A radio week: the voice does it – from Bulgarian women’s choirs to Beyonce’s choirs.


Tracey Thorn, owner of one of England’s great pop voices, was at pains in her 2015 book Naked at the Albert Hall to point out that “when you sing, you think more than you might think.”

The line came to mind when last Saturday I listened to Extraordinary Voices with Nora Fischer on Radio 3. Fischer explored the notion of vocal mixing and embellishment in the first of three shows (the second airs tomorrow night at 11 p.m.). A nice excuse to hear voice after voice in an hour that ranged from Bulgarian women’s choirs to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, and from Monteverdi’s Vespers to Jacob Collier’s Flintstones theme song, who tracked his voice many times (clever, if not always entertaining, but I’ve always been more of a Top Cat fan)

A competent and articulate host, Fischer is. She notes what a challenge such a piece can be after listening to soprano Kathleen Battle perform Handel’s O had I Jubal’s Lyre. “Singing like this feels like running a marathon.”

Her eagerness is infectious. It also helps that she does not show snobbery. She pays the same attention to the voice of Beyonce as Fight does.

And she’s still not snooty about using technology. In James Blake’s Meet You in the Labyrinth, she also endorses the use of Auto-Tune because it “plays with the boundaries between humans and robots.”

Happy radio is the consequence. And if you really don’t feel all that Christmas, listen to it on BBC Sounds and skip to 17 Minutes to hear the Taverner Choir’s Thomas Tallis ‘Spem in Alium for 40 Voices. The term refers celestially.

Thursday, 10pm, Watch Out For: Free Thought, Radio 3. The ever-reliable Matthew Sweet analyses Marlene Dietrich’s legacy.


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