Well, this made me tear up.

I’m back!  I sat down to read through the internet from my lovely home office (otherwise known as my room) and this is the first thing I came across:

Aaaaaaaand Simon Cowell’s a dick.

The shy boy is one of the rarer voice types called a heldentenor, which literally translates to “heroic tenor.”  I think I’ve met two in my entire life.  Meat Loaf was a heldentenor.  They tend to have very dark, full voices with a range that goes all over the map.  They’re like powerful baritones with a top: capable of singing low notes without losing their power and richness as well as singing their high notes with a power that makes every lyric tenor jealous.

They almost always develop later than other voices.  So where a male can generally start performing in chorus work professionally (this is opera we’re talking about) at age 30, a heldentenor may need to hold off until 35 or so.  While their voices are huge, they can have problems with control when they’re young.  What’s more, you don’t want to ruin the voice at a young age by singing the type of repertoire demanded of heldentenors when the voice is too young to handle it – even if their technique is good.

However, this boy seems to have developed pretty early.  He still has some warble issues (where he chokes the sound back to his throat rather than letting it resonate), but not much.  And holy god…no 17 year-old should be able to mix a high B-flat like that at the end, especially when he’s so nervous the mic is shaking like it’s an earthquake.  Singing, especially in your higher range, actually requires a lot of relaxation (from the naval up).  Being tense can really kill your sound but despite his nervousness he still had his top.  I’d love to hear what he sounds like in the shower when he thinks nobody is looking.

I’m a big fan of the axiom that there’s no such thing as a “natural voice”.  Sure, you’re relegated to your own voice type, but every voice is unique and anybody who can speak can also learn to sing.  And for the people who sing well with little or no training, it’s not that they’re physically superior, it’s that they guessed right on technique more than the next person.  Previously, I had encountered two exceptions to the rule about no natural singers: Meat Loaf, a heldentenor who destroyed his voice by singing with shoddy technique (which is a damn shame because he had a phenomenal instrument), and David Phelps, who can do things in his tessitura that no human being should be able to do.

This young boy may very well be the third exception.  Good on him.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.glasser Russell Wain Glasser

    Simon IS a dick, but usually in that shockingly honest way that is fun when it comes from somebody like Hitchens. From your comment I figured he’d not only reject the guy but make fun of his weight. But all he really did was make some jokes about the fact that his talent is greater than hers (true) while enthusiastically supporting them moving through.

    • theFlyingAtheist

      It’s his Character. Teller is Silent, Penn talks alot, Simon is a dick. It’s part of the dynamic of the show.

  • Erülóra Maikalambe

    “David Phelps, who can do things in his tessitura that no human being should be able to do.”

    I have a feeling that if I google “tessitura”, that sentence won’t sound nearly as naughty anymore.

  • http://twitter.com/TechnoSpice Lucinda Poe

    vid got yanked. What’s the kid’s name?

  • Leigh Stroud

    Well, I’ve already been crying all day anyway. At least now it’s for a good reason. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Katybe

    Thanks for that. With moist eyes, I went looking for a bit more info about what happened next, and discovered they just released an album late last year. I thought a few other people might be interested in the link – http://www.jonathancharlotte.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.orsi Anne Orsi

    I have now spent the better part of today watching the videos of these two enormously talented kids, including the documentary about them.

  • Daniel Schealler

    … anybody who can speak can also learn to sing.

    JT, I can’t help but think that if you worked with me for any length of time trying to teach me to sing, you would quickly revise that position to: Anybody who can speak can also learn to sing. Except for that one guy. But you’ll be fine.

    Relative pitch is one of those things that only seems to happen to other people. :P


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