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September 21, 2007

A cappella groups sounding off at fest

Pioneer Press (IL):

The name Vocal Chaos may evoke cacophony, but the 11-year-old Chicago-area group sings in perfect harmony -- without benefit of music. The guys will host three other like-minded groups at the first annual Midwest AcappellaFest, Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts. In addition to Vocal Chaos, the festival will feature elmoTHUMM, Home Free and Almost Recess. Scott Leonard, of the famed Rockapella group will be the special guest performer.

Jeff Swearingen of Schaumburg, a technology consultant who has been singing contemporary music since high school, has been a member of Vocal Chaos for six years. As the hosting group, Vocal Chaos will welcome everybody and serve as the emcee."Whenever we're onstage we'll be singing," Swearingen said. "We'll probably open with 20 minutes or so of music, and then hand it off to the other groups. As we introduce the other groups, we'll sing our songs.

"Vocal Chaos primarily does a cappella arrangements of well known songs," Swearingen said, jokingly adding, "Sometimes they're not well known." Selections will include "R.O.C.K. In the USA" originally sung by John Mellencamp, Counting Crows' "Accidentally in Love" (featured in "Shrek"), Toto's "Africa" and the old standard "The Nearness of You." Another likely number will be the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back."

Algonquin resident Tim Gallagher auditioned for Vocal Chaos the same day that Swearingen did. Another "techie," Gallagher works as a Web site designer and developer. "Geeks is one of the key words we use to describe most of the guys in our group," he revealed.

Gallagher is a long-time fan of a cappella singing. "I started listening when I was in high school to the Nylons," he said. "My brother introduced them to me because he knew I enjoyed vocal performance. I'd been singing all through school." Gallagher performed in Northern Lights and Concert Choir at Northern Illinois University, and with Chamber Singers and Concert Choir at the College of DuPage. Swearingen performed with the DePaul Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Navu Bans, also at DePaul University. Both men sang with groups in high school.

Vocal Chaos, whose members all hold demanding day jobs, practices every Thursday night without fail, often adding a rehearsal prior to a performance. They have sung at a number of festivals, and they also perform at weddings, parties, schools and corporate events.

Swearingen said he enjoys a cappella singing because it's "raw music." He quickly added, "I'm not bashing instrumental music because I myself play piano and I've played guitar and stringed instruments in the past. But you fully appreciate music for what it is -- the notes, the harmony, the camaraderie amongst the people who are singing it and having all the individual parts come together into one song."

It's an especially creative art form, Swearingen asserted. "You can mimic instruments, you can mimic drums. You can do so much with the human voice." A cappella singing has "become more and more popular over the years," Gallagher noted. "Being part of it is so cool. For me, it's a hobby and a passion."

Midwest Acappellafest - 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23 at Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court. $15 at the door; $13 in advance; $10 students. or More info.

Posted by acapnews at September 21, 2007 10:36 PM

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