Libera, as we know it today, is the publicly performing boys section of St. Philip's Church choir from South London. Their concept is to make boychoir music more accessible to a wider audience, many of whom might be put off by the words 'church choir', by integrating classical and traditional music with a more contemporary, mainstream sound. The repertoire they sing as Libera is in addition to, not a replacement of, their church singing. It does not detract from the fact that the core activity of the choir is their duty as part of the Anglican parish church. When heard during Sunday services, they are more like other church choirs than the Libera we see on TV and hear on CDs.
To help distinguish between the two there have been different names given to their separate roles as a choral group - first, the St. Philip's Boys' Choir, then in 1990 they changed to Angel Voices, then to Libera in 1998 ("Libera" being the Latin word for "Free", the title of their 2004 album).
St. Philip's Church is over 100 years old and has a long choral history. Its choir was established many decades ago and became a firm foundation on which the future was built. As a result of this, the current key to Libera's public success and popularity lies with two former St. Philip's choirboys - Robert Prizeman, choirmaster, and Ian Tilley who is the sound and technical genius.
Prizeman often composes and arranges pieces with individual soloists in mind, to emphasise the variety of characteristics and qualities in the boys' voices. The end result illustrates the complexity of his art and the magnitude of his musical excellence. The addition of electronic synthesisers and a judicious use of lower voices, especially from former trebles who stay on with the main church choir, help make the Libera sound so unique. The aim of these is simply to enhance the listening experience by complementing the use of synthesisers with the full tonal range of the boys' voices. As can be heard on many of their album tracks, the electronics are not always necessary - the voices sound equally sublime with or without these extra musical tools. Since it is difficult to label Libera's style as one specific genre, it has come to be widely known by fans across the globe as the "Libera style".
Libera's popularity is also helped by a number of excellent videos produced each year, with the boys in their distinctive white robes, which are broadcast primarily on the BBC's religious programme Songs of Praise, where Prizeman is Musical Adviser, and on Classic FM TV.
By taking a modern approach to classical and church music and succeeding in attracting listeners who would not usually listen to sacred choral music, as well as introducing many people to the world of boychoirs, Libera are already well on the way to achieving what they set out to do.