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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Adam Viktora, Ensemble Inégal, and The Prague Baroque Soloists Zelenka Missa Sancti Josephi and Litaniae Xaverianae: A Review

April 12, 2011
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Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) occupies an uncomfortable place in music history: He is often relegated to the sidelines when discussing the music of his better-known contemporaries and has the distinction of being compared unfavorably to Johann Sebastian Bach. Zelenka’s chamber music, including the sonatas for two oboes, bassoon, and basso continuo, are among his more familiar and often-recorded works – quirky and demanding, and sometimes a bit long-winded. Yet they reveal a composer with a fine grasp of counterpoint and a unique sense of melody influenced by the folk music of his native Bohemia.

Zelenka fans have a new and impassioned advocate in organist and conductor Adam Viktora and his superb Prague Baroque Soloists and Ensemble Inégal…

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Darryl Taylor How Sweet The Sound – A Charm of Spirituals: A review

April 12, 2011
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I love hearing erudite, classicaly trained singers extend their technique in Negro Spirituals. The  1990 concert of  Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman singing spirituals with James Levine was one of my earliest inspirations, fascinating to me as a teenaged chorister.  As a fifteen year-old, I realized that this music was powerful, exciting, and infectiously tuneful, and that a singer like Jessye Norman – who seemed so regal, pompous, and affected – became animated and took big risks that felt spontaneous and competitive.

Darryl Taylor’s singing is masterful on this record. He demonstrates long, legato lines, unbelievable breath control, surprising high notes plucked out of the sky…

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

April 12, 2011
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It is with great excitement (and a little jet lag) that I write to you this month from across the pond. That’s right – this month’s edition of A Day in the Life comes from the verdant land that Purcell, Britten and Handel called home!

In early autumn I became aware of both a new student grant opportunity at my University and the upcoming London Handel Society Singing Competition. I had recently returned from a stay at Christ Church, Oxford where my church choir spent a week as choir in residence. I was invigorated by all of the possibilities that the UK music scene seemed to present and was quite anxious to return. As with much of Europe, England seems to embrace Baroque music as part of the mainstream. Also, coming from a place where my voice has at times been viewed as an anomaly, it was refreshing to visit a country where countertenors are simply another fach. This no doubt springs from England’s choral tradition and the subsequent rise to fame of twentieth century countertenor pioneers like Alfred Deller and James Bowman…

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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?

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Franco Fagioli Canzone e Cantate: A Review

March 1, 2011
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Argentinian Countertenor Franco Fagioli’s new recital disc, inconspicuously titled Canzone e Cantate, heralds the arrival of a world-class artist. This is an instant classic… a must-have.  Canzone e Cantate is a recording for fans of countertenors, the Italian baroque, continuo bands, bel canto vocal pyrotechnics, and especially for fans of Cecilia Bartoli. You read correctly – Cecilia Bartoli…

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

March 1, 2011
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Greetings once again from a somewhat frazzled Philadelphia countertenor!  I am in the midst of preparing for both my Master of Music Degree recital and an upcoming research and performance trip to England, all the while keeping up with coursework, working a part-time office job, and teaching private students as part of my graduate assistantship.  I am not fishing for pity, nor do I wish to complain; there are certainly less desirable things by which one might be kept so busy! I just submitted an audition CD for the London Handel Society’s 2011 Singing Competition, so the topic of Recording is still quite fresh for me.

It is here that I must make a confession.  I may or may not have a bit of an issue with procrastination…

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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…

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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


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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