Oberlin, Russell Keys

Oberlin, Russell Keys,

1928–2016, American countertenorcountertenor,
a male singing voice in the alto range. Singing in this range requires either a special vocal technique called falsetto, or a high extension of the tenor range.
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, b. Akron, Ohio, grad. Juilliard, 1951. A boy soprano, he sang in his church choir and on the radio, and won a nationwide radio talent competition. Oberlin graduated as a high tenor from Juilliard and, finding that he could easily move to countertenor roles, became an original member of the early-music ensemble New York Pro Musica Antiqua (1952; later New York Pro MusicaNew York Pro Musica
(New York Pro Musica Antiqua), vocal and instrumental ensemble, founded in New York City in 1952 by Noah Greenberg. One of the earliest groups to attempt historically correct performances of early music, it specialized in compositions of the era 1200 to 1700
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). His voice ranged over two octaves, from ethereal to dark and complex, and was robust but with sensitive phrasing and a rich, warm vibrato. He sang works by John Dowland, Bach, Handel, Purcell, and William Byrd as well as more recent works; one of his most famous roles was that of Oberon in Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream. Along with Alfred DellerDeller, Alfred,
1912–79, English countertenor. He began his career as a chorister in his parish church. From 1940–47 he was a lay clerk at Canterbury Cathedral, and in 1947 he was appointed to the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
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, he was credited with inspiring the mid-20th-century revival of medieval, Renaissance, and early Baroque music. Retiring from performing (1966), he taught music at Hunter College, New York City, and lectured on the art and history of the countertenor.
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