It’s never too soon to start a musical career, and Jack Topping is taking the prospect of making a splash in the music business cheerfully in his stride. So far, joining the Decca family and recording his first album has all been a grand adventure for the 11-year-old chorister from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

“It has all been quite strange, but it’s really amazing,” enthuses Jack, kicking his legs while sitting on a chair slightly too large for him. “I just love singing and I’ve always loved it. It’s like showing your emotions and it’s one of the things I most enjoy doing. Somebody else’s favourite thing might be to play cricket or football for their team and win their league, but my favourite thing is singing.”

But of course singing and football are by no means mutually exclusive in Liverpool – it was Liverpool FC fans who turned the Rodgers & Hammerstein song You’ll Never Walk Alone into possibly the world’s best-known terrace anthem, and young Jack has recorded his own version of this slice of hometown heritage for his new CD. His solo voice is backed up by the stirring tones of the massed tenors and basses from the choir of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, where he has been a chorister for the last three years.

Indeed, the spirit of Liverpool runs through the album like a musical incarnation of the Mersey river, and is reflected in songs from the Beatles and the traditional folk tune Leaving Liverpool. In the latter, the narrator reflects sorrowfully on the prospect of departing from the city and his loved ones as he boards a ship to America.

Luckily, Jack himself currently has no such concerns, and is experiencing only excited and cheerful thoughts.

“Because I’m a chorister at the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, the producers chose to have quite a few songs from Liverpool,” he says. “The Beatles came from Liverpool of course, and I know quite a few of their songs. My favourite used to be Here Comes The Sun after I heard it in a movie, but I didn’t know the Beatles had written it. That song used to make me feel I was in my own world looking at bees and flowers and all that.”

Jack wasn’t around when the Beatles first burst over the hitherto rather colourless world of early-Sixties pop, but his father has been giving him a comprehensive education in the work of the Fab Four.

“My dad’s got all their albums on vinyl and CD and he’s got some limited edition CDs too,” he reports. “I think it’s weird how their hair started off quite short and then it grew and grew and by the end it was quite long. When I go down to the cathedral before we start singing with the choir, I sometimes put on Beatles songs like Strawberry Fields Forever or Octopus’s Garden.”

For his album though, Jack has recorded a couple of the Beatles’ more stately or even hymn-like songs, Let It Be and The Long And Winding Road. The vocal and instrumental arrangements have been carefully sculpted to show off the qualities of Jack’s pure treble voice.

He still can’t quite believe how he was whisked from his regular life back home in Liverpool to find himself in a variety of top-flight London recording studios with professional engineers and producers, making his very own album. It was the renowned writing/performing/producing couple James Morgan and Juliette Pochin (who have previously worked with Alfie Boe, Joe McElderry, Danielle De Niese and Katherine Jenkins among many others) who zeroed in on Jack after a mutual friend who had worked with the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Choir mentioned his brimming musical potential. Juliette travelled to Liverpool to listen to him sing, and was impressed enough to invite him back to London to make some demos.

When Decca heard them, they signed Jack on the spot.

“I first started singing when I was four or five and I went to church,” Jack remembers. “A couple of my uncles told me I had a good voice. The one from my dad’s side is a singer himself and he’s been on tour, and he sings at one of our local churches. He told my mum I was a good singer, and when she saw the cathedral were holding voice trials, she thought she’d take me there and get an honest opinion about my voice.”

This all went rather well. First of all Jack was amazed when the music director at the cathedral told him he could reach a high B flat – “I was quite proud of myself because I didn’t realise I could do that.” Then his mother asked whether she should put Jack in the youth choir, “and the director said ‘no, we need him in the cathedral choir right now. He’s fit and ready for it!’ I was amazed that they wanted me that badly.”

Much care went into choosing the repertoire for Jack’s debut. As a practised chorister, he’d naturally become familiar with hymns and choral anthems such as Zadok The Priest, O Be Joyful or Jubilate Deo, but his tastes spread wider than that. He admits to having been a Westlife fan, for instance, and recalls that “when I was younger I was more into pop music, but as I got older I started to see the good parts about classical music. It’s very nice to listen to because it’s so soothing.”

And what was the first piece of classical music he can remember enjoying?

“It might have been Beethoven’s fifth symphony, because the start of it really gets your attention. I was listening to it on CD because my dad has The Best Classical Album In The World. Then there’s this piano piece that I really like but I’ve forgotten the name of it. I know it’s my dad’s favourite.”
Jack is now learning some of the nuts and bolts of music, having begun studying the piano as well as musical theory, but he’s trying not to get too bogged down in dry technical matters.

“I can read notes off a sheet of music, but I’ve always said to my singing teacher ‘is it ok that you don’t know what a note sounds like?’ He said as long as you know what note it is then that’s fine, and you need to know the intervals between notes, whether it’s a fourth or a fifth or an octave. So I feel that I can read music.”

All of which means that he has been able to tackle an intriguing cross-section of pieces on his CD. His version of What A Wonderful World is, inevitably, pretty much the exact opposite of the famous Louis Armstrong recording, and on Count On Me he dips a toe into mainstream contemporary pop. The spirit of the great JS Bach is celebrated in Jack’s swingingly rhythmic take on Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring, in which his vocal is contrasted against a characterful Baroque-style solo oboe.

Jack’s clear and uncomplicated tone is ideal for drawing some simple soulfulness from Crimond’s The Lord Is My Shepherd, while his performance of Ave Maria is powered along by a deliciously grainy-sounding cello. Daringly, the carefree chorister even sings in French on Caresse. Meanwhile, it has escaped nobody’s notice that Christmas is about to hove into view, and Papa Noel is a bouncy and playful celebration of the Yuletide season.

“I wasn’t sure about some of the pop songs, but my producers told me how it would work so I went with it,” recalls Jack, about the recording process. “Now I just love all the songs, and I love listening to my high notes! My dad put some of them on the computer so I can listen to Ave Maria or Let It Be or whatever while I’m surfing the internet.”

Did he experience any problems along the way?

“The hardest one to sing was Count On Me, I think. It was quite difficult because I had to sing it in a pop star way that I wasn’t really used to. Also the day we recorded it I went outside the studio onto the grass, and it set off my hay fever and it sounded like I had a bunged-up nose. So then we had to do it again.”

Now firmly on course to become a pre-teen idol, Jack has also been getting a taste of high-profile world travel. Just after finishing his album, he flew to South Africa for a week in his newly-announced role as Ambassador for Save the Children. He visited local Save the Children projects and met children from his own age-group to get an idea of how their lives compared to, or more likely were very different from, his own. At the same time he joined with a local children’s choir to record Tomorrow, which is being used by Save the Children for their Christmas television advertising campaign, and will also be included on his CD.

“Apparently I’m the youngest ever singer to be ambassador for Save the Children, and it’s quite amazing that I’ve been chosen,” he pondered. “They usually get people who are older and have done something extraordinary, like David Beckham or Mo Farah. I think I’m supposed to sort of guide the way, I think that’s what ambassador means.”

Being only 11, he’ll have plenty of time to find out.

jack-topping-wonderful-world

Tracklisting

  1. Let It Be
  2. What A Wonderful World
  3. The Lord Is My Shepherd
  4. Tomorrow – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  5. Ave Maria
  6. You’ll Never Walk Alone
  7. Pie Jesu (based on The Swan by Saint – Saens)
  8. Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring
  9. Count On Me
  10. Sweetest Love
  11. Kyrie
  12. The Leaving Of Liverpool
  13. Papa Noel
  14. Allegri Miserere Mei

Pre-order your copy at:

Day 1 Tuesday

My Dad and I left home at around eleven o’clock to drive to Heathrow airport. We said goodbye to my Mum and my Sister, I got a bit upset because I wasn’t going to see them again for about a week, but was excited because I’ve never been to Heathrow before and I’ve certainly never been to Africa.

After about 3 hour’s drive we stop for a drink and something to eat, then we drive to Heathrow and parked the car and go into the terminal and settle down to wait for Simon (my manager) and the crew to arrive. We were a bit early as its only three o’clock and they are not due till four, so I sit down and play football games on Dad’s phone.

At about four, Simon and Rupert (the sound engineer) arrive and the rest of the crew for the filming follow minutes later, Lizzy the Director, Craig the cameraman, Julian the soundman and Ailsa the production manager, who looked after us all.

They started filming me straight away, which was a bit nerve-racking, but I had to get used to it, then we checked in, which took a while, because the crew brought lots of stuff with them. We then went through to the lounge. I did a quick bit of shopping with dad and then we went to the gate, which is where we get on the plane.

The plane was a Jumbo jet, the biggest plane I have ever been on. We all sat together near the back, I sat between my Dad and Simon. We took off at around Six pm and the flight lasted eleven hours, so we had to sleep on the plane and have tea and breakfast, but we did get to watch films on the tv’s in front of us. It was fun, except the flight was a bit bumpy, everybody else felt ill, but I was ok.

Day 2 Wednesday

It was nearly Nine O’clock in the morning before we got out of the airport and onto our little bus with all our luggage. We drove from Johannesburg to our hotel in Clarens near Qwa Qwa and the Golden Gate National Park which took nearly 5 hours, but the countryside was very beautiful. We did stop on the way and saw a Zebra in the National Park, which was very exciting! I was very tired by the time we arrived at the hotel. There was just enough time for me to have a sleep while the crew had a meeting and then we all had some tea, my favourite, Pizza Margarita. Then it was time for an early night as we all have to be up early in the morning.

Day 3 Thursday

Up early, breakfast, and into the bus. A camera was waiting for me, to film me as we drove along. It was about an hour’s drive back to Qwa Qwa to the School which we’re going to visit. We saw more animals, but we couldn’t stop.

As we drove into Qwa Qwa, we noticed how big the city was but also how small and poor so many of the houses were. We passed lots of people selling things, selling old clothes or fruit at the side of the road and garages where cars are fixed at the roadside, everything seemed very different to what I am used to at home.

First stop was the Save the Children Office in Qwa Qwa, where we met up with Etienne who had organised everything for us.

We then arrived at The Bolata School, I met few of the teachers and then went straight to one of the class rooms to join in a maths lesson. I went in and said hello and told them my name, they all said hello. They had left a place for me at the front and so I sat down and the teacher started the lesson. The lesson was about multiplication. The children did some sums and one little boy did some sums on the blackboard, then it was my turn, which I was a bit nervous about as they did things a differently way to the way I had been taught and especially as Craig was there again with his camera, but the children were all very nice and clapped when I got the answer right.
Next we moved to a different room where I met the school’s Children’s Committee. They told me how they had an Important job in looking after other children who were less fortunate than they were. Save the Children help them do this. The children grow vegetables and help feed the poorer children who come to school hungry. I had a long talk with a few of the children. They asked me questions about what I wanted to do when I grew up and I asked them questions about their life in South Africa. They told me how there is no work for their parents and how many of their dads have to go away to try and find work. All the time Craig was filming and Julian was listening in with his big microphone.

We then had a quick bit of lunch and then went across the road to the primary school.

There we saw some of the children sat at tables outside, reading to their teachers. I was going to sit and listen to some the children read.

I met a few children, but sat and listened to one little girl who was only five years old. She read really well thanks to help from Save the Children. I spent a while with her while the crew filmed me.

I then went to meet some of the teachers from the primary school before doing something I had been looking forward to. I played football with some of the boys. We had a match, a kick about and a penalty shootout. I really enjoyed it.

After that I went back to the senior school and met the choir who were rehearsing with the choir master and with Rupert who was going to record them for my track “Tomorrow”.

We then set off in the little bus to the hotel for some rest after a long day.

Just enough energy to do my video diary to camera before bed.

Day 4 Friday

Up early again and we headed off to the National Park to do some filming. On the way through the Park we saw some animals running at the side of the road, we stopped for a closer look and saw they were Wildebeest and Springbok. There was a huge herd of them it was very exciting. Whilst walking back to the bus I noticed lots of stony mounds. I was told these were termite mounds, but I could not see any termites, I think because it was winter in South Africa. I also found some bones!

Etienne came over to where we were filming and I met his son Ethan. He was a football fan and we started chatting about football.

During the filming which was near a small lake I had to keep changing clothes as we were filming some of my music video and also something special for Save the Children where I wore

a Christmas jumper for Save The Children’s Christmas campaign!

I was filmed singing and doing different stuff. We then headed back towards the school to do some more filming with the choir I met yesterday.

Lizzy, Ailsa and Craig found a big room to film in and the choir and I all stood holding hands and singing while Craig ran his camera on a clever track and filmed us. After they finish filming I had a chat with choir and they asked me questions. It was fun and I got to know some of them.

After that we went out and there were more children waiting outside. There were girls who were doing African dancing and they did a display for me. They asked me to join in and I did which was a bit nerve-racking. After the display all the children started high fiving me and things got a bit hectic. My Dad had to help me get back to the van but it was fun, everyone was so friendly and so glad to see us.

On the way back we drove up into the mountains and got a view of some more of the poor houses in the city on the way. The mountains were very spectacular and we actually left South Africa and walked into Lesotho which is a very mountainous country. We got back to the hotel in the dark, had some tea and straight to bed.
Day 5 Saturday

Up early yet again and we have the hour long drive to Qwa Qwa. On the way in we saw a herd of Zebra. We had only seen one on it’s own before so this was very exciting. I’d only seen animals like this in a zoo before, so seeing them in the wild was such a treat.

Once we arrived at the school I met a boy called Tieho . We headed off to visit his home. The drive was quite short but took a while on the rough roads. Some of the houses in the streets we drive through were very small and just made of tin. Tieho’s house is made of tin too. It only has three small rooms and has a small outside toilet. He lives there with his Mum, his sister and his Grandma. His dad has gone away to find a job and only seems him once a month. I went inside to meet his family and then had a chat with him for a while. Tieho told me about his life in Qwa Qwa.

After that we headed back to the school and I had a long chat with one of the girls that sang in the choir with me, she was fifteen years old. She told me about how hard her life and other children’s lives are and how Save the Children had helped them. I was surprised they had school on a Saturday morning but she told me that everyone loves school, as education is so important to them to help themselves and their families.

Then it was time to say our goodbyes to the Headmasters from both schools and take some photos of everyone who had been involved. Johnny, The Headmaster of the senior school gave me a track suit to remember the school and all the children and as he did it he told a story about a woman who had so little but gave it away to those who had nothing.

On the way back to hotel we did more filming of me in my cassock singing “Tomorrow” and we drove up a mountain road and saw a great sunset.

Back at the hotel we met up with Etienne and his family and had dinner with everyone.

Day 6 Sunday

Another early start, but this time only to do some filming close by the hotel. After that we had to pack before getting in the bus again and leaving Clarens for the last time to head back to Johannesburg. The airport was really busy, but I had time to buy some fridge magnets from the shops in the airport before we got on the plane. It was a long drive through the countryside and a really long flight back home.

Day 7 Monday

We arrived back at Heathrow at about 6 am, collected our luggage and said goodbye to the crew. After another long drive me and my Dad met back up with my Mum and Sister and told them all about our fantastic adventure in Africa and about all the people we met and the different and difficult lives they had.

Thanks for reading!

Jack Topping.

1st Decemeber 2014
7:00 pm
Royal Festival Hall
London
Winter Concert

Jack Topping becomes Youngest Ever Singer appointed as Ambassador by ‘Save the Children’

An 11-year old Catholic choirboy from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Choir, Jack Topping, has been chosen to support this year’s ‘Save the Children’ Christmas campaign, making him the youngest ever singer appointed as Ambassador for the charity.

Jack will be singing the song ‘Tomorrow’ on the powerful Save the Children TV advertisement soon to be heard in millions of homes across the country in the lead up to Christmas. Not only is Jack featured on the advert, he is also involved with many of the fundraising activities run by the children’s charity, and has seen the charity’s work in South Africa where he visited schools, to see the important education programmes that it runs.

Sue Allchurch, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at Save the Children says: “We are delighted to announce Jack Topping as one of our new ambassadors. We always need strong, young people to support our life-saving work and to give a voice to vulnerable children who would otherwise never get the chance to share their stories.

“As one of Britain’s fresh new talents, Jack will be able to help shine a light on important issues and raise funds for vital projects that will help change children’s lives for the better and help them fulfill their potential.”

In Qwa Qwa, South Africa, Jack witnessed first-hand the difficulties children his own age face living in a shanty town in a deprived area. But he also made friends and played football with them and recorded with a local children’s choir.

Jack says: “I’m so lucky to be a Save the Children ambassador and meet some of the children they are helping in Africa. There are boys and girls my own age all over the world that need help so the work Save the Children does is very important.”

Jack has also become the youngest ever solo artist to sign a record contract with Decca Records, home to vocal legends Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli. The Bolata Senior Phase Secondary School Choir from South Africa will feature on his debut album, alongside tracks recorded with the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Choir, where he has been a chorister for the last three years.

The album is called ‘Wonderful World’ and will include a mix of sacred and secular repertoire, as well as paying tribute to Liverpool’s musical heritage, with Beatles numbers ‘Let It Be and ‘The Long and Winding Road’. Jack follows in the footsteps of Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who also started as choirboys in Liverpool.

Due for release on 25th November, Jack’s debut features newly-arranged versions of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Pie Jesu’, as well as ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’, the classic ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and popular folk ballad ‘Leaving of Liverpool’.

As well as his choral duties and now his charity work, Jack started secondary school just days ago. He is a Cub-Scout, loves reading and is a football fan.

http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/