Cathedral Concerts kicks off 25th season

After ending last season on a high note with a world-renowned performer, Cathedral Concerts is picking up right where it left off with more world-renowned performers to kick off its 25th season.

The English boys choir, Libera, will open the 12-concert series on Wednesday, Aug. 9, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. It'll be Libera's third appearance here but first since 2011. The 24th season concluded in May with a bonus concert by Franciscan Friar Allesandro Brustenghi three weeks after the original season-ending show.

"We're glad to be coming back," Libera director Robert Prizeman said in a phone call from London. The cathedral basilica is "absolutely home territory for our music; so much of it is drawn from choirs and the sound of these boys' voices in these types of acoustics; it's so natural for us.

"Plus, Libera is a liturgical choir in addition to an orchestral choir, singing twice every Sunday at Mass. (Libera) is very much part of the sounds you'd come across in glorious places. Not every week do we sing in some place as glorious as St. Louis, of course, but it's great when we do."

Libera has been traveling the world since 2004, performing in churches, concert halls, stadiums and other outdoor venues. Libera recently played in a concert hall and convention center on a week-long excursion to Japan, and it performed before 1.2 million pilgrims at World Youth Day last year in Krakow, Poland.

Such venues allow "broad, mainstream audiences" to experience the choir, though performances at churches fits Libera's music.

"The music originally came out of a liturgical context, so it's great we can perform in churches," said Prizeman, who has been the choir's director since its founding in 2000.

Libera will perform exclusively in churches on its two-week tour of the United States, which starts at the Diocese of Orange's Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. Then Libera performs in Westlake, Calif., Houston and Tulsa before concluding the tour in St. Louis.

"It's quite a whirlwind," Prizeman said. "We would like to be doing more (shows), actually, but it's such a big country you live in; it takes so long to shift 40 people by coach from one place to another that we really couldn't fit in as much as we like."

Libera's performers range in age from 7 to 16, with about 80 members in all. The traveling squad is half that, mostly younger singers. In addition, former choir members serve Libera as assistant music directors and technicians for lighting and sound. Also, parents of former choir members serve as chaperones.

"It's a great sense of community," Prizeman said.

The choir performs only a few times a year: in the summer, and at Christmas and Easter. In that respect, Libera is much like select or traveling sports teams in the U.S., working trips around school.

"All the boys are at ordinary schools, so we can only travel when the boys are on holidays," Prizeman said.

Libera is among the highlights of Cathedral Concerts' 25th season. Others include: first-time Cathedral performances by the King Singers and the Ambassadors of Harmony, a St. Louis-based a capella chorus which has performed throughout the United States and Europe; Tenebrae, which will perform by candlelight "The Path of Miracles," a musical journey of the Camino de Santiago; and the St. Louis Symphony orchestra and chorus.

In addition, the Cathedral Concert's free Chamber Series in September has been expanded to five local venues.

"It's a special season for us," said Scott Kennebeck, the executive director of the Cathedral Concerts series. 

>> About Libera

Ages 7 to 16, the boys and teens of Libera consider themselves "an alternative kind of boy band" as opposed to "choirboys," according to its website. Based in South London, England, the group has performed around the world: the United States and Canada in North America; Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan in the Far East; Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands in Europe; and Russia and Poland in Eastern Europe. They have performed before numerous dignitaries, including Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

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Cathedral Concerts Schedule

Time/day, Performer(s), Tickets

8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 9, Libera, $19-$42

2:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15, Diane Bish & Angela Brown, $17

8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10, The King's Singers, $19-$42

8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 22, Vienna Boys Choir, $24-$47

8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9, Christmas at the Cathedral, $24-$49

2:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 10, Christmas at the Cathedral, $24–$49

8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 11, Westminster Choir College, $17

8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 22, Seraphic Fire, $19-$42

8 p.m., Saturday, March 10, Tenebrae, $19-$42

8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, The Ambassadors of Harmony, $19–$29

8 p.m., Friday, April 6, Scott Kennebeck & John Powel Walsh, $17

8 p.m., Tuesday, May 1, St. Louis Symphony & Chorus, $24–$49

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