The term “cambiata” was devised in the United States by Irvin Cooper to describe the voices of young males who have lost their former high or “treble” voices, but not yet achieved their full=grown adult voices.
In 1933, Edward Bairstow, the well-known English composer and organist of Gloucester Cathedral had this to say of the emerging voice:
My experience is that if a boy uses his voice naturally and without forcing it, he never goes through a period when he cannot sing at all but, while in such cases it does very little harm for him to sing, it is no use him trying, as his voice is gradually changing in compass and in timbre
Cooper thought differently. Inspired by the lusty camp-fire singing of Canadian boy scouts, he realised that what was holding emerging voices back was choral music published for SATB choirs. He could see that none of the parts (Soprano, Alto, Tenor or Bass) fitted the ranges of young male voices. If boys were to keep singing once their voices had begun to change, they needed parts of their own. He named these parts cambiata I, cambiata II and baritone, citing the early recordings of Wayne Newton as a perfect example of the voice quality he had in mind. His cardinal principle the song should fit the voice, not the voice the song has subsequently liberated several generations of young voices that might otherwise have been silenced for life.
The OUP Emerging Voices series has been an important step forward in bringing Cambiata to UK performers and audiences.We hope you enjoy this project to record the whole series by a range of UK choirs well placed to demonstrate the progressive level of difficulty from a simple shanty designed to help secondary schools setting up new boys’ choirs to pieces such as Alan Bullard’s Health and Safety that demands the skills of a highly accomplished choir.