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Howard Milner (Tenor)

Born: February 23, 1953 - England
Died: March 6, 2011 - London, England

The English tenor and singing teacher, Howard Milner, began his musical education as a chorister at Coventry Cathedral. He then won a music scholarship to Monkton Combe School, read English at Cambridge University followed by post grad at the Guildhall School of Music. His career has followed as diverse a path as his interests, all centred on the voice. His first professional engagement was with Swingle II, the jazz based vocal octet, followed by several years in Paris with the Group Vocal de France specialising in contemporary music. On his return to London he worked with many different vocal groups, sang in the West End and worked in the commercial session scene. A serious motor bike accident in 1982 gave time for reflection and Howard decided to start taking his singing more seriously. He returned to the Guildhall School with a scholarship to the Opera course where he subsequently won several major prizes. His singing teachers in London were Rudolf Piernay (1983-1985) and later Janice Chapman.

In 1985 Howard Milner joined the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and he spent two and half years with them learning the ropes of opera and making his way. He toured with them to Hong Kong in 1986, made his debut as Mr Upfold in Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten and his Festival debut in Capriccio by Richard Strauss. He has sung the title role in Le Comte Ory, Jacquino in Fidelio and Eumeus in in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with Kent Opera. For the Early Opera Society Project he sang in performances of Incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi; and also as Monostatos in Zauberflöte. He sang Squeak in Billy Budd and Spoletta in Tosca with English National Opera (1988); Pedrillo in Die Entfürung aus dem Serail and Camille in Lehár’s The Merry Widow for Scottish Opera (1987) and Don Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro. As a member of Opera Factory London (David Freeman), Milner has performed Arnalta in L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Sellem in Rake’s Prgress by Igor Stravinsky and Don Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro. In the 1990-1991 season he could be heard at the Covent Garden Opera London in Wagner’s Meistersingern and again in Capriccio.

His international career took him to the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Paris Chatelet, Barcelona Opera and many other major venues and festivals. Among his many appearances in France were Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Musique en Guyenne and Mengone in Haydn’s Lo Speziale at Aix-en-Provence with Opera de Chambre de France and Menton.

Howard Milner appeared regularly as concert singers in an extensive repertoire in Britain, Europe and North America, broadcasting frequently for the BBC. In 1988 he made his debut at the London Promenade Concerts (Proms) in L’allegro by George Frideric Handel, and has sung in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Venice and Florence. Recent engagements include Die Schöpfung by Haydn in Madrid, Les Illuminations and Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings by Benjamin Britten with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Among his many recordings are J.S. Bach’s B minor Mass (BWV 232) and Monteverdi's Orfeo with John Eliot Gardiner for Deutsche Grammophon, Choral Fantasia with Roger Norrington for EMI; Arnalta in Poppea and Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte With Roger Norrington for the BBC; Ascanio in Alba by W.A. Mozart for Adda and Finzi’s Intimations Of Immortality for the BBC; the award winning album of Hildegard of Bingen with Gothic Voices which pioneered the rebirth of interest in her work; The ENO Billy Budd is available on DVD.

Howard Milner's academic background and interest in languages meant that his take on things vocal was never going to be simply accepting, conventional. As his career progressed he began to research the voice more, thinking his own thoughts. The next step was therefore a natural progression, into teaching, meeting fellow voice enthusiasts, becoming fascinated by the science and then discovering that just because you knew something about how it worked, didn't mean you could sing any better. The labels proved not to be the product. This led to his study of learning systems, where he found out that 'knowing about' was not the point. Rather it was about agreeing 'not to know', that at the end of the day, what you had to do was to 'let go'………but of what, and how? At this point things started to get very interesting, much more difficult, and much easier, all at the same time. His interest is in a language of singing teaching for our time, embracing both science and imagination. Singing is one of the oldest ways mankind has of teaching feelings.

A respected singer and teacher of international standing, Howard Milner taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and in private practice. Students came to work with him from as far away as Japan, Australia, South Africa, America and throughout Europe. He has published numerous articles and is currently working on a book on the voice. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 2011. He passed away on March 6, 2011, aged 58.

‘Howard Milner’s high tenor nurse is both raucously funny and genuinely tender’ - Max Loppert, FT
‘The tenor, Howard Milner, sang brilliantly as Arnalta’ - Michael Kennedy, Sunday Telegraph
‘It was left to Howard Milner’s brilliantly played Arnalta to brush the event in greasepaint with a richly comic impersonation of Poppea’s drag nursemaid.’ - Hugh Canning, The Guardian

Source: Operissimo Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (April 2004); Howard Milner Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2004); Jennifer Tan (February 2011, April 2011)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




John Eliot Gardiner


BWV 232 [1st]

John Eliot Gardiner


Member of Monteverdi Choir:
BWV 232 [1st, 1985]

Links to other Sites

Howard Milner - Singing Teachr / Writer (Official Website)


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