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.
What 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.