January 23, 2015

Ward's New York Times obit.

New York Times:

Ward Swingle, an American jazz vocalist, conductor and arranger whose Swingle Singers brought classical music into the Qiana Age with best-selling Bach that bubbled and bounced, died on Monday in Eastbourne, England. He was 87.

His death was announced on the website of the Swingles, the current incarnation of the group he founded in the early 1960s.

Trained in classical music and jazz, Mr. Swingle began the group almost as a lark in Paris, where he had lived off and on since the 1950s. In 1962 or thereabouts, while he was working as a studio session singer, he and seven French colleagues, wanting something novel to put their voices to, tried vocalizing Bach much as a jazz singer would, using scat syllables.

The result, backed by string bass and drums, was a 1963 album, released as “Jazz Sébastien Bach” in France and “Bach’s Greatest Hits” in the United States. Featuring Mr. Swingle’s arrangements of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and “Art of the Fugue,” it spent more than a year on the Billboard chart.

The album won a Grammy Award for best performance by a chorus; Mr. Swingle also won the Grammy for best new artist of 1963. The Swingle Singers, who went on to win three more Grammys in the 1960s, can be heard scatting works by Bach, Mozart and others on many recordings, and on film and television soundtracks.

The Swingle Singers performed at the White House; at Carnegie, Alice Tully and Town Halls and the Village Gate in New York; and at La Scala in Milan. The group has collaborated with artists and ensembles including the Modern Jazz Quartet, the jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli and the New York Philharmonic.

They were esteemed by the contemporary composer Luciano Berio, whose 1968 orchestral work “Sinfonia,” commissioned for the Philharmonic’s 125th anniversary season, included texts spoken and sung by them.

Critical response to the Swingle Singers was divided, with pop-music reviewers generally more enthusiastic than classical ones. “The group is well disciplined in its unusual craft,” John S. Wilson wrote in The New York Times in 1964. “The singers are individually precise even when their ‘words’ — which usually consist of ‘baba-daba-daba’ — come tumbling out at a headlong rate.”

Compare Harold C. Schonberg, who in 1970 huffed, also in The Times, “Hearing the Badinerie from Bach’s B minor Suite buh-buh-bubbed by a singer who could not even maintain some of the basic figurations was one of the more vulgar experiences of a concert-going lifetime.”

The original Swingle Singers disbanded in 1973. Reconvened by Mr. Swingle in England not long afterward, the ensemble was known first as Swingle II and later as the New Swingle Singers. Today, the Swingles comprise seven men and women; their repertoire, sung a cappella, spans an eclectic range of styles.

Mr. Swingle was born in Mobile, Ala., on Sept. 21, 1927. As a boy, he played the oboe, clarinet and piano; by the time he was in high school, he was playing saxophone in a nationally known big band, the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra. He earned a degree from the Cincinnati Conservatory and in 1952 married a classmate, Françoise Demorest, in France.
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

In Europe, Mr. Swingle studied with the eminent pianist and composer Walter Gieseking and worked as an accompanist for Roland Petit’s Les Ballets des Paris.

As a singer he performed with two Parisian jazz vocal ensembles — Les Blue Stars, founded by the singer and pianist Blossom Dearie, and Les Double Six — before starting the Swingle Singers. After retiring from full-time involvement with the group in the mid-1980s, Mr. Swingle, who remained its adviser long afterward, worked as a conductor, arranger and music publisher.

Besides his wife, with whom he had recently moved to England, Mr. Swingle is survived by three daughters, Rebecca, Kathryn and Elizabeth, and three grandchildren.

Viewed in hindsight, Mr. Swingle’s career seems almost foreordained, for his surname carries the very sound of swing within it. “Swingle” was widely assumed to be a coinage, and he spent much time assuring people that the name (derived from the Swiss surname Zwingli) was in fact his own.

“People always ask me that,” Mr. Swingle told The Times in 1982. “And they want me to prove it by producing my passport or my mother.”

Posted by John at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2015

Ward Swingle passes

We lost another great one today as the venerable Ward Swingle died this morning at the age of 87. He had been in poor health of late and had moved from his long-time home in France to England so he could be closer to his daughter. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Ward founded the eponymous Les Swingle Singers who were winners of 5 Grammy awards including Best New Artists in 1963. Ward is one of the few musicians to have a particular style of music named after themselves with the Swingle Sound being very recognizable and unique.

I had the pleasure of being the producer of his instructional video "Swingle Singing" and although he was exacting in his needs was nevertheless a pleasure to work with. He spent most of his time in France but there was always a touch of the Southern gentleman in his demeanor.

Ward's survivors include his wife, Francoise; three daughters; and several nieces and nephews.

Truly one of the greatest innovators in a cappella, his music will live on for generations.

Posted by John at 9:14 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2015

Gwyneth Paltrow's a cappella roots

Gwyneth Paltrow showed off her singing skills on "The Tonight Show" by performing her own rendition of hip hop tracks by Nicki Minaj, Drake and Big Sean. Ahead of her performance she spoke to Jimmy Fallon about how she was in an a cappella group, Triple Trio, in her younger years .

"It was like a really cute barbershop quartet, but nine-tet-however you say that," she explained of where her singing talents all began.

"We would sing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.' We would sing Billy Joel's a cappella song, 'The Longest Time.' That was my audition song for the group."

Posted by John at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2015

Reality a cappella TV show

A snippet from the web:-

TV Guide Network, or more recently TVGN, is ready to shed its ties to the well known TV listings brand. Starting in 2015, the cable channel will be known as POP, a channel and multi-platform destination with a renewed emphasis on celebrating fans of TV and pop culture.

The new lineup will include “Sing It On” (Working Title), a reality series that will follow the competitive world of college a cappella groups. The series comes from the producers behind Fox’s “American Idol.”

Posted by John at 9:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2015

Harmony Sweepstakes 2015

We now begin our fourth decade of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival and look forward to many more years of presenting top-notch a cappella music. All 2015 regional dates are set and tickets are now on sale for most events.

Group applications are coming in and already we have the makings of another great season. But we always are looking for more talent so if your group enjoys performing for full houses of a knowledgeable and appreciative fans then do send us your application soon.

Pacific NW - March 14
San Francisco - March 14
Mid-Atlantic - March 14
New York - March 21
Chicago - March 21
Los Angeles - April 4
Boston - April 19

National Finals - Saturday May 16, 2015

For more info visit the web site.

Posted by John at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2014

The Melodores win The Sing-off

Congratulations to The Melodores who took top honors on tonight's broadcast of the Sing-off. They are an all male collegiate group from Vanderbilt University in Nashville and did splendidly tonight and are most worthy winners of the contest.

Posted by John at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2014

Steve Carell sings barbershop

Steve Carell joined Jimmy Fallon's barbershop quartet The Ragtime Gals last night on the Tonight Show to sing Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." Fun!

Posted by John at 4:09 PM | Comments (0)

The Sing-Off competing groups

Somewhat curiously NBC has still not announced the competing groups on the upcoming Sing-Off special nor seemingly sent out much publicity material but our a cappella sleuths have determined who this year's performing groups are.

A Squared
The Exchange
Timothy's Gift

The two hour special is to air on Wednesday Dec 17th 9/8C.

Above is a clip of Timothy's Gift who not only sings wonderfully but their organization does some great charity work.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2014

Pioneer of a cappella music, Stan Krause to be honored


Nestled between a fish market and a Dunkin Donuts on Bergen Avenue is a true historical gem of Jersey City. The place is called Stan's Square Records and it is owned by a man named Stan Krause.

The walls of his store are covered with vinyl records from artists like Lionel Richie, Joe Tex, The Beatles, Nas, and Lorde. His customers all greet him by name and shake his hand. After 36 years in the same location, Krause is a neighborhood fixture.

He was also one of the biggest catalysts of the acapella movement of the sixties and seventies, and will be honored for his success December 12th inside the Council Chambers at City Hall.

"I never looked at it as success," said Krause, 76, of his career in the music industry. "Every record I ever put out was a love, every band I worked with was a love."

It was that self-assurance that led him to a group of Jersey City acapella singers named The Persuasions. Krause arranged a live show for The Persuasions at the State Theater in Journal Square in 1968, for which he would record a live album.

"It was a rainy Tuesday night around final exams time and we still drew a crowd of over 2,000 people," Krause remembers.

Through a friend, the record found its way into the hands of Frank Zappa, who brought the Persuasions under the wing of Reprise Records, which was founded by Frank Sinatra in 1960.

From then on, The Persuasions and Krause's fame grew exponentially. Stan toured all over Europe with the band, even meeting Eva, the woman he would marry, at a show in England.

He would go on to work with many famous acapella groups, including 14 Carat Soul, with whom he appeared on Saturday Night Live with in 1983.

"We made acapella music the sound of Jersey City," said Krause. "From Boston to Baltimore, everybody was listening to it."

Read more.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)