Executive Director Lea Maitlen interviewed countertenor Patrick Dailey, who will be joining ALIAS to perform Georg Philipp Telemann’s Cantata Erquickendes Wunder TWV 1:469. Read below to learn about his training as an operatic countertenor, and his performance of a lifetime with Aretha Franklin!
Can you tell us a bit about the countertenor voice?
A countertenor is basically a male that sings in the register of a mezzo or soprano using the falsetto to function as the regular singing voice. We sing a lot of music in the baroque era and many modern composers have created works for countertenors. Non-classical genres are opening up to countertenors as well.
How did you come to know that you were a countertenor, and when did you begin training in that vocal range?
In a sense, I was always doing countertenor. I grew singing the music of the great female soul, gospel, and jazz singers like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, CeCe Winans, and Ella Fitzgerald.
When my voice changed and I became a tenor, I continued to sing in the upper register in contemporary styles. While a student at Nashville School of the Arts, my voice teacher, William G. Crimm (with whom I currently serve on the voice faculty at Tennessee State University…full circle!!) heard how I sang in the other genres and began switching me up to countertenor. Studying with him was truly serendipitous and put me on the path toward my career and life.
I’d already began experimenting with singing as a countertenor after hearing the countertenors from the Morgan State University Choir and Voice program, which was brought to Nashville by Mr. Crimm and Salama Urban Ministries. Also, watching the original Three Mo’ Tenors featuring Tony nominee and countertenor, Victor Trent Cook, impacted me. I attended Morgan State University for my undergrad studies and eventually began filling in for Mr. Cook with Cook, Dixon, and Young.
What was it like to perform a duet with Aretha Franklin at the Kennedy Center on the Eve of former President Obama’s Inauguration in 2009?
Wow! Singing with ARETHA FRANKLIN!!! I’m still not over it! Ms. Franklin is my absolute favorite singer!
Some friends and I were asked to help fill out the choir for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. concert. The director, Nolan Williams, pulled another singer and I aside during rehearsal to because Ms. Franklin was not down to sing the Finale piece for the concert. He prepared us to sing the solos to a gospel arrangement of Battle Hymn of the Republic. That alone was exciting! For a free concert at the Kennedy Center honoring Dr. King on the eve of a historic inauguration, the energy of DC and the hall was electric and packed to capacity and then some!!
As we were walking on stage, Mr. Williams pulled me aside again – this time to let know that Ms. Franklin had decided to sing the finale. My first thought was that I wasn’t singing anymore. He quickly said that you’ll be singing with her! Shocked, excited, and nervous, I watched my singing inspiration sing the audience into a frenzy until the moment came. I walked down the choir loft stairs, grabbed a mic and stood slightly upstage of her as not to get into the Queen’s space and light. She sang the first verse then I came in with the second and we sing the chorus together twice. After that, she puts her microphone down and leaves me to carry the rest of the song! I was in a sense gleefully mortified!
Afterwards, I called my mom in Nashville to tell what just happened. We both cried and rejoiced as it was truly a dream come true. My friends and I stayed over in DC to attend the inauguration. While riding the Metro to the National Mall, we sang and ended passing my hat around. Turned a nice little profit too! It was truly one of the greatest and most meaningful experiences of my life!
What is your favorite operatic role to have performed? What do you love about it?
That’s a very difficult question! I love each role for different reasons. With Belize in Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America, it was amazing to sing something that you identify with as a person of color, socially, spiritually. It’s a modern, almost post tonal show but in many ways, he fits me like a glove because the character is so relatable. On the other hand, Satirino in Cavalli’s La Calisto is a basically a testosterone-driven, half human/half-divine goat boy that causes trouble along the way for others but his heart is in the right place. It’s fun to play someone so unlike yourself. Plus early baroque gives you so much freedom to create textures, express text, and lots of opportunity to embellish.
Tell us a bit about the piece you are singing on the ALIAS Spring Concert.
I’m singing Telemann’s cantata Erquickendes Wunder der ewigen Gnade, TWV 1:469. The title translated reads “Refreshing miracle of eternal grace”. Written for the first Christmas day, the text is based on Titus 3:4-8 with little references to 1. John 3, 8:2 and Psalm 2:12. These scriptures are not generally thought to be very “Christmas-y” but it’s a cool use. Basically, it’s talking about how Christ’s existence alone has made the lives of all believers better and how we are heirs to the blessings and eternal life. The first movement of the cantata rejoices in the life of Christ and pleads for His help and presence to be there daily. The second movement is the recitative and it’s a little stern preacher-like in some spots, commanding believers to stay focused, turn away from false idols and distractions. The third and final movement tells all those distractions and unsavory characters to back off because Christ alone is my focus and has my devotion. I’m enjoying this piece! Seems to fit well in my voice and after getting into the original biblical text, resonates with me spiritually.
Many thanks to Patrick for taking the time to share a bit about himself! Click below to purchase tickets to hear him on the ALIAS Spring Concert, May 9, at 7:30 PM.
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