Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Sopranos

No.  Not the TV thugs.  The boys who sing in the octaves above middle C on the piano.  Eleven years ago today Ernest Lough died.  Perhaps you do not recognize his name.  Many  will.  His recording of Mendelssohn's musical offering of the 55th Psalm is still available today and has sold over 6 million copies.  It was recorded first in 1927.  Lough sang in the choir of Temple Church, the private chapel of the members of the bar in London.  Microphones had just replaced the original acoustic recordings and the choir was chosen to pioneer the new method.  Lough had to stand on two bibles to reach the single microphone.

There is no sound that compares to the clear tone of a boy soprano.  A thrush calling from the woods has a similar quality but lacks the range.  The truly great, like Ernest Lough have just a short time to sing in this way that transcends description.  Before and as the voice drops, the very rich tone develops.  Lough was 16 when he made his recording.  Few 16 year olds on today's diet of proteins and vitamins maintain their soprano range.

Lough was certainly not the best boy soprano, but he set a standard that lured generations of boys to the choir.  His song is still a gift to the ear.  You can hear it on youTube today.

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