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John Charles Thomas sings The Lord’s Prayer

I started studying with the distinguished voice teacher Marlena Malas in 2002. She had a great influence on my life and I love her dearly, and in the years we worked together I learned everything I now know about beautiful singing. One of the perks of studying with Marlena, and spending innumerable summers with her at her summer voice program in Chautauqua, is getting to know her husband, the inimitable Sprio Malas. I loved sitting on the Malas’s front porch with Spiro, talking about the good ole days of singing. He’d tell stories about how he introduced Luciano Pavarotti to v-neck t-shirts and how he botched major entrances at City Opera and kept chugging along. He would make me laugh and laugh and laugh. He sang for me and asked me to imitate his sound—I never got close to matching that plush and rich tone—and asked me to listen to John Charles Thomas. For the longest time I didn’t get Thomas’s voice. At the time I found it plain, and even boring.

It’s only in the past few years that I’ve realized the greatness in his sound. I hear the most amazing coordination of breath and tone in his singing. There isn’t a single note that flutters or bats at the listener and, OMG, his vowels. I love how at 1’05” of The Lord’s Prayer his onset “as it is,” should have been an {æ} but he chooses to slide in on an {a} to connect to a deeper origin of sound. His voiced {n}’s last an eternity and he makes a quirky choice to roll and flip his {r}’s. I admire how Thomas doesn’t try to make the song about him—he sings with his voice and lets the song do the rest. It’s a lesson for every young singer, and a lesson for me fifteen years removed from the Malas’s front porch at Chautauqua.

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