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June 29, 2007

Cadence finds a new voice

The Toronto Star (Canada):

The hand-off is subtle. Kevin Fox exits stage left and, with a pat on the back, passes his microphone – the one he's spat and sang into for nine years – to Kurt Sampson. Sampson, 24, beefy and blond, struts on stage to fill the empty spot that Fox, 33, skinny and balding, leaves behind. Cadence launches into song.

The transition from old member to new recruit is seamless – probably because the a cappella band has had practice to perfect its routine. Last week's performance at Lula Lounge was the second farewell/welcome concert in six months for Cadence, which has been nominated for three Junos in the last few years, including best vocal jazz. The first was when tenor Dylan Bell, 34, said goodbye.

The departures mean Cadence is scrambling to reshape its identity. The turmoil has left Heidi Berger, 31, wife of the group's only remaining founding member, joyful but emotional. "Eight months ago, they said they were leaving," she says. "And now look at them....I'm such a sappy wife."

Carl Berger, now 33, was there when Cadence was created in 1998. Ross Lynde is another seasoned member of today's version, along with Sampson and Aaron Jensen, 24, the group's new tenor. Wearing black suits, each with a different coloured shirt and matching tie, the quartet makes it sound like there's a seven-piece band in the room. They do it with nothing but their windpipes and vocal chords.

Cadence is singing "High and Drysville," an ode to 1940s-era jazz. It's written by Jensen, who started singing with Cadence in January after a similar Lula Lounge microphone hand-off with Bell. Bell, who joined Cadence in 2002, announced in August he was leaving to create and produce music using instruments. Fox followed in the fall, securing a spot with The Swingle Singers, an a cappella group in London, England.

This evening's concert is the first time this Cadence version has appeared in front of an adult audience (Sampson warmed up performing during a small tour of elementary schools in London, Ont. last month). But the band members look like four thieves who've been stealing the show for years. The act is polished, Berger says, but that doesn't take the sting out of losing "brothers." "Kevin's been with us since the beginning," he says. "These guys are like family. Imagine replacing one of your siblings for a new person."

After news of the defections, Berger and Lynde felt lost, vulnerable. Cadence has performed more than 170 shows, toured the Midwest U.S. and Europe in the last 10 months. Looking forward to a similarly busy year with only a twosome, not a foursome, was abysmal. "What happens if Cadence doesn't continue?" Berger remembers thinking less than six months ago. "What will we do?"

Finding new members seemed like a daunting task. The recruits would have to be a cappella-minded – more into harmonies than melodies – and love kids. Since the vocal band scene in Canada is small, performing at schools is Cadence's bread and butter. A new hire must also have a quirky sense of humour, Berger says. Cadence is known for cracking wise while on stage, telling jokes, and poking fun at each other. Jensen, who started in January, was the right mix of talent and funny bone, Berger says.

Sampson, who was inspired by the band to love a cappella nearly a decade ago, is thrilled to be part of it now. He's moving to Toronto from Prince Edward Island and plans to take listeners by storm. But not all at once. Until last week, he was shadowing Fox, just trying to walk in his predecessor's shoes before stepping beyond them. "You can't really replace someone," Sampson says. "But that's what's refreshing about a new guy. It's new ideas. They think differently, sound different. "It's not like Cadence is losing anything. What I bring will just be adding to it."

Posted by acapnews at June 29, 2007 10:19 PM

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