Archive for February, 2011

Welcome to Our Second Issue

February 1, 2011
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Snow be damned, we have managed to pull together our sophomore issue! And what an issue we have for you.  Nature’s Way:  Vocal Production in Social Context by Dr. Peter Hennen, and my article, How to Handle Spelling Händel, cover topics close to the countertenor experience. Dr. Hennen’s article is particularly fascinating, addressing the historical phenomenon of high male singing through the lens of societal gender norms. This is pretty ground breaking stuff. Guest reviewer Frank Richards offers a thorough review of Clerestory’s debut studio CD, Night Draws Near, complete with audio samples. And we launch a new series called A Day in the Life… Since most singers are struggling to build a career in one way or another, I think that the sharing our own stories, tips, and shortcuts will help to raise community standards, and lower our collective sense of frustration and isolation. This month, we introduce you to a young countertenor studying at Temple University in Philadelphia. Poke through the rest of our posts this month, check out what you missed last month, and as always, please share what you like with your friends through facebook.

Take care,

Ian Howell


Nature’s Way: Vocal Production in Social Context

February 1, 2011
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Dr. Peter Henen, an Associate Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University, contributed this fascinating and provocative article, challenging us to think outside of our current standards of ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ with respect to both voice and gender. He places the countertenor phenomenon into a logical, yet surprising social and historical framework, accounting for the seemingly random manner in which our culture has sometimes embraced and sometimes rejected this voice type.
~ The Editor

The meandering path that led me to undertake a sociological study of countertenors began rather inauspiciously in the fall of 1976. All of my high school dreams were about to come true as I stepped into the role of Tony in West Side Story. This was decades before Glee, but that’s exactly what I was feeling. At the first music rehearsal my rendition of “Maria” was coming along nicely; the sound seemed effortless, heartfelt, and strong. And then I hit the wall. At its sweet conclusion, the song asks for a sound that I didn’t know how to make, or rather, wouldn’t allow myself to make. I’d heard Larry Kert do it a hundred times on the original cast album – why couldn’t I? “Use your head voice” advised my vocal director. My what voice?

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Clerestory Night Draws Near: A Review

February 1, 2011
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Clerestory, a nine man a cappella ensemble founded in the Bay Area in 2006, has released its first studio recording, Night Draws Near. This meditation on death, loss, and living in the face of human mortality is inspired by the traditions of Halloween, All Soul’s Day, and The Day of the Dead.

Though not true to the form of a Requiem Mass, Compline, or Evensong service, there is a frequent return to Mass-like elements throughout Night Draws Near that at least conjures this sort of structure. Great attention was paid to key relationships from track to track, and the CD flows in a well-conceived manner…

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How to Handle Spelling Händel

February 1, 2011
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The scene: A London Pub circa 1713. A dapper man sits at his table scribbling music on a blank page. He is young, wealthy, and having recently floored the London opera-going audience with his hit Rinaldo, he knows this is his time.
The waiter, an immigrant from Berlin, asks him,
“Excuse me sir, aren’t you the Mr. Händel?”
The dapper man pauses briefly, as if relishing the moment.
“Mr. Händel was my father; you may call me Handel.”

While it appears that Handel was flexible about the spelling of his name throughout his life, he was not arbitrary in his choices. This article offers an appropriate spelling for modern use based on both the historical record, and what can be gleaned of the composer’s intentions.

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A Day in the Life of… Bryan DeSilva, Emerging Artist

February 1, 2011
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This month, Dr. Peter Hennen’s article, Nature’s way: Vocal Production in Social Context, challenges our basic assumptions about our own personal narrative – the story we tell ourself to explain our triumphs and failures and link our present reality to a better future. How do we come up with a definition for success, how do we measure our progress, and are there ever clear steps to take? How do we know we are on the right path?

Our ‘A Day in the Life…’ series digs deeper into the life stories of countertenors. It is my sincere hope that we might demystify the process of building and sustaining a performing career, and create an encouraging environment for the next generation of singers. If you are a performer at any career level and would like to contribute to this ongoing project, please be in touch. This month, meet Bryan DeSilva…
~The Editor

I had considered beginning this glimpse into my musical journey with something to the effect of: “I’m just a scared little countertenor trying hard to make it in the big, bad world of Classical Music…”

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Announcing a New Competition for Countertenors

February 1, 2011
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In the latest sign that the Countertenor voice type has achieved widespread acceptance, I am happy to pass along that a Swiss organization has created a competition specifically for countertenors! Someone ponied up a significant number of euros to fund the first ever Gianni Bergamo Classic Music Award 2011: Countertenor Competition.

Read more…


An Update from Counterpoints Publishing

February 1, 2011
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We know that many of you have been inquiring about the release of our scores. We have some great news: We were recently offered an exciting opportunity to partner with one of the biggest music publishing and distribution companies in the business to bring you the best possible presentation of our scores. This has delayed our initial release, but we are confident that you will love what this partnership offers.

Our first collection from the Piano-Vocal Performer’s Series will be released in the upcoming month featuring arias from Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto. The Piano-Vocal Performer’s Series was crafted with an eye towards clean, crisp, and informative editions of countertenor repertoire for use in recital, lessons, or auditions. We have more exciting plans for the upcoming months, but no spoilers. We will be sure to keep you updated.


Watch this Now! Gérard Lesne sings Bononcini

February 1, 2011
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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke8ZLmGtGRA

Lest you think that Jaroussky defines the sound of the French countertenor, give a listen to Gérard Lesne sing Se scherzo e ride from the cantata Siedi, Amarilli mia by Giovanni Battista Bononcini (1670-1747). Notice how Lesne never closes down his vocal production throughout his ‘ha ha ha’ style coloratura. The vowel, the tone, the energy… nothing is disturbed, just momentarily interrupted.