I realized that my classical training and my rock singing could exist symbiotically
Interview from 2013, edited in 2017 and 2019
Jack Byrne is a versatile musician within many genres. He is a graduate from Longy School of Music in Cambridge (MA) with a Masters of Music in Classical Voice Performance, yet he can also be seen in the greater Boston area performing his original music as a multi-instrumentalist/singer songwriter. (He also happens to be my brother.) Jack has a strong conviction that classical technique benefits singers of all genres, and I wanted to share his insights on this topic. Lastly, I challenge you to listen to his sound - and notice that it doesn't necessarily sound like an "opera singer" performing in a contemporary style, but a very healthy colorful palate with flexibility and control. Let's find out why!
Corrine: How important is singing to you as a person, as an artist and to your career?
Jack: Singing has probably been the most important means to express myself I have had throughout my life. Writing music and lyrics is always a great way to organize my thoughts, and singing is the most powerful and effective way I get to express it. In that way, singing is very important to me as an artist because I think that any important work of art should express emotion, and what better vehicle for conveying emotion is there than the human voice? And the thing that makes us singers so lucky is that we always have text to convey. Everything we sing expresses some emotion or thought which is usually relateable in some way. It is incredible to tap into this as we study text and work on new music for ourselves. It is then wonderful to give this to the audience for them to experience.
Corrine: Your voice drastically changed over the course of your career so far- can you talk about why and how it's affected you?
Jack: The biggest change in my voice is mostly just an ability to access everything my voice can do. When I sing one of my own songs, the inflections and expression that I give the music is very similar to how I've always done it, I just have more control over it now, and I can sing for long periods of time without hurting myself. This has been amazing for me because now I can just focus on the art without worrying if my voice will come along for the ride. The beauty of a strong technical foundation is that you don't have to think about it when you perform, you can just be an artist. Before I started taking lessons, singing was very uncomfortable, and I would usually lose my voice by the end of a concert, and I often felt discouraged and wouldn't even bother making music. The greatest thing that has come from studying voice technique is that I am now able to bring my art to life
Another obvious change is that I have developed my operatic sound a lot more. Pop and Rock allow for a lot of leeway, and you can get away with grittier sounds and still sound idiomatic with what you are doing. With Opera, while you can still hurt yourself doing it, there's less room for poor technique. I love singing classical music, when I warm up with an "operatic" sound, I feel like I am taking vocal vitamins, and even if I go on stage and belt rock music, my throat feels more open, and I am breathing right, and being expressive starts to feel more natural
Corrine: Did you always take your classical voice training seriously? Was there a point in which it started to make more sense to you on the more grand scheme?
Jack: I definitely didn't take classical voice training seriously at first, in fact, I resisted it like the plague for a while. I didn't want anyone changing "my sound" and I certainly didn't want to sound like a snooty classical singer. My first classical voice teacher introduced me to Poulenc, Vaughann Williams, Schumann, Nathalie Stutzmann singing Brahms, and all of these things, and I found so much beauty and real expression in this music. After that it was just a matter of embracing that resonant sound which was foreign to me at that point. The more I imitated good classical singers, the easier it was to access the technical concepts I was being taught, and the more fun it was to explore this new universe of beautiful music. And when I discovered that, not only did my training not "ruin" my Rock/Pop sound, it also made it easier to sound how I wanted to in the first place, and also opened up worlds of new sounds I hadn't thought possible before. I guess that was when it started making more sense, when I realized that my classical training and rock singing could exist symbiotically.
Corrine: Do you feel as though your classical training changed the way you sing other genres?
Jack: Not stylistically, no. I think that classical training has improved my technique and stage deportment across the board, but I still sing Rock the way I'm supposed to. I remember being concerned at first that singing classical music would make me an "uncool" singer, but if anything, I can rock harder now.
Corrine: Is the way you support different or similar?
Jack: The support that you need in classical singing is the support that you need in ALL singing. The muscular training might be more intense for a classical singer, but the concept is the same.
Corrine: What about placement, modification and resonance?
Jack: Placement is pretty similar in both genres as well. The concept of "singing in the mask," is probably the second most cross-overable concept (behind support) that I have learned from classical singing. Pretty much everything I sing in the pop world lives right in the mask. The main difference between pop and classical singing, for me anyway, is that with classical singing I keep that same forward resonance, but with a lot more space in the back. The idea of modification is similar too, but I think in pop I have to modify about a third lower than in classical singing, which I think is because with pop music I am starting with much less space to begin with.
Corrine: Are there draw backs or limitations on your performance quality or conflicts within your classical singing due to your pop singing?
Jack: I actually do find it very difficult to go from singing rock music to then singing classical. I have to constantly remind myself to raise my soft palate, because classical singing requires so much more space.
Corrine: Inversely are there conflicts in your pop singing due to your classical training?
Jack: Nope! Classical singing has only helped my pop singing.
Corrine: Is vocal health an issue that should concern singers of all genres?
Jack: Absolutely, but it should be thought of from a mostly technical standpoint. Overall health and diet are important, of course, like it is for any person, but if you sing right, which is good exercise in and of itself, that is the best way to keep your voice healthy. I've noticed that freaking out about certain dietary details can lead to unnecessary tension/stress. Learn technique and then just live your life and sing, man! That said, I do drink massive amounts of water to counteract all the coffee and beer I drink, so I think being a little neurotic just comes with the territory, for better or worse.
Corrine: You mentioned before how as a pop artist recording and live performance quality varies so much more generally than with classical singers. Do you think there's too much emphasis on vocal recording quality now that live pop and rock vocal performances just can't live up?
Also - How much of this has to do with being trained or not trained to sing and sustain the support to sing and communicate effectively live?
Jack: I do think that there is an incredibly high standard for sound quality in the studio, and live concerts can't live up in the sense of pitch correction and things like that. However, I think the main problem with live performances has more to do with training and ability. I know that it is an epidemic in the Rock world that it is considered the norm if not fashionable to have a "natural" and untrained voice. I know that some vocalists in pop genres do seek training, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. I have heard too many singers whose records I admire sound God-awful live, which is a result of fatigue from singing with poor technique night after night. I have also heard other singers sound as good if not better in concert, so I know that it is possible. The main thing that I think young singers need to understand is that the goal of training your voice is not to change your style or to force you to conform to a sound that isn't true to you, but rather to learn how to do your own thing strongly and consistently.
Corrine: Most importantly, what's your favorite beer right now?
Jack: Rodenbach Grand Cru
Thanks, Jack! Pick up a copy of his album 'ROADS' HERE
The Tallis Scholars
Carnegie Hall Chamber Chorus, Peter Phillips, Conductor
BRUMEL Missa Et ecce terrae motus
TALLIS "Loquebantur variis linguis"
TALLIS "Spem in alium"
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola NYC
Friday, April 17, 2015 | 8 PM
The Lucerne Festival episode below is dedicated to the Academy's journey through Berio's Coro leading up to an exciting performance at the KKL Lucerne (some clips from the performance are in the video below). Welcome to my summer at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland! It was an absolutely life-changing month for me in August of 2014. While working on the Coro with a group of fantastic young professional singers and instrumentalists under Sir Simon Rattle, we slowly voyaged through this, dare I say, "beast" of a piece to uncover the "cities of sonorities" within this massive (and sometimes intimidating) landscape. It was technically very challenging, and emotionally very rewarding.
T h e r i s k - t a k i n g i s e s s e n t i a l . - George Chambers
It was my first time overseas, and MAN did I have it good in Switzerland. I really do miss waking up every day in a place so foreign to me, yet that somehow felt like home - a place with such gorgeous history in the streets, traditions, culture and buildings, and yet the air and vibe was overwhelmingly welcoming. I also miss my hard-working colleagues who were true risk-takers with the music, who inspired me every day. Everything about this month was magical. It was the sort of experience that you get thrown into not knowing what is about to happen, and you feel almost drunk with marvelousness so much that you look back and think - wait, did this all REALLY happen? (Photos below the episode).
Friday, February 13, 8:00 PM
Recital Hall | Staller Center for the Arts
Tickets: $10/$5 students
facebook event: HERE
Sunday, February 15, 8:00 PM
National Opera America Center, 330 Seventh Ave, NYC
Tickets: $10 at the door or through online presale
facebook event: HERE
Music Direction: Timothy Long
Stage Direction: Jen Aylmer
Jaimie is being played by Gennard Lombardozzi
Cathy is being played by Corrine Byrne
From Stony Brook Opera:
"The Stony Brook Opera boldly steps outside the opera repertory to present the hit musical The Last Five Years by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown in two performances: the first on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 8 p.m. at the Staller Center Recital Hall at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, the second on Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 8 p.m. at the National Opera America Center, 330 Seventh Ave., New York, NY. Admission is $10 at both performances.
Stony Brook's production comes on the heels of a film adaption of the musical for major release, to be released concurrently in movie theaters on February 13. The movie features Broadway stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan and is directed by Richard LaGravenese.
Capturing the vulnerability and volatility of love, The Last Five Years recounts the rocky five-year marriage between Jamie Wellerstein, a rising novelist, and Cathy Hiatt, a struggling actress. The plot creatively manipulates time and perspective; Cathy's story is told in reverse while Jamie's is told in chronological order, with the characters' timelines intersecting in the middle for an emotional wedding duet.
Funny and heartbreaking, The Last Five Years is heralded for its raw material and fresh storytelling. The show won two Drama Desk Awards in 2002 for Outstanding Musical and Lyrics and garnered praise in performances nationally and internationally. Composer Jason Robert Brown is a Tony Award winner best known for pushing the boundaries of Broadway with a contemporary pop/rock style and for finding a balance between complexity and accessibility for newer audiences.
Staring in the Stony Brook production is soprano Corrine Byrne and tenor Gennard Lombardozzi, both versatile singers with professional credits ranging from leading roles in regional opera companies to headlining jazz ensembles. Lombardozzi recently received his doctorate in vocal performing arts at Stony Brook and Byrne is expected to graduate from the program this year. The two were cast due to a strong on-stage chemistry, tested out in a concert of American song last year. "They were both so captivating on stage and so well suited to one another vocally and temperamentally," says David Lawton, artistic director of the Stony Brook Opera.
Directed by Jennifer Aylmer, the production will keep minimal to put the focus on the singers. A small chamber orchestra, comprised of advanced performers from Stony Brook's graduate music program, will accompany. Timothy Long, associate professor of opera studies, will conduct.
"Jason Robert Brown has crafted for us a romance, but he intentionally blurs our perspective of that relationship by immersing us in both the past and present, simultaneously," says Aylmer. "In order best to tell the story of our lovers, Cathy and Jamie, the staging is simple and intimate, allowing us to focus better on those critical emotional peaks that defined their romance."
Composer Anne Goldberg 2014 JFUND Awardee for "para" - featuring herself, trumpeter Andrew Kozar and soprano Corrine Byrne
ACF announces 2014 JFUND AWARDEES
The American Composers Forum (ACF) has announced that twelve new music projects have been awarded grants through the Jerome Fund for New Music (JFund). JFund supports the creation, presentation, and subsequent life of a new work, providing up to $7,000 for the composer or primary artist’s time to create the work and up to $1,500 to help make it happen and further its potential. Primary artists must reside in Minnesota or the five boroughs of New York City. Project partners may be based anywhere in the world.
Anne Goldberg (New York, NY), composer, artistic director of Tempus Continuum, and professional ice skater, was selected in support of para, a work for soprano (Corrine Byrne), trumpet (Andrew Kozar) and herself on piano, based on the junction of breath, movement and sound. It will be presented by Tempus Continuum in workshop settings and multiple performances.
Thursday, January 29 2014
The National Opera Center
Click HERE for full list of prize winners
ROUTE 9 ENSEMBLE Debut Concert Event: Mahler 4, Berio Folk Songs and Zorn's Kol Nidre - The National Opera Center in NYC and more
The Route 9 Ensemble presents an innovative program...
The Route 9 Ensemble, hailing from NYC, Amherst MA and Boston, MA will finally converge their talents for their
debut concert event featuring the centerpiece: MAHLER SYMPHONY no.4. This program is to be presented at New York City's sparkling new state of the art hall at the National Opera Center on Saturday February 1 at 8PM and Immanual Lutheran Church in Amherst MA on February 8 at 7PM. Other performances to be announced soon.
The Route 9 Ensemble, conducted by Jonathan Brennand, brings an intimate and exciting performance of Mahler's 4th Symphony to life in a chamber setting. Also on the program is a zesty and fun set of the Folk Songs by Luciano Berio for voice and seven instruments, as well as a string quintet by John Zorn entitled Kol Nidre, a somber meditation on the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement.
MAHLER'S 4th SYMPHONY
Erwin Stein Chamber Arrangement
Corrine Byrne, soprano solo
Jonathan Brennand, conductor
The ROUTE 9 ENSEMBLE: Aaron Lakota, oboe; Michael Brignolo, clarinet; Lidia Chang, flute and piccolo; Madeleine Jansen, violin; Michelle Painter, violin; Sarah Bleichfeld, viola; Molly Aronson, cello; Zachary Hobin, bass; Matt Cron, reed organ; Fadi Deeb, piano; Sheila Heady and Josh Perry, percussion
FOLK SONGS by LUCIANO BERIO
KOL NIDRE by JOHN ZORN
The National Opera Center
330 Seventh Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY
February 1st 2014 8pm
"state of the art, acoustically excellent space"
tickets now on sale for this show:
CLICK FOR TIX
I had an incredible time extending my boundaries even further with Tempus Continuum at our latest performance at the cell. Meeting Michael Boyd and working on Bob's Party was fantastic because it was his first time hearing the piece live, and it was quite fun to tell him all about our rehearsal process: discovering the limits (or lack there of) of the score, and growing in musical conversation with members of the group through the experience. Next for new music: premiering Anne Goldberg's DMA thesis with the Manhattan School of Music Composer's Orchestra!
I loved hearing singers last weekend auditioning for Hildegard's morality play Ordo Virtutum that EMH is producing in April. What a way to spend two crisp Autumn days, in Cambridge MA listening to gorgeous plain chant in First Church. Lidia, Laura, Sheila and I are so glad to work with the brilliant direction team Dylan Sauerwald and Kateri Chambers of Helios Early Opera- what a treat, and the ideas that were stewing re: staging and costumes had me realizing the scope of what it is we are really creating here. It's going to be something powerful. And new. And beautiful. Have you heard Hildegard's heavenly music? You're missing out. Listen to the Ordo. Next for early music: performing Purcell Elegy of the Death of Queen Mary and Orfeo in S'accenda pur di festa il cor from HWV 73 in NYC and Stony Brook Nov 22 and 24! see schedule
My focus in between November - December gigs - FINISH MY DMA PAPER! Think I can't do it? Challenge accepted. Then, January will be all about prepping Anne Goldberg's DMA thesis orchestral work (the fabulous composer I can call one of my closest friends), getting bums in seats for the Mahler concert at the National Opera Center, and of course prepping my role in the Ordo! Which is on my birthday! Birthday Hildegard is the best Hildegard!
Dear friends, family members, and colleagues:
I am very happy to share news of Ensemble Musica Humana's most recent project with all of you. Just yesterday, the ensemble was nominated for the Opus Affair Punch Bowl Fund (http://opusaffair.org/content/punch-bowl-fund)!
Opus Affair is a Boston-based organization that offers support for local artists, musicians, and similar entities by way of fundraising and networking events. It's a wonderful means of exchange and exposure for talent throughout the Boston area!
How the Punch Bowl Fund works: on the first of the month (in this case, September 1st, 2013), three top-voted nominees will be selected to receive funding through the Punch Bowl Fund. An event will be organized in Boston by Opus Affair where attendees donate directly to the three nominees.
In order to be one of the selected three, we need your votes! Simply visit this page:
http://opusaffair.org/about/programs/pbfund/nominate/ensemble-musica-humana . . . and click the Thumbs Up icon!
Please also consider leaving a comment stating why you think Ensemble Musica Humana should be selected. Opus Affair accepts one vote per IP address.
We're very excited at the prospect of participating in Opus Affair's Punch Bowl Fund. But it's a steep climb to the top! We're up against, not only other well-established early music organizations, like The Handel and Haydn Society and The Boston Early Music Festival, but also arts organizations like Cambridge Art Association and the Open Theater Project.
Ensemble Musica Humana needs your help! Anyone can contribute, and every vote counts! We have a limited number of days on the board; so, click the Thumbs Up as soon as possible!
We have an exciting season ahead of us, and a number of amazing projects soon-to-be-revealed. Any funding received this year will go toward essential expenses for recording, hall rental, advertising, travel, and more.
Thank you for your time and consideration! Through your help, Ensemble Musica Humana can continue to grow as an ensemble, contributing to the life, creativity, and exploration of North America's early music scene for many years to come.
For more information on Opus Affair, visit: http://opusaffair.org/. Visit Ensemble Musica Humana online at: http://www.ensemblemusicahumana.com, http://www.facebook.com/, http://www.facebook.com/EnsembleMusicaHumana, and https://twitter.com/ensmusicahumana.