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The Secrets to Singing Longevity


89-year-old performing singer Frank Holder shares the insights behind is vocal power.

Frank Holder is still performing at 89 – and he’s been singing for 78 of those years – from the be-bop days.

He’s shared the same bill as Nat King Cole, Bill Haley and Comets, and has been singled out for praise by Ella Fitzgerald.

He’s also performed at the Royal Albert Hall as a part of the proms with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the BBC Chorus.

Now Frank shares his secrets in this exclusive interview with VoiceCouncil Magazine:
What are the most important lessons you’ve had to learn over the years?
I have kept a clean profile by not being involved in drugs, smoking, drinking and partying too hard, or any temptation that might affect my singing or detract from my performances.

Frank Holder 2012 and 1950What is it like for the voice to be singing at age 88 – how does this compare to age 28?
I would say that although I sang well at 28, over the years, the range, tone and quality of my voice has improved continually. One of the reasons for this is that I have always used breath control, which is why I have never had problems with my voice or throat.

What do you mean by breath control?
Taking a good, full, deep breath in a way that leads to less tension in your neck and throat. Learning how to do this helps you maintain strength for an entire phrase, helps you stay in pitch, expands your vocal range and helps you reach those high notes with power.

How does it work?
Inhale quickly into your stomach region and lower lungs – not raising you upper chest during breathing (as this would create tension in your neck and throat). You make sure that you fill your lower lungs with breath, expanding it outwards and controlling your release. Just imagine that your stomach is like a balloon that inflates and deflates without your upper chest moving.

Have you ever worked with a professional to help maintain your singing voice?
I have never worked with a professional to maintain my voice. From the age of ten I sang in the church choir until I joined the R.A.F. at 19. We sang mainly classical hymns – never gospel.

You’ve worked with – and heard – a lot of singers over the years – what are a few ingredients that go into a memorable vocal performance?
Depth of feeling is most important, tonal quality, refraining from singing through the nose, understanding what the song is all about, feeling the music, acting the lyrics and creating a mood. I think that Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Celine Dion are good examples.

How would you counsel younger singers to get this “depth of feeling”?
Think about the words of the song – what the song is really about. Think about how you would like to express the song and how you can utilize feelings in different ways. Reflect on your own experiences and how you would feel.

FrankHolderBioFor more about Frank Holder see his bio For more on healthy vocal technique see these articles on VoiceCouncil.

  • Shane Hill

    Frank’s latest album Interpretations Frank Holder and Shane Hill is available for download on the following link .The CD which includes a retro swing version of Careless Whisper has had excellent reviews in Jazz Journal and numerous other publications,
    decades of vocal wisdom can be heard on this release. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/interpretations/id505831458

  • Jessie Pie

    I can vouch for all this, having heard Frank sing in person on a day when he was just sitting on his couch. He’s utterly right about the approach to singing, of course, and it obviously works for him, because he makes it all sound incredibly easy. Judging from Frank’s personality, I’d say that simply being happy – and having loads of good relaxed energy – has a lot to do with being a great singer.

  • Joe beach

    I have seen this singer in local concerts on a number of occasions and he really knows how to capture the audience.

  • Monique

    Voice as smooth as velvet. Beautiful to listen to

  • Shane Hill

    Frank Holder now aged 90 has just won a lifetime achievement award from the Worshipful Company of Musicians London – category jazz see link. Thanks also to Greg Barker for his support. http://www.m-magazine.co.uk/news/frank-holder-wins-jazz-lifetime-achievement-award/