I say “daringly” because many men tend to draw only one conclusion about full-grown members of their tribe who twitter away in the soprano range. Little do they know, since several “falsettists” revealed women are often attracted to such singing, reckoning it to be evidence of a gentler, more sensitive alternative to the hairy chests.
But where are they employed? Leading gospel choirs and in close-harmony barbers shop quartets seemed to suggest these voices are only suited to slowish, often humdrum songs. Not so, since both The Beach Boys and the Bee Gees made good use of them. And falsetto’s pop apogee occurs with Queen where Freddie Mercury multi-tracks his voice to the point where the different layers eerily “pulse” in a way I thought required more than one singer. Making a sound I can only describe as beautiful.
All of which was news to me but Yentob was moving towards something I do know a little about – counter-tenors, otherwise known as male altos. Despite forcing myself to be open-minded I must confess I am occasionally uneasy listening to counter-tenors, not because of their range, rather their timbre. A little too flutey. But I’ll make an exception with Iestyn Davies (pictured). We’d heard him recently in Handel’s opera Rodelinda but here he sang an achingly gorgeous Purcell song (Name forgotten, damnit) which left me unequivocal: this was echt counter-tenor territory.
Afterwards, Davies spent several minutes teaching Yentob to explore the counter-tenor range with his own voice and there were further techno-sessions where a voice specialist, using a fibre-optic probe, showed how one singer’s vocal cords coped with these upper flights. Good on yer, BBC.