Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Rare countertenor to showcase unique vocal range at Westminster concert

Tenors take on the high notes, bass singers project the low notes and baritones come through with a vocal range between the two.

Most male opera singers fit into those voice types.

Not singer Terry Barber. As a rare countertenor, Barber's voice allows him to take on the high notes few males can reach.

When Barber performs at 7 p.m. Friday at Westminster High School, the audience will quickly realize that Barber has a unique vocal range, one that allows him to take on high notes that are typically reserved for women.

Barber is performing with piano accompaniment in the latest concert offered by the Carroll County Community Concert Association. Tickets are $25.

While attending Northwestern University, one of Barber's professors pointed out his ability. He's performed professionally at Metropolitan Opera in New York and the New York City Opera. He's also adept at musical theater. His voice can flow into baritone parts, but he prefers to stick to upper registers.

"[Being a countertenor] allows me to change octaves in the middle of a piece or sing the parts of men and women and play different characters," Barber said.

He gets asked what a countertenor is all the time, even from some with a musical background. Even though they aren't countertenors, he refers to pop vocalists like Michael Jackson and Prince to give curious questioners an idea of what the vocal range of a countertenor is like.

Before the classical period, men and women weren't allowed to share the stage, Barber said. Thus, countertenors were often brought in to handle such female voice roles.

"Some of the men who sang in that upper range did so in an unnatural way," he said. "I do so naturally."

Barber is nearing the completion of a 50-city nationwide tour, one where he utilizes a medley of familiar opera favorites in his concerts. He bounces around between languages. He'll sing in German, Italian or French. Whatever is necessary.

"I joke with the audience: 'You've all heard this, either from the opera or a pizza commercial,'" Barber said. "I try to keep a little bit of levity and a relationship with the audience."

His concerts also feature selections from his latest album, "Classical for Everyone," which includes popular hits like a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Barber's powerful performance of "Hallelujah" got the attention of CCCCA representatives at a past Live on Stage talent showcase in Tennessee.

During his current tour, Barber's encountered a few stops along the way where subscribers to concert series skipped his show, simply because they didn't feel as though they were interested in the opera and classical music genres.

Barber makes sure to perform songs his audience can relate to, a key characteristic the CCCCA leadership looks for when selecting the artists they would like to perform in Westminster.

The fact that he could soar through multiple octaves was an added bonus, one where all high notes are in play.

"It's amazing what he can do," said Ted Deardorff, the CCCCA treasurer. "He's like a one-man opera in both voice and language."