Stephen provided a chapter on European Art Song for the Cambridge Companion to Singing, and another more recently on the folksong arrangements of Percy Grainger in The New Percy Grainger Companion, published by Boydell Press. To coincide with publication he helped curate a three-day Grainger-fest at King’s Place, London.
He has also written an acclaimed work on the interpretation of English song – Sing English Song. There have long been books on German Lieder and French Mélodies, and it was Pierre Bernac’s Interpretation of French Song which prompted him to create something similar for the English repertoire.
Stephen passionately believes that for the English-speaking singer the best approach to gaining experience in singing with intelligence and understanding is to start with one’s native language. Two of the problems for the young singer, namely the pronunciation and meaning of a foreign text, are immediately removed. Quite apart from this eminently practical purpose, there is the quality of the songs themselves, many of which stand comparison with their French and German counterparts. The book is mainly aimed at British students who might otherwise not be encouraged to explore their own musical heritage, but will also appeal to foreign singers who are interested to develop their knowledge of the language and the music.
‘…a helpful guide, giving insight into the genre for advanced students and performers alike.’ – Sheet Music
‘…a wonderfully thought-provoking book which will in fact encourage singers to re-examine their approach to any music, not just that by English composers.’ – Classical Music
‘Stephen Varcoe has produced a valuable book, Sing English Song, outlining just how we shape our elusive tongue.’ – The Independent
‘Stephen Varcoe’s approach reflects both the practical experience accumulated during his distinguished career as a singer, and the serious thought he has given to the theoretical underpinnings of his art and craft. Quite apart from the valuable things it has to say, the book makes a most enjoyable read; Stephen Varcoe is a natural writer, and this is one of those books where by the end you feel that you know the author well and would get on with them if ever you met them.’ The English Poetry and Song Society Newsletter