25 April 1918 - 4 November 2005
Graham Payn has a charming voice. Here he is accompanied by Bruce Wendell on the "organ" with wobble and the like. Naturally, the songs are entirely unsuitable. Gramophone, May 1934
Since the publication of volume one of The Better Land, the search for more 'Lost Boys' has continued and we are delighted to have found Master Graham Payn who later became Noel Coward's close companion and friend for nearly thirty years. He has had a distinguished career, but in a special interview for Amphion, Graham Payn, now aged eighty-one, told me how it all began for him as a boy soprano and how it led to his discovery by Noel Coward early in 1932.
Graham has been immensely supportive of the Better Land, and is delighted that four of his discs appear - two on volume two and two on volume three. His work gives a real insight into a lost age.
Additional notes from "The Better Land - Volume IV"
Derek Barsham, Billy Neely & Graham Payn
Billy Neely provides gems of real delight; Derek Barsham’s artistry is again heard to particularly fine effect. ...Donald Webster, Choir Schools Today, December 2000
On this CD we feature Billy Neely's earliest surviving discs taken from live broadcasts in the Northern Ireland Children's Hour in 1949, together with his last two recordings, a particularly fine interpretation of Hear my prayer, and the Irish patter song, Kitty my love, the latter broadcast live on October 7th 1950 in the Light Programme. It was the last time he broadcast as a boy soprano.
Also featured is one of Derek Barsham's final broadcasts - as the Tsarevitch Feodor in Moussorgsky's Boris Godounov, recorded April 30th 1947. Two days later, he sang his last as a boy, a few months short of his seventeenth birthday.
Full biographical details for both Derek Barsham and Billy Neely are to be found in the notes accompanying Volume II of The Better Land. Their discs also feature on Volume III. Graham Payn's remarkable story is to be found on Volume II and his records are featured on the second and third volumes.
by Stephen Beet
Over the past six years it has been my privilege to add to my number of friends the several former boy sopranos who have featured on 'The Better Land' CDs. It was with great sadness that I learned two days ago of Graham's death at the age of 87. In the mind of those who have enjoyed his singing on the Better Land CDs he will forever be remembered as the small boy who was filmed by British Pathe in the early 30s and who went on to record the songs recently restored on CD.
I first contacted Graham in 1999 after reading about his life in the 'Daily Telegraph'. I wanted his permission to use his records on Volume 2 of 'The Better Land' but no-one could provide his address. Screwing up my courage, I went down to the offices of the 'Daily Telegraph' where I met by chance the former editor, Lord Deeds, in the lift. He asked me what I wanted and, after he had heard my explanation, said he would go up and 'root out' the Arts Editor. I was immediately granted an interview and it was agreed that a letter and CD would be sent by them to Graham in Switzerland.
Three days later, I received a call from Graham, thanking me so much for sending the 'beautiful' CD and offering all the help he could. He gave me a long interview over the phone and promised to meet me on a future visit to London. I asked if Graham had any photos or unpublished recordings and two days later there arrived bu special courier photos and discs not yet published.
Sadly I never met Graham but he remained in contact up until his final illness this year. He was a charming and generous man and very self effacing. His death marks the final break with that generation of boys who sang in Music Hall and on the stage.
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