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Crossover to Susan Boyle

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir announced yesterday that their latest album, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," had topped the classical charts. This caught my eye simply because it was a chance to see what was on the charts these days, something I don't follow very carefully. (Other list-toppers are Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, Placido Domingo - are we sure this isn't a chart from five years ago?) The classical charts are not especially meaningful, first because sales of a few thousand are enough to shoot a recording to the top of them, and second because the term "classical music" is adulterated with the kind of "Il Divo" thing that purists declare isn't classical music at all - which swings the discussion right into the peculiarly unproductive high culture-low culture, my-art-is-better-than-yours debate that ends up with one side branded as hopelessly elitist and the other as yahoos.

Paul Potts is one of the many sheep-from-the-goats dividers in this ongoing fight: the mobile phone salesman turned world star, thanks to his rendering of what is by now a crossover standard, "Nessun dorma," on the TV show "Britain's Got Talent" two years ago. I confess myself thoroughly immune to Paul Potts: like his story, don't care for his voice.

But last week the current "Britain's Got Talent" cycle spawned a new phenomenon, Susan Boyle, who came out on stage looking like a rather dumpy housewife and has already racked up 12 million views on YouTube by force of what she did next. I am not at all immune to Susan Boyle. I endorse her here to demonstrate that lovers of classical music aren't necessarily elitists. We just want to hear good voices and musical expression, and she appears, on the evidence of this one song, to have both.

By Anne Midgette  |  April 16, 2009; 4:41 PM ET
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Thanks for pointing that out. Quite an emotional treat! I liked Paul Pott too! A good part of it is the surprise and turnaround. Wonder how I would react without all the wild applause and tears. Actually, with all the yelling it was a little hard to hear her voice. Presumably if she goes on to win, she gets to make a recording?

Posted by: William Kirchhoff | April 16, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

I never watch these "Idol" shows because I hate Simon's arrogance, as well as the caliber of the complete lack of talent of those poor "wannabees". However, the tremendous attention media attention that surrounded Susan Boyle's appearance prompted me to investigate her performance on You-Tube. I was completely blown away -- by the shock of the judges as well as by Boyle's performance. Susan Boyle's voice and personality/demeanor is something that our world needs to hear and witness. There were moments in her presentation that sent chills up my spine. The voice, of course, would be designated as "contralto", is abundant, pure, and full of genuine sincerity. She DEFINITELY has something that separates her very far from the usual Idol contestants. I'm not thinking of opera, of course, but certainly there's a place for Susan Boyle in the music world.

Posted by: belcanto26 | April 17, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Hi Anne,

It was interesting to listen to your comments re Susan Boyle's rise in popularity. It was even more refreshing to read your final sentence about good voices and musical expression. Can I ask your opinion of the British Music industry's best kept secret please;

Kind regards,

Andy & Carole

Cambridge, England

Posted by: andyandcarole | April 18, 2009 3:54 AM | Report abuse

"Presumably if she goes on to win, she gets to make a recording?"

Not through the show. It's not a singing competition, not like Idol. The prize is money and a performance for the Queen (Royal Variety Performance). The last winner was a street dancer. However, Potts got a Popera record put out after he won, so I imagine if that made money, someone will take a chance on Boyle too.

Posted by: prokaryote | April 20, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

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