Classical Song (#1) of the Week: Nella Fantasia, performed by PCCB
Composer: Ennio Morricone & Chiara Ferraù
PCCB never lets me down. I’m not certain as to the date of this performance, but given that I recognize the Head Chorister as Baudouin Aube, it must have been fairly recent (ie. 2010 – present). The piece itself is very well-known both locally and internationally, hence the initial reaction from the audience. The Italian lyrics are a bit butchered (not that I can tell), but it’s understandable given that PCCB is a French choir. Nevertheless, I would say that they remain my favorite classical treble choir to date. There are close competitors, for sure – Libera and Vienna Boys Choir (VBC) to name a few, but I’ve never really been that interested in the typical VBC repertoire. And as far as Libera is concerned, while their music is immensely pleasurable to listen to, I would not in a million years throw them into “classical treble” territory. A good example of this contrast, would be to compare the above performance of Nella Fantasia with Libera’s “Time” – complete with EMI music video:
As you can see, it’s apparent that Libera is not a classical group, despite many of their songs having lyrics in Latin. PCCB and Libera run in very different circles. The boys in PCCB undergo much more formal musical training that typify the “boy-choir sound”, where Libera boys seem to be taught a much more “pop” sound. Libera’s strengths are its marketing, its contemporary/New-Age songs, and commercial appeal. The boys themselves – vocal technique and skill-wise – would be completely out of their league if compared to the larger subset of classical treble choirs and cathedral mixed choirs. That being said, I’m an enormous fan of Libera.
Glad to see that Aube is holding his own now as Head Chorister. Personally, I find him a bit better than his predecessor, but that’s largely a matter of preference. Aube has a much clearer upper register, I would say. For those of you who are screaming at me to address the serenading elephant in the room, no I am not confusing PCCB with PCSM (Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc), as many are wont to do. Apparently it happens a fair bit given that both are technically treble choirs, although PCCB is a boys-only choir.
For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, Jean-Baptiste Maunier (or JB, as the rabid fans call him) is most well-known for featuring in Les Choristes, a 2002 movie about a cathedral choir. I haven’t been able to find an English version of the film, so I watched it in the original French given that my French is workable. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical when boy trebles rise to fame this way given that it inevitably becomes a beauty contest as much as a singing one – ie. Anthony Way, although one exception I can think of in this case is probably Aled Jones. But I certainly won’t argue that Maunier had a phenomenal treble voice (last I heard, when his voice broke he was replaced as Head Chorister by Emmanuel Lizé). The piece for which he’s most well known for is called “Caresse sur l’océan”.
Composer: Bruno Coulais