Mies David Romney is an American countertenor and popular musicologist.

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Listen

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Welcome

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I’m Miles David Romney. I’m an American countertenor, and “popular” musicologist (which is to say, my research and written histories are intended for the general public, more than for other academics).

Mainstream use of the male falsetto is a very old tradition, but its re-popularization is extremely recent. It is still finding its place, culturally. My fascination with Renaissance and Baroque music is fanatical, but without relevance to new and evolving music, the countertenor voice is relegated to a historical curiosity, finding a place beside other museum-piece instruments like the hurdy gurdy or the nyckelharpa. So I push the contextual envelope, experimenting in new music, jazz, vocalise, and other historical repertoire not traditionally performed by a countertenor (Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 is a favorite in my repertoire–my voice is unusually dramatic for a countertenor).

I'm also a bit of a counterculturist in the Cool Jazz tradition. I sing because I love to sing. I write because I love to write. I do it for the way it changes me. So you won’t find any press clippings here (though some nice things have been said, which I do appreciate), and you won’t find me touting any awards (I’ve won some: enough said).

I will, however, post tracks for you to listen to, and articles for you to read. The tracks are often excerpts (I don’t always–or even often–own the rights to my full recorded performances; and my living depends on live performances and not on albums).

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Article: Biography of a Modern Countertenor

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The dark melismas of a Dies Irae spilled up into the sculpted vaults of San Lorenzo in Damaso, and rolled over its rows of wooden pews crowded with the grieving forms of mourners gathered from all across Italy. The painted figures of Giauinto’s ceiling fresco, and the statues of Saints Francesco Saverio and Carlo Borromeo looked solemnly on, appearing now more alive than the object of this gathering : the man lying dead and awaiting burial in his family’s vault at the Cimitero del Verano, the great city of the dead in Rome. The mass itself – conducted as it was by Lorenzo Perosi, Perpetual Director of the Sistine Chapel in Rome and a reformist – would no-doubt have been a throwback to Gregorian tradition. A postmortem jab (though surely not intended by Perosi as such) at the life and career of the dead man.

The castrati were no more. The year was 1922 and Alessandro Moreschi, the world’s last remaining castrated soprano, had died.

Moreschi may have been altered soon after birth as a remedy for an inguinal hernia. Or, it could have happened shortly before puberty to preserve his talent as a boy soprano – castration wasn’t banned in Italy until 1870, a comfortable two years after Moreschi would have been gelded. However it happened, Moreschi was left with a soprano voice hailed in its time (though his series of wax recordings from 1902 are underwhelming, and the subject of much debate), and honoured with nearly thirty years as First Soprano at the Sistine Chapel. His tenure was ultimately cut short by the arrival of Lorenzo Perosi, Pope Pius X, and the Motu Propio edict banning castrati from singing at the Vatican.

Download the full aricle here.

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Biography

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I was raised on the north shore of Long Island, New York (though we moved around, and spent some years overseas). My parents are scientists–my dad a Princeton physicist and technologist, and my mom a Columbia biochemist. My family is educated, but my parents are not accomplished musicians. It was a surprise to them when I started listening to Mozart instead of whatever else people were listening to, and practicing piano for 5 hours/day. It was a surprise when I started singing, and I don’t believe they’d ever heard a countertenor before I sang Flow My Tears for them toward the end of my undergrad work. I was raised bilingually–but in Spanish, not Italian or German. We did travel, but we were building huts and teaching in the jungles of Guatemala, and not on Caribbean cruises or jet-setting in Europe. There may have been a tarnished silver spoon in the drawer somewhere, but with eight kids in the family, no one of us could hold it for long. It was an idilic upbringing for producing educated, globally-minded, pragmatic generalists; and that’s what we became. There is a restless vein in all of us that continually asks “what if”, and “why” and “how to”. So my musical journey has meandered–it has not followed a well-beaten path.

My first professional gig with a regional opera company was at age 17, but by that time, I had attended maybe 3 live operas and was singing more music theater than anything (Tony in West Side Story and Motel Kamzoil in Fiddler on the Roof, among others). I have a good voice for music theater. It’s a “baritone-tenor” which let me sing everything from Stars to Pity the Child–a fantastic range. But I wanted to sing opera. So I pursued it. But the same voice that made for versatility in music theater was problematic in opera. I have the range of a tenor, but mechanically, my voice functions more like a baritone. Lamperti’s Vocal Wisdom has been a bible to me since I was a teenager studying with the late-great Terry McCombs. I had developed a strong falsetto in response to Terry’s paraphrasing of a Lamperti principle, “an undeveloped falsetto is a broken voice”. When I started reinforcing that falsetto, I was popping strong, supported high-Cs. My university teacher recommended I move to tenor, and I did sing tenor for nearly two years. But I wasn’t happy with it–it didn’t feel right. So I started experimenting with countertenor. It was like coming home. Nothing before had felt so natural to me.

And here I am. I’ve sung in some big places, and a lot of small places. I sing in the US, have sung in Europe, and even gave a concert in Jerusalem.

So far this year, I’ve sung the Johannes-Passion with Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine, sung a series of original and Renaissance songs throughout Pioneer Theatre Company’s run of Much Ado About Nothing, sung the countertenor solos in Bernstein's Missa Brevis, Mass and Chichester Psalms with the Salt Lake Choral Artists, sung a concert with the always-impressive Jennifer Welch- and Darrell Babidge, along with a smattering of smaller-scale sacred performances.

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Contact

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To book me, please contact my booking manager James Guymon at:
    james @ jamesguymon.com

For anything else, feel free to contact me personally at:
    m @ mdavidromney.com