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April 29, 2009

Ben Folds releases University A Cappella

Big news in a cappella is that today is the release date of the new Ben Folds title "University A Cappella". Recently enamored by collegiate groups covers of his songs he recorded a compilation of his favorite groups plus rerecorded a couple of his earlier songs himself singing unaccompanied. Available and in stock at Primarily A Cappella.

Boston Globe

For years, a cappella has kept a low profile, hidden in ivy-encrusted college campus centers, dismissed as derivative mimicry, and relegated to the annals of history as novelty tunes sung by overgrown choirboys. Matters haven't been helped by Folgers commercials, children's game shows, or the endless parade of jokes on shows like "Scrubs," which has not-so-subtly derided the art form as "ear rape."

Yet suddenly, the world of contemporary a cappella has gone pop, graduating from its collegiate comfort zone to the realms of film, television, and yes, even rock 'n' roll. On Tuesday, Ben Folds will unveil "University A Cappella," a collection of his piano-rock songs covered by student a cappella groups (including the Newtones of Newton South High School). May marks the release of the second album from the former Indiana University group Straight No Chaser, who, after being plucked from YouTube obscurity by Atlantic Records last year, proceeded to top the iTunes charts and sell 100,000 records of its Christmas debut. "30 Rock" scribe Kay Cannon is writing a screenplay for a recently optioned feature-length comedy based on GQ editor Mickey Rapkin's book "Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory." Even reality TV is getting in on the action, with NBC recently giving the green light to an a cappella competition show called "The Sing-Off."

Folds, who hand-picked groups for his album through an open contest posted on his My-Space page, was astounded by what turned up. "I never realized that it was such a big scene," Folds says. "It amazes me that college kids are voluntarily getting together and arranging difficult harmonies and counterpoints for my songs."

This flurry of activity is happening at an appropriate time for the genre: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first college a cappella group, the Yale Whiffenpoofs. Music performed without instruments has been around for thousands of years, of course, but a cappella in its current form has spawned an estimated 1,200 college groups nationally and at least 60 in the Boston area, according to figures from the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America. As Rapkin puts it: "It only took a century for a cappella to become an overnight sensation."
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Posted by acapnews at April 29, 2009 12:00 AM

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