Costumes of Boy Musical Prodigies: Derek Barsham (England, 1930- )

Figure 1.--Derek is pictured here during his famed singing career in the 1940s.

Derek Barsham was born in Enfield, England and was a member of the Boys Brigade youth organization . He became known as the B.B. Boy Soprano, and sang exclusively in the London area, much of his work being done for the B.B.C. His recording of Land of Hope and Glory was played just prior to Winston Churchill's V.E. Day broadcast, a great honor. In adult life he became a baritone singer, and became the Cruise Director on The Royal Viking Line for 22 years.


Derek Barsham was born 1930 at Enfield, England and was a member of the Boys Brigade, a youth organization promoting Christinaity. Americans will not be familiar with the Boys' Brigade, but it is youth organization originating in the U.K. It was founded before the Boy's Scout and has a more Christian mission than the Scouts. His real name is Derek Barsham and his professional name is Derek Mann-Barsham.

Child Prodigy

Derek became known as the Boys' Brigade Boy Soprano, and sang exclusively in the London area, much of his work being done for the BBC. He worked with Dr. George Thalben-Ball, the famed organist The Temple Church which was destroyed in the Blitz. Derek explained, "Dr. Bell taught me to harmonize naturally any piece of music." His greatest honor was having an especially made recording of Land of Hope and Glory played just prior to Winston Churchill's Victory in Europe (VE) Day broadcast. This was a great honor hivn the enormous sacrifices made by Britain during World War II. He recored the piece in early 1944 in preparation for the end of the War. Derek remembers: "I was coming home from a game of soccer on my bicycle on June 6, 1945 when I heard my voice coming from the radios of the homes along my street. People were waving at me as I sped by". His record was graciously received by HRH as a wedding gift. A copy of the record on The Better Land Volume Two was in2002 'graciously received' by Her Majesty as both a Golden Jubilee gift and in memory of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. One of the songs that he was especially noted for was "Oh for the wings of a dove".

Musical Abilities

It is interesting to note that Derek had the gifts not only of a "golden voice" as stated in the London Evening News, but was a natural musician. He reports that he never receieved any formal singing lessons. Derek was the first and probably the only boy who sang the Feodor role in Boris Godunov opera. This role is normally sung by a soprano.

Derek went through the very peculiar experience of having been able to sing the four solo parts of Haendel's Messiah: as a boy the soprano part, then few years later when his voice returned the tenor part, and then as a professional the bass part and during a concert when the contralto fell ill on stage, he sang "au pied levé" the contralto part.


HBC at this time has no information on the clothes Derek wore nor what he wore for his performances.


His photo is featured on the cover of the CD "The Better Land Volume Two".

Adult Life

Barsham as an adult became a baritone singer. He persued a career as the Cruise Director on The Royal Viking Line for 22 years. After retiring from Royal Viking Line in 1997, he moved to Cape Cod in the United States. He continued his interest in music as the principal baritone of the Cape Opera.

Reader Comments

I have some of his singing on the CD "The Better Land" with some other British trebles - What an extraordinary voice and sense of music!

Better Lands

Stephen Beet has produced a series of CDs of the old 78 rcordings of Derek Barsham and other British boy sopranos. These CDs are available for readers wishing to hear some of this beautiful music. All the Better Land CDs are available from me at this email address. there are five volumes and a sixth is in preparation. The price is as advertised on the other sites but allowance should be made for fluctuations in the dollar etc and postage. Thre is also a CD of Derek singing in his Baritone Voice. These CDs are all available from Stephen Beet.


Beet, Stephen. e-Mail, February 3, 2003.

Beet, Stephen. Notes to Better Land CDs.


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Created: March 9, 2001
Last updated: 6:02 PM 7/5/2007