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Ian Howell

Ian Howell is a countertenor based in Boston, Massachusetts. He regularly performs as a concert and operatic soloist all across North America and writes from time to time. He was educated at Yale and Capital Universities, sang with Chanticleer from 2000-04, and is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

http://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com

Vocal Technique: The Flex

July 5, 2011
18

Since my previous articles in this series on countertenor relevant singing technique have been rather general in nature, I wanted to write this month about a specific exercise. Building on the information introduced in April’s article Countertenor Technique: An Introduction to Concepts, the exercise I outline here, called the flex, is one that reveals hidden mental prejudices that work against countertenors, builds stability and an authentic sound into the lower range of the countertenor voice, and eventually helps to bridge the transition (a shortening of the vibrating portion of the folds even as the folds remain stretched) that should take place between Bb4 and B4. My hope is that the inclusion of audio examples in this article will help to explain any questions that arise, and spark an conversation about what the countertenor voice is capable of and how it might be trained.

Read more…


Watch this Now! Bejun Mehta Sings Handel

July 5, 2011
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Bejun Mehta, previously featured in our “Watch this Now!” column, here delivers a crisp, joyful, and remarkably easy sounding performance of Sento la gioia from Handel’s Amadigi di Gaula. And some props go to the staff at Harmonia Mundi for editing together this fascinating collage of live and studio video footage.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyCdCyIetB4&feature=player_embedded


Vocal Technique: How to Best Practice Practicing Singing

June 1, 2011
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“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent…” ~ Calvin Coolidge


I have been through six years of music school (and about eighteen years off and on of private study), and I find it curious that the one thing that is rarely systematically addressed is how to practice. Especially when the quality of one’s practice habits, not necessarily how well one currently performs, is one of the best indicators of one’s long-term professional viability. So, here follows my thoughts on how to practice being good at practicing:

#1: You become what you practice…

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Countertenors and Castrati: Ian Howell interviewed by Bonnie North on WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio

June 1, 2011
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Ahead of my May 2011 debut with the Florentine Opera Company as Cupid & Spirit in John Blow’s Venus & Adonis and Henry Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, I sat down with Bonnie North, Arts Producer of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio’s Lake Effect. We discussed countertenors, castrati, the Florentine opera Company’s upcoming production, and a bit about the history of baroque music in Europe.
Read more…


Watch This Now! An Interview with Alfred Deller.

June 1, 2011
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This is a fascinating interview with Alfred Deller from French television in 1975. I have issues with some of his technical language (the use of the phrase ‘nasal resonance’ makes me shudder), but this is a great piece of our shared countertenor history!

Part 1

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnGJhjoh7rY

Watch more…


Welcome Back, and a Call for Articles

May 12, 2011
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Thank you for joining our us for our sixth issue! Many of you out there are coming to the end of your academic year. If you have written pieces that you think would be appropriate for this publication (or if you suddenly have time on your hands!) be in touch through the contact page. We would love to bring your writing to our large audience.

For next month we are working on an article about the seismic economic/structural shift taking place in the classical music business, and another piece covering the use of social media in a classical musician’s career. We’ll also bring you more reviews, videos, and blog posts.

We hope you enjoy this month’s articles and youtube videos. As always, please spread the word!

~Ian


Watch This Now! Bejun Mehta Sings Handel

May 12, 2011
0

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI2Qv68p-X8

He was despised, the often ten minute plus scena from Handel’s Messiah, is a particularly challenging aria for countertenors to deliver well. The tessitura (it was originally written for Ms. Cibber, a singer reported to have had a very broadway-esque limited range) sits low, and the text asks for a dramatic declamation and cutting tone. Listen to the way that American countertenor Bejun Mehta is able to sing on an efficiently produced partial length of vocal fold (his head voice) all the way down to A3 (the aria is in the dark key of Eb, but here is performed down a half-step at A4=415). This is a great illustration of my description of a countertenor’s lower alto range from my previous post on countertenor technique.


Watch This Now! David Hansen Sings Vivaldi

May 12, 2011
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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaBK-9rdfMM
Longe mala by Antonio Vivaldi, sung by Australian countertenor David Hansen. While there are some minor balance issues in this recording (I blame the microphone placement, not the performers!), I love the way that Mr. Hansen OWNS the opening cadenza. Listen carefully to the way that he keeps his voice engaged while backing off on air pressure as the line ascends. This optimal approach allows the vibrating portion of his vocal folds to shorten between E5 and F#5, allowing for a beautiful and easy sounding A5! This is a great illustration of the description of how countertenors can navigate their upper range from my previous post on countertenor technique.


Countertenor Technique: An Introduction to Concepts

April 12, 2011
62

Is countertenor technique different from standard classical vocal technique? Should a countertenor train like a male or female voice, and what pedagogical approach and conceptual model best elicits a healthy countertenor sound? Is a countertenor merely the intersection of gender and tessitura, or is there something specific to the technical approach and musical context that limits the definition?

Much of the language of our vocal pedagogy comes from the time before invasive scientific tools. It was as recently as 1854 that Manuel Garcia first viewed the vocal folds (his own, actually) in action with the use of a dentist’s mirror. By that point, words like chest, head, mixed voice, and falsetto (terms generally based on the location of the sensation of sympathetic vibrations) were so ingrained in the minds of 19th century voice teachers that the new information revealed by this direct scientific observation was made to conform to that basic conceptual system. However, success as a countertenor is no more or less physiologically likely than for any other voice-type, provided we have conceptual models that encourage singers to believe that it is possible…

Read more…


Saint Thomas Fifth Ave NYC Has a Rare Alto Job Opening

April 12, 2011
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The Choir of Men and Boys of Saint Thomas Fifth Ave, one of the only truly full-time choral organizations in the USA, has posted the rare job opening for a male alto. Five weekly services plus an active concert and recording schedule will keep you singing in the heart of Manhattan.

Please send inquiries to music@saintthomaschurch.org, attention Ms. Laurel Unwin. Attach a CV and MP3 (optional) to the email (and let her know you read about it here!)

Good luck!

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