Categorized | Music, Scene

Who Was That Kid Singing During the Olympic Ceremony?

 

The Extraordinary Boy with the Angel’s Voice

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

That’s the question everyone has been asking.

He’s Humphrey Keeper.  He’s 12-years old.  And yes, he’s British.

He’s a fairly unknown lad who sang his heart and soul out during a solo rendition of England’s famous hymn, Jerusalem, at Friday’s opening Olympic ceremony.  With his fellow choristers, his hauntingly beautiful song and crystal clear voice brought silence and tears to the eyes and ears of thousands in attendance– and to the millions watching him live around the world.

It was an amazingly moving moment.

I’ve heard a dozen versions of Jerusalem; some good and others quite tepid.   This one, though, was spectacular and one of the best I’ve heard.  The boy’s got pipes.  His pitch, note, and timing were perfect.  He was composed, confident.  Others went so far as to say he ‘has the voice of an angel.’ 

The song Jerusalem comes from William Blake’s famous 1804 masterpiece poem that was composed to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.  Originally entitled And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time, it has become one of England’s most beloved and well known patriotic anthems:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land

Chosen to sing live and unaccompanied at the Olympic ceremony, the young Mr. Keeper was surrounded by fellow members of the Dockhead Choir, a group of 40 children and teens from two parishes in South London. 

Mr. Keeper began with the first two stanzas of Jerusalem before the choir wove into the melodies of Danny Boy, Flower Of Scotland, and Bread of Heaven, each piece representing the four nations of the British Isles, until returning back to sing the final stanzas of Jerusalem together.

Something of a mystery, little is known about this young singer who came out of nowhere.  Sharing the stage equally with his Dockhead Choir-mates, he has avoided exposure or publicity.  Nothing about his background or life has been written.  Photographs of him are rare and difficult to find.  A solo photo doesn’t seem to exist.

The lad has faced his share of challenges reaching for this Olympic moment.  Never having taken a proper singing class in his life, he was “cast” as the lead chorister 10 days before the opening ceremony.   Take a close look at the top right picture.  Mr. Keeper is a member of REACH, an organization helping children and families suffering from a full or partial loss of limbs due to accidents or necessary surgeries.

Even London’s UK Daily Mail would only report:

Humphrey Keeper’s note-perfect rendition of Jerusalem was one of the most poignant moments of the ceremony.  But behind the spellbinding voice, viewers were unaware of the extraordinary journey the 12-year-old choirboy had made to take his starring role.

When Humphrey was born without a hand on a malformed left arm, his parents were ‘shocked and dismayed.’   His mother Samantha said that during the early months of Humphrey’s life she was ‘worrying about the challenges he would face.’

Before the Olympic performance, Humphrey had only sung as a ‘background’ chorister in his school choir.

But on Friday, the stadium fell silent as he sang the first chorus of the English anthem.

Humphrey’s father Lee Keeper, of Forest Hill, South London, said he was ‘extremely proud’ of his son, adding:  ‘Humphrey has been loving all the attention.  And why shouldn’t he be?  He did brilliantly.’

 You can decide for yourself after listening to Mr. Keeper and the Dockhead Choir’s song in the Isles of Wonder link above.

The first hour of the opening 2012 Olympic ceremony with Mr. Keeper and the choir can be found here, starting about one and a half minutes in.  The whole ceremony, if you didn’t catch it, was a dramatic eye-opening number orchestrated by English film maker Danny Boyle illustrating England’s struggles moving from an agrarian society to one dominated by the Industrial Revolution, which Blake’s poem purposefully underscored.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t include another famous and snappier Jerusalem rendition banned by the BBC done by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer—but unfortunately without Mr. Keeper’s fine voice.

He may be unknown, he might only be 12, and he may suffer from a serious physical challenge, but the young Mr. Keeper couldn’t be kept back from delivering his greatest given talent of all:  his voice. 

His stunning performance, done live for the first time before an audience of millions, was  truly a rare and remarkable achievement to behold.  Mr. Keeper and the Dockhead Choir’s Jerusalem has become a You Tube hit throughout Europe.

As the world’s athletes earn their 2012 Olympic medals, Mr. Keeper certainly deserves a special medal to call his own.

* * * * * * * *

Photo credit:  the Archdiocese of Southwark

(Thank you, Sue.  For you)

One Response to “Who Was That Kid Singing During the Olympic Ceremony?”

  1. Isabel Monteith says:

    Humphrey Keeper’s singing of “Jerusalem” was a glorious echo
    of my childhood. Although I now live in Canada, “Jerusalem” was my school hymn in England. Humphrey made me proud to be British.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


Leave a Reply

HumSentinel on Twitter

RSS Progressive Review

  • Links: War and peace
    NEWS PeaceWar Torture Veterans   ESSAYS The good thing about war Essays on war Mission creep: the militarizing of America Spooks & spies All war all the time The biggest threast to us: ourselves Why is the military sacred? A speech CSPAN didn't like   GROUPS American Friends Service Committee War is a Crime World Beyond War   MEDIA Anti-War Daniel E […]
  • Links: War and peace
    NEWS Peace War Department Torture Veterans   ESSAYS The good thing about war Essays on war Mission creep: the militarizing of America Spooks & spies All war all the time The biggest threast to us: ourselves Why is the military sacred? A speech CSPAN didn't like   GROUPS American Friends Service Committee War is a Crime World Beyond War   MEDIA Anti- […]
  • Pocket Paradigms
    We can, as those in charge would like, continue to define ourselves primarily by neatly described identities -- either natural or acquired. We can remain interminably and ineffectually absorbed and angry about the particulars of infinite special injustices. Or we can ask what is it that makes our society seem so unfair to so many who are so different? If the […]
  • Word
    If you're not careful the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. -- Malcolm X […]
  • Why we need history
    From 50 uyears of our overstocked archivesSam Smith, 2006 - Now that Frances Fukuyama has rediscovered history, the Nation Magazine's Katrina Vanden Heuvel would like to put it to bed again. In the best tradition of the establishment's view of "civil discourse" - i.e. avoiding the real issues - Vanden Heuvel suggested in the :Washington P […]
  • Links: Transportation
    Transportation news Bike news High speed, high cost, high income rail What roads and rails tell us about class and power […]
  • Jazz break
    GEORGE SHEARING […]
  • What's happening
    Supreme Court clears the way for Texas voter ID lawSome clinical thoughts on EbolaJudge strikes down Arizona’s gay marriage banCops Need a Warrant to Grab Your Cell Tower Data, Florida Court Rules  […]
  • Americans taking fewer vacations
    Vox […]
  • Why America can;t deal with a health crisis
    Sarah Robinson, 2008 - Our every-man-for-himself attitude toward health care is a security threat on a par with unsecured ports. In Canada, people go see the doctor if they’re sick for more than a day or two. It was this easy access to early treatment, along with the much tighter public health matrix that enables doctors to share information quickly, that al […]
  • Pocket paradigms
    We live now with dishonest politics, disinformed and disinforming media, disconnected cultures, disjointed economics, dysfunctional communities and disrespected citizens. To attempt to repair such conditions without a morally conscious politics makes as much sense as trying to revive a body without a heart. This is not romanticism, idealism or naivete, just […]
  • Word
    We [reporters] were perceived as a lower form of life, amoral, half-literate hacks in cheap suits. Thus I was assigned to a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Nashville in the late 1940s and, with other reporters, was given lunch at a card table set up in a hallway to protect the dining room from contamination. -- Richard Harwood […]
  • The immigration myth
    Sam Smith, 2006 - It is taken as a given in the immigration debate that our current system for dealing with the issue has some sort of historical logic. It doesn't. The story of immigration in the U.S. is a mishmash of hospitality and hatred, encouragement and restriction.The Naturalization Act of 1790, for example, said that "any alien, being a fr […]
  • What's happening
    Foreclosure activity across the United States declined to the lowest level since July 2006, as banks reclaimed fewer homesThe number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to a 14-year low last week and industrial output rose sharply in September64 countries require some GMO labelling […]
  • Wikileaks releases more anti-constitutional trade deal info
    Common Dreams - WikiLeaks on Thursday released a second updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Intellectual Property Rights chapter, charging that it will hinder affordable access to medicines globally, increase online surveillance, and impinge on civil liberties while benefiting Big Pharma and other corporate interests."Our first impression i […]