By Mary Rezac
You may recognize the sound of the London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir from epic motion picture soundtracks like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or The Phantom of the Opera.
But the heart of the world-renowned Schola, which includes voices of boys ages 7-18, has always been liturgical music.
Now, the boys choir hopes to bring the sacred tradition of Renaissance liturgical music to a wider audience with their debut album, “Sacred Treasures of England”, produced in a partnership with AimHigher Recordings/Sony Classical, a sister label of De Monfort Music.
AimHigher Recordings CEO Kevin Fitzgibbons said he was impressed with the choir “from the first note.”
“Mirroring the majestic beauty of The Oratory itself, the repertoire from this debut recording is gorgeous and timeless,” he said.
The album features English Tudor-era motets by composers such as William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, as well as the magnificent Missa Euge bone by Christopher Tye, and is the first part of a series of albums of sacred music the choir will be producing.
Charles Cole, Director of The London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir, told CNA that the idea for the album series came from a desire to share the Schola’s large repertoire of liturgical music, comprised largely of music from Renaissance composers, with the world.
“The Schola’s primary role is the singing of this Liturgy at the Oratory and we will always be focused above all on that,” Cole said.
“However, the opportunity to work on new recordings gives us a wonderful opportunity to work with great intensity on particular areas of the repertoire and hopefully bring these wonderful works to be heard by a far larger audience.”
The album series is grouped by region or country, he said, allowing listeners “to delve into a particular sound world, and the English music on this first recording has some very beautiful characteristics.”
Fr. George Bowen, Chaplain of the London Oratory School and a priest of the London Oratory, said the album series offers the Schola a unique chance to evangelize.
“St. Philip Neri (founder of the Oratory brotherhood of priests) always wanted the Oratory to be outward looking; to evangelise. Sacred Music has always played a vital part in the work of evangelisation, and we hope that this CD will continue the tradition,” he told CNA.
The London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir, founded in 1996, is one of three choirs associated with the London Oratory. It provides school age boys with an education immersed in the experience of learning and performing sacred liturgical music.
The choir is in high demand, and sings frequently on tours throughout the world and for projects such as the CD, movie soundtracks or philanthropic concerts for organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need. They also sing for every Vigil Mass at the London Oratory during the school year.
It all takes an incredible amount of hard work and discipline, Cole said. The boys choir rehearse every morning before school for an hour, as well as several other times throughout their school day at the Oratory.
This discipline transfers into other areas of the boys’ lives – academics, athletics – but most importantly, their immersion in the liturgy “gives them a heaven-sent opportunity to develop a love of their Faith.”
“It is a very immersive experience for them, both musically and liturgically, allowing them to experience the beautiful repertory which adorns the major feasts of the Church year,” Cole said.
“We hope that this album will bring more and more people into contact with the beautiful musical treasures of the Church.”