Some rather interesting voices

Well, at last she writes about something interesting...!

When you're as obsessed by the human voice as I am (being a choir person almost necessitates that, though I've seen some rather annoying examples to the contrary here), you tend to notice a few voices, be it for their beauty, for their amazing accuracy, or some other odd reason I can't come up with now. When you've got as much time on your hands as I do, you have the slightest tendency to write (as the sheer volume of html documents in my account would show). So I'm going to make a list of some rather nice/interesting/cool voices I've heard in the last, whatever, 18 or so years that have made a somewhat lasting impression on me.
So here's the list, somewhat in order of appearance:
Sarah Brightman.
I first heard her when I was eleven years old, on the recording of the Phantom of the Opera. I just found it to be a very pretty voice, very pure and sweet. It gets a little on the heavy side when she tries to go "serious" but it's wonderfully light and sinous (is that the word?) when she doesn't try too hard to impress and just sings naturally.
Michael Ball.
That's that Welsh tenor bloke from "Aspects of Love". It's quite impressive how easily he gets the top notes and how youthful he sounds. This is one of those voices you recognize within a split second of hearing it. Actually, it turns out he's not Welsh at all but English, from Stratford-upon-Avon, no less!
Barbara Dickson.
One of the odder voices I've heard. It's sort of a very, well, I guess I must descibe it as chewy, voice, a rather thick, gooey mezzo-soprano. It's hardly my usual type of voice, but I like it for some odd reason. I'll get back to you on why.
The Proclaimers.
Don't laugh. They may not be technically great or have even pretty voices, but at least they sound authentic and unaffected. ("Je veux cultiver l'authentique...") Maybe it's the accent... :-( (Grrrrrr......)
Bob Chilcott.
How do I put this voice into words?! When you put in GV by the King's Singers it's the first thing that comes at you. Again, hardly a conventionally pretty voice, but it's got this quality to it. Basically sounds like your average bloke singing and being completely happy, which is about right, except this bloke has perfect pitch (grrrrr...) and way too many ideas in composition that it should be fair for them all to be wrapped into one beaming bundle. (Where did *that* come from?!)
David Hurley.
Such purity! On recordings this voice sounds a little thicker than it really is. Live it sounds like a boy treble with a basis of low notes (which we never get to hear, but with that top, who needs low notes!) and is just a pure delight to listen to.
Bruce Russell.
I could write volumes about this voice, but that would use up my entire disk quota :-) The first thing that struck me is that it reminded me of a light, or something rather like that. Yes, a light being switched on. Dulcet could also be the word, but that word is so often abused/misused. Everything is wide open, nothing sounds constricted. Really quite magnificent.
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
You knew I was going to mention him. I don't see what people have against his voice, I find it rather pleasant. This is another average-bloke voice if you think in terms of mere aestheticism, but really you don't want operatic bellowing in Schubert. His narrating/reading voice is quite awesome, you should give it a listen sometime.
Simon Carrington.
Or Lemon Can, he'd have you think if you read his autograph. Your typical baritone range, I guess, very masculine, almost rugged-sounding. Trouble is, I can sing along with him on most of his solos... Very distinctive, with split second recognition and a relatively high swoon rate (that means lots of people swoon over it, but maybe that's the man and not the voice).
Nigel Short.
He is not a chess player, he is a rugger bugger :-) This is a lovely example of what a countertenor should be. Sounds rather better than most mezzo's because mezzos bellow :-( The voice is relatively resonant and just plain nice. One of life's odder experiences is sitting on the margins of a 2nd soprano section and realizing the bloke next to you is singing the same part as you, namely S2. It's happened to me. And I enjoyed every semidemiquaver of it!
Heather Cairncross.
One of the few true contraltos left in this world. She sounds like a tenor at times and like a mezzo at other times and is just generally amazing. She could probably sing along with the basses if she wanted to and could probably outsing them, as well as the altos and tenors.
Libby Crabtree.
She is the goddess of the pure soprano voice. I first heard her in duet with Nigel S. (see above) and what I liked best is that she sounded like a young girl just singing for pleasure. She has one of the sweetest voices I've ever heard, and I always delight in hearing it. She is perfect for Early Music.
John Mark Ainsley.
Right, let's get serious here. Let's for a while not think of the grimly determined mouth and the flirty eyelashes and turn our attention to his voice. It's a not all too heavy tenor, but one in the grand tradition of sometime before they started bellowing. Listen to him sing "Comfort Ye" and you will be comforted. It's very sweet, his voice, but still quite masculine. I mean, it's not a near-falsetto choral scholar voice but a proper operatic tenor, except of course *he* has taste.
Alastair Miles.
Awe-inspiring. I don't know if he's officially considered a basso profundo, but I classify him as such. The low notes are true and resonant, and the high (bass) notes are convincing and not strained. It's also good fun watching him on video, since his delivery is a bit on the stoic side and he looks like a little schoolboy with that hairdo. Well, I *had* to keep this bit from turning into absolute drivel.
Michael Chance.
Such accuracy. He sings the 16th-note runs like a machine gun. Oh, and he makes it sound good, too. It is indeed a rather androgynous voice, but most countertenors are, and most of my friends are very surprised when I tell them it's a man singing. I think I rather like countertenors, but they are indeed rather an acquired taste.
Ian Bostridge.
Right, save the loveliest for last. He occasionally gets yelled at for having too much brain and not enough heart in his singing. Who cares, as long as the brain is beautiful?! This is the sweetest, most gorgeous tenor voice I have heard in ages, pure and innocent, with just a little edge of grown-up-ness to it. Not too much though, that would spoil it for me. I won't go off about this voice here any further as I have my Ian Bostridge Page to do that for me...

I have learned little from this, I'm afraid, except that I like pure and unusual voices, which I knew before too. So why did I do this? You tell me. If you can find some other info about any of these singers, mail me at and tell me where I can find it. Many thanks.
Went up partly 25 Feb '97, 9:21 AM PST, dragged the rest of its lazy bottom up on 26 Feb, 9:34 AM PST.

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