« Choir conductor wins $200,000 award | Main | Choir burgled during concert »

January 16, 2006

Take 6 to blends its vocals


Calling Take 6 an a capella group is a about as accurate as labeling Bob Dylan a folksinger. While technically accurate, both statements fail to acknowledge the breadth and range that these artists bring to their craft. Sure, Take 6 made its name as an a capella sextet, having formed at a Christian college in Alabama. But, over the course of nearly a dozen albums, the group has covered musical ground including jazz, soul, R&B and rock, while also incorporating instrumentation into its recordings.

But the group, which performs Monday at Hill Auditorium in a concert presented by the University Musical Society, has never lost the unique vocal blend that is its trademark. According to David Thomas, one of the group's original singers, Take 6's vocal stylings emerged during informal sessions originating in the dormitory bathrooms at Oakwood College, when the members were freshmen.

Those natural - but raw - harmonies were then hammered into shape during marathon weekend rehearsals, where, Thomas said, the group's signature sound was forged. "We were all in school, and that happened in the weekends, so from Friday to Sunday we rehearsed about 30 hours,'' Thomas said. "We rehearsed ad nauseum - it was sickening!

"We did that so much until our blend and our harmony became second nature.'' It also led, in short order, to a contract with Warner Bros. - a move almost unheard of for an unknown group, let alone one that sang a capella gospel tunes. However, the group's debut, "Doo Be Doo Wop Bop,'' found an audience well beyond the boundaries of Christian music and gave Take 6 a foothold in the secular market.

And thank goodness for that. The group's challenging, complex arrangements are nothing short of amazing and have graced Grammy-winning collaborations with the likes of Al Jarreau and Quincy Jones. The current group - which, in addition to Thomas, includes founder Claude Mcknight, brothers Joey and Mark Kibbel, Cedric Dent and Alvin Chea - continues to build on the vocal foundation the members built during those marathon rehearsals a quarter century ago. After all this time, he said, each member finds his part by instinct.

"One of the benefits of all the extra rehearsals that we did at the beginning is that now we've been doing this for so many years we can focus,'' he said. "We needn't go into the studio, we remember how we did it, and that helps us to minimize the time that we need before every show.'' Even though the group has branched out to include instrumentation on its albums - most recently on 2002's "Beautiful World,'' and the upcoming "Feels Good,'' Thomas said the group has never lost sight of the Christian values that informed its members from the start.

As such, he said, the group finds as much spiritual meaning in tunes ranging from the Doobie Brother's "Taking it to the Streets'' to Steely Dan's "I.G.Y'' as it does in more traditional gospel numbers as "People Get Ready.'' "We want to do nothing but songs that had been big and enduring hits, but that also had messages of hope and encouragement, whether spiritual or with that message clearly implied,'' he said.

Posted by acapnews at January 16, 2006 9:49 PM