Deepest symphony: Composer searches for lowest voice

Hunt on for a bass singer who can hit a low E – a massive three octaves below middle C

He's reached the peaks of the pop charts. Now the composer behind the Military Wives' Christmas No 1 wants to plumb the depths of the human singing voice.

Paul Mealor is seeking a singer capable of creating the deepest note ever performed in a work for massed voices in a work he hopes will not just touch the heart but make it vibrate.

He and his record label, Decca, have begun a global hunt for a bass able to hit a low E, nearly three octaves below middle C and one of the lowest notes on a piano keyboard.

The writer composed music for last year's Royal Wedding as well as having achieved the even more remarkable feat of helping Gareth Malone's Military Wives break The X Factor's grip on the Yuletide top spot. He is known for employing low notes in his work. The latest will be deployed in a Russian Orthodox piece.

De Profundis will include a note two semitones below the previous deepest note sung in a formal piece – an F sharp – easily surpassing the lowest in a choral work, a B flat in Rachmaninov's Vespers.

Mr Mealor said his setting for the work called for a "rich and powerful voice... a voice that can not only touch the heart with its sincerity and truth, but also make every fabric of the human body resonate as it plunges into the very lowest parts of the vocal spectrum".

A professional bass should be able to hit an E two octaves below middle C. The deepest note produced by an orchestral instrument is a low B flat and is only capable of being produced by the biggest wood and brass instruments.

Beethoven plunged low-note depths using a contrabassoon in his Ninth Symphony, while Wagner hit the same nadir courtesy of the mighty contrabass tuba in his Niebelungen Ring.

Soprano Lynne Dawson, of the Royal Northern College of Music, said anyone capable of producing such a low note was born, not trained. "That is a very rare animal. If you do not naturally have these low notes you cannot manufacture them," she said.

Singers who are capable of reaching the low notes should send demo tapes to Decca, or upload their voices to www.howlowwillyougo.com

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