When I was just out of graduate school, I used to spend hours listening to classical music with my friend Martin. Martin had a certain taste in everything, and he especially like Heddle Nash. He liked light English or Irish tenor voices. I couldn’t understand why he liked this Fach so much. For me, there just was not enough sound, even in recordings that had been made when recording volume wasn’t an issue.

I’m a lot older now, and I have learned to appreciate the art of a Heddle Nash. He was a noted tenor in his day in England, and he was a very famous oratorio singer also. He had a technique that allowed him to sing through the consonants, which is not as easy as it sounds. He had a beautiful legato, and while the voice was not enormous, it was moving.

Here are two aria selections from Händel’s Messiah.

Comfort ye
Comfort ye my people
Comfort ye
Comfort ye my people
Saith your God
Saith your God
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem
And cry unto her
That her warfare
Her warfare is accomplished
That her iniquity is pardoned
That her iniquity is pardoned
The voice of Him
That crieth in the wilderness
Prepare ye the way of the Lord
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God

Every valley
Every valley shall be exalted
Shall be exalted
Shall be exalted
Shall be exalted
And ev’ry moutain and hill made low
The crooked straight
And the rough places plain
The crooked straight
The crooked straight
And the rough places plain
And the rough places plain
Every valley
Every valley shall be exalted
Every valley
Every valley
Shall be exalted
And ev’ry moutain and hill made low
The crooked straight
The crooked straight
The crooked straight
And the rough places plain
And the rough places plain
And the rough places plain
The crooked straight
And the rough places plain

Headdle Nash

Heddle Nash was born on June 14, 1894 at Deptford, a suburb of London, and was soon discovered and sang in the Choir of Westminster Abbey. In 1914, he won a scholarship at the Blackheath Conservatory but was not able to go there because World War I intervened. He was wounded, but nursed back to health by the girl with whom he was to marry and with whom he was to have two sons (one became a distinguished baritone). After the war, he was able to study with Marie Brema at the Blackheath Conservatory. At a time Nash worked with a theater of marionettes where his voice was only heard from the orchestral pit. The company was based in Rome, and the young singer had the opportunity to study with the famous Italian dramatic tenor Giuseppe Borgatti. It was at the Teatro Carcano in Milan where Nash had the opportunity to replace an undisposed tenor in the role as Almaviva. It was a big success for Nash. Back in London in 1925, he was quickly engaged by the Old Vic Theatre to sing many of the more lyric tenor roles (all in English!). Engagements with the British National Opera Company followed. It was in 1929 when he appeared at Covent Garden for the first time. He became a favorite artist there, much acclaimed as Don Ottavio, Tamino, Pedrillo (to Tauber’s Belmonte), Rodolfo, David in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (one of his finest roles on stage), Duca, Almaviva, Roméo, etc. Nash was also a very fine interpreter in operettas by J. Strauss and Millöcker. Finally, he was one of the greatest English oratorio and concert singers (Messiah, The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar), Jephta, Serenade to Music (Vaughan Williams). His partners on the stage included singers such as the wonderful Maggie Teyte, Richard Tauber, Dennis Noble, the superb contralto Muriel Brunskill, Florence Easton , Dennis Noble and Lisa Perli (alias concert soprano Doris Labbette). Nash’s last operatic appearance took place in 1957. He continued to perform on the concert platform, singing in Handel’s Messiah only a few months before his death in 1961.