Close to my Herts: Singer Neil Simon

Professional singer and Oaklands resident Neil Simon, known as The Romantic Tenor, tells Louise McEvoy about his love of music and his plans for the future

Professional singer and Oaklands resident Neil Simon, known as The Romantic Tenor, tells Louise McEvoy about his love of music and his plans for the future 

When did you discover a love of singing?

I loved singing from a young age, singing at home and in a choir as an alto at both primary and secondary schools. I then joined the Barts Choir in London when I started working as a chartered surveyor. I met my wife Susan singing in the musical South Pacific and we have enjoyed singing together ever since.

Do you come from a musical family?

My family were very musical, with the traditional occupation of singing round the piano a regular past time. My father sang in musicals and my grandmother was a very good piano accompanist. My great grandfather sang in the original BBC men’s chorus in the 1930s as a tenor, so there is some tradition.

What did you do before you became a professional singer?

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I trained as a chartered surveyor. My wife trained at a music college as a soprano and took me along to her teacher Marie McLaughlin - a well-known international opera singer - for a consultation. She said with a bit of hard work I could have a singing career, so I decided to follow this different but fulfilling path.

Why did you decide to specialise in romantic Italian music?

My tenor voice is quite Italianate in sound and Italian classical and operatic music suits my personality and style. It helps that I can also sing the high notes with relative ease.

You have released a CD. Tell us about it.

I enjoy arranging music and wanted to showcase my talents on a recording. I put together accompaniments, including piano and string quartet, with some added wind instruments to give an intimate romantic feel to the songs. I also play guitar and mandolin on the recording. I chose a number of well-known Neapolitan songs such as O Sole Mio and Torna a Surriento and also songs written by Paolo Tosti, who was music master to Queen Victoria’s children. I really enjoyed the recording experience, which was in a small recording studio in Welwyn Garden City. It is a real thrill to be on iTunes as The Romantic Tenor Sings Italian Love Songs.

What's next for you?

I am currently rehearsing with the St Albans Chamber Opera in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, in which I am singing Lieutenant F B Pinkerton. It has some very beautiful and romantic music which really suits my voice. The performances are at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans from March 20 to 25. I also continue to sing as The Romantic Tenor both locally and in London.

If you could sing a duet with anyone who would it be with?

Professionally I would love to sing the love duet from Madame Butterfly with my wife Susan or Ren�e Fleming, preferably in Italy, so La Scala in Milan it would have to be.

What other interests do you have?

I have played the classical guitar all my life. I also enjoy sailing, skiing and walking. I listen to music and have a fairly large record collection of classical and opera music.

Where in Hertfordshire do you live?

I live in Oaklands, close to Welwyn, and enjoy going for walks in Harmergreen Wood and the surrounding local area. We are very lucky to have such beautiful countryside surrounding us.

Where is the best view in Hertfordshire?

My favourite view is at Hatfield House, where you can see some amazingly old oak trees. There are some wonderful buildings on the estate and I particularly enjoy the view of the river in several places, especially in the spring when the daffodils are out.