Chorale Conversations: Shaun Brown

As a professional singer, what’s it been like for you since COVID-19 began?

Firstly, it has been the loss of income which has hit hard but the actual creative art of music making has left a huge hole in the way we live. My musician friends all around the world are really struggling and in truth after the 3rd or 4th time doing work online or making a Youtube video they all are over the virtual concerts and just want to perform for a live audience.

Most people who want to be singers would rather be Beyonce than Bartoli, or Bruno Mars than Bryn Terfel; so why classical singing?

I think it has to do with this artform being so alien to contemporary singing. The classical voice feels like it is produced in a different way and when you hear the likes of Corelli, Nilsson, Sutherland, Bastianini, Pavarotti or Callas you realise how unique this form of singing is.

Which singer/s are your vocal heroes and why?

My vocal heroes are firstly baritones which is due to my being a baritone and I look for inspiration from them. Sir Thomas Allen, Thomas Hampson, Dimitri Hvorostovsky, Ludovic Tézier and Sherrill Milnes. Of course tenors are my favourite singers and Franco Corelli, Jussi Björling and Luciano Pavarotti are high on that list.

What’s the most helpful vocal or performance tip you’ve picked up from your teacher/s?

Free airflow and vowel shapes. Once you perform don’t worry about technique just communicate.

What pieces or works are on your performance “bucket list”?

Vaughan William’s Sea Symphony is one I could sing but for pieces that I will never be able to as I don’t have a big Verdian baritone voice – I have always dreamed of singing Iago in Otello by Verdi and Rigoletto by Verdi.

Apart from the Brisbane Chorale, what’s the next most impressive choir that you’ve performed with?

Singing as part of the Opera Queensland Chorus in the 90’s was a special feeling as a full operatic chorus of 48 singers going for broke in a large Verdian chorus was an incredible experience to be part of. Singing in the Grand Chorus at the University of North Texas was another highlight with all 6 regular choirs coming together as one to sing a great choral or operatic work.

If you could invite five guests (past or present) to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

Leonard Bernstein (great musician and more importantly fantastic music educator), Wolfgang Mozart (want to know what he really was like as a person), Pauline Viardot (to talk to about her famous musical family – Garcia – and to find out what it was like to be a famous singer/actor in that golden age of Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini), Robert Merrill (to talk about his life as one of the greatest baritones on the operatic stage and to hear all his anecdotes), Dean Martin because that period of music and social history always fascinated me.

What else might we find on your play-list besides choral and classical music?

I enjoy listening to Dean Martin and other singers of that ilk and era.

Besides singing, do you have any special talents or skills you’d like to share with us?

I love playing sport but time doesn’t allow much for any golf or tennis at present.