Is Adele actually a good singer?

It’s all about control, poise, power and drama – but is Adele’s voice any cop?

Her public adore her, critics idolise her: Adele is hailed as the ‘voice of a generation’ for her power, emotion and sheer vocal strength. She sits comfortably within the pop/soul genre, but with a raw instrument like that you can’t help wondering if it’s actually, y’know… technically good?

Her Power

Adele has a huge voice. Although she’s not a great technician, nobody will disagree with the fact that she’s an amazing powerhouse of a singer. If she had been trained in opera there’s no doubt she would have projected over an orchestra without the need for amplification. Rich, deep and full of colour, she can belt right up to an E5 (the E in the octave above middle C).

Her Vocal Colour

Adele’s range is not the most impressive weapon in her arsenal, (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Bruno Mars all have wider documented vocal ranges). What sets her voice apart is the masterful manipulation of timbre and colour which she uses to express the text she sings. She easily slips into the roles of scornful ex (‘Rolling In The Deep’), heartbroken lover (‘Someone Like You’) and repentant ex-girlfriend (‘Hello’):

Even in opera, gruff growls and shrieks which are not technically perfect are prized if they add the right character and emotion to the music. Listen to the breadth of different colours Maria Callas achieves in this final aria of La Cenerentola:

Could Adele be an opera singer?

The opera world classifies singers using the Fach system, which describes the voice and the different roles which might suit it, almost like describing wines as red or white, dry, semi-dry or sweet. A light high voice might be more traditionally suited to playing a princess, or a low contralto a widow.

Many people hear her low notes and instantly assume that she must be a contralto – but don’t be deceived. She actually produces these signature growls using quite a tense chest mix, her voice really comes into its own as she moves up in her register, becoming most clear between C4 (middle C) to C5.

When you also consider her warm, rich tone, it’s most likely that she’s a lyric mezzo-soprano. This Fach is described as strong, flexible and lachrymose, and is suited to roles such as Cherubino in the Marriage Of Figaro, and Nancy in Albert Herring:

One thing which separates opera singers from singers in other genres is their athletic ability and stamina. Adele already has a world-class instrument, and as her technique and her stamina improve she looks set to become one of the defining voices of our era.

So yes, she is actually a good singer – characterful, emotional and powerful. There are gaps in technique and she’s had well-documented medical issues surrounding her vocal cords (thanks to oversinging, the curse of many a popular artist), but at its root, it’s an instrument that conveys in spectacular fashion.

A guide to JS Bach’s incredible Passion music

The St John Passion and St Matthew Passion are two of Bach’s most famous pieces of sacred music, telling the Biblical story of Jesus’ crucifixion. But where do you start with these two mammoth works? Here’s an introduction to the best moments of these masterpieces of religious music.

What’s the story?

Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Sunday morning, but before this, there’s the gruelling tale of his Passion and death on the cross. Bach sets Chapters 26-27 of Mathew’s account, and 18-19 of John’s. If it’s possible to distill both accounts down, Jesus is taken to the Place of a Skull, and crucified with two thieves on the charge of claiming to be the King of the Jews. Soldiers divide his clothes into lots before he dies. In Matthew’s account, after being mocked by a jeering crowd, Jesus dies with the desolate cry of “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”, but John’s account tells of Jesus’ resolute fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy: “It is finished.”

 JS Bach

(Johann Sebastian Bach, painted by Elias Gottlob Haussmann in the mid-1740s)

Joining in the chorus

Despite both Bach’s settings of the Passion lasting more than two hours, they were written to be used as part of a Lutheran church service – he wrote the St John Passion, for the Good Friday Vespers service of 1724, and the St Matthew Passion three years later. Rather than expecting the audience – or, rather, congregation – to sit back and take in the music, Bach included a number of hymn-like chorales within the solo sections, so everyone could participate in the worship. Listen to the simple ‘Erkenne mich, mein hüter’ from the St Matthew Passion: this tune is repeated throughout the oratorio, sometimes in a lower key to reflect a sadder mood.

Bach even uses the same hymn tunes in both Passion settings. Listen to ‘O grosse Lieb, o Liebe ohn’ alle Masse’ from the St John Passion, or, in fact, ‘Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen’ from the St Matthew – it’s the same tune, only with different words, making it easier for the congregation to sing.

Musical character

When the congregation weren’t singing, Bach made sure the overarching mood of the story was represented in the music – and he had a remarkable number of tricks up his sleeve, using different instruments and key signatures to highlight the different characters and emotions. In the St Matthew Passion, the strings play a long high chord whenever Jesus sings, setting his singing apart from the other singing like a musical ‘halo’. In the St John Passion, after Jesus dies, the soprano sings ‘Zerfliesse, mein Herz’, which Bach sets in the unusual key of B flat minor to highlight the singer’s grief. And listen out for the cello’s close relative, a viola da gamba, at the start of ‘Es ist Vollbracht’: Bach used this instrument to symbolise comfort for those who mourn.

All-important lyrics

It’s not just about the music, though. Worship, which used to be in Latin, was now in German – a language understood by the entire congregation. Now the Biblical text could be understood, Bach made sure it was brought to life by his music: in both settings, on words like ‘wept bitterly’, Bach emphasises the text by making the music sound like uncontrollable weeping – musically, of course. Other important words like ‘tears’, ‘death’, and ‘crucified’ are also highlighted so they stand out from the text. As the St Matthewrabble call for Barabbas to be freed condemning Jesus to death, listen out for the spine-tingling cluster chord – it sounds scary regardless, but those in the know might have recognised it as a specific musical device, known as the ‘devil in music’.

While the words speak for themselves, telling the all-important Easter story, Bach’s multiple layers of musical meaning in both the St John and St Matthew Passions mean it’s possible to enjoy the music on a number of levels. The text tells the story on its own, but it’s Bach’s (often hidden) techniques that bring the music to life.

The Carol That Never Was Sung

Laura Hassler
Laura Hassler Director & Founder Musicians without Borders

I grew up with a beautiful Christmas story called “The Carol That Never Was Sung,” written by my father– a writer, peace activist and lover of music.

My pacifist parents had left the organized church in their youth, disillusioned when it declined to oppose war, stand for social justice, and take radical risks. But they believed in the persistence of hope in dark times, and they recognized the many ways, across religions, cultures and histories, of telling stories of hope.

“The Carol That Never Was Sung” told of a song that somehow never managed to show up in time to help celebrate the birth of “the child”: each year, it had met someone who was lost, imprisoned, at war, exiled, or orphaned – and had always stopped to bring the consolation of music, and was therefore too late. “But next year”, the carol promises…

We are almost in another “next year” and those songs are more needed than ever.


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Advent day 19 and we are due a Wassail from Vaughan Williams

“Wassail” is an ancient toast meaning something like “Good health!” and also a mulled cider that was drunk as part of “wassailing” festivities, typically on the Twelfth Night of Christmas.

The practice of wassailing is old and exists as a folk tradition in many parts of the United Kingdom, even today. We present here Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1913 joyful setting of the “Gloucestershire Wassail,” perhaps the most famous of all the local wassail traditions.

The performance was part of “Carols for Quire 5,” at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, OH, December 20-22, 2013.

Our 13th Advent window and Handel’s Messiah ‘Rejoice Greatly’

Trinidadian soprano Jeanine De Bique joins Chineke! to perform ‘Rejoice greatly’ from Messiah by Handel. This was Chineke’s first appearance at the BBC Proms and a fantastic Proms debut for Jeanine.

“What a voice! I got goose bumps right through the rendition because I could not control the emotions that I felt. That emotion is monumentally imbued in her clinical virtuosity”

Advent day 12 and the incredible Kenyan Boys Choir

The Choir

The Kenyan Boys Choir also known as the Boys Choir of Kenya is a choral ensemble of talented boys drawn from high schools and colleges around Kenya. The choir is dedicated to moulding a world-class choral outfit that offers a platform for Kenyan boys to nurture their natural talents in music, dance and drama, while imparting life principles of discipline, hard work, perseverance, persistence and determination. In order to shape a youth citizenry that is responsible and of impeccable integrity for effective leadership in the society, the choir advocates for attainment of quality education for its members. Education is elementary in the augmentation of any individual towards being a responsible and an empowered member of the society; a fact that the Kenyan Boys Choir believes in and strives to inculcate.

The Beginning


The choir has its roots in Aquinas High School Nairobi where it was the school’s main choir. In 2004, The Boys Choir of Kenya was choir founded under the auspices of the then St. Louis African Chorus (currently African Music Arts) under the mentorship of Dr. Fred Onovwerosuoke, a renowned Musicologist and Cross-Cultural educator. It was during the same year that the choir made their maiden tour out of their home country Kenya to the United States of America. Audiences and press alike followed the boys through the Northeast, up to Quebec, down to Atlanta, through major cities in the Midwest. The St. Louis African Chorus, managed to tour the choir in more than 12 different states conducting workshops and concerts with their U.S. counterparts. It was also during their performance in St. Louis that they had a week dedicated in their honor as ‘‘the Boys Choir of Kenya week’’ by the Mayor of the city of St. Louis due to their magnificent performance.


Picture 009

Upon their return to Nairobi after a successful tour in 2005, The Boys Choir of Kenya expanded its membership to include students from other High Schools and colleges from within Nairobi and its environs. Students from other schools who were eagerly interested in joining the choir but were locked out due to its exclusivity to the Aquinas high School fraternity got a chance of being part of one of Kenya’s most celebrated youth group. The choir hence had a national outlook due to its representation by students from all over the country.



Now with a national outlook, The Choir was becoming everybody’s favorite, with corporate firms and individuals inviting them to perform during various occasions. During the 2006 4th of July celebrations at the U.S Embassy Nairobi, the choir delighted their host, His Excellency Ambassador Michael Ranneberger who couldn’t stop looking at his guests with a smile on his face as they enjoyed the performance by the Choir. Ever since this day the Choir has been the main entertainment group during these celebrations. It was also during the same year that the choir charmed sports lovers from all over East Africa during the auspicious Sportsman of the Year Awards (SOYA Awards), an annual award ceremony in celebration of the best athletes from within Kenya and the larger East Africa.


Performing for young students in Canada

In 2007 the Choir was back in the U.S. courtesy of The Micato Tours and Safaris Company which was hosting more than 3000 tours and travel agents from all over the world during the month of August in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada.


Amerika Jambo

Early 2008, in the month of February the Choir toured three different states in the U.S. again which was now becoming their home away from home with a very huge fan base across the entire country. This time round the Choir flew for 12 straight hours to Los Angeles California where they entertained clients and friends of the Micato Safari Family. From Los Angeles, the Choir went to Las Vegas again for a bigger audience of more than 7000 who were attending the 70th Anniversary ceremony of The Carlson’s sharing the platform with renowned artistes like Tony Benet and Paul Potts amongst others. Regis Philbin, who was the master of ceremony, couldn’t stop praising the boys’ performance which had impressed all who had attended including the Swedish Queen. Before heading back home, the Choir held a couple of workshops in St. Louis with their counterparts The St. Louis Children’s Choir. It was also during their stay in St. Louis that they managed to record their second Album Dubbed ‘’Amerika Jambo’’ which was released on the month of January 2009.

2008 was a very busy year for the Choir who had to go back to the U.S. on the month of July after being invited by The Okobos shoe Company in Las Vegas. The Choir caught the attention of all who attended the World Shoe Association forum at the Las Vegas convention centre. The company which was only 5 hours old had already made it into the headlines on some of the magazines at the convention, after the sterling performance by the Choir. The Choir also recorded a jingle for the Okobos Company within the same period of time.

Three months later the Choir was again back in the U.S. to perform at a Rock Concert as the Curtain raisers with Artistes; Death Cab for Cutie, Jewel among others, giving impressive performances.


KBC - Henry front

2010 saw the choir tour the greater U.K. on a series of performances from Britain, Wales, Ireland to Scotland with massive audiences enthralled by the cultural display staged by the choir.

In January 2011, the choir was invited by WE Charity Organisation to perform for Grammy award winner Nelly Furtado who was in Kenya on a charity mission. She was thrilled by their performance of an articulate Africanized rendition of her hit song “Powerless” and was left in awe.

In June 2011 the choir performed with sensational UK Artist Ely Goulding at a performance organized by Free the Children In Maasai Mara and the audience were mesmerized by the choir’s performance of her hit song “Lights”.

In September 2011, WE Charity Organisation invited the choir to participate in WE DAY celebrations in Toronto, Canada where the choir performed before thousands of enthusiasts in Air Canada Centre Arena. The choir also got an opportunity to share the stage with

  • Grammy Award winner, Nelly Furtado
  • Popular Canadian rapper and producer  Kardinal Offishall
  • Renowned Canadian artists and performers: City and Colour, Nikki Yanofsky and Neverest Band
  • Platinum selling, JUNO Award winning Canadian pop icon and producer, Shawn Desman

Dignitaries that the choir interacted with during the tour include

  • Mary Robinson; first female President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Patch Adams; social activist, citizen diplomat and author
  • Rick Hansen, Canadian Paralympian
  • DEGRASSI actors Munro Chambers and Aislinn Paul
  • Award winning actor, film director and political activist, Danny Glover

It was also during this performance that they collaborated with Nelly Furtado in singing her hit song ‘Powerless’. The choir also got the exceptional opportunity to feature on Nelly Furtado’s album ‘The Spirit Indestructible’ and recorded with her a track entitled ‘Thoughts’.

In June 2012, their Fourth album Liberty was recorded in Nanyuki Kenya and it featured compositions, folk tunes and arrangements of applauded pop tunes. The album was launched in Canada in 2013.

In June 2012, through the invitation of WE Charity Organisation, the choir serenaded assorted personalities ,artists and audiences from all over the world at Maasai Mara including

  • Nelly Furtado– Grammy and Juno award-winner and Free The Children ambassador


In April 2013, the choir went down in the books of history by being among the cream of Kenyan artists that performed during the inauguration of the fourth president of Kenya, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.

Many international artists visited the country in 2013 courtesy of WE Charity Organisation and the choir continued with their unmatched reputation of adding value and staging unforgettable presentations of their hit songs. The artists comprised

  • Jonas Jonas–Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum artists
  • Demi Lovato – Award-winning singer-songwriter and Free The Children ambassador
  • Victoria Duffield – Canadian singer, actor and dancer
  • Tyler Shaw – Certified gold selling artist and Free The Children Ambassador
  • Kay – Canadian singer-songwriter
  • Kardinal Offishall– Award-winning Canadian rapper and record producer.
  • Nelly Furtado– Grammy and Juno award-winner and Free The Children ambassador

These artists could not resist but get on stage to perform with the choir. It was also during this year that the choir was highly commended by luminaries from various walks of life who were in the country in support of Free the Children. They held that not only was the choir’s performance breath taking, but it made them long for their next visit to the country.

In September 2013, the choir embarked on their first ever three month tour to North America courtesy of Free the Children where they performed more than 300 shows spreading love and joy to hundreds of thousands in Canada and United States while championing for F.T.C’S Campaign; Be the Change. The choir shared the stage with world renowned artists including

  • Imagine Dragons – Award-winning, multi-platinum rock band
  • Austin Mahone  – Award-Winning American pop singer and YouTube sensation
  • Serena Ryder – JUNO Award-winning artist
  • Jonas Brothers – GRAMMY®-nominated, multi-platinum artists
  • Hedley – Multi-platinum, JUNO and MMVA Award-winning recording artists
  • Down With Webster – Five time JUNO Award nominated, platinum selling genre-defying band with new album, Party for your Life, coming out October 22nd

  • Jonas Brothers –Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum artists
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum singer-songwriter
  • Fifth Harmony – America’s first teen girl group
  • Bridgit Mendler– Platinum selling artist and star of Disney’s Good Luck Charlie
  • Jesse Giddings– E! News correspondent and Free The Children ambassador
  • Bare-naked Ladies – JUNO Award-winning rock band
  • Cast members from the Emmy-nominated TV series DEGRASSI
  • Lights – JUNO Award winner and Canadian electro-rock singer, songwriter
  • Victoria Duffield – Canadian singer, actor and dancer
  • Tyler Shaw – Certified gold selling artist and Free The Children ambassador
  • Neverest – Chart-topping, MMVA nominated Canadian pop-rock band
  • Kay – Canadian singer-songwriter
  • Donisha Prendergast – Filmmaker, actress, dancer, poet and Bob and Rita Marley’s granddaughter

Memories of spectacular collaborations of the choir with trending artists remain edged in minds of fans who were thrilled during WE Day 2013. These artists included

  • Demi Lovato– Award-winning singer-songwriter and Free The Children ambassador
  • Darren Criss – Cast member from the Emmy Award-winning series Glee (host for We Day Toronto)
  • Chris Tse – Me to We inspirational speaker, national spoken-word champion and humanitarian
  • Nelly Furtado– Grammy and JUNO award-winner and Free The Children ambassador
  • Shawn Desman– Platinum-selling, JUNO and MMVA Award-winning recording artist and host of We Day Alberta
  • Kardinal Offishall– Award-winning Canadian rapper and record producer
  • Karl Wolf– International recording artist, Socan& MTV Europe Music Award winner
  • The Tenors– Juno Award-winning Multi-platinum singers
  • Hedley – Multi-platinum, JUNO and MMVA Award-winning recording artists

The Choir also got to interact with luminaries who were motivational speakers during this tour and imparted the noble initiative of being the Change they want around the world.

  • Craig and Marc Kielburger– International activists and co-founders of Free The Children
  • Kofi Annan – Former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, who has recently launched the ‘Kofi Annan Dialogues’, a series of online conversations inspiring young people to lead
  • The Honourable Kathleen Wynne – Premier of Ontario
  • Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – President of Liberia and first elected female Head of State in Africa
  • Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan
  • Martin Luther King III – Human Rights advocate and eldest son of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Barbara Pierce Bush – Humanitarian, Co-founder and President, Global Health Corps, and daughter of Former US President George W. Bush
  • Col. Chris Hadfield – Retired Canadian astronaut and first Canadian to walk in space\
  • Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons – CFL Hall of Famer, Vice Chair of the Toronto Argonauts
  • Youth speakers – Hannah Alper, Vishal Vijay, and Sydney Brouillard-Coyle
  • Spencer West – Me to We inspirational speaker, Free The Children ambassador, author and double amputee who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on his hands and in his wheelchair in June, 2012
  • Molly Burke – Visually impaired Me to We motivational speaker who speaks out against bullying and the power of hope
  • Robin Wiszowaty – Me to We motivational speaker, author and Free The Children Program Director in Ghana and Kenya
  • The Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire – Lieutenant-General and author
  • MTV hosts Aliya-Jasmine Sovani and Scott Willats (hosts for We Day Vancouver).
  • Mark Dayton – Governor of Minnesota
  • Brenda Cassellius– Commissioner of Education, Minnesota
  • Chris Coleman– Mayor of St. Paul
  • Debby Ryan– Disney Channel actress and musician
  • Mia Farrow– Award-winning actress, activist and United Nations ambassador
  • Jack Jablonski– Local Benilde – St. Margaret’s teen who suffered a spinal cord injury during a hockey game
  • Marissa Mohammed – Youth speaker from the Banyan Community Center
  • Native Pride Arts – Indigenous youth performers whose mission is to educate, inspire, motivate and empower diverse communities
  • Magic Johnson– NBA legend, two-time hall of famer and philanthropist
  • Amanda Lindhout– New York Times best-selling author of A House in the Sky, Founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation
  • Mikhail Gorbachev – Former President of the Soviet Union and Nobel Peace Laureate
  • Liz Murray – Author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, Breaking Night: My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
  • Hannah Taylor – 16 year old social activist and founder of The Ladybug Foundation and The Ladybug Foundation Education Program
  • Honourable Justice Sinclair – Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Manitoba’s first Aboriginal Judge
  • Jillian Martin – Miss Teen Canada-World 2013
  • Martin Sheen – Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning actor and activist
  • Wilson and Jackson – Maasai warriors, authors of The Last Maasai Warriors; and Free The Children ambassadors
  • Mia Farrow– Award-winning actress, activist and United Nations ambassador

The beautiful sound of Anuna is behind window 9

Anúna is Ireland’s flagship acappella vocal ensemble representing the beauty of Irish musical heritage and literature all over the world.

In 1987, Irish composer Michael McGlynn founded the choir in an effort to create a physical voice for his compositions, many of which are strongly influenced by the history and mythology of his homeland. Ireland has a long and sophisticated history of traditional singing or sean nós. McGlynn uses this as the basis for much of his arrangement and composition. Within these songs are universal truths told through the landscape, the philosophy and the mythology of Ireland and beyond.

The name Anúna is derived from the Gaelic term An Uaithne, a collective description for the three ancient forms of Irish music –  Goltraí (song of lament), Geantraí  (song of joy) and Suantraí (the lullaby). An Uaithne and subsequently ANÚNA, is a uniquely beautiful instrument. Over the last thirty years its unique status in Irish musical life has allowed it to create and develop an education programme that the group have taken all over the world.

Day 7 of our Advent Calendar is the astonishing Jacob Collier

Ten Jacob Colliers come together to arrange and perform one of the most legendary Christmas carols of all time: Harold Darke’s ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’; a poem by Christina Rossetti.

Introducing Our New Feature – Spotlight on a Music Student

At FFM, we want to highlight new and aspiring musical talent wherever we find it and where better than the many Music Colleges, Universities and Schools around the world. Our new feature ‘Spotlight on a Music Student’ is an opportunity for you or someone you know to step into the spotlight and share your talent, dreams and ambitions with the musical world.

All you have to do is send us your information, pictures, videos, sound clips and links  and we will compile your feature.

email direct to

Much love and happy music making,

The FFM team

FFM’s Advent Calendar of the Greatest Christmas Songs of All Time

Every day throughout December, FFM will be opening a virtual advent calendar window featuring a different Christmas song, culminating with our readers’ all-time favourite on Christmas Day. Vote for your favourite by commenting in the box below.

Here is a classic to get you started.