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<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    A COUNTERTENOR VIRTUOSO


Blaze went on to win a music scholarship to Uppingham, in England's smallest county, Rutland, playing flute and piano as well as singing. 'I had a fantastic flute teacher there, Simon Channing, he was a star player even when he taught at Uppingham, and now he's a professor at the Royal College. I saw him in the lobby there the other day and felt really ashamed! I was the worst student ever -- I'd never practise, my heart wasn't really in the instrumental side of it, though I played in the orchestra (thanks to good teaching as much as anything) and did piano as well (though I'm a bit of a lapsed pianist too).'

Uppingham School

When did the countertenor idea emerge? 'I owe it to my best friend at Uppingham, Andrew Smith. We were the two music scholars in the year. After singing treble I'd gone back into the choir to sing tenor for a bit -- a kind of very, very mediocre tenor -- and Andrew and I would meet up to run through songs. And he said, "why don't you try out your countertenor, why not give it a go?" Andrew went off and studied at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam and is a keyboard player now and organist at St Peter's Eaton Square. And since then we've kept in touch and we still do recitals together : there's this great wealth of shared experience -- he knew me when I was making an absolutely hideous countertenor noise at the age of fifteen, and he's kind of stuck with me through all that!'

'The school was incredibly good : they hunted around and arranged for me to have lessons -- over about a year and a half -- with John Whitworth. John just happened to be teaching locally, I think he was based in Leicester at the time -- and had, of course, been Alfred Deller's duet partner. I felt incredibly lucky -- to find myself learning from the countertenor who sang with Deller on that famous "Sound the Trumpet" recording. At first John used to turn up weekly one afternoon to teach just me; and then slowly -- as tends to happen when something becomes slightly more accepted -- there was a small group of four or five of us, all singing countertenor; since then some superb countertenors have gone through the school, and continued singing afterwards.

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Copyright © 29 December 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Worcestershire, UK








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