

Blog with the history of Libera 1981-present 

Libera (Singapore):

Song of Libera: 
(run by Zayne and Nobita from Singapore 

Libera's Site for the  BCSD, which is a great information and research tool

Information site

Blog by orangecat (Philippines)


Official Libera page on Wikipedia

Other Blogs in English From Around the World (Many include links to translations into other languages.)


Blog by Dennis  (Scandinavia)

Blog by cayleb101, who also posts excellent videos

Blogby Yuki (Japan)

Blog by Inna (S. Korea)

Blog by Liv (USA)

Blog by music4 (USA)

 music4's information on Libera members

Blog on the history of Libera (1981-present)  byAmie H. (USA)

 Blog/database of Libera information/videos/photos etc. going back to 1982

Blog by Michael (UK) 

Blog by Enyu (South Korea

Blog by a fan group from the Philippines)

Blog by Zoe (Philippines)

Blog by Yuni (Indonesia)

Blog by Charmaine (Malaysia)

Blog by Lexi und Lauren (USA)

Blog by emma (USA)

Blog by   Liberaholic (USA)

Blog by Rebecca (USA)
 Libera Video Sites


Official Libera YouTube Video Channel
YouTube Channel by TygrHawk (USA)
YouTube Channel by Yuki  (Japan)
YouTube Channel by  Rebecca (USA)
YouTube Channel by  LiberaUSA (USA)
YouTube Channel by   Paulmartin47 (Spain)
Youtube-Channel by LiberaFansGermany
Alternate Official Libera YouTube Channel 
YouTube Channel by Inna (Korea/USA)
YouTube Channel by JimmyRiddle (USA)
YouTube Channel by  Murkskis  (Lettland)
YouTube-Channel by PinoyLiberian (Philippines)
YouTube Channel by several UK Fans 
YouTube Channel by cayleb101 (USA)
YouTube-Channel by choiretto
YouTube Channel by Lexi (USA)
YouTube Channel by iloveLibera 
YouTube Channel by Le Furby Libéré (France)
YouTube Channel by  libefan (Spain)
YouTube Channel by Libera Fans UK
YouTube Channel for Libera360
YouTube Channel by LiberaFan4Ever (UK)
Youtube-Channel by   liberafraters
YouTube Channel  by LiberaWish
YouTube Channel by Liberic1 (France)
YouTube Channel by liberlu1
YouTube Channel by  MrJoesnelling (Canada)
YouTube Channel by psychestef
YouTube Channel by Snelling06
YouTube Channel by symphonica7
YouTube Channel by TheDearlibera (Taiwan)

 International (Non-English-Language) Libera Sites


Blog by necook (Japan)
Blog by junialee (South Korea)
(S. Korea)
Fansite (France)
Forum  (China)
Blog   (Mexico)
Fangroup  (Russia)
Fangroup (Japan)
Forum Holland)
Forum (France)
Blog     (Japan)
Blog by Liberaddict (France)
Blog     (Japan)
Blog by miho (Japan)
Blog by sacura2506  (Japan)

8. Libera – Libera Members' or Member-Based Sites

Ben Philipp fansite by music4 
Ben See (Ben Crawley's) YouTube Channel 
Ben Philipp's YouTube Channel 
Josh Madine fansite by music4 
Videos by Sam Leggett, Jonathan Barrington, Josh Madine, Alex Leggett and Liam Connery 
Fansite dedicated to Tom Cully

ODDs & ENDS (Radio Interview with James Mordaunt and Daniel Fontannaz/ITV Inspirational Breakfast Radio) (2010 Holiday video by French fan Dikoy/features several generations of Libera, atmospheric animation) (extended 2010 fan video by Japanese fan Snowy0155/includes Japanese, Korean, US and UK tour footage and stills)