English Español
Français Nederlands
Deutsch русский
Japanese Chinese
Home | Browse | Choirs | Trebles | Singers | Films | Books | New Releases | Events | Search | | Links | Contact BCSD | Sign In
9 TREBLES Featured Boy Sopranos | All Trebles | Boy Altos | Soloist Recordings | Chorister of the Year | 78 RPM | Pop Singles

  John Bonner    (b. 31 Mai 1912) Boy Soprano Soloist 
Print Friendly Page 
John Bonner John Bonner was born in Manchester on May 31st 1912. His great-grandfather had been a bass at the cathedral and John became a chorister there at the age of ten. Even as a small boy at the Municipal school he possessed an outstanding voice and the teachers used to stand him on a chair and let him sing to the class.

As a result of Ernest Lough's success there was a search for good voices by the big gramophone companies, and Bonner was first recorded at the same session as the younger Robert Peel. It is likely that Bonner's recording was made before Peel's as it has an earlier matrix number. Bonner was fifteen and Peel thirteen. Bonner was encouraged at every stage by Norman Cocker, the Sub Organist, and by his mentor Dr. Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Manchester, to whom John remained devoted to the end of his life. The reviews of Bonner's first record were outstanding.

John Bonner did not record again until 1929, when he was nearly seventeen and recorded four more records (eight sides) for Columbia in London.

-- bio and pic from Betterland.boychoirs.org

"tone of remarkable depth and power . . .the boy is greatly gifted." (Herman Klein, "The Gramophone", January 1928)

"All the choir [of Manchester Cathedral] were good, but one boy, Bonner, was outstanding. When he rose to sing his solo in the Children's Service, the shuffling of hundreds of feet ceased, and in the dead silence Bonner sang. Just before his voice was breaking, we were approached by the B.B.C. and they came to hear him and said: 'That is the best treble voice in England.' They offered him £2,000 for the remainder of the time before his voice broke. His parents were working people, living in a small house in a back street, and could well have done with the money. They refused, feeling that £2,000 . . . would not compensate for the harm done by publicity and studio life. Several beautiful gramophone records were, however, made."
Dr Hewlett Johnson (1874-1966; Dean of Manchester 1924-31) in his autobiography Searching for Light (London, 1968, pp.68f.)
Around the time Bonner's records were made, the annual salary for a family doctor (GP) was about £750, council school teachers £350 & bank clerks £280.

In 1935 John was appointed bass lay vicar at Salisbury Cathedral and later moved to Lincoln Cathedral. He was Musical Director of the Sheffield Teachers' Operatic Society 1954-78 and, following his death in February 1979, the Society's Chairman Norman Coombs wrote in tribute to him: "Infectious exuberance, ebullience and enthusiasm were three of the outward facets of John's character. Beneath these facets and combined with them, lay a deep and wide understanding and practical appreciation of music and drama, which he applied to the furtherance of the Amateur Operatic and Dramatic world. His training as a boy and adult chorister in Manchester and Lincoln together with his wartime direction of an orchestra in India could well have fitted John for a successful [sc. professional] career but he concentrated on the 'Amateurs' of this world for whom he had the greatest devotion."
Related Sites
BCSD: Gordon Carter
Gordon Carter is the cousin of John Bonner.
BCSD: Robert Peel
The Better Land

Artist Details
Add a Tour or Event
Search Google for 'John Bonner': Web - Images
Featured Recordings Compact | Full
no cover
Tate: Somewhere a voice is calling / Godard: Angels guard thee (Columbia DB.1818 (10-inch), 78 RPM) Dezember 1938
Featuring John Bonner  
Rec. 1929 (q.v.) & 5 Oct. 1938 (matrices CA17130-1 & 17129-1) and catalogued as "John Bonner, Boy Soprano, sings Duets with himself as a Bass-Baritone." See elsewhere on this page DB.136.
  Side A -   Somewhere a voice is calling (Tate)   Duet with himself as baritone
  Side B -   Angels guard thee (Godard)   Duet with himself as baritone
John Bonner - Godard: Angels Guard Thee / Tate: Somewhere a Voice is Calling
Godard: Angels Guard Thee / Tate: Somewhere a Voice is Calling (Columbia DB.136 (10-inch), 78 RPM) Juli 1930
Featuring John Bonner  
A: Angels Guard Thee (verse 1 only) (Engl. wds S.J. Reilly, 1892 - music Benjamin Louis Paul Godard (1849-95): Berceuse from opera "Jocelyn", op. 109, 1888) (matrix WA 8316-1) with W.G. Webber, organ, & orch.
B: Somewhere a Voice is Calling (wds Eileen Newton - music Arthur Frank Tate (1880-1950), 1911) (matrix WA 8305-1) with piano accomp. W.T. Best
Rec. (confirmed) 9 & 8 Jan. 1929 resp.
Scheduled for release Feb. 1930 as cat. no. 5687 but finally issued in July as DB 136; deleted Feb. 1943.
Both items now on Amphion CDs "The Better Land" vols. 4 & 1 respectively.

Text of first item: "Beneath the quiv'ring leaves, where shelter comes at last, all sadness sinks to rest, or glides into the past; her sweet eyes prison'd now in their soft silken bars. Oh! my love, calm she sleeps beneath the trembling stars. Ah! wake not yet from thy repose, a fair dream spirit hovers near thee, weaving a web of gold and rose through dreamland's happy isles to bear thee! Sleep, love, it is not yet the dawn. Angels guard thee, sweet love, 'till morn!"
  Side A -   Angels Guard Thee (Godard)  
  Side B -   Somewhere a Voice is Calling (Tate)  
no cover
Alexander/Gounod: There is a Green Hill Far Away / Braga: Angel's Serenade (Columbia 9832 (12-inch), 78 RPM) November 1929
Featuring John Bonner  
A: There is a Green Hill Far Away (hymn: wds Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-95) - on the text please see note on Robin Fairhurst's page - music Charles Francois Gounod (1818-93), 1871)(matrix WAX 4530-2)
B: Angel's Serenade (orig. wds M.M. Marcello ("Non e mortal la musica . . ."); Engl. version anon. c.1875 [see below]- music Gaetano Braga (1829-1907): "La Serenata" or "Legende Valaque", 1867)(matrix WAX 4529-1; this item is believed to have been conducted by Bonner).
Both rec. 9 Jan. 1929 at Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road, London, with W.G. Webber, organ, & orch. & now on Amphion CD "The Better Land" vol. 5.

"Of the several records we have heard by Master Bonner, none have shown his beautiful voice to better advantage than this."
(From a review in The Sound Wave [London], Dec. 1929, p. 947.)

Wds of Serenade as sung: "What happy tones awaken me, swelling upon the breeze, as it sweeps thro' the open balcony, onto the distant trees? Hear'st thou them not? So beautiful! They seem to bid me follow them afar. (Mother:) I hear no tone of melody; calm is the summer air. Only the gentle zephyr steals thro' the moonlight fair. What are these tones? O dearest daughter, what is this song so sweet? (Daughter:) Hush! Hush! That music hymns [?] angels to their angels' festal lays, calling to love of beauty, to cloudless summer days. Oh! mother dear, I cannot stay. I must away!"
  Side A -   There is a Green Hill Far Away   (Hymn)
  Side B -   Angel's Serenade (Braga)   (La Serenata)
no cover
Purcell: Nymphs and Shepherds / Bishop: Should he upbraid (Columbia 9840 (12-inch), 78 RPM) September 1929
Featuring John Bonner  
A: Nymphs & Shepherds (wds Thomas Shadwell (1642?-92): "The Libertine" (1676) Act IV, sc. iii (one 7-line verse) - incidental music Henry Purcell (1659-95), prob. 1695 (Z.600.1b.) with varied text; 2nd verse, as sung here, by ?)(matrix WAX 4526-1)
B: Should he upbraid (wds Frederic Reynolds (1764-1841) adapted from Petruchio's speech in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" Act II, sc. i - music Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855): song for Julia interpolated into his production of "Two Gentleman of Verona" at Covent Garden, November 1821. N.B. Question mark on record label is an error.) (matrix WAX 4527-2)
Both rec. London, 8 Jan. 1929, with W.T. Best, piano and now on Amphion CDs "The Better Land" vols. 1 & 5 respectively.

Text from 1821 score: "Should he upbraid, I'll own that he prevail, And sing sweetly as the nightingale. Say that he frown, I'll say his looks I view As morning roses newly tip'd with dew. Say he be mute, I'll answer with a smile, And dance, and play, and wrinkled care beguile."
  Side A -   Nymphs and Shepherds (Purcell)   (from "The Libertine")
  Side B -   Should he upbraid (Bishop)  
John Bonner - Handel: Slumber, dear maid (Largo) / Liddle/Lyte: Abide with me
Handel: Slumber, dear maid (Largo) / Liddle/Lyte: Abide with me (Columbia 9745 (12-inch), 78 RPM) Juli 1929
Featuring John Bonner  
A: Slumber, dear maid (wds Paul England (1864-1932), publ. 1903 - music George Frideric Handel (1685-1759): Largo from opera "Serse", 1738) (matrix WAX 4528-1)
B: Abide with me (wds Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), written 1847? after Luke 24:29 - music Samuel Liddle (1867-1951), 1896) (matrix WAX 4531-1)
Both. rec. 9 Jan. 1929 at Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road, London, with W.G. Webber, organ, & orch. & now on Amphion CD "The Better Land" vol. 4.

"Master John Bonner bids fair to take the place of Master Lough. He has a voice of beautiful quality, and almost as much sophistication as his earlier rival. He sings both these numbers exceedingly well, but he is a little over-weighted by the very 'fat' orchestral part to Abide with Me. The recording is excellent."
(Review in The Sound Wave [London], July 1929, p. 411.)

". . . He has a singularly even production which appears to have no 'break' between upper and lower register, and his sense of pitch is capital. Abide with me . . . provides him with a good field for the exploitation of his vocal abilities, and he comes up to the scratch in masterful fashion. Naturally he has no deep-seated emotion at his command - one does not look for it at his tender age; but the notes are crystalline and the recording admirable. It is in the utter aloofness from all sentiment expressed in the Largo that the real purity of such a voice is most apparent, and here [he] gives an exhibition of vocal loveliness which is likely to make this disc a best seller. At any rate it deserves it."
(From a review by Hubert S. Ryan in Gramophone and Radio News, London, July 1929, p. 258.)
Retail price of this disc was 4/6.
  Side A -   Slumber, dear maid (L)   (Handel's Largo)
  Side B -   Abide with me   (Hymn)
John Bonner - Haydn: With verdure clad (from The Creation)
Haydn: With verdure clad (from The Creation) (Columbia (Dark Blue) 9277 (12-inch), 78 RPM) Januar 1928
Featuring John Bonner  
Retail price 4/6.
A & B: With verdure clad (wds Gottfried van Swieten (1734-1803) after Genesis 1:11 - music Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): from oratorio "The Creation", 1798: Part I, No. 8, aria "Nun beut die Flur", Engl. version [Thomas Linley?]) (2 sides: matrices WAX 3074-2, 3075-2) Rec. 21 Sept. 1927 in Manchester Cathedral, with Archibald Wayet Wilson (1869-1950), the Cathedral organist 1919-43.

"A typical treble voice, well trained. Clean execution, but do not like breaks in phrasing. Sung in true choir-boy fashion. Organ weak in places."
(Review in The Sound Wave, London, Jan. 1928, p. 52.)

". . . Master John Bonner, solo boy at Manchester Cathedral, does both his church and his trainer great credit. The difficult runs are accomplished readily and without strain, while the articulation of his words is commendably clear."
(Review in Music Trade Journal, London, Jan. 1928, p. 25.)

Not currently available on CD.
  Side A -   With verdure clad (Part 1) (Haydn)   (from "The Creation")
  Side B -   With verdure clad (Part 2) (Haydn)   (from "The Creation")
Other Recordings Compact | Full
John Bonner - The Better Land Volume 5 - Great Boy Sopranos Recorded 1927-1957
The Better Land Volume 5 - Great Boy Sopranos Recorded 1927-1957 (Amphion PHI CD 189, CD) Oktober 2003
Featuring The Better Land Series   Derek Barsham   John Bonner   Alan Bradbrook   Master John Brookman   Thomas Criddle   Master Leslie Day   Beverley Jones   Raymond Kinsey   Cyril Lewis   Ernest Lough   Michael Morley   Billy Neely   Robert Duncan Peel   Kenneth Purves   Robert Regent   Trevor Schofield  
* denotes recordings published for the first time
  1.   Rejoice Greatly (Messiah, Handel)   Master Raymond Kinsey
  2.   Mighty like a rose ( Nevin-Staton)   Master Michael Morley
  3.   If I can help somebody (Androzzo)   Master Michael Morley
  4.   Hark! Hark! the lark (Schubert)   Master Ernest Lough
  5.   There is a green hill far away (Mrs C.F. Alexander-Gounod)   Master John Bonner
  6.   On Wings of Song (England-Mendelssohn)   Master Thomas Criddle
  7.   Should he upbraid? (Shakespeare-Sir Henry Bishop)   Master John Bonner
  8.   Angels Serenade (La Seranata)   Master John Bonner
  9.   Birdsong at Eventide (Coates)   Master Michael Morley
10.   Y Deryn Pur -The Dove (arr. Somervell-Williams)   Master Cyril Lewis
11.   A song of long ago (D.Furber-A.E. Adams)   Master Trevor Schofield
12.   Nearer my God to Thee (Carey)   Master John Bookman
13.   A brown bird singing (Barrie-Haydn Wood)   Master Leslie Day
14.   Lullaby (Brahms)   Master Michael Morley
15.   O for the wings of a dove (Mendelssohn)   Master Kenneth Purves
16.   Father in Heaven* (Largo-Handel)   Master Robert Regent
17.   Hallelujah (Exsultate Jubilate-Mozart)   Master Billy Neely
18.   Abide with Me (Liddle)   Master Derek Barsham
19.   Angels Ever bright (Handel)   Master Robert Duncan Peel
20.   With Verdure Clad (The Creation-Haydn)   Master Raymond Kinsey
21.   Oh for a closer walk with God (Foster)   Master Raymond Kinsey
22.   Beekeeper's Introit * (arr. G. Dixon)   Master Alan Bradbrook (Private Recording 1957)
23.   A Song of Peace*   Master Beverley Jones
Email   Purchase from the producer, Stephen Beet You can order the Better Land CDs directly from producer Stephen Beet for £10.00 plus post and packing. £55 for the set of 6 CD's (which includes, as a special offer, Stephen R. Beet's book "The Better land - in search of the lost boy sopranos" E-mail for postage quotes: StephenRBeet@gmail.com PayPal address: beetstphn@aol.com Please make cheques payable to "Stephen Beet".
John Bonner - The Better Land Volume 4 - Great Boy Sopranos Recorded 1927-1954
The Better Land Volume 4 - Great Boy Sopranos Recorded 1927-1954 (Amphion PHI CD 168, CD) Juli 2001
Featuring The Better Land Series   Derek Barsham   John Bonner   Master John Brookman   Master Leslie Day   Robert Harris   Beverley Jones   Raymond Kinsey   Harold Langston   Ernest Lough   Brian Moody   Billy Neely   Graham Payn   Robert Regent   Trevor Schofield  
* denotes recordings published for the first time. This volume will shortly deleted and replaced by the double CD volume The Better Land Volumes 3 & 4. Hurry to order now while stocks last.
  1.   Come Back (Toselli's Serenade. Words R.H. Elkin) (L)   Master Leslie Day 1933
  2.   Abide with me (Lyte-Liddle) (L)   Master John Bonner 1929
  3.   Five Eyes* (Gibbs-Cecil Armstrong) (L)   Master Billy Neely 1949
  4.   The Fairy Tree* (Vincent O'Brien)   Master Billy Neely 1949
  5.   I will sing of Thy Great Mercies O Lord* (Mendelssohn)   Master Harold Langston 1929
  6.   Pierrot at the dance (Lockton-Drummond)   Master Trevor Schofield 1929
  7.   One night of love (Kahn-Schertzinger) (L)   Master Robert Harris 1933
  8.   Hark! Hark! the Lark* (Schubert)   Master Brian Moody 1944
  9.   Slumber dear maid (Handel)   Master John Bonner 1929
10.   My heart ever faithful (Bach) (L)   Master Raymond Kinsey 1933
11.   The Old Church Bells* (H.M.Farrar)   Master Robert Harris 1934
12.   Love's old sweet song (Bingham-Molloy) (L)   Master Robert Harris 1933
13.   The Trout* (Schubert)   Master Brian Moody 1944
14.   Nursery Scene, Boris Godounov (Moussorgsky)   Master Derek Barsham
Recorded 30 Apl. 1947 (AR11093 & 11094), with Gladys Palmer, contralto, Norman Lumsden, bass & London Symphony Orchestra cond. Stanford Robinson. Issued June 1947 on Decca K.1601. ["Better Land" the two parts separately in vols. 3 & 4]
15.   Hear my prayer* (Mendelssohn) (L)   Master Billy Neely 1950
16.   Star of Bethlehem (Adams)   Master John Brookman 1934
17.   A Brown Bird Singing (Barrie-Haydn Wood) (L)   Master Robert Regent
18.   I know that my Redeemer Liveth (Handel) (L)   Master Ernest Lough 1927
19.   Hear ye, Israel (part1)* (Mendenssohn) (L)   Master Ernest Lough 1927
20.   Kitty my love will ya marry me?* (Trad. - arr. Hughes)   Master Billy Neely live 1950
21.   Birdsongs at Eventide* (Barrie-Coates) (L)   Master Graham Payn 'Live' 1932
22.   Let the bright Seraphim (Handel) (L)   Master Raymond Kinsey
23.   Angels guard thee (Reilly-Godard) (L)   Master John Bonner 1929
24.   A song of wisdom* (Charles V. Stanford) (L)   Master Beverly Jones 1954
Email   Available from the producer at £10 plus postage, or £55 plus postage for the set of 6 CD's (which includes as a special offer Stephen R. Beet's book "The Better Land - in search of the lost boy sopranos" Contact StephenRBeet@gmail.com Paypal: beetstphn@aol.com
John Bonner - The Better Land - Great Boy Sopranos Recorded 1914-1944
The Better Land - Great Boy Sopranos Recorded 1914-1944 (Amphion PHI CD 158, CD) 1999
Featuring The Better Land Series   Denis Barthel   John Bonner   Master Gordon Carter   Master (Arthur) Iwan Davies   Master Leslie Day   Frederick (John) Firth   Robert Harris   Aled Jones   Derrick Jones   Walter Lawrence   Trevor Schofield   Morris Stevens   Thomas Tweedy   Denis Wright  
The celebrated series of CD albums featuring the boy sopranos of the past. This volume is now deleted but replaced by the double CD volume The Better Land Volumes 1 & 2. See above.
  1.   The Better Land (Hemans-Cowen) (L)   Denis Wright
  2.   I Hear You Calling Me (Harford-Marshall) (L)   Leslie Day
  3.   He was Despised (Handel) (L)   Denis Barthel
  4.   Who is Sylvia? (Schubert ­ arr. Geehl)   Robert Harris
  5.   O Lord Whose Mercies Numberless (Handel) (L)   Frederick Firth
  6.   Somewhere a Voice is Calling(Newton & Tate)   John Bonner
  7.   God Shall Wipe Away all Tears(Sullivan) (L)   Morris Stevens
  8.   O For the Wings of a Dove (Mendelssohn) (L)   Gordon Carter
  9.   Serenade (Schubert)   Frederick Firth
10.   Smilin' Through (Arthur A. Penn) (L)   Derrick Jones
11.   Spring Morning (Carey)   Walter Lawrence
12.   If there were dreams to sell (Ireland) (L)   Frederick Firth
13.   Christopher Robin is saying his prayers (Milne- Fraser-Simson) (L)   Denis Wright
14.   By an Old Abbey Door (Towers, Leon, Nicholls)   Thomas Tweedy
15.   Goodnight Said the Cuckoo (P.B. Harding)   Trevor Schofield
16.   O Little Town of Bethlehem (H. Walford Davies) (L)   Denis Barthel
17.   The Last Rose of Summer (Thomas Moore) (L)   Denis Wright
18.   My Heart Ever Faithful (Bach) (L)   Frederick Firth
19.   Nymphs & Shepherds (Purcell)   John Bonner
20.   Market Square (Fraser-Simpson) (L)   Denis Wright
21.   The Holy City (Adams Weatherley) (L)   Iwan Davies
22.   For you alone (P.J.O'Reilly-Henry Geehl) (L)   Leslie Day
Email   Purchase from Stephen Beet Individual CD's £10 each plus postage. The Better Land set of 6 CD's is available from StephenRBeet@gmail.com Price £55 plus postage. Included in this offer is a FREE copy of "The Better Land - In search of the Lost Boy Sopranos" (retail value £10) Paypal address: beetstphn@aol.com
Books Compact | Full
John Bonner - Better Land, The: In Search of the Lost Boy Sopranos
Better Land, The: In Search of the Lost Boy Sopranos (Rectory Press , Book) April 2005
Featuring The Better Land Series   Temple Church Choir   Clifford Adams   Derek Barsham   Denis Barthel   John Bonner   Richard Bonsall   Alan Bradbrook   Master John Brookman   Richard Brown   Master Gordon Carter   Master (Arthur) Iwan Davies   Master Leslie Day   Robin Fairhurst   Frederick (John) Firth   Michael Ginn   John Gwilym Griffith(s)   Robert Harris   Michael Hartnett   Aled Jones   Beverley Jones   Raymond Kinsey   Harold Langston   Ernest Lough   Robin Lough   Thomas Meddings   Brian Moody   Billy Neely   Graham Payn   Robert Duncan Peel   Kenneth Purves   The Choir of the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy   Steffani and his Silver Songsters   Thomas Tweedy   Denis Wright  
By Stephen Beet. Features much newly-discovered material, telling the often very human stories of the boys behind the voices, at the height of their singing careers and in their later lives. Copiously illustrated with many previously-unpublished photographs and manuscript samples, with a Foreword by Peter Purves.

As well as chapters on Iwan Davies, Derek Barsham, and Denis Wright, amongst others there are also chapters under the following headings: The Temple Boys, The Manchester Boys, The Music Hall Boys, The Fleeting Boys, and The Broadcast Boys.

This book is available directly from the author: Contact StephenRBeet@gmail.com Price Seven Pounds Sterling plus postage

This book is available for the cost of postage and packing only if the set of six The Better Land CD albums is ordered.
Email   Stephen Beet The book costs £10 plus postage. Cheque or PayPal.
This page last modified on Samstag, 4. Juni 2011
Copyright © 2018 The Boy Choir & Soloist Directory