Conversation with Steven Philpp

3 Aug 2011

First of all, I'd like to say thanks to Craig, the owner of Angelvoices Group for sharing this with us. So, this below is conversation between him and Steven Philipp. FYI, Mr. Philipp is a Libera chairman who take care of administrative duties. This conversation make clear all those question in any fan forum. Great thing is Libera will do a M&G at St. Louis which means tonight. WOW! Thank you, Libera.

I just knew that actually Libera want to hold a tour to China but due to some issues it has been canceled. Oh, you're not lucky enough, Chinese fans. But, believe me there is always another chance. So, read the complete conversation to know more detail. This is for you, guys.

C: for Craig, SP: for Steven Philipp

C: Excuse me, are we causing a problem being out here? We just wanted to see the boys off but if we are in the way, we can leave. [SP's facial expressions were one of shock]

SP: Heaven's no! If you are causing any kind of issue we will tell you.

C: Will you? We weren't sure you would. [Around this time another fan came in to reinforce that what I am saying is what people are thinking out there. SP's mouth is slightly open, aghast as to what he was hearing].

SP: Believe me we would! We appreciate your interest and think it is nice you would want to see them off. Thank you so much for coming in and asking! There are so many folks that come up with wild ideas about what we think. I appreciate your talking to me so we could clarify. [This is where I introduced myself]

SP: What you and the others need to understand is after a concert, they get dressed, wind down a bit, and then we feed them a full meal (not just a snack) so it will be a while before they come out. [I mention I am the new owner of AV]

SP: I want you and the other sites to know how much we appreciate what you do. For the most part you folks have been tremendously supportive. There are a lot of things you can say on these sites that we can't for fear of it coming across wrong.

SP: ..but these crazy misconceptions people get, like with the meet and greets.

[From here on I will group these comments by subject. They will not be chronological but in order of what I think you would be most interested in with the most interesting being first. As you can see, he got back to the misconceptions and tried to touch each issue he could think of to clarify.]


SP: [Strong emphasis on these first two sentences] We are very, very appreciative of our audience. We are well aware that none of this would be possible without the many fans around the world that support us. 

However, people must understand that any relationship must be at arm's length. There are fans that have let their fanship become an obsession. Quite honestly, we don't know how to deal with that. There have been incidents at our church..[I don't remember the rest of this but there were no details given on the incidents. However I could see it was a tough subject for him and he quickly found another one to talk about].


SP: There is a great misconception in the fan base about these meet and greets. What people need to understand is that there are many forces we are up against. The incident in Norway is of prime interest right now.

C: So you have 28 nervous parents in England right now.

SP: Exactly. [He continued to talk about the horror of the incident] You must understand that nothing we do in Libera goes ahead of the health and safety of the boys. That is of prime importance no matter what. [All of us
fans are glad to hear that. We care about them too! I wish I was quick enough to say that to him but I wasn't.]

SP: Also, English law limits how much public face time the boys can have in a day and we are still bound by that over here.

C: Last year at Nashville the boys performed at all 3 services in the morning, then did a full show and an autograph session afterwards.

SP: Yes and we took a LOT of flak for that.

SP: Also, we don't have our own security. As you can see from this concert, there was no security provided so a M&G is not an option. In St. Louis that is being provided so it becomes an option.

C: So you think you will have one at St Louis?

SP: Conditions are looking quite favorable for that to occur, but we'll see. We would like to have one, yes. [This statement is why I put out the post this morning].

SP: Of course insurance considerations become an issue at times. Also there must be a suitable location to do it. This facility (Rockefeller Center, Chicago) has no place to even do one.

[He may have had a few more forces but I just don't remember more. The important thing here is that nothing he said had anything to do with what country or city they were in or who was in attendance. It is more about when those "forces" he mentions can be appeased.]

C: Can I share this information?

SP: [Looking a little surprised at the question] Absolutely, yes, please do!


SP: [First sentence said with some drama to indicate the absurdity of it] There seems to be a misconception that we make loads of money off of the sales of many thousands of albums. We don't. How it works is we don't get a penny until EMI recovers their investment into the album. For nearly all our albums (maybe a couple of real old albums are exceptions) none of our albums have reached that threshold. As a result, we get next to nothing in royalties.

Unfortunately, the idea that we were making big royalties hurt us at last year's US tour. We did those shows for donations and no one donated because of this [he is exaggerating here. I saw the baskets of collections at the Nashville show and they were quite full but it is likely it was not enough to cover expenses]. That left a big hole [his way of saying they took a big financial loss].


SP: We are quite excited about this Christmas album! It will be nothing like Angel Voices 3. We realize the fans don't just want the boys singing Christmas carols, they want something "Liberaesque." This will be a very Liberaesque album. I think the fans will be quite pleased with it.

C: Will there be another original album in 2012? [He didn't directly answer the question. He just pointed back to the 2011 Christmas Album. I didn't figure he would but I had to try.]


SP: EMI is a good label to have as recording companies go. They actually are one of the best - but unfortunately they are in a bit of a financial crunch right now. EMI used to front us the money [he specifically mentioned $50k for air fare] for tours which we would pay back with the tour income. They don't do that anymore so we have to find a way to front it ourselves.

SP: EMI-USA has some really good creative people who have done a lot to try to promote us. [I mentioned they recently joined AV. He looked impressed.]

SP: EMI-USA, EMI-UK, EMI-Philippines, etc all act independently, not as a unit. So each branch determines when release dates are appropriate for their country. Libera has no say or control in any of this. Release dates are all the individual EMI offices' responsibility.


SP: Moody church was a great opportunity. They rarely have guest musical acts because they have such rich [meaning substantial] musical talent already in their own church. Also, they almost never give standing ovations and we got one today! [said very proudly].


SP: We were supposed to go to China this summer but in the spring they backed out. It was to be a full tour. We don't know why, they just did. We then turned our attention to coming back to the US and quickly tried to get a tour together. Had we known we were going to the US this summer all that time planning China  would have gone to the US. That lost us a lot of time.

SP: As of three weeks ago it looked like the US tour would get cancelled too because of visa issues. [They all need Performer Visas to get into the US which all together typically costs them $15,000US]. We got the paperwork in as soon as we could but apparently not soon enough. You have to remember that we can't even buy airline tickets or commit funds at all until we know we have visas.

SP: Three weeks ago there was a very difficult Trustees meeting where the decision was made that if the visas didn't come in by the end of that day, the tour would be cancelled [he didn't say but my guess is the air fares will go up after that which is probably why they took that stand]. I called the visa place to plead my case and try to get them to release them that day. I was told point blank there was no way at all that would happen. I mentioned that the Starkey Foundation would be disappointed because we were invited to perform there for former President Bill Clinton. The visas were approved within the hour and the tour was saved.


C: I need to tell you a story. Today at the concert I sat by a man that hadn't been to church in 22 years but did so this morning at Moody because he wanted to see Libera. Steven, that's powerful!

SP: I really appreciate you sharing that story because we all put in a lot of work on this because we believe in the power of this ministry. All of us - including Robert Prizeman - have day jobs but we dedicate ourselves, and so do the boys, because we believe in the music and want to share it as much as we can. That is why we don't mind so much a night like tonight where we clearly are not going to meet our expenses [prior to the concert 316 tickets were sold and I would estimate another 50 may have walked in].

[I don't remember this whole conversation but I do remember noting that he referred to Libera as a ministry at least 3 times.]


[At one point early in our conversation, the boys started to file past us. The younger ones went out first. I complemented them as they passed by. A few said thank you but most kept walking. Then the older boys came who I could make eye contact with. I complemented them en masse but would say something in particular to anyone whose eyes met mine. They all thanked me and seem genuinely appreciative.

That is one thing that strikes me about these kids and I noticed it last year also. They don't appear to have let this get their ego out of control. I'm sure if we knew some of them they would have normal teenage egos - meaning over the top - but they could have ignored me and they didn't. They smiled and thanked me and seemed genuine about it. They just seem like really nice kids.]


SP: There were plans in the past to see other parts of the US but we rely on local coordinators to assist in many of the details. Unfortunately, it has happened where we would work with a person only to find out their enthusiasm wasn't as it first appeared so we don't get far in those cases.

C: I live in Connecticut and it would be great to see you back there again.

SP: Oh, we would love to get back to New England!

C: There is an old auditorium in Lowell Mass, on the outskirts of Boston, where I saw the Vienna Boy's Choir draw 2000+ folks. They were sponsored by a local arts foundation of some sort.

SP: We'd love to hook up with someone like that but we find they often book 2-3 years in advance. We just can't commit ourselves that far ahead. We try not to do too much beyond 6 months ahead. Remember that this is a volunteer organization that relies on people continuing to volunteer, including the boys.

[I tell this hometown plug story for a couple of reasons. One, there is obviously not an attitude about going back to the same place as was once suspected. Also the degree to which they rely on us to help with these tours is apparent. Having talked to some of these coordinators, they do a lot. The other thing is the short term commitment comment which I found a little surprising.]

[Separately, he mentioned the difficulty sometimes getting venues. Some churches think they are not classical enough and take a snobby approach. Others say they don't have enough of a rock beat to them for them to be wanted at their place.]


[I don't remember which conversation this comment was part of I just remember him saying it with some passion so I'll just give it it's own section]

SP: We don't charge the boys anything. There are no fees, the parents aren't charged anything and they don't pay for these tours at all. It is all managed to be free for them.

[Now that I typed it I think it was part of the ministry discussion. The implication being that this is a ministry for the boys too.]


C: I was told today by someone at the show that one thing that impresses him about Libera is how the boys appear to get treated. He told me that he has watched some other well known international boy's choirs where the Director is quite gruff with the boys. He will belittle them and get in their face. We don't see evidence of that in Libera and we did watch your sound check and warm up today. It looks like there is a lot of mutual respect and the boys seem to enjoy what they are doing.

SP: You are right and that type of rough Director is common in England also - even in the schools. They can be very rough on the kids. We have some experience with that. This is one reason why my son is with this group. 


  1. For our time zone is tomorrow. But it'll still be 3rd of August in USA :)

  2. Hi, CJ.
    Yeah, when I wrote "tonight", it referred to USA time. But, funny it is already August 4th in our zone time. lol :)