We were delighted to get to know bass-baritone Armon Golliday. Currently a member of the Dallas Opera Chorus, this season sees his solo debut in their staging of Puccini’s La Bohème. On the 7th of December, he’ll be performing as a featured soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williams Hodie, part of the Highlander Concert Series.
With these two major performances in the offing, he’s a very busy man, but he was kind enough to take time out to tell us a bit about himself, the unexpected discovery of his singing voice and the healthy way to cure performance jitters.
So, tell us a bit about how you got into singing?
Unlike most of my colleagues, I started singing rather late in my life. I actually had no formal music or vocal training prior to my third year at university. My roommate invited me to spend Thanksgiving day at his parent’s home that year, and they have a tradition where they sing Christmas carols at the piano after Thanksgiving dinner.
As we were singing one carol, his mother, who was playing the piano, stopped playing and turned to me and said, “Armon, have you ever considered singing professionally?…you have an excellent voice”. She also encouraged me to speak to someone in the music department once I got back to school, which I did. I auditioned for one of the university choirs and was asked to sing in two of the three university ensembles. I attended the first rehearsal and was given the score for Mozart’s “Vesperae solennes de confessore”. The accompanist began to play, and everyone began to sing. I stood there in utter terror and confusion, and had no idea what to do. After rehearsal ended, I told the choir director that I would not be returning – that I was too far behind the other singers. He encouraged me to continue, and told me that I would catch on as time progressed. I agreed to continue coming to rehearsals and started taking voice lessons. The rest is history.
What do you like to sing?
I enjoy singing baroque music, especially Handel. It fits my voice well and it’s fun to sing. My favourite song to sing is “Honor and Arms” from Handel’sSamson. My favourite opera composers are Mozart and Verdi, as they both wrote operas with great arias for bass/bass-baritone/baritone.
Who or what is your biggest musical influence?
One of the first experiences with opera was a PBS broadcast of Jessye Norman’s Christmas concert in Augusta, Georgia. First off, I did not realize that many African-Americans were opera singers, so that was fascinating. What was even more fascinating was the beauty and grandeur of her voice. It was awe inspiring.
Tell us about a recent concert you performed in.
The most memorable of recent performances was Lehar’s The Merry Widow featuring soprano Ruth Ann Swenson as Hannah Glawari last season with the Dallas Opera. I always enjoy performing with her. I enjoy her singing immensely.
Has your singing led you to be involved in any charitable work / fundraising?
I have performed for many organizations and churches in an effort to raise money for important causes. It’s of utmost importance to me.
What else do you do in your spare time? Do you have other pastimes or interests apart from singing?
I enjoy graphic design and creating websites. I particularly enjoy creating websites for performers.
Do you have a top tip for getting the most from your voice?
It sounds basic, but breathing well and relaxing are key.
Imagine you are looking at a concert poster for your ultimate fantasy concert of all time: who is performing and what are they singing?
It is a duet concert featuring sopranos Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman, and they are singing signature opera arias and art songs from their extensive repertoire.
Have you had any professional training?
I studied voice at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas and at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. My favourite voice instructor was Dr. Stephen Austin at UNT.
Do you have any tips for pre-performance preparation that help steady the nerves?
Eat two bananas. Some performers take beta-blockers to curb the effects of nervousness, but a natural solution is bananas.
Where do you come from? Why do you choose to live where you do?
I am originally from Los Angeles, California (USA). I attended university in Dallas, Texas and have chosen to stay here to sing with the Dallas Opera.
What do you like about Your Accompanist accompaniment tracks?
They are very helpful since I do not have a piano in my apartment to play accompaniments. The quality of the tracks is great.
You can visit Armon online at: www.armongolliday.com
Find out more about Ralph Vaughan Williams Hodie as part of the Highlander Concert Series.