Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Bass Sound in a Male Voice

"You know, there's nothing like a male voice choir; the bass sound in a male voice choir is very rousing, I think." Richard Armitage,  DIY Interview

I have to agree that there's nothing like a male bass voice and Armitage has that male bass voice that is very rousing indeed.  

Thorin and the Dwarves singing the Misty Mountains song in the first Hobbit movie has inspired other bass voices as well:

"Misty Mountains Cold" from The Hobbit, live by the U.S. Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

I have an earlier post somewhere on the blog that was inspired by an earlier interview when Richard Armitage talked about the Russian  male choir, and I talked a bit about my family history listening to Russian male army choirs. I grew up in a family that loves the arts and so I grew up going to all sorts of live performances, including the opera. Several members of my family were big opera fans and as a child and even later, I tagged along for many wonderful performances. If only I would have appreciated it more at the time, but I certainly appreciate the memories now. 

Though not an opera fan like some of my relatives, I have a few favorite operas and favorite arias, and have always appreciated the bass voice more than the tenors. Here are two of my favorite arias, one performed by a male choir and the other by a great opera bass singer of an earlier generation.

Welsh Male Choir Nessun Dorma from Puccini's  Opera Turandot 

Italo Tajo "Madamina, il catalogo รจ questo"  The Catalogue Aria, Don Giovanni  

Richard Armitage can relate to the "mille et tre" with his growing legion of fans.

We have to remember that Richard is a musician and knows much better than I the power of music. I have my hopes up that we'll hear him sing more in the next Hobbit film this December.  

I also started volunteering for arts and performing arts groups at an early age, when I was in High School and later college. I remember volunteering for a time for the Washington National Opera sorting tickets and mailing them out to subscribers. A group of us would be in a room backstage sorting through all this while the evening's performance was on stage. We could listen to, though not see, the entire opera from loudspeakers in our windowless room. 

Going back to Armitage's comments on the male bass voice and male choirs, below are more examples of the power of the voice and the deepest of male singing voices: 

Russian basso profondo - Russian choir

Serbian basso profondo - low voices of Serbia

Canto Gregoriano - Monjes de Santo Domingo de Silos, Burgos, Spain

In conclusion, my favorite male choir-  Richard Armitage and The Hobbit (Dwarf Cast):

Thank you Richard Armitage for the inspiration. 

From the DIY Interview - the entire quote:

"I suppose an extended version of the boot camp was when all the dwarves went into the studio and started singing. But because I had to work on that little bit of singing on my own, we did work on a sound for him. I didn't want him to sound like he was any kind of trained singer, he was just somebody who had a voice. The dwarves were notoriously good singers though... it was very nerve-wracking! You know, there's nothing like a male voice choir; the bass sound in a male voice choir is very rousing, I think." Richard Armitage

For the entire interview click HERE

Thank you to Richard Armitage Central and for the pics/scans.

(apologies in advance to all the opera aficionados for any mistakes in opera terminology)


  1. He has a very pleasant singing voice and a good ear as a singer, and I very much enjoy listening to him, but I don't think he's a true bass. He's singing in the bass range on this song, but he doesn't have sufficient resonance in those lower tones to indicate a bass voice. The tones are relatively flat and raspy -- and he's said that he had to drink and smoke to do things to his voice to create that tone. Given the quality of his voice in the low tones and those statements, I suspect his passagio is more consistent with that of a baritone.

    1. Yes, of course you're right, he is more of a baritone, I agree.

      I do think his smoking and drinking to follow Richard Burton's technique and "wreck his voice" was meant partly or totally in jest by him, despite the fact we know he smokes and drinks, mainly because of the Burton mention.

      I do hope we have more singing, by him and the others, in the next two Hobbit movies. I loved seeing the video of the dwarf cast, sadly without Richard, singing together at Hobbitcon. Would love to see him join them and sing live one day.

    2. I haven't read all the Hobbit press; it will probably take me the summer to catch up with it, and in the version of the comment I read I didn't think he was joking -- but it also didn't have the Burton reference. However he did it, he definitely lowered his usual tone. I'd love to hear more songs, too.

    3. Well, the version I read was a second hand report of something he had said to several people at a Hobbit Q&A. I think without hearing the tone of his voice, or seeing the expression on his face, it would be difficult to say 100% if he was joking or not really. But I haven't changed my mind. LOL! If someone has a video of this Q&A, would love to see it!!

      Thanks very much for the link to my post on your blog Servetus. Always very appreciated.

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  3. I grew up partly in the Russian Orthodox Church so choirs with high sopranos and deep bass voices are part of my heritage. I think RA is a baritone. He had to work at creating Thorin's voice. I agree that there's nothing like a male voice choir. Beautiful. Love this post, Thank you and thanks to Servetus for linking to it!

    1. Thank you astra marie for your lovely comment.

      Thank you also for sharing about your heritage with male voice choirs and the Russian Orthodox Church. I have very limited knowledge, but I love the sound. Always appreciate Servetus mentioning my blog, and appreciate her link bringing you here.


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