Chorale Conversations: Tobias Merz, tenor


What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming performances of ‘The Creation’?

There are so many things I’m looking forward to.  Singing this work is a rare pleasure but the real treat will be listening to the thunderous sound of a double choir!   

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

I grew up in a very musical household.  My father is a cellist so there was always a lot of classical music being played.  I loved singing from a young age and was fortunate to have an excellent singing teacher in my home town in New Zealand.  She had a lasting influence and instilled in me a profound respect for the classical voice.  I still really love singing other genres, especially jazz, but in the end I have a depth of appreciation for classical music which I have not found elsewhere.  

Which singer/s are your vocal heroes and why?

Annie Lennox had a big influence on me, as did Shirley Bassey, Julie Andrews and Whitney Houston.  I’m very attracted to voices that are effortless and most importantly genuine.  I had the pleasure of singing in a concert with Jonas Kaufmann a few years ago with Opera Australia and I would say he is definitely my tenor hero.  Such a glorious rich sound throughout his entire range! 

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

A teacher once told me that performance is all about giving, to place your audience’s enjoyment before any self-centred motivation.  This idea really resonated with me. 

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

Since I was a boy I wanted to play the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.  Only now I am approaching an age where this might actually happen to me! 

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

This is a tricky one as there are so many people in history I’d love to meet but I’ve decided my ideal dinner party would be one where all the guests already knew each other.  I’ve decided on a bunch of friends who were all at Cambridge Footlights together and I find endlessly entertaining, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson and Tony Slattery.  Alan Davies would also be welcome if someone wasn’t available.  

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

I love making things, I have a great interest in design and architecture and a special love of lighting so a lot of my spare time is devoted to designing and making lights.