Music
Boy Choir
Vienna Choir Boys


Boy Choir and Boy Singer CDs
 by Robert Rockwood
THE TRADITION of boy choirs reflects a time when boys were regarded as no less capable than men, just smaller of stature and more beautiful. Like the boys who performed the roles of women in Elizabethan stage productions -- including all of Shakespeare's plays -- the choirboys who sang the soprano and alto parts in the music of the Church were regarded as artistically equal to the men who sang tenor and bass.

For this reason, the choirboy -- like the boy actor -- still evokes a strong subliminal association with man/boy love, particularly when man and boy join together in song. Patrick Anthony, in a December, 1990 Bulletin article on the choir school of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City, writes that "boy-lovers can find safe, sane but still exquisite pleasures" from listening to boy choirs. Bill Andriette once observed that boy choirs are "pornography for the ear." Beyond the undeniable erotic appeal of a boy's voice, there is also something that speaks directly of heaven and stirs up powerful religious feelings.

The Christmas season, celebrating the birth of the divine boy Jesus and emphasizing boys and boy choirs, is the closest our society comes to a religiously sanctioned festival of boy-love. For boy-lovers, however, every day is Christmas, for boy-love can be celebrated legally in all seasons through erotic literature and drawings, photos such as those published in the Bulletin, and voice recordings. This month's Boy-Love Bookshelf presents Part 1 of a series on CDs likely to appeal to boy-lovers. The following CDs, listed in the latest Schwann Opus catalog (Volume 2, Number 4), can be ordered through any record store.

"Christmas with The Vienna Choir Boys, Hermann Prey & Placido Domingo" [RCA (Gold Seal) 7930-2-RG]. Providing a generous 73:25 minutes of playing time, this superb collection includes 23 selections sung in Latin, German, or English. Five selections are with tenor Placido Domingo and eight with baritone Hermann Prey. The remaining ten selections feature the Vienna Choir Boys alone, sometimes with boy soloists. In the final selection, listed as the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria, but actually the Schubert Ave Maria, Domingo shares the stage with a boy soprano whose solo begins and ends the piece, creating a charming effect. Unlike some collections, in which the boys serve as mere decoration- such as Pavarotti's extremely one-sided dalliance with the Wandsworth Boy Choir in his O Holy Night album [London 414044-2]- the boys and men in this fine album function as equal musical partners.

Gian Carol Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors" [RCA (Gold Seal) 6485-2-RG]. Recorded in January 1952 under the personal direction of Menotti himself, and with the original cast of the NBC telecast on Christmas Eve 1951, this album features boy soprano Chet Allen's thrilling performance as 12-year-old Amahl. The man/boy and boy-love relationships beneath the surface of the Christmas story are beautifully visible in this fine musical parable of three kings who make a crippled, fatherless boy (Amahl) whole again by taking him with them on their quest for the divine boy (the infant Jesus).

Johann Sebastian Bach's "Christmas Oratorio, BWV.248" [Editio Classica 77046-2-RG]. This stupendous performance, under the direction of Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden, featuring the Tolz Boys' Choir, faithfully recreates the musical partnership that existed between men and boys in the 18th century. To ensure historical accuracy, the Collegium Aureum orchestra uses only original instruments, and the pitch is set as in Bach's time (half a tone below the modern standard). The boy soloists on this album, soprano Hans Buchhierl and alto Andreas Stein, are granted equal billing with the men, tenor Theo Altmeyer and baritone Barry McDaniel. The musical intergen- erational male bonding expressed throughout the Christmas Oratorio is especially evident in the frequent vocal dialogues between boy and man soloists. In each of the six cantatas that comprise the oratorio the rapid coloratura choral passages involving double choirs of men and boys are enough to make one's hair stand on end. Those who have seen and heard the telecast of the Christmas Oratorio with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Tolz Boys' Choir in December 1985, in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Bach, are already aware of the extraordinary prowess of the Tolz Boys' Choir. For the boy-lover, no recording presently available can measure up to this 3-disk Editio Classica ( Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) masterpiece. A complete German text is supplied with a parallel English translation.

Bejun Mehta's "Songs & Arias by Handel, Schubert, Brahms, and Britten" [Delos D/CD 3019]. Except for sloppy enunciation, the boy Bejun Mehta, a cousin of conductor Zubin Mehta, was a world class singer (as opposed to just a boy soprano). Mehta possessed a seamless mezza-voce vocal instrument without audible register breaks, supported by stunning musicianship and technique. As recorded in 1983 at age fourteen, about six months before voice break, his singing was characterized by strength, brilliance, and an uncanny ability to float pianissimos even on the highest notes. This album contains 12 selections, all sung in English. Mehta's performance of Schubert's "The Shepherd on the Rock," with David Shifrin, clarinet, and Carol Rosenberger, piano, sets a standard that will challenge even the finest adult singers.

Preben Torntoft's "Danish Songs 1951-1953" [Danacord DACOCD 347]. This monophonic recording was remastered in 1990 from 78s recorded from 1951 through 1953. A monument to Denmark's most brilliant boy singer, this exquisite collection includes songs recorded in the years when Torntoft's singing was at its peak. This boy's voice is so beautiful, and his enunciation so perfect, that after about two bands one no longer notices the surface noise. Seventeen of 20 selections are sung in Danish, including the recitative and aria from Handel's Xerxes. Preben Torntoft's poignant rendition of Giordano's "Caro mio ben" is an antidote to dry eyes. The last two songs, sung in perfect English, sparkle with boyish sweetness and charm.



From the NAMBLA Bulletin, Vol. 13, No. 1, Pgs. 20 - 24, Jan/Feb. 1992
Copyright © NAMBLA, 2007

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