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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

Watch This Now! Magdalena Kožená Sings Bach

April 12, 2011
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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJcL-dSn5zo&feature=related

Well sung with an even tone and clear declamation, this “Music Video” of Kommt, ihr angefochtnen Sünder from BWV 30 Freue dich, erlöste Schar is, well… adorable. Of special note are J.S. Bach’s jedi-like powers @2:42. Enjoy.


Welcome to Our “Get Organized” Issue

March 1, 2011
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The budding trees are certainly confused here in Philadelphia. After a long and bitterly cold winter (my favorite forecast involved the phrase “destructive ice”), our spirits were briefly lifted by a week of 50-65 degree February weather (that’s 10-18 Celsius for our international friends). Weather like that towards the end of Winter (of course, it snowed a few days later) fills me with the sort of hope that produces long and generally completed to-do lists, mad spurts of paper filing, and a general sense that the complexities of life and my professional career could be tamed if I just had the right system…

This month we bring you articles and posts related to how singers (students, pre-professionals, and professionals alike) can get organized, stay organized, and set the kinds of priorities that create successful careers. We feature an artist-relevant introduction to the productivity system Getting Things Done, a primer on managing freelance income, and a personal account of the perils of putting off until tomorrow what could be done today!

Also this month: A zesty (I do enjoy Oliver’s food metaphors) multimedia review of Franco Fagioli’s Sophomore CD, and an impressive display of breath energy management by Spanish countertenor Carlos Mena.

You may also notice that we have begun selling advertising space; I hope that these ads will help support this project without being too visually distracting!

Thanks for joining us. Leave a comment and repost our articles on Facebook and Twitter if you like them.

~Ian


To Do-ing Well in your Singing Career

March 1, 2011
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The life of a freelancer, and a freelance singer especially, is hard to explain to someone with a regular job. You are all at once a product, a business manager, a negotiator, a public relations firm, a steering committee, a fundraiser, an accountant, a marketing director, a webmaster, an audio and video editor… the list goes on. The characteristics of a great performing artist, however – a tendency towards abstract and nonlinear thought, the ability to live in the present moment to the exclusion of future concerns, the desire to find connections between disparate ideas, and a recognition that an unaccountable passage of time must take place for your best work to emerge – tend to run counter to what you would want in an organized, reductionist-minded business manager. But, there you are, expected to direct your career regardless of your qualification to do so, ultimately accountable to no one but yourself.

You certainly have help along the way from teachers, conductors, mentors, and managers. A very few among us experience such success that the greatest challenge lies in picking which engagements to turn down. The average professional singer, however, will be significantly affected by their own ability to set goals, research opportunities, and follow projects through to completion.

So, how can artistically minded people get their sh*t together and work out the business of their art in a manageable, sustainable, and (gasp!) fulfilling way?

Read more…


Some Thoughts on Managing Freelance Income

March 1, 2011
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Unless you are extremely successful – or have married a hedge fund manager – chances are that you think about money. The nature of the classical music industry (although this is true for freelancers in general) makes it difficult to budget very far into the future: Income is not only sporadic, but the larger these sporadic fees become, the easier it is to incorrectly view them as windfalls. There have been seasons that I made upwards of 30% of my income in the month of December alone! If you sing operas, you might make $15,000 in March and nothing for the next five months.

This can be problematic for obvious reasons. I would suggest, however, that most freelance singers run into problems not with their quantity of income, but rather with living within their means and managing their cash flow intelligently…

Read more…


Watch This Now! Carlos Mena Sings Vivaldi

March 1, 2011
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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti6dGfXt-r0

Cum dederit dilectis, the slow movement from Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus (RV 608), is a monstrous challenge of breath energy management for any singer. Spanish countertenor Carlos Mena handles it here with grace. Notice that his straight tone singing (always a color choice, not an imperative of his technique) never closes down his production, affects his intonation, saps energy from the phrase, or introduces extraneous tention.

Mr. Mena appears here with the Ricercar Consort under the direction of Philippe Pierlot.


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


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.

Read More…


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…


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.


The Editor’s Desk: Welcome

January 1, 2011
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Hello and thank you for joining us as we officially launch The Countertenor Voice: An Online Journal. Together with our parent company, Counterpoints Publishing LLC, we at the journal are excited to bring you our first installment of articles and reviews. In this month’s online journal, Oliver reviews Jaroussky, I broach the subject of whether the countertenor sound is as tied to the Anglican and early music movements as it used to be (and we invite you to take a quick survey on the subject), we listen to a fierce Polish contralto, and we introduce our initial offering of scores for purchase and download.

Read more…