Derek George Barsham
October 2, 1930 – January 1, 2020
Derek Mann Barsham, BBC Boy Soprano 1943-1947 and the Boys Brigade Soprano passed away peacefully1 January, 2020 at 89 years. Derek Barsham was born and raised in London. He began his career Christmas 1943 as the Boy Soprano for the BBC. Almost certainly the last surviving professional boy soprano of the 1940’s, he sang with all the great stars of the day. Derek was also the most broadcast boy soprano of all time. He was on the air almost weekly from 1944 – 1947 and his performance of “Land of Hope and Glory” was broadcast in conjunction with Winston Churchill’s announcement of VE-Day in May 1945. Sadly this recording made with the
BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Leslie Woodgate has been lost. During wartime Children’s Hour was broadcast immediately before the 6 0’clock news bulletin and on a couple of occasions in June 1944 Derek sang at the very end of the programme. It was sobering to be informed by Uncle Mac that probably a hundred million listeners had tuned in and some weeks later he was presented with a record of his live broadcast, when it was hinted it had been used as a signal to the troops on the Normandy beaches. Derek’s repertoire at this time consisted of folk songs, classical songs, patriotic songs, an occasional sentimental ballad and sacred songs and arias by composers ranging from Handel to Howells. Early 1945 Decca released Derek’s recording of the Star of Bethlehem and The Holy City. The recording session lasted all day on account of the frequent interruptions by enemy aircraft flying overhead. In June of 1946 he was scheduled to appear as a soloist in a festival of choirboys at Westminster Abbey, but was taken seriously ill with peritonitis following a burst appendix. Local concerts resumed and in early October he sang(in aid of Barnardo’s) with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Central Hall Westminster. February 12th 1947 Derek sang the part of Fyodor, son of Boris in Musorgsky’s Opera Boris Godunov again with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stanford Robinson. A few days later Derek’s final record – on which he sang two Boys Brigade hymns – was made. Just before making his final disc in May, he had sung for one last time at the Boys Brigade Rally in the Royal Albert Hall. This time the event was relayed to other stations via the BBC overseas network as well as to the United States. Commentator John Ellison was there to interview him for the popular programme “In Town Tonight.” In the 1940’s this was fame indeed. “I’LL WALK BESIDE YOU” was chosen as a wedding gift to Princess Elizabeth from the Boys Brigade in 1947.
When his voice changed to a baritone, he became a Concert and Cabaret Artist appearing in many concert halls and leading hotels in London. 1970 he became a producer and performer on cruise ships. 1977 he became Cruise Director for Royal Viking Line. He ended his career at sea in 1997. He has written a book “MANN AT SEA” stories about cruising on the Royal Viking Star. In 2001 Derek gave his last performance in England at St. Paul’s Cathedral at a Boys Brigade Affair to celebrate The Steadfast Association with 2000 people attending. He leaves behind his wife, partner and friend Barbara of 40 years, family & very close friends in England and Scotland and many friends from around the world. He was a very special person with a dynamic personality who will always be in our hearts and thoughts and will be thoroughly missed.
A private gathering in his memory will take place in England.
- A gathering will be held in his memory in England
Derek George Barsham
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Lorri Ann Devlin
January 9, 2020
Dear Barbara, I'm so sorry to learn of your husband's passing. May your many happy memories be a comfort to you.