March 31, 2004

Los Angeles Times

In a masterstroke of public relations, Mormon leaders in the early 20th century hit upon a way to bring their new version of Christianity — whose founders had been literally at the brink of war with American soldiers decades earlier — into the cultural mainstream. Send the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on tour.

Nearly a century later, the 360-member singing group is a national symbol for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "America's choir" — so dubbed by President Reagan — has recorded two platinum and five gold albums, won Grammy Awards, and performed for 10 American presidents, beginning with William Howard Taft. "The use of music was their entree to say, 'We're OK, don't be scared of us, we're human beings,' " said Jan Shipps, one of the nation's leading scholars on Mormonism. "The choir has become more American than most Americans."

So when the Philharmonic Society of Orange County was looking for the quintessential American choral group to help celebrate its 50th season, executive director Dean Corey said the choice was easy. "I can't think of anything bigger than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," Corey said. For Mormons blessed with a singing voice, performing in the choir is one of God's highest callings. The group is open to church members in good standing, ages 25 to 55. They must live within 100 miles of Salt Lake City, where they rehearse a minimum of five hours a week, and must retire at 60 or after 20 years, whichever comes first.

For the 30 or so openings each year, hundreds of hopefuls go through a rigorous four-stage audition process that includes a capella singing and sight-reading music. Selected singers then must pass a three-month stint in the Temple Square Chorale, a training chorus. The entire process takes nine months. Among the volunteers are lawyers, doctors, computer scientists, contractors, teachers and stay-at-home mothers. Those with jobs use their vacation time to travel with the choir, which averages 160 performances a year. More

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March 30, 2004

New York Times Magazine

We live in a moment when music has become an increasingly digital phenomenon, pitch-corrected and overdubbed deep inside a producer's computer, and then in the blink of an eye fired across the globe. The people in these photographs are holding fast to a slower, more local way of making music: singing songs that are full of not only harmony but also history. Choral music was one of the first musics humans made together, and there are, appropriately, as many different types of choirs as there are languages and dialects. The choirs photographed here are part of a single global tradition, and they share a common instrument -- the human voice -- but the sounds they produce couldn't be more diverse. Tyler Hicks, who has worked as a news photographer for The New York Times in recent years covering the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, took a break from combat zones earlier this year to photograph choirs from the mountains of Bulgaria to the hills of northern Alabama, with stops along the way in both Georgia the state and Georgia the country. He photographed choirs with international followings and others little known outside their towns; choirs that sing folk songs of identity and belonging and others whose only motivation in raising their voices is religious devotion. See photos and hear audio samples here. Cool stuff!

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Anonymous 4 was interviewed by NPR's Linda Wertheimer on Weekend Edition this Saturday. Listen to it here.

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Contra Costa Times

I've always sung, and I always thought I was pretty good at it. But now that I'm grown up, I know better. Meeting people who were truly excellent, I was forced to admit that I got the solo in the sixth-grade Christmas pageant not because I was especially good, but because the teacher knew I was a terrible ham and would never freeze in front of a crowd.

Over the years, I drifted away from music. But a couple of years ago at a street fair, I saw a booth for a local community chorus and read the fateful words, "audition required." Rehearsals for Mendelssohn's oratorio, "Elijah," were under way, and although it was politely pointed out that the group really needed male voices, I predictably failed to take the hint and showed up for rehearsal the next night.

I don't read music well; I've always memorized it. So, my heart stopped briefly when I saw the score. "Elijah" is a great slab of an oratorio in which Mendelssohn entertained himself by flinging sharps and flats left and right to create clever, unexpected chords when he might easily have left well enough alone. His contemporary, Handel, was a straightforward guy in this respect, and everybody thought "The Messiah" was brilliant. I had my work cut out for me. Many rehearsals later, suited up and stuffed to the gills with musical notations, I strode onstage. Singing in one of these events is like riding a really big roller coaster -- you experience a lurch of panic with the downbeat as the cars glide out of the station. There's no getting off now.

"Hellllllp Lord! Hellllp Lord!" we sing, gathering speed. The chorus beats its collective breast, laboring up the first of many musical inclines. Elijah is advised to beat it out of town. Hark! He returns! He baits Ahab and the priests of Baal; we're rollin' now! Fire descends from heaven! Ahhhhhhhhh! The chorus is in free fall! The timpanist goes nuts. Priests lose, drought over. And it's only intermission. Jezebel is still on the prowl, exile and despondency loom, additional disasters and a fiery chariot ride into heaven remain. Amen! Amennn!!! Amennnnnnnn!!!! And the roller coaster that is "Elijah" -- mayhem, flaming chariots, floods and blessings -- swoops into the station. The audience bursts into applause, and the chorus files modestly into the wings.

In defense of community choruses everywhere, we're pretty good, but we're no Mormon Tabernacle Choir. We're volunteers, often affiliated with a local community college or some other community group that helps foot the bills. More

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Daily Pennsylvanian

It's no doubt that many Penn students enjoy the music of popular artists like Bob Marley, Janet Jackson and Aaliyah. But for the 19 members of The Inspiration -- Penn's first and only a cappella group that celebrates music written or performed by artists of African descent -- these artists generate a unifying passion for music that has given the group 15 years of acclamation on Penn's campus. Founded in 1989 with 13 members and now celebrating its 15th anniversary, The Inspiration prides itself on the fact that not only are its members focused on entertainment and performance, but they are also focused on educating and serving the Penn community. More

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March 26, 2004

The Journal News

Imagine all 43 U.S. presidents together on one stage. Now picture them singing in four-part harmony. Try not to laugh — until you've seen their look-alikes in Saturday night's "Salute to the American Presidents," performed by the barbershop choral group known as the Westchester Chordsmen.

What sort of men sing barbershop? In the case of the Chordsmen, it's doctors, auto mechanics, lawyers, plumbers, music teachers, chefs and everything in between. "One of the images that exists of barbershop is that it's old guys hanging around," says marketing consultant Stephen Bartell of Larchmont (who plays Jimmy Carter), "but we have all different shapes and sizes and ages."

It's that mix that made the presidential salute such fun to cast — and something of a challenge to produce. "Barbershop is such a non-political activity," says chorus member and director John Fotia of Rye Brook, who wrote much of this weekend's show. "We wanted to take a theme that could be political, and not be political with it. Instead, we wanted to look at the leaders of our country and say, 'Hasn't it been great?' "

Not that the show is purely inspirational. One of the highlights is a "Who's-on-First"-style exchange between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney ("one of the funniest pieces of political humor I've ever heard, bar none," says Bartell). There are other light moments featuring Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and the Mount Rushmore Quartet in a rendition of "God Bless America." And through it all runs a selection of other songs, ranging from the spiritual "When I Lift Up My Head" to Broadway's "The Impossible Dream."

For Chordsmen president Howard Pobiner, much of the a cappella chorus' success can be attributed to longtime member Steve Delehanty, who created the show's opening number and writes and arranges music for barbershop groups all over the country. "Steve Delehanty is the heart and soul of this chorus," says Pobiner, who lives in Dobbs Ferry. "Everybody looks to him for his style and his musicianship."

And, apparently, for the perfect B-flat he emits — while blowing his nose — during the group's rendition of "I've Been Working on the Railroad.'' It's a talent that Delehanty cultivated during his 40 years with the Chordsmen, which started when he heard a small group of them singing at a club in White Plains. He quickly signed on as a member.

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Boston Globe

President Bush will swoop into Boston for a quick fund-raiser this afternoon that could net his campaign $1 million and also draw several thousand protesters, force the closure of a school, and disrupt traffic near the Park Plaza Hotel. The Boston Fire Department's a cappella group will not be part of the program, however. The mayor's office did not feel it was appropriate for uniformed officers to perform at a political function, spokesman for the mayor Seth Gitell said. The Fire Department was unable to be reached for comment.

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March 25, 2004

Fairfield Living

The Yale Whiffenpoofs, the famous male a cappella singing group, will perform at First Church Congregational on Saturday, April 17 beginning at 6 PM. Founded in 1909, the Whiffenpoofs have grown from their humble beginnings as Monday night crooners at Mory's Temple Bar (a Yale institution in itself, dating back to 1848) to claim a permanent niche in American culture. Cole Porter, Yale Class of 1913, highlights the list of noteworthy Whiffenpoof alumni, which also includes Senator Prescott Bush, father of former President George Bush. Rudy Vallee (Whiffs of 1927) gave "The Whiffenpoof Song" nationwide recognition when he recorded a solo version of the ballad in the 1930s, and later, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald (made an honorary Whiffenpoof in 1979), Bing Crosby, and Elvis Presley followed suit with their own recordings.

In recent years, satisfied clients have included the likes of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Mother Theresa, and the Dalai Lama, in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Rose Bowl, and for events such as the World Series, Saturday Night Live, NBC's Today Show and The West Wing. A cappella arrangements of jazz standards, classic ballads, traditional Yale songs, and recent popular hits continue to delight audiences all over the world and they will surely do so in Fairfield on April 17th.

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Star Tribune

Renitta Jones, former accounting manager for the Twin Cities choral ensemble VocalEssence, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court to three counts of theft by swindle, and in a separate case to obtaining false credit. Under the terms of her plea, Jones will be sentenced April 28 to serve 45 months in prison. She also must pay an undetermined amount of restitution to VocalEssence, a 32-year-old nonprofit organization with an annual budget of $1.4 million.

Jones was fired in February 2003 after the discovery of abuses dating to August 2001 and totaling nearly $150,000, less than 10 percent of which was covered by insurance. Mary Ann Pulk, managing director for VocalEssence since shortly before Jones' embezzlement was revealed, has since put several new financial-management checks and balances into place, including tightening the number of employees allowed to sign checks or use company credit cards, and increasing the number who open mail and make bank deposits.

"Much as we don't want to be in the spotlight over this, we also don't want it to happen to any other organization," Pulk said. "The biggest lesson we learned is that you can't fall back on the excuse that you only have a few staff. That means you have to be all the more diligent in making sure you're protected."

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Wickenburg Sun

The 50s and 60s at their best! That's what The Alley Cats vocal quartet promises for its concert on Sunday, April 4. The Alley Cats, identified as America's premier doo-wop group, have presented their blend of music from California to New Jersey and places in between. Interaction with the audience is a big part of their performances. Spontaneous humor livens the shows that Royce, John, Mando, and Sean present, and members of the audience often join in and sing along with melodies we all know and love.

Formed while the young men were studying music at Fullerton College, The Alley Cats were featured at Disneyland, where a "Blast to the Past" saluted the 1950s. They have been part of concerts offered by performers ranging from Weird Al Yankovic to Chubby Checker! Often called on to perform at trade shows, they have learned to work into their music information about products and services as varied as those of Nestle and Delco. On their list of corporate clients are Charles Schwab and General Motors. They even had a spot on a Richard Simmons workout video.

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March 24, 2004

Ann Arbor News

A little more than 30 years have passed since a new British a cappella vocal ensemble, the Tallis Scholars, helped put Renaissance choral music back on the map for music lovers. Countless concerts and recordings later, the 10-voice Tallis Scholars, led by founder Peter Phillips, are still in the forefront of the field, leading the pack by virtue of musicianship and a very special sound.

"Even 30 years ago, I had a very strong vision of the sound I wanted," said Phillips, who arrives in Ann Arbor Thursday for a concert with the Tallis Scholars at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, under University Musical Society auspices. "The sound," Phillips said, speaking by phone from England, "was conditioned by a group or two around in those days and by works we wanted to do. It had nothing to do with authenticity as such. It was the sound I wanted to hear from this music. "We've applied that sound to a vast repertoire, and the singers have got better at it. The process continues."

Phillips, who leads the group with a precise conducting style that produces gorgeous arcs of flowing sound, has no trouble articulating the qualities he seeks, and that the Ann Arbor audience is sure to detect when the group performs its upcoming program of music by Palestrina, Josquin des Pres, John Sheppard and Robert Fayrfax.

"It's bright, agile and endlessly flexible," he said of the sound the group aspires to. "It's very well-tuned and blended and soft and seductive, so it draws people in. It's not abrasive, not harsh, but it's not weak either. There's real tension in it. It's a sort of flat paradox, but it's immensely strong and tough and soft and caressing. And over the years, it's gotten more forthright, so it's hard to remain indifferent to it when it's in front of you. It demands attention. "People are not there for the words, they're there for the sound of the music," he said in a sort of summation. "Because it's abstract music, a lot of it, anyway."

That was precisely what worried the clergy in 1556 when Palestrina wrote his "Missa Papeae Marcelli," which constitutes the first half of the Tallis Scholars' Thursday program. Cardinals at the Council of Trent decreed a simplification of church music, to make the words more comprehensible. But with this piece, Palestrina demonstrated that it was possible to make polyphonic music and make it down to Earth at the same time. "By producing such a great piece of music," Phillips said, "he discouraged the cardinals at the Council of Trent from saying that part music should not be sung in church anymore. It's a more syllabic style than what had gone before, and it's of great historical importance. But our interest in it is that it is a fantastic work."

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Washington Post

It's a rare treat to hear all of J.S. Bach's motets in one concert. On Sunday, the Washington Bach Consort feted the composer on his 319th birthday with a dazzling performance of all six of his motets at National Presbyterian Church. Under music director J. Reilly Lewis, the 25 members of the Bach Consort chorus sang with fluid energy and perfect intonation and diction.

The motet -- a sacred choral composition in contrapuntal style -- flourished during the Middle Ages and was sung a cappella through the Renaissance period. During Bach's cantorship in Leipzig, Germany, beginning in 1723, motets often began morning and vespers services, usually accompanied by organ or continuo. Bach seldom composed motets for these services; he wrote five of the six motets on Sunday's program for the funeral services of prominent Leipzig citizens.

To accommodate the double chorus structure of the motets, the Consort chorus split in half. The effect was a playful dialogue between the two resulting choruses as they called and echoed in a florid style, like birds in neighboring trees, or joined together in a simple four-part chorale or complicated fugue. Through it all, Lewis pulled phrases from the group like golden threads through a tapestry.

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Tri-Valley Herald

Members of the Oakland Youth Chorus are rooting for "American Idol" finalist La Toya London, who once sang with the vocal group. R&B singer Goapele also was involved with OYC, current chorus students say. "It makes you think that you have a chance to go further with singing," said Danielle Turner, an 11th-grader. The students also said they are inspired to see London and Goapele follow their dreams. "It definitely shows me the OYC gives results," said Stephan Parfait. "It prepares you for a musical career."

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Princeton Packet

Eighth-grade twin brothers have been pulled from an American Boychoir School concert tour of Latvia, Sweden and Denmark because their parents cannot pay the balance of their tuition in full. The boys' mother, Angela Newton of the Somerset section of Franklin, says racism is behind the decision to bar the twins from the trip. "If all kids do something, my kids are punished the worst," Ms. Newton said Monday. "For the life of me I wish I knew what they have against us." The twins, Alex and Ryan Newton, are two of the three black students in the eighth-grade class, Ms. Newton said. The boys have launched an Internet petition drive and so far 76 people have signed.

The point may be moot. The list of students going on the tour was made public and the Newton brothers were not on the list, said Donald B. Edwards, president of the school. "We are deeply distressed that two eighth-grade brothers, who have been boarding students here for four years, have been caught in the middle of a financial dispute for which the boys are not responsible," Mr. Edwards said. He said the refusal of the school to allow the brothers to take part in the concert reflects a "long-standing policy."

But Ms. Newton said the family has consistently paid late and the decision to bar the twins from the tour represents an "arrogance" by the school administration. Mr. Edwards also denied that race played any part in the decision and said in all his discussions with the twins and their parents, race was never mentioned. He noted the student enrollment is 35 percent minorities and the head of school, Bythema Bagley, is black. More

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March 21, 2004

Newark Advocate

Jon Hendricks' voice mimics a saxophone. His fingers dance in the air as he plays the imaginary instrument. He snaps his fingers and shuffles his feet. Then he breaks into a wide grin, knowing that he has captured his audience's attention for the next semester. Hendricks, a pioneering jazz lyricist and vocalist with five Grammys, is teaching jazz history and vocal jazz in his adopted hometown at the University of Toledo.

The 82-year-old full-time professor directs his own vocalese group. He is widely regarded as the father of vocalese -- setting lyrics to jazz instrumental songs. Born in Newark in 1921, he found fame with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in the 1950s and '60s as it became one of the most celebrated jazz vocal groups ever. And he still writes lyrics to instrumentals.

Hendricks left his Manhattan apartment almost four years ago to move to Toledo at the urging of a former president at the university. He and his wife, Judith, live within walking distance of campus. There are books in their living room on Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Miles Davis -- just some of the greats Hendricks has performed with. A picture of him in the White House with President Clinton sits on the grand piano with other family photos.

On a wall next to the kitchen, notes are posted with reminders of his upcoming concerts and phone numbers, including one for crooner Tony Bennett who sang at a Lincoln Center tribute on Hendricks' 75th birthday. Bennett has long admired Hendricks' gift. "He was, and still is, always trying to look ahead musically," Bennett said. "Jon's creative artistry helps propel jazz and jazz musicians forward." Others claim to have experimented with vocalese before Hendricks, but he is credited for pioneering and popularizing the spirited singing style. More

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New York Times

The most talked-about new album of New York rock isn't a downer, it just sounds that way. TV on the Radio's "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes," released two weeks ago on the Touch and Go label, has arrived with the same up-from-the-clubs excitement that greeted the debut albums by the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with raves in the music press and celebrity sightings at gigs. And like those bands, TV on the Radio, a three-piece group from Brooklyn, has produced a first album that is a stunning statement of purpose.

Mr. Adebimpe, a slightly lumpy 29-year-old with permanently watery eyes and thick glasses, seems incapable of striking a rock star pose. Instead, he moans, cries and mumbles through songs about doomed relationships and mysterious agonies, often drawing out the words over several beats, as if to relish the power of each vowel. And his harmonizing, with Kyp Malone — who also plays guitar — is obsessive and chilling. In "Ambulance," which uses layers of overdubbed voices to create the illusion of a full a cappella ensemble, the two men murmur a bass line straight out of doo-wop while, in the lead parts, they slide up to whistlelike falsettos. The lyrics are like something out of J. G. Ballard: "I will be your accident if you will be my ambulance," they sing. "I will be your screech and crash if you will be my crutch and cast." More

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Los Angeles Times

In New York, the nation's largest demonstration drew thousands onto Madison Avenue, according to police. Organizers said the noisy crowd, which packed 40 blocks as it moved through midtown, was close to 100,000; police put the estimate at 30,000. "I came here from Summit, N.J., to speak out against this insane, stupid war," said family therapist Ken Dolan-Delvecchio, holding a sign reading "Bush Is A War Criminal." American policies in the Middle East, he said, "are bringing the whole world closer to war. The administration has lied to us about nearly everything." Delvecchio's comments were momentarily drowned out by "The Raging Grannies," eight women who chanted rap lyrics a cappella as they stood on a makeshift platform facing the noisy crowd. "Look at what they just did in Spain," they chanted, "what we need is a leader with a brain." More

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Jerusalem Post

Nic Doodson says one of the reasons he started the a-cappella group, The Magnets, was to meet girls. The good-looking American-British singer no longer has to worry about finding dates. Seventy-five percent of his and his five other band-mates' audience is female. Since their launch in 1997, the sextet has increasingly become hot property. And the guys - Doodson, Michael Welton, Colin Brown, James Fortune, Stephen Trowell and Andy Frost - are now in town to burn up our stages. They are just one of the acts at this year's fifth International Spring Festival in Rishon Lezion.

Welton worked as a journalist covering the Middle East before joining the band, and has been playing down any apprehensions his band-mates might have about touring through our country. "I've been to several countries in the region and never felt in any danger. I traveled around Yemen, kidnap center of the Mideast, so I'm sure [our visit in Israel] will be fine," he said. "It doesn't seem sensible [not to come because of the volatile situation] and stop us making fans in Israel." More

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March 18, 2004

Things continue to go very well for Naturally Seven as they head off today to Europe for a 16 date tour of Germany and Austria in 1,000 to 2,000 seat venues. See dates here on their spiffy German web site. This summer they are set to tour Japan for the first time. Heads up to New York fans. They are doing a rare New York date at the Crash Mansion on April 6.

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Two Broadway production companies have formed a new joint venture to meld their creative and financial resources.The Araca Group, LLC and East of Doheny, Ltd.'s venture provides a mutual first-look arrangement to co-produce and co-finance prospective theatrical productions over the next two years. Additionally the companies have joined together in creating a fund to support development of new works aimed at commercial production. Currently in development are two new musicals, the first based on the book "My Man Godfrey" by Eric Hatch. The second is based on the life of Ella Sheppard Moore -- a child bought out of slavery by her former slave father -- and the Jubilee Singers, a group of students who toured in the 1870s to raise money for Nashville's Fisk University. Ella Sheppard was an original member of the singing group. More

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March 17, 2004


At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame annual induction on Monday night film director Robert Townsend introduced The Dells, who formed in a Chicago suburb in the 1950s, and had their first hit, "Oh, What a Night," in 1956. In 1990, when they consulted on Townsend's doo-wop film "The Five Heartbeats," the Dells recorded "A Heart is a House for Love," which cracked the top 20 to give the group at least one single on the pop charts in every decade since the 1950s -- a feat matched only by the Isley Brothers. "There's a God that cared a lot about us that made us care a lot about each other," bass singer Charles Barksdale said about the group's longevity. "We do love each other."

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Actor Danny Aiello is recording his first music CD at age 70, even though he admits his name is not synonymous with singing. Titled "I Just Wanted To Hear The Words," the disc should be out in April, he said. "I've always loved to sing," Aiello told The Record of Bergen County. "I've been singing since I was a kid." The CD includes his rendition of such standards as "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "All of Me," and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter."

Singing a cappella was a childhood passion, especially outside one of his favorite candy stores in New York City, said Aiello, whose recent screen credits include "Do the Right Thing," "Moonstruck" and "Mail Order Bride." "My problem is I have been blatantly shy all my life. I was sitting in Arthur Godfrey's office in Manhattan one day when I was about 13, and by the time my name was called I was gone. I got nervous. I couldn't handle it."

Aiello has sung in a few of his films and on a video that he made in answer to the controversial 1980s music video "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna, about an unwed mother who defies her father by keeping her baby. Aiello appeared with Madonna in her video, and then made his own, "Papa Wants the Best for You," which portrayed the point of view of the father. He's sung in other films, but in voices that fit the character.

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March 16, 2004

Orlando Sentinel

It's showtime at the Central Florida Fair. So what if it's 5 p.m. on a Wednesday and the rows of white plastic chairs in front of the fair's main stage are mostly empty? Toxic Audio is hard at work, even while a pair of little girls in blond ponytails concentrate on their funnel cake and a teenage couple in the front row get up and leave in the middle of the second song. That doesn't stop the five Toxins, who are bent on making another audience their own.

"It's the fair, and you can buy everything on a stick," says Jeremy James, the group's frontman and baritone, who looks more like a matinee idol -- or the late John F. Kennedy Jr. -- than he does an entertainer who can turn a Mary Poppins song into rap. "You can buy a Twinkie on a stick," says Michelle Mailhot-Valines, Toxic's scat-singing soprano. "So we're offering Toxic Audio on a stick," says René Ruiz, the deadpan bass, who holds up a Toxic CD attached to a Pop- sicle stick. "Now you can listen and walk at the same time."

The group had to look beyond its own inner circle early last year when, on the eve of a projected New York showcase, Jeremy James was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer that turned up in his abdomen. While he went through 10 rounds of chemotherapy and Shalisa coped with their three children (now 9, 5 and 4), Toxic went on performing with other singers standing in for him. Clearly, the group members felt the blow. But it's typical of their relentless good spirits not to dwell on it. Those who saw the group's regular gigs at Disney's Pleasure Island Jazz Club or on any number of other stages might never have known one of the original group was missing.

"My success story gives hope to anybody going through it," Jeremy James says now. "I was on a million prayer lists at a million churches. To be a source of hope is the ultimate give-back." Now he says he feels great. Onstage and off, he looks as if he means it. The ultimate test was 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road,' he says of the Beatles cover, in which he covers what seems like a couple of miles onstage. "I knew when I could do that again, I was good." James' recovery gave the Toxins their chance to go for New York this year the way they intended to in 2003.

The January showcase gave them the kind of exposure they craved. They followed the Duchess of York as guests on one radio program, and sang the weather report on TV. Invited to sing at a glitzy party, they wound up making a big impression. "Everybody was saying, 'I never heard this before,' " Sperrazza says. "It blew my mind." Now the Toxins are getting ready for their move. But chances are, if only for a visit, Toxic Audio will be back. After all, Ruiz says, Toxic Audio has learned one thing from all its time on the road. "We've come to see the world," he says, "as a much smaller place." More

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Seattle Post Intelligencer

Vocalist Bobby McFerrin and tap dancer Savion Glover had never met before Saturday, but you would never have known it from the performance they gave together that night at the Paramount Theatre, a jam-packed benefit for Seattle Theatre Group. For the first 15 minutes, the two artists, in casual outfits of pants and open-necked shirts with tails hanging out, faced each other on a raised dance platform and gave a breathtaking performance so closely and intuitively in sync with each other that it was almost impossible to tell who was leading at any one moment. Thanks to the influx of patrons still being seated, they started almost 15 minutes late, at first alternating and echoing each other with variations, then together, with McFerrin occasionally tapping his chest as added percussion. Rhythms faster and more furious segued to slower, easier sections, moods changing all the time along with styles from scat to jazz.

McFerrin kept to a husky, quite soft vocal sound as he ranged from soprano pitches to bass ones, usually at lightning speed, singing without words. Glover's feet in hefty shoes seemed to have a life of their own, as even when he appeared to have stopped, they would be carrying on a quiet rhythm. The rest of the time he achieved extraordinary rhythmic patterns, often sustained over a long period and gathering intensity as he continued. Once in the middle and then at the close of that first quarter-hour, the two embraced with huge grins. Each gave solos as well, Glover with a backup band, and each added even more spectacular twists to his performance. McFerrin at one moment put his microphone to his neck and vocalized in octaves, while Glover spent a minute en pointe.

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March 13, 2004

Las Vegas Review-Journal

John Stuart isn't actually snapping the publicity photo, but he's orchestrating it. "We need you to put your arm down because you're covering your brother's face," he instructs one of the six singers perched under a tree at his Southern Las Vegas ranch on a sunny Saturday morning. "Don't kill yourself because there's no time for that," he jokes of one of the singer's poses. "There, that's it, that's what I want," he says as the photographer of record snaps the shutter. Stuart has done well for himself by knowing what he wants -- and what people will pay to see -- in Las Vegas showrooms. In 1983 he launched "Legends in Concert," which is still a fixture at the Imperial Palace and in three other resort cities. Now, a year and a month after he resigned from the company that became an entertainment staple, Stuart has decided his future -- or a least a good share of it -- lies in the fate of six fellow Mormons, an a cappella group known as the Knudsen Brothers.

"I call these guys the invasion of `Ovation,' " Stuart says of his new stars for the variety show at the Desert Passage mall. Stuart opened the show with co-producer David Saxe last year, then bought out Saxe's share in January. The Knudsens open the variety show with a 25-minute segment of '50s oldies, then return to close it with a 13-minute encore, squeezing five other acts into the remaining hour between. But headlining "Ovation" is just the beginning, Stuart says, of "a very aggressive plan to move up from here" in his management of the brothers. "I'm basically pulling out all the stops from the years I've been here" to get them "their own show in their own room," he says.

The Knudsens (the "K" is pronounced) certainly have built a foundation to poise for the invasion. They come to Las Vegas with six years of success as Royal Caribbean cruise line entertainers and 10 years on the corporate entertainment circuit. They really are brothers: "We didn't just pick the name because we thought it sounded cool," they tell audiences. And the nomadic family has performed in various combinations since 1975. If you wonder how a family could produce six brothers who all could sing, the answer is there are four other siblings who do not. Comparisons to the Osmonds were inevitable, given that an early version of the family act performed on the "Donny and Marie" TV show in 1978. But the group didn't really take off until it looked beyond the Osmond mold to contemporary pop a cappella groups such as The Nylons and Rockapella.

The brothers are all in their 30s or 40s, within a nine-year age span. They are, in descending order of age: Barry, Kevin, Lynn, Jak, Owen and Curtis. The four oldest first started singing church hymns, "which are usually arranged in four-part harmonies already," Jak notes, with their part-time musician father "putting his own custom touch on it."

The current six did not actually perform all together until 1994. That's when Owen returned to the fold after pursuing other ventures, "and there was nothing for me to sing. We were all too lazy to rearrange the songs," Jak explains. Owen was thus motivated to play around with the idea of being a human beatbox, or "vocal percussionist" as he is formally known. The other brothers quickly realized they were on to something that could fall between past experiments with a drum machine and a traditional band. "The drum machine ran the performance," Jak explains. "When it screws up, it's not real fun. And we liked working with a band, but it got in the way of the harmonies." So Owen went to train with another vocal percussionist, and came back a master. During "Ovation," he demonstrates his abilities to supply not only the basic beat, but the high-hat and snare drum as well. Now, Jak's vocal bassline on top of Owen's drumbeats are so convincing that the Knudsens are introduced with a very "Legends"-like disclaimer, telling the crowd no lip-syncing or backing tracks are used. More

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March 12, 2004

Daily Illini

On Thursday night, eight University students gathered in a small classroom of the Music Building to rehearse yet again. Their performance is only two days away, and if the group is nervous, they're not showing it. Together, these men form the University a cappella group, The Other Guys. The group, however, is not an average choir — and hasn't been since 1969. Each generation has combined perfectly-harmonized voices and animated humor to entertain their audiences. This Saturday, the group will celebrate their 35th reunion by inviting former members of 1969 to1976 generations to join them onstage.

Acting as ambassadors of the University, The Other Guys tour the nation every year. They perform at various high schools, fund-raisers and University events. Until recently, they were officially sponsored by the Alumni Association. In fact, Prokopow first became familiar with the group after they visited his high school in Northwood, Ill. The performance left a lasting impression. "I pretty much came here for The Other Guys," Prokopow said. Members of the group estimate that they will spend anywhere from forty to sixty hours this week practicing for the upcoming show. On Saturday, rehearsal will begin at 10 a.m. and will last until the performance begins. "This week, my academics are on the backburner," Jones said. More

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March 11, 2004

Seattle Times

Bobby is an orchestra conductor, and a singer with his own unique style of scatting, crooning and bopping through any kind of tune — from the pop ditty "Don't Worry, Be Happy," to the complete score of "The Wizard of Oz," to a composition by Vivaldi.

Savion is a dynamic tap-dance master for the hip-hop age, who has made tap-dance hip again while hoofing his way through hit Broadway shows, slick Nike ads on TV, and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics opening ceremony. So is a double-bill evening of Bobby and Savion, two celebrated contemporary entertainers, bound to be an artistic marriage made in heaven? Or is it a blind date that could result in either a love connection or a culture clash?

Those who attend the Bobby McFerrin-Savion Glover concert Saturday night at the Paramount Theatre will be the first people in the country to find out. The performance, in part a benefit for the nonprofit Seattle Theatre Group (which runs the Moore and Paramount theaters) will mark the first time these two idiosyncratic showmen have shared a stage. (It won't be the last time: They've signed on to do several other joint dates around the country this year.)

When contacted in Philadelphia, where he resides with his wife and kids, McFerrin made it sound like he and Glover are going to be winging it in Seattle — and relying on spontaneous double-combustion to carry them through. "We have never met and probably will not meet until we're in Seattle together," said McFerrin by telephone, in his sonorous baritone speaking voice. "But I enjoy that. I imagine we're going to do a lot of improvisation in the show.

"We'll probably each have a solo spot and also do some things together. I'm just bringing myself, no musicians."

While that sounds like a risky plan for most entertainers, McFerrin has long been a dedicated vocal improviser who specializes in impromptu variations on wordless tunes — and flights of sonic fancy inspired by familiar songs and classical airs.

McFerrin swears he won't even have had a chat with Glover before they meet for a single rehearsal for the Paramount gig. "My agent Linda Goldstein fixed this up. We've been working together 24 years; she knows the kind of people I like to perform with," explains the singer, who has done concerts with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and comedian Robin Williams.

But McFerrin does acknowledge that he's seen Glover in action. Once. "I was ecstatic about (the performance)," McFerrin recalls. "I mean, Savion's energy and imagination are fabulous. He was really something to see, though that was so long ago."

In the intervening years, Glover has toured the country with "Bring in 'Da Noise ... ," co-written a book for young people ("Savion!: My Life in Tap"), and started a new tap-dance company called TiDii (billed as special guests at Saturday's Paramount Theatre event). Meanwhile, McFerrin took a lengthy detour from the pop mainstream to become a symphony conductor — a satisfying, if unexpected, turn of events for this son of opera singer Robert McFerrin Sr. (the first African-American male soloist to appear at the Metropolitan Opera).

"Initially, conducting was my 40th birthday to myself," says the junior McFerrin, who celebrates his 54th birthday this month. "The San Francisco Symphony was gracious enough to extend an invitation to me, then word got out and the phone started to ring. The next thing I knew I was studying scores and learning what to do and say on the podium."

McFerrin moved with his wife, Deb, and their three children from California to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where for six years he served as associate conductor of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He launched a new touring career that continues to bring him to symphony halls around the world to conduct the classics and perform his extended and playful a cappella vocal improvs.

While admitting he hasn't listened much to hip-hop or other recent pop music that's inspired 31-year-old Glover's generation, McFerrin does have experience meshing vocalizing with dancing. "I did a lot of stuff with (California dancer-choreographer) Tandy Beal, and some things with (drummer-dancer) Keith Terry and the Repertory Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City," he explains. "I actually learned to sing in part by watching dancers move. In fact, when I first started singing I used to just sit. Later I learned to get up and move around the stage and let my body help me sing." Isn't he just a tad nervous, though, about going into this first date with Glover with "no plan, no agenda, nothing"? "Not really," McFerrin replies evenly, without a hint of trepidation. "It's just all about making music."

I'd love to see this show! Please post if you catch it. Happy birthday Bobby! 54 today. Editor

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Seattle Times

Happy birthday, Count Basie. The bandleader and jazz legend William "Count" Basie would have been 100 this year. More than 50 years since his music peaked in popularity, young people are still singing and playing numbers made legendary by his orchestra: "One O'Clock Jump," "Li'l Darlin,' "Shiny Stockings," "April in Paris" and many others.

Part of that is thanks to musicians like Jon Hendricks of the jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. As lyricist with the group, Hendricks penned lyrics to jazz instrumentals by Basie and Duke Ellington, among others. And though his trio is no longer recording, for the past four decades Hendricks has become one of the nation's best-loved jazz artists and educators. The Manhattan Transfer's 1985 Grammy Award-winning album "Vocalese" contained 11 songs with Hendricks lyrics. Hendricks is coming to the Northwest this week to perform as part of the 29th annual Lynnwood Jazz Festival.

It's truly legend meets legend when Hendricks, who has influenced such artists as Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin and the Manhattan Transfer, performs the music of Count Basie, a swing-era giant with more than 40 years as bandleader, pianist and composer. "He left a permanent imprint on the art form," festival adviser Kirk Marcy said of Basie. Marcy, director of choral activities at Edmonds Community College, has spent months rehearsing Soundsation as a "voice-stra," a vocal version of the Count Basie Orchestra. Choir members sing trumpet, saxophone and trombone parts in special arrangements. More

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Manila Times

Have you ever danced to the music of a band that isn’t accompanied by any musical instrument? Well, the music of Akafellas made the guests of Dish feel like dancing, though they were doing the thing they’re famous for which is to sing a cappella. Akafellas has perhaps pioneered “pop-capella” in the Philippines. They have combined jazz, R&B, hip-hop, the standards, bubble gum pop, dance, alternative and techno music using nothing but their voices. Their camaraderie is also easygoing. “We’re all barkada. We’ve known each other. Nobody was hired and no one auditioned. We knew what each one of us is capable of doing,” explained Ikey.

DJ Mike is the group’s resident Bobby McFerrin. He can imitate the sound of any type of drum and he could do this throughout a song and throughout a show. He also does guitars, trumpet, strings and even a vinyl record being scratched. For his kind of talent, there’s no need to allocate a budget for these instruments. Nevertheless, DJ’s fellow members are training to “sing” like DJ, just in case he isn’t available for a gig.

In an industry where performers make a name for themselves by imitating another name, Akafellas is unique and original. It’s perhaps the reason why they’re in demand. They’ve already done a track for the soundtrack of the Jolina Magdangal movie Annie B. Inevitably, a record company came calling and it was none other than Star Records that approached them to record an album. Perhaps the crowds also find it a novelty to watch a group of UAP boys sing mainstream hits like “Bongga Ka Day.” Ikey sheepishly admitted the song was never in their repertoire in the past “We concentrated on pop, Broadway and religious songs, but we had fun recording the songs we did for the CD,” he said. More

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March 9, 2004

Sunday Hearld (UK)

The lights come up, and Brian Wilson is on stage, looking for all the world like a grandfather just back after Sunday lunch, in comfortable sweater and a red scarf, surrounded by the kids. Let’s do something a cappella, he says. And then the voices rise in unison, a rich, swaying ballad coalescing from wordless vocalisations. It feels like a revival meeting for the dispossessed; those who have been out in the cold waiting for Smile, the Beach Boys’ lysergic Rosetta Stone in which Brian Wilson attempted to translate his LSD-inspired spiritual beliefs into sound. More

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March 6, 2004

Orlando Sentinel

New York is about to learn what Orlando has known for years -- the joys of going toxic. Toxic Audio, Orlando's popular a cappella quintet, is getting set to make its name in the Big Apple beginning in April with an open-ended off-Broadway run. The group -- Jeremy and Shalisa James, Rene Ruiz, Paul Sperrazza and Michelle Valines -- will begin performances of a show they're calling Loudmouth! at the 287-seat John Houseman Theater April 7. The official opening will be April 18. With the five Toxins moving to New York, a farewell-to-Orlando performance is scheduled for March 19 at the Margeson Theater in the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park.

The upcoming New York gig came about after Toxic performed a two-week showcase engagement there in January. The show drew interest from various producers, including respected theater producer Eric Krebs, who owns the John Houseman Theater. "He had heard of us and was real excited," Ruiz says. "And he wanted us sooner rather than later."

The Toxins' plan, he says, is to clone themselves in the same way that shows such as Stomp and Blue Man Group have done -- to create other companies of Toxins that can tour or do extended runs in other cities. Already the group has eight or nine fill-in singers in Orlando, who have stepped in to perform when one or another of the core group could not.

Toxic Audio first performed publicly six years ago at the Orlando Fringe Festival. Recognized for its singular brand of a capella pop, jazz and comic sound effects, the group went on to win the national Harmony Sweepstakes in 2000 and was named "best pop group in America" by Ed McMahon's Next Big Star. Now Toxic Audio doesn't have to worry about its upcoming opening: The Toxins have been getting ready for years. "We've had six years to tweak it and hone it," Ruiz says.

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The Hasidic A Cappella Moscow Men's Choir will bring with them secrets of the former Soviet Union when it performs at Congregation Keneseth Israel 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. After the fall of Soviet Russia, the vaults of the KGB were opened. Upon searching the archives, choir members discovered the music of the great synagogues of Russia, dating back to the 1800's. Before the discovery, the music hadn't been heard in Russia since the fall of Moscow in 1918, says Cantor Ellen Sussman of Congregation Keneseth Israel.

"Theirs is one of the most remarkable stories I ever heard," says Sussman. In addition these remarkable finds, the choir group will present a varied program with some pieces written in Yiddish, she explains. "It's a very eclectic program. It is uplifting, inspiring and heartfelt," says the cantor. Traveling to the United States for a one-month tour, the 21 member group, is hoping to raise money so they can continue making music in their native Moscow and throughout Europe.

Established in 1990 with assistant and support of JOINT, an American charitable Jewish organization, and the chief Rabbi of Russia, A. Shaevich, the choir's goal is to perform and popularize Jewish vocal music including folk songs, liturgical repertoire, and modern Jewish and Israeli vocal and choral compositions. Led by Alexander Tsaliuk, artistic leader and conductor, the group also works to preserve the music of their native Russia. Members include graduates of the Tchaikovsky Moscow State conservatory and other musical institutes, as well as professional musicians.

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March 5, 2004

Two original members of Martha & the Vandellas, the hit 1960s singing group, lost a federal lawsuit Wednesday against a company and law firm that helped them win royalty payments from Motown records. "The court finds that the contract is not ambiguous," U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland said in a 26-page decision in a suit filed by Rosalind Ashford Holmes and Annette Beard Sterling of Detroit.

Cleland said the singers signed a contract with Artists Rights Enforcement Corp. (AREC) and its president, Charles Rubin, in the mid-1980s to make Motown records start paying royalties. The women, who sang such hits as "Heat Wave" and "Dancing in the Street," said they had never received royalties from Motown.

Under the contract, the singers agreed that AREC would keep half of any royalties it recovered, Cleland said. He said AREC hired attorney Ira Greenberg and the now-defunct Summit Rovins and Feldesman law firm to sue Motown in the 1980s and 1990s. It has received nearly $400,000 in royalties and given half to the singers. Martha Reeves was not a party to the suit.

The singers said the contract was misleading and wanted Cleland to order the defendants to repay royalties collected since the lawsuit was filed in 2003 and have all future royalties paid directly to them or their heirs. The singers' lawyer, Gregory J. Reed of Detroit, said the singers may appeal. He said Cleland's decision didn't address that the contract was an at-will agreement and that Rubin and Greenberg admitted in depositions that it had been terminated.

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March 4, 2004

Stanford Daily

As the grand prize winner of the national “MTV and mtvU Free Ride Contest,” sophomore Jeff Orlowski received a $50,000 college scholarship and a hybrid Toyota Prius. The competition, held by MTV: Music Television and college television network mtvU, celebrated higher education and the pursuit for a cleaner environment by awarding the means to make a difference and an environmentally friendly way to get around, according to the press release.

“It was a really cool prize,” Orlowski said. “Because of the scholarship money and the car, I thought it would be worth my time to apply.” The 16- to 25-year-old applicants completed two essay questions about the environment and how music has impacted their lives. The essays were judged by MTV, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the rapper Nas to choose the grand prize, first place and second place winners.

In his essay, Orlowski discussed his experience with Talisman, the a capella group he manages. Orlowski said the cultural significance of the music has given him a different more global perspective and has shaped his views of the world. Orlowski’s involvement with music started with playing the piano for ten years and developed when he began singing in Talsiman last year. “Talisman has played a huge role in my Stanford life and my life in general, connecting me to a huge world of culture and diversity of music, which is incredibly valuable to me,” he said. “They’re an incredible group of people from all over the world, and just sharing music with them has been one of best things at Stanford for me.” More

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Nkosinathi Shabalala, the son of Ladysmith Black Mambazo leader Joseph Shabalala, was acquitted of murdering his stepmother in the Durban High Court today. The co-accused in the murder, Mboneni Mdunge, has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Delivering judgment on Wednesday, Durban high court judge Brian Galgut said Mdunge had not been truthful and had given conflicting evidence.

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Smoky Mountain News

If you want to lower your blood pressure, the high health priests say, simply watch an aquarium. All those beautiful fish, swimming around with such languid lack of purpose, will leave you feeling calm and at peace with the world. You can feel your fists unclenching, and before long, the little dents your fingernails make in your palms will be but a distant memory. Ah, sweet bliss! Ladysmith Black Mambazo has the same effect on me. Their full-throated a capella chorus never fails to soothe; there is something relaxing, and joyful, in that sound. The songs are a sweet caress in a rough and tumble world, and every last one sounds like a lullaby. Ladysmith Black Mambazo could sing a song about my wife leaving me, my car breaking down, and my dog getting hit by a train, and I'm sure I'd find it pleasing -particularly if they were considerate enough to sing it in Zulu.

And so it goes on Raise Your Spirit Higher, the latest release from the South African stalwarts. There's a song about racism on there, a song about seatbelts (!), and a wedding celebration, but without the benefit of liner notes, you'd be hard-pressed to tell which is which. (I know, I know: when the Zulu craze hit, you were busy boning up on your Xhosa. Me too.) For us stateside mother-tongue music fans, the Ladysmith lyrics are lost among the intricate clicks, whoops, and inkululekos of the backing choir. No matter: above it all soars Joseph Shabalala's beautiful, breathy tenor, surely one of the most recognizable voices out of Africa.

Here's a tip for you audiophiles: next time you go to the speaker store, leave behind your Stones, your Santana, your Flatt & Scruggs. Instead, slip in a disc of an a capella band with a great bass singer. The Persuasions' Jimmy Hayes gives a fine test of the low end, and Ladysmith boasts up to seven members singing bass at once. Basso profundo indeed. More

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March 3, 2004

Daily Pennsylvanian

Most people dream of touring the U.S. and performing at venues with hundreds of fans screaming their name. Yet for Penn Masala, this is their reality. Blazing the trail for the Indian-American community, Penn Masala connects mainstream American music with Indian undertones and influences. Comprised of 10 male Penn students, the group has taken both Penn's campus and the international scene by storm. Compared to other a cappella groups, Penn Masala is relatively young -- it was founded in 1996 -- and distinguishes itself as the only all-Hindi group on campus.

Yet the group has managed to gain as much, if not more, recognition than many other University a cappella groups that are decades older. In October, the group won the Creating a Voice Award from the national organization Project-IMPACT. The group, which is dedicated to promoting South Asian culture, recognized Penn Masala for its contributions to the young South Asian-American community. Also, the group had the opportunity to perform at the Bollywood Awards ceremony in India -- similar to performing at the Academy Awards -- which was televised all over Asia. In addition, Penn Masala performed for the New York Bollywood Music Awards.

Penn Masala member and Wharton junior Adarsh Shah, whose family lives in Africa, says, "My parents watched the show in Kenya. That was the first time my parents got to see me perform." With the popularity of a cappella groups on campus, Penn Masala undoubtedly stands out. "Singing in a different language automatically sets us apart," says Guha, who adds that simulating Indian percussion is especially difficult". More

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March 2, 2004



Ladysmith Black Mambazo's latest album is entitled "Wenyukela," which in Zulu means "Raise Your Spirit Higher." But for the renowned South African a cappella group, particularly founder Joseph Shabalala, the new record was borne after an extremely tragic event. In May 2002, Shabalala's wife Nellie was shot and killed outside a South African church by a masked gunman. The murder trial is still ongoing and will resume in early March. Two men, including Shabalala's oldest son, have been charged in connection to the crime. Despite the nightmare, Shabalala says that the group's future was never in question.

"After my wife passed away, I was like, 'I don't know where I am, I don't know what I am going to do.' After it happened, we postponed for two weeks," Shabalala says prior to a Toronto show on the band's ongoing North American tour. "I remember when we went to Malaysia, my mind was out but music was still inside of me because this is the music that comforts me. When I would sing I would think, 'Oh, this is not me! This is a gift from something inside me.'" After taking time to reflect and digest what transpired, including performing at the funeral, the group began writing for the new album. Shabalala says the process was relatively easy. "I just took my time because there were many songs," he says. "Even today, I have many songs and if you take a long time to record, it's difficult to choose because you have many songs. So to put the pieces together it took a long time."

The album, which Shabalala describes as "African gospel," contains 13 tracks including "Music Knows No Boundaries" and "Wamlul' Umshado (Beautiful Wedding)." Shabalala says the original idea behind the record was to create several wedding songs to show how important marriage is. As for a personal favorite though, Shabalala enjoys the title song. "When I was writing that one, I was thinking that the world is not for me," he says. "But at the time, I didn't want to stick within the walls, I wanted to talk to the people to change their hearts, to raise their spirits higher than their problems."

Although coming to Shabalala in a dream in the early 1960s and forming years later, it wasn't until Paul Simon's "Graceland" album that people took notice of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Literally dozens of collaborations with everyone from Michael Jackson to the Corrs ensued, as did the chance to provide music to "The Lion King, Part II" and other films. But according to Shabalala, the band still enjoys touring most of all. "According to music, everything is beautiful, everything is very, very nice," he says. "But when you have something beautiful, you need more people to come and clap hands for you and help you to do this and that. People started to say this is just like DNA, this music enters the blood because it comes from the blood. New CD on sale here

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Much of the publicity surrounding the Academy Award-nominated soundtrack to "Cold Mountain" has focused on a pair of songs, "Idumea" and "I'm Going Home." They are performed in the traditional, harmony-rich a cappella folk-hymn style known as sacred harp, or shape-note singing. Though the movie's best-song-nominated "The Scarlet Tide" and "You Will Be My Ain True Love" are not sacred harp songs, their singer, Alison Krauss, will be accompanied by a 40-piece sacred harp choir when she performs them at the Feb. 29 Academy Awards ceremony. She'll segue into Stephen Jenks' 1800 sacred harp song "Liberty."

Whether the DMZ/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax soundtrack to "Cold Mountain" can do for sacred harp what "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" did for bluegrass (T Bone Burnett produced both) remains to be seen. But new interest in the very old form points to "a really interesting intersection between sacred harp and music publishing," according to Tim Eriksen. He assembled the Oscar choir (and is himself a member) and arranged the film's sacred harp tracks in addition to performing on them and several other soundtrack songs. "It's interesting, because sacred harp exists on the border between written and oral tradition," Eriksen says, citing the genre's main published collection, "The Sacred Harp -- A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, Odes, and Anthems," compiled by B.F. White and E.J. King and first published in 1844. (available from "The current book -- the 1991 edition -- contains mostly old songs from the 18th and 19th centuries. So it gets somewhat complicated, with disputes over ownership and publishing rights going back over 100 years." More

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With a hat tip to a sponsor and supporter of a cappella we have here a link to an article called Miking Live Vocals in their latest Shure Notes newsletter