Boy Opera Group Crosses Over

Do the vocal demands of Pop equate to those of Opera?

They famously formed their group on Facebook, and went on to success with several albums and international tours.

Now Blake is renowned with fans that include Will Smith, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Dame Shirley Bassey.

But what is it like to sing demanding classical pieces in the same set as rock ‘n’ roll?

Your new album sees you going from classical more to pop and rock – what’s the difference in terms of vocal technique?

It still comes down to good support and good breath flow – you see these elements at work in a great nightclub singer as well as an opera diva. (Humphrey)

OK- but there’s got to be more…

One of the main differences is how you pronounce your words – in classical there is a certain “proper” style that we might associate with a “posh” accent but when you sing pop you might add an American twang. However there are English singers who sing with their own accent, but not a posh accent, more of a regional dialect. (Jules)

Are you saying that pop music is largely Americanized?

That’s an interesting discussion – we must not sing too far removed from who we are as people. I tell singers to sing it with their own accent and see how good it sounds – if you start with a posh accent it would sound absurd. (Jules)

Has it been easy to switch between the styles?

No – it’s been a journey. I was trained at the Royal Academy and by doing so become so overly aware of every detail about singing that it could act as a hindrance – for example, was I holding my chin in the exactly right position? I’ve actually found it liberating to sing U2 and not have to conform to a certain singing ideal. (Humphrey)

I was trained as a chorister from the age of 7 – partly since my parents wanted the 50% school fee reduction that came with this. It was very disciplined training but much of what I learned was gone as soon as my voice broke – I still persisted and could have made a career out of it, but I have to admit that part of my decision to go in this direction is that I didn’t want the restricted atmosphere that accompanies choral work. (Jules)

Has touring and singing pop led to any vocal challenges?

I think there’s this bad-boy/bad-girl image of pop and rock singers – smoking, drinking and partying. That’s a bit of a myth. I mean if you are a guitarist you can perhaps get away with it better than a vocalist. (Humphrey)

But you can’t?

Just think of Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson or Jessie J – all phenomenal vocalists, yet they are still prone to all of the difficulties and challenges every vocalist has. If you don’t treat your voice well, it won’t work for you. (Humphrey)

You’ve been in some challenging environments for the voice in the form of a grueling tour schedule.

Yes! The entertainment industry and touring work against the voice – not to mention the anxieties, nerves and performance pressures that also impact the voice. So, for me, it comes down to three things: 1) sleep 2) hydration and 3) careful voice use. (Humphrey)
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Blake’s new album ‘Start Over’ is released on 11 March on Music Infinity. See www.blakeofficial.com for more details and tour dates.

Mixing eclectic classical and pop songs with rich harmony vocals, harmony singers Ollie Baines, Stephen Bowman, Jules Knight and Humphrey Berney have created their own unique crossover sound. With over half a million albums sold, and having performed on nearly 100 TV shows around the world, Blake continue to build their reputation as one of the most eclectic and exciting pop-harmony groups in the world. See www.blakeofficial.com