"A boy sings ... a beautiful thing."

Robert Karlsson
Chorister, Wells Cathedral Choir

Robert Karlsson (treble) is half Swedish and was born in Orebro in 1987. He comes from a musical family; his stepfather works in the music business and his grandmother was a professional singer in Sweden. He is the oldest of five children, and he lives in Highbridge in Somerset. Robert became a chorister at Wells Cathedral and a pupil at Wells Cathedral School in September 1996 and since then he has become a regular soloist with the choir as well as Deputy Head Chorister. He has twice been a finalist in the BBC Young Chorister of the Year competition and has already sung solos on several recordings with the Cathedral Choir. When Robert is not singing, he can be found enjoying a variety of sports including rugby, football, hockey and judo.




Reviews of the "CHICHESTER PSALMS" (Leonard Bernstein) now available  on Lammas records

SUNDAY , JULY 1st, 2001

And we return now - as we so often do on Gloria - to the unique sound of the unbroken voices of boys. There's an excellent English independent label called Lammas who specialise in sacred music - we've featured a number of their recordings in the past. A recent one is titled Chichester Psalms - and Leonard Bernstein's fine work and Britten's lovely Rejoice in the Lamb are given fine performances by the Choir of Wells Cathedral. But I was particularly taken with the singing of treble Robert Karlsson in Alan Ridout's Sacred Songs. Ridout was a prolific composer in many genres - and had strong connections throughout his life with various English Cathedral choirs. He wrote his 3rd set of Sacred Songs for the choristers of Guildford Cathedral. Tim Thurston ---0---

Martin Carson writes:

On opening the CD one is struck immediately by the face of a smiling Robert Karlsson on the back cover of the booklet. He looks exceedingly happy, as well he might. This boy, who should have won the Chorister of the Year competition once at least, has been given a vehicle to demonstrate both his musical skill and his vocal beauty.

The choir gives a very persuasive performance of the Chichester Psalms. Those who have been seeking a new version will find that this offers both vigour and calmness, fine choral singing and assured solo work from a boy confidently at his peak. It is a pleasure to see some of Alan Ridout's work being given an airing. Some of us remember the days when the boys at Canterbury seemed always to keep these close to hand. All seven songs are sung as solos by Robert Karlsson. They are all very short. Only one exceeds two minutes, the rest barely last longer than one.

Like fine food, judiciously provided, they leave one just a little hungry for more. All the choral singing is exceptionally well-crafted which will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Malcolm Archer's musical career. It is no surprise also to find the name Barry Rose (producer) associated with the record. Wherever there has been warmth and joy in English cathedral choral singing, his name has been there somewhere, often as Director. It is great to see that the interest still lives on.Stanford's 'Songs' are well-known and oft-performed. This rendition is serene, beautiful and not overburdened with vocal technique.

I remember a comment once by Barry Rose stating that he did not like his choristers cluttered with too much of the latter. Serenity and beauty were also hallmarks of St Paul's during his tenure. This track gives an opportunity to mention a possible down-side of the CD, or rather of Robert Karlsson's singing. Reading the many personal views and reviews posted on various forums one is struck by how small is the variation between voices or styles applauded or decried by reviewers.

There is a style of singing in English Cathedrals which worships the consonant. Robert Karlsson is a prefect practioner of this. While his vowels are lovingly and expertly crafted, one is left in no doubt as to the fact that every word is filled with consonants which his tongue trips off with joy. Warning: if you do not like to hear the letter 'r', then you will not be comfortable with this CD. The whole choir is at it too. I have put my cards on the table before (against them that trouble me). Master Karlsson's consonants are unselfconscious, unstrained and unparalleled perfection. I love them!

Britten's Te Deum is a clever and exciting piece of writing. The better one knows it, perhaps the more one sings it - especially under the direction of someone like Michael Nicholas (former Director of Music at Norwich cathedral), the more one appreciates its attributes. It needs tight but sympathetic choral singing, and an outstanding treble soloist, to give the listener what Britten intended. Malcolm Archer's team are equal to the task.

Congratulations to Wells Cathedral Choir, to Robert Karlsson and especially to Malcolm Archer with his assistant Rupert Gough. Thanks also to Lance Andrews for bringing us this alluring CD - shame only that 66 minutes passes all too quickly. Then again, I leave the table just a little hungry.

Martin Carson
United Kingdom

About the Wells Cathedral Choir

Wells Cathedral Choir has established an international reputation through its many recordings, broadcasts and tours. The choir, which sings the daily services in the cathedral, has an extensive repertoire from all historical periods. The music foundation at Wells consists of 18 boy choristers and 18 girl choristers (two separate choirs) 9 vicars choral, 3 choral scholars and 3 organists. The history of the choir is as old as the building itself and records of the Vicars Choral go back to 1136. It is known that there were boys singing in Wells even earlier than that. In the fourteenth century, the Bishop provided the choir with a proper income and built Vicars Close, a unique mediaeval street which still exists today housing all the organists and choirmen. In recent years the choir has included choral scholars who are either gap year students or postgraduates who serve for one or two years.

The choir regularly undertakes international tours and in recent years it has visited Canada, the USA, France, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Singapore and New Zealand. The Choir makes an average of two recordings each year, and the Vicars Choral have also produced several recordings on their own of both sacred and secular repertoire.

Robert Karlsson in a lighter moment

Webmaster's note: I would like to thank Robert Karlsson for furnishing the photos and written material for this page.

Photos by Rob Ruutel

Copyright 2002 boychoirs.org
This page was last modified on 02 September 2004