September 27, 2004

ABC Perth

Just when you were feeling jaded. Been there ? Done that ? Seen everything ? Fifty voice Perth choir 'Canzonetta' reckon you haven't lived till you've heard them doing "Dark Side of The Moon". Musical Director Rob Kay explains...

Back in the 1970s , the Perth Undergraduate Choral Society had already performed material from 'Hair', and 'Jesus Christ Superstar'with choir and rock band. "We decided to take it a bit further", says Rob. They did Moody Blues material , and next stop was material from Dark Side of The Moon in around 1976. "What really started me on the idea of we could do (sic) Pink Floyd", expands Mr Kay, " was that bit from 'Atom Heart Mother' where in fact they use one of Britain's top choirs, The John Aldous Choir". Rob then figures that you could even have yet more choral presence in Pink Floyd material. " 'Us And Them' (from Dark Side of the Moon) just screams for a choir " reckons Rob.

He also gives another more personal reason for wanting to perform Pink Floyd material "I've got two sons both musical and when they start saying who's Pink Floyd I think there's something needs to be done about it" For Canzonetta's "Dark Side of The Moon" performance you generally have to wait till after intermission. They like to start by paying some respectful homage to other material of the era - Neil Young's 'After The Goldrush', 'Derek & the Dominoes' 'Layla', and Deep Purple's 'Smoke On The Water'. "Hey, you've gotta have a go" says Rob.

With incense in her nostrils, Sarah Knight couldn't help but wondering if Canzonetta use a psychedelic light show when performing such material. "There will be. Of sorts ", replies Rob. He goes on to point out that advancing age means the members tend to need glasses these days to read their scores, so they do need downlights on stage. Even without the oil wheels, the funny cigarettes and the body painting, our presenter is at one with the concept. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" bids Sarah Knight as Rob Kay retires back to bed to rest his conducting arm. Listen

Posted by acapnews at 9:04 PM

Chicago Sun-Times

Pete Seeger was standing in the corner of the big dressing room, playing a tune on his recorder. Fred Hellerman was planted on a chair, listening. "It's an old Japanese air," Seeger said, putting down his recorder. "I've heard you play a whole opera on that thing," Hellerman said.

This was last week at the Toronto Film Festival, where the Weavers were going to sing that night for probably the last time. Three of them -- Seeger, Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert -- go back more than 55 years together, and their songs are like the American national soundtrack. Think of "Goodnight, Irene," "Wimoweh," "This Land Is Your Land," "If I Had a Hammer," "Midnight Special" and "Rock Island Line," and it's their voices you hear in your memory.

Pete Seeger is now 85. Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman are pushing 80. Lee Hays, the fourth member of the original group, died in 1981. Erik Darling and Eric Weissberg have joined the group for reunions since then, and now all five gathered for a conversation before their rehearsal.

The occasion was the premiere that evening of Jim Brown's "Isn't This a Time," a documentary about a Carnegie Hall concert in honor of Harold Leventhal's 50th anniversary as an impresario. It was Leventhal who booked them into Carnegie Hall the first time in the late 1940s, and Leventhal who reunited them a few years later at the height of McCarthyism, when the group's left-wing politics had made them victims of a show business blacklist. In between, they'd had a No. 1 hit with Leadbelly's song "Goodnight, Irene," become the most popular singing group in the country and then faced oblivion because of the blacklist. More

Posted by acapnews at 8:48 PM


The score from the Barry Manilow musical Harmony will be released on CD Sept. 28 under the title "Manilow Scores." Harmony is the new Barry Manilow-Bruce Sussman musical about the Comedian Harmonists singing group, the Weimar-era singing group which splintered as the Nazis rose to power. The show, which was to have reached Broadway during the 2003-04 season, is now back on track. Private industry presentations were given in New York Sept. 9-10.

Posted by acapnews at 8:43 PM


"Vocal pyrotechnics" show Toxic Audio has announced its closing at Off Broadway's John Houseman Theater Center, Oct. 31.Eric Krebs presents the show in association with Castle Talent, Inc., M. Kilburg Reedy and Spark Productions. Performances began April 7 and opened officially April 18. By the end of its run, the show will have played 225 performances.

Posted by acapnews at 8:38 PM

September 21, 2004

NPR - Morning Edition

Chanticleer, an all-male a cappella group best known for its classical repertoire, has released How Sweet the Sound, its second CD of gospel music and African-American spirituals. On both albums, music director Joe Jennings -- the group's only African-American member -- has served as a cultural guide for his singers. Many were in unfamiliar musical territory and unlike classical choral works, much of the material was not written down. Jennings patiently taught each part of every song to the singers from memory.

How Sweet the Sound was recorded in a San Francisco church and Jennings decided to recruit a little help from the house. He invited his pastor, Bishop Yvette Flunder, to sing as a guest soloist with Chanticleer on the album. Bishop Flunder found her back-up singers a demanding bunch. "Extraordinarily perfectionistic," she says. "But sometimes the perfection of gospel is to be imperfect -- is to have freestyle opportunities. And these brothers had some real freestyle opportunities." Chanticleer takes its gospel and Renaissance music on a national concert tour this fall, performing in more than 25 cities through December. Listen

Posted by acapnews at 9:34 PM

Three Tufts a cappella groups - the Amalgamates, the Beelzebubs and the Jackson Jills- sang patriotic songs before and after the recent John Kerry speech. Anna D. Vodscka, the president of the Amalgamates, said her group received a surprise phone call inviting them to perform at the event about a week and a half ago. “Everybody was so excited that we were willing to put in the extra practice time,” Vodscka said.

Posted by acapnews at 9:18 PM

September 20, 2004

Boston Herald

After more than 50 years of song, you'd think the Four Freshmen would have graduated by now. Or at least aged: You don't expect a group formed in 1948 to feature such a fresh-faced quartet. But the Four Freshmen have discovered the key to the Fountain of Youth -- just keep replacing members, but use a lot of quality control. After all, this is a group known as one of the greatest jazz vocal quartets of all time, not Menudo.

"We've had 22 different people in the group," said Bob Flanagan, 78, one of the original Four Freshmen and the group's owner. "And of the groups that have been performing all these years -- I think I can honestly say this is the best Freshmen group that we've had. Your ears will be pleasantly surprised."

Charlie Messier of Shrewsbury, who handles the group's bookings in Massachusetts, has been a fan of the group since the 1950s, when the original quartet played the Crystal Room in Milford. The music has held up well over the years, he said. "Nobody else sounds like the Four Freshmen," Messier said. "They have such a distinct sound." That "sound" is as distinct as the Beach Boys, Flanagan said. Singing groups at the time the Four Freshmen were formed had the lead voice in the middle of the chord. The Freshmen were the first male group to put the lead voice at the top of the chord, leading to distinctive arrangements in "open" harmony, with the four voices spreading over the area that normally would require a five-part group to cover. "The group is probably the most copied singing group of all time," Flanagan said. "And that's all over the world. We don't do vibrato, which most singers do, and we do play our own instruments. These are musicians."

Posted by acapnews at 9:58 PM

September 17, 2004

Columbia Spectator

Out of a sea of neon posters in every first-year dorm at the start of the year, one set of flyers stands out. The sheer quantity of advertisements for a cappella groups of every kind dwarf every other group or club casually flyering for members. "Do you sing?" can become as frequent a question as "What's your major?" The a cappella frenzy is without a doubt at its peak in September, when every group goes on the prowl for new recruits. The college--and especially Ivy League--obsession with a cappella has been well-documented in the last few decades. Columbia has at least nine groups on campus, while Yale, long considered the hub of college a cappella activity, has more than a dozen.

Yet there are a cappella haters. While walking past one particularly loud audition, an undergraduate male scowled at the sound from inside the classroom. "Man, I wish all those groups would disappear," he said. "They're always so ... peppy."

At Columbia, the all-male Kingsmen relish their role as the first a cappella group on campus. Their repertoire features contemporary, school-themed, original, and traditional compositions. They boast Art Garfunkel as an alum, and they recently sang at the 2004 U.S. Open. They are just as well-known, however, for their posters, described as "very, very off color" by Kingsman Jed Bradley, CC '06. The posters feature the group's characteristic humor that induces roughly equal parts of wincing and laughter. Of course, if the humor and singing aren't enough to attract applicants and audiences to the Kingsmen, there is another major perk, proudly touted by Bradley: "We're the only group that has drinking encouraged."

The Bacchantae, an all-female group, emerge as a softer, rose-colored Kingsmen. While the Kingsmen describe themselves as having a frat-like atmosphere, the Bacchantae resist being characterized as a sorority, though they are "very much like friends," according to member Annie Munson, BC '07. Their special draw to audiences? "We're the hot ones," said modest member Darcy Shiber-Knowles, BC '06. The Bacchantae, who sing original arrangements of contemporary music, is "50 percent music, 50 percent friendship," Shiber-Knowles said.

In terms of friendship among the various a cappella groups, the co-ed a cappella groups interact more. During auditions, Notes and Keys, Uptown Vocal, Non Sequitur, and the Clefhangers shared a common waiting room and held auditions together on the fourth floor of Kent. Members of the four co-ed a cappella groups "all know each other very well," said Steve Melzer, CC '05, of Uptown Vocal.

The Kingsmen, however, held their auditions in the far-away land of Broadway. They were admittedly estranged from the rest of the Columbia a cappella community. "Are there other a cappella groups?" Bradley asked.

Because they shared the same time slot and location, many people came to audition for Uptown Vocal, Non Sequitur, the Clefhangers, and Notes and Keys in one fell swoop. Many were attracted to the groups because of an a cappella performance for first-years held in McIntosh. Predominately first-years, they seemed united in nervousness and in intently filling out application forms.

The applicants laughed nervously at questions asking for their measurements and whether or not they're single. The questions veered in an ever-weirder direction with questions like, "What is the importance of silk in the Byzantine Empire?" and, "Will you go out with me?" Uptown Vocal, a jazz group, intended its unconventional application to "get them to relax," member Linh Truong, CC '07, said.

More than relax the waiting room, however, the application seemed to elicit anger. Kristin Merbach, BC '08, puzzled over a question on Uptown Vocal's application asking if she had any special talents. Merbach finally found an answer: "I cook a mean potato." Rachel Shiovitz, BC '08, stared in disgust at the Uptown Vocal application but did not need to distinguish between the posters and applications of different groups. "They're obnoxious," Shiovitz said.

Matt Thier, CC '08, disagreed, saying that the humor took "the edge off applying to four" groups. However, even the good-natured, smiling Thier could not defend the Kingsmen posters: "Their posters were a little ... shocking. Definitely gave you an insight to that group's psychology." He said the posters were one reason why he didn't audition for the Kingsmen.

All a cappella groups interviewed sought to balance the inherent competitiveness of the audition process with being as friendly, relaxing, and humorous as possible--with mixed results. "We have the reputation of being the nicest group for whom to audition ... but we are no less competitive," Shiber-Knowles of Bacchantae said. Being nice was a major part of the audition process, as personality and musicality are both important components for a cappella groups to work together. An applicant can sing perfectly, but won't get accepted if he or she is "a terror to be around," said Kingsman Koushik Das, CC '05. Some applicants shrugged off the pressure, like Tess Peppers, BC '08, who was auditioning for Notes and Keys. She assumed any a cappella acceptances would just be icing on the cake. After all, she said, "Usually, I just sing in the shower."

Posted by acapnews at 9:59 PM

Seattle Times

A government call for Mexicans to show unity by singing the national anthem en masse met a tepid response yesterday in another embarrassment for President Vicente Fox. The anthem campaign, sponsored by a nonprofit media council and endorsed by the government, called on Mexicans — no matter where they were in the world — to stop what they were doing and sing.

The international call to song came at noon in Mexico City. But some got a head start. At least two Mexican embassies in Europe honored the anthem around midday local time, hours before Mexico City. Workers at embassies, offices, even chefs in the Persian Gulf belted out the national anthem to mark its anniversary. The president intoned the march, a rousing number alluding to roaring cannons and blood-soaked banners, with schoolchildren in Mexico City's historic Chapultepec Castle.

A few hundred souls gathered in the capital's vast Zocalo Square and some office workers also broke into song in the streets. But the plea for all Mexicans to stop whatever they were doing and join in went largely unheeded. Mexicans are proud of their national symbols, and feelings are running high this week in festivities to commemorate the start of a rebellion in 1810 that led to Mexico's independence from Spain.

Spread largely by word of mouth, the call to song reached as far as the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, where restaurant chef Romaldo Martinez, 45, of Acapulco, sang in Spanish "all that I can remember" of the anthem while preparing a special Independence Day menu at the busy Casa Mexicana restaurant. "I am happy, and I wish I was home right now," Martinez said. In Colorado, where Hispanics make up 18 percent of the population, 80 people gathered at the Mexican consulate in Denver to sing and cheer "Viva Mexico!" Consulate workers handed out small Mexican flags.

Posted by acapnews at 9:37 PM

September 16, 2004

Cincinnati Post

Short for Rahvusmeeskoor ("national men's choir" in Estonian), RAM stands for the Estonian National Male Choir, a force in the tiny country on the Baltic for over half a century. Founded in 1944, the year tanks rolled into the capital city of Tallinn to seal the takeover of Estonia by the Soviet Union, RAM has symbolized Estonia's nationalist feelings, carried on her vital singing tradition and provided a lot of entertainment for a lot of people.

The 54-voice choir, the world's only full-time professional male choir, makes its debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra led by music director Paavo Järvi at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Music Hall. Estonian born Järvi will lead the CSO and choir in the CSO premiere of Jean Sibelius' dramatic symphony "Kullervo" (about a tragic hero of the Finnish epic "Kalevala"). RAM has an amazingly arduous work and concert schedule" (60-80 concerts a year, including international tours and recording). Many of the concerts include "completely new material. We rely heavily on sight-reading ability and quick learning and have to remain flexible in order to accomplish the quality level which is expected from our group.

RAM is an elite choir in a country of many choirs -- arguably more per capita than any country in the world, most of whom take part in Estonia's famous Song Festival, held every fifth year at the imposing song festival amphitheater in Tallinn. With about 45 male choirs, Estonia's male choir tradition "is in some measure stronger than other nations," said chief conductor Ants Soots, a professor at the Estonian Academy of Music in Tallinn.

Then there is RAM's own history and tradition. Founder/composer Gustav Ernesaks, who died in 1993 at the age of 85, became a legend in Estonia. His "powerful personality, great music and craving for freedom" heartened his countrymen during the years of Russian domination, said Soots. "He was like a lighthouse in the fight against Russification." It was Ernesaks who kept the song festivals going and made them a focus of Estonia's hopes for freedom. RAM played a powerful role in that, said Järvi, who attended Song Festivals as a child in Estonia and made his own conducting debut at the most recent Song Festival, held in July.

"It became a symbol of independence and strength and sort of not backing down. In Soviet times, when people were not allowed to gather with more than three people, you had a hundred men onstage. It was almost an army, but they were singing and not carrying guns. It was very emotional for Estonians." RAM's repertoire is huge, from Gregorian chant to contemporary Polish composer Krzysztov Penderecki, with an emphasis on different styles and cultures, said Soots, who keeps the Grammy in RAM's office in his study. Singing Old Finnish in "Kullervo" is a piece of cake, relatively speaking, since Estonian is very similar to Finnish. More difficult are "Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew, archaic Norwegian, Japanese, etc.," he said.

The quality of Estonian singing may be partly attributable to the country's northern climate, said Vesilind, who "absolutely loves the cold weather." "Estonian singers have an openness about their voices, which tends to carry vast amounts of power. Perhaps this comes from the harsh winters and training under extreme circumstances. "Singing in the middle of RAM is like standing with a wall of sound all around you and inside you. Everything shakes."

Posted by acapnews at 9:50 PM

September 14, 2004

Maine Today

A picture-perfect sunny Sunday afternoon didn't keep the Chestnut Street Church from drawing an impressive Dr. Ysave Maria Barnwell, best known as the baritone voice of the world-renowned singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock, led the collaboration between the Maine Gospel Choir and Women in Harmony, a local chorus. The afternoon got started with the women's ensemble Full Circle, directed my Anne-Marie D'Amico, who credits Barnwell as being a big influence. Full Circle delivered two very different songs; a Japanese one about fireflies and the second an inspirational song about freedom.

Women in Harmony, comprised of about 35 women, began with the Holly Near song "Hay Una Mujer Despareicida," about Chilean repression of women. It was haunting and well-sung. Their next song told of being "bound for glory" and the phrase "I'm gonna break this chain" was repeated throughout. Then all the singers converged on stage. Members of Full Circle, Women in Harmony and The Maine Gospel Choir were at least 65 people strong and included about half a dozen men.

It was a show-stopping moment when Barnwell walked from the rear of the church and stood in front of the chorus. She had spent the last few days working with all these singers at workshops held at the Center for Cultural Exchange and we got to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Ysave said, "We are building a movement. One day we're gonna have a big sing-in and I'm gonna be a very happy person." More

Posted by acapnews at 9:27 PM

September 13, 2004

Contra Costa Times

For Bobby McFerrin, the journey to Zellerbach Hall began with a simple lapse of memory. The master of vocal improvisation, who opens Cal Performances' 2004-2005 season on Saturday, was an unknown singer with an experimental bent in 1980, when he was honing his jazz chops at the Cheshire Cat, a little San Francisco club on Haight Street. He had recently moved to the Bay Area from New Orleans, and was performing with a quartet led by pianist Paul Nagel. Though long fascinated by improvisation, McFerrin was still working in a relatively safe setting and relying upon written arrangements when he seized an unexpected opportunity for spontaneous musical creation.

"I can remember very distinctly one night leaving for the gig and discovering when we were halfway there that I had left all of my charts," said McFerrin, 54. "One of the band members said, 'We can go back,' and I said, 'No, let's not. Let's take this opportunity to really improvise, play whatever comes off the top of our heads and see what happens that way.' That was really the beginning of my improvisational life. That evening gave me the go-ahead to dive right into it."

"The audience is my instrument," McFerrin said. "They're there and I like to use them, to incorporate them in these improvisational journeys that I take. They might come across some musical motif that I want sustained so that I can take off on musical tangents, so I invite the audience to act as my band."

There's probably no place where McFerrin's unorthodox vocal techniques have taken root more deeply than the Bay Area. For one thing, the members of his a cappella ensemble Voicestra mostly live in the area, and have spun off various groups -- most notably SoVoSo, an a cappella group that has featured Rhiannon, Joey Blake and David Worm. San Francisco is also where McFerrin made all of his most important musical breakthroughs.

In recent years, McFerrin has put most of his energy into his solo performances and his conducting career. His recording output has slowed considerably, as he's been working for three years on an album of his original choral works, in collaboration with arranger Roger Treece. "My goal, whether it's improvised or the printed page, is to find the heart of the piece, the heart of the moment," McFerrin said. "You can find it so many different kinds of ways. There are many fabulous musicians who don't work away from the printed page -- all they want to do is play Mozart piano concertos or Bach sonatas. And then there are musicians who are not interested in reading music. They just want to express themselves through improvisation."

Posted by acapnews at 11:41 AM

September 8, 2004

The Guardian (UK)

A film about delinquent schoolboy choristers has inspired a revival of enthusiasm for choral singing in France, attracting thousands of new members to choirs this autumn. Since the term began choirmasters have noticed that Les Choristes, a postwar boarding school drama, has precipitated a remarkable increase in the number signing up to become members. "The film has reawakened an extraordinary interest in singing," said Sebastien Fournier, an opera singer and conductor.

The Choirboys has been seen by more than 7.6 million people in France since its release in March, outstripping such obvious blockbusters as SpiderMan and Harry Potter. Miramax has it lined up as a contender for next year's best foreign film Academy award. Set in an authoritarian reform school in 1949, the film focuses on the attempts of a dissident master to subvert the draconian regime by teaching the boys to sing, and shows the redemptive power of music on the boys. It is a family feelgood movie with a saccharine gloss which has chimed with a new French nostalgia for the postwar era.

Marie-Christine Roux, of Ariam, a organisation run by musicians which puts individuals in contact with orchestras and choirs, said the effect on nascent choristers had been striking. "It's too early to collate the figures, but it is something which is becoming more and more fashionable. "We have received many more calls than usual from people who want to start singing, or who want to find a choir for their children," she said.

France has 7,000 choirs, excluding those in schools, in which about 280,000 people sing regularly. The French Institute of the Choral Art expects the number to rise steeply this year. The French revolution and the subsequent separation of the church and the state left cathedral choir schools in France with little state funding until about 30 years ago. "Anything which prompts a revival of interest is very welcome," Mr Fournier said.

The after-work choir is becoming a social phenomenon in France similar to that of the book club in Britain, providing both social activity and cultural stimulation. It is a cheap but rewarding way to spend the extra hours of free time which the arrival of the 35-hour week has given French workers. Véronique Gratiot, 32, a banker, who has given much of her spare time in the past five years to singing in a choir, said it was a hobby which offered many of the health-giving, life-enhancing attractions of the gym. "People come and meet other people. A lot of couples have met during choir practice," she said.

Les Choristes is a remake of the 1945 French hit La Cage aux Rossignols (The Cage of Nightingales). Its first-time director, Christophe Barratier, who completed the film on a budget of €5.5m (£3.7m), has been unable to explain its success. "This isn't a particularly fashionable subject," he admitted last month. Nevertheless, more than 700,000 copies of the soundtrack have been sold; the boy who plays the hero, Jean-Baptiste Maunier, has become a national star; and Gérard Jugnot, the actor who plays the music teacher, was voted one of France's most popular men this year.

Miramax has announced a US release date of January 14 and is highly touting the film for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. Let's hope the movie will have a similar effect here. The Telegraph states - "Les Choristes, which promises to be the French cinema's biggest international hit since the off-beat Parisian comedy Amelie, has done for the image of choral singing what Billy Elliot did for ballet and the musical Riverdance for Irish dance."

Posted by acapnews at 9:45 PM

Daily Telegraph (UK)

Vienna's internationally-renowned Boys' Choir is swapping its traditional sailor suits for "updated" outfits which critics complain make its members look like extras from Star Trek. The decision to abandon the blue and white sailor suits in favour of more avant-garde garments for a concert this weekend follows a design competition at Austria's leading fashion school. Organisers wanted a look which would make it easier for the choir to combine movement with the boys' more familiar vocal repertoire. Tina Breckwaldt, a spokesman for the choir, said: "When the boys tried to dance in the sailor suits it was like trying to dance in a cassock. The clothing was far too restrictive, so we had to redesign it."

The change of costume is the latest in a series of "modernisations" to the choir's 500-year-old tradition which have caused heated debate among Austrians. A row erupted three years ago when the choir added the music of Metallica and Madonna to its usual Mozart, Strauss and Schubert.

The first pictures of the outfit, published on the front page of Austria's bestselling Kronen Zeitung newspaper, caused a sensation among Viennese polite society. Bodo Wolff, one of the country's top fashion designers, said: "They are foul and a disturbing mixture of styles that owe as much to science-fiction and the Beatles as to anything that might be dubbed haute couture. They resemble something out of the Beatles - with a bit of Star Trek sewn in. It is the same all over the world: a formula is good, so tamper with it. It is pointless interfering with a beloved and time-honoured code of dress."

The outfits were chosen from among 83 designs submitted by students at the Hetzendorf fashion school, but in the cafe houses opinion was consistent. Maria Langer, 67, said: "It looks ridiculous. Why change something that has worked for years? We don't go to watch amateur dancers, we go to watch professional singers." Helmut Ried, 45, a bank manager, said: "I'm not impressed, the Boys' Choir is a great institution and they have turned them into extracts from a sci-fi movie." Ms Breckwaldt, however, defended the change. "It's a bit sportier and allows a bit more movement. It gives us a pop alternative for some of the other music we perform."

Posted by acapnews at 9:26 PM

September 7, 2004

New York Times

Johnny Bragg, the leader of the Prisonaires, a singing group of Tennessee State Penitentiary inmates whose R & B music helped start Sam Phillips's Sun Records and influenced Elvis Presley, died here on Wednesday. He was 79. The cause was cancer, his daughter, Misti Bragg, told The Associated Press.

The Prisonaires quintet became standard-bearers for Gov. Frank Clement's controversial prison-reform program, which emphasized rehabilitation. In the summer of 1953, under heavy guard, the singers traveled from their Nashville prison to Memphis to record at Mr. Phillips's fledgling Sun Records. The session yielded the mournful hit "Just Walkin' in the Rain," of which Mr. Bragg was the co-writer, and a feature story in a local newspaper.

"It was the song that put Sun Records on the map, and very likely the item that captured the attention of Elvis Presley as he read about the studio, the label, and painstaking Sam Phillips," the biographer Peter Guralnick wrote in "Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley."

That same summer, Presley made his first demonstration recordings at Sun. In 1961 he visited Mr. Bragg in prison. "The Prisonaires were pioneers in that they were among the first R & B vocal groups to record and have hit records released in the South," Michael Gray of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum said on Thursday.

Mr. Bragg, born John Henry Bragg, was convicted of rape in 1943. He always denied the charges, and Governor Clement commuted his sentence in 1959. He soon returned to prison on a parole violation and spent time in and out of incarceration until 1977. Besides his daughter, Mr. Bragg's survivors include two grandchildren. His wife, Gail Green Bragg, died in 1977.

Posted by acapnews at 9:57 PM


Washington Post

The Web site for the local foursome Da Vinci's Notebook, a group currently on hiatus, features lists of what the band thinks is cool, including "The Dick Van Dyke Show." So it's no wonder that Friday night's show at Jammin' Java by Paul and Storm, two Notebookers, played like one of those episodes in which the Petries put on a cabaret in their living room. Sally wasn't there to sing about wanting a man, but opener Sean Altman, formerly of Rockapella, offered that group's song about wanting a woman: "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?," the theme to the kids' TV series of the same name.

Rob and Laura didn't do one of their sexy duets, but Altman and his wife charmingly crooned "Somethin' Stupid." And Buddy and his cello were absent, but Altman brought out Peruvian opera singer Jose Sacin for a stirring "Besame Mucho." Paul Sabourin and Greg "Storm" DiCostanzo were likewise eager to share the stage, sometimes with Altman, sometimes with keyboardist Brendan Milburn of GrooveLily.

Opening with a song about having no opening song, the duo attacked with both high and low humor. There were scatological laughs aplenty in the redneck anthem "Six Guys, Ten Teeth" and "The Ballad of Eddie Praeger," but a lot of the fun sprang from the duo's energetic, quick-witted harmony vocals on the former and Sabourin's worst-ever penny-whistle embellishments on the latter. Sabourin's "Short People"-influenced piano lines and DiCostanzo's mannered vocals aimed their Randy Newman parodies right at the bull's-eye. A set of faux commercials was equal parts smart and smutty; you won't be hearing their ad featuring "The Happy Ex-Lax Giant" on Nick at Nite.

Posted by acapnews at 9:33 PM

Disney Enterprises has lost its bid to set a aside an attachment order against its South African-registered trademarks, enabling the family of musician Solomon Linda to sue them for royalties in a South African court. Pretoria High Court Judge Hekkie Daniels on Tuesday dismissed Disney's application against the executors of Linda's estate, which represents the musician's three daughters. The executors obtained an attachment order in July against the more than 240 locally registered Disney trademarks, including well-known marks such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Disney. Disney claimed that Mr SG Griesel, who instituted the damages claim on behalf of the estate, had not been appointed properly as executor by the Master of the High Court and did not have authority to represent the estate of the late Linda.

On Disney's claim that the estate had not made out any case against it because it was never a producer or distributor of the film The Lion King, Daniels pointed out that both the actual perpetrator and the person who instigated or instructed the doing of that act could infringe copyright. He said the estate at this stage did not have evidence directly linking Disney Enterprises to the alleged infringement of the copyright by its subsidiary in South Africa. But these were early days and he was satisfied that at least a prima facie case had been made out.

Posted by acapnews at 9:28 PM

September 6, 2004

Merrillville-based vocal group Stormy Weather has returned from its "Doo-Wop in the Balkans" tour, where it entertained the troops on U.S. and NATO military bases in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tuzla, Prishtina and other parts of the Balkan region. "One of our stops was at a NATO base in Sarajevo, where we were fortunate enough to interact with troops from 40 countries, all working together to stabilize a war-torn country" group leader-founder Henry Farag reported.

"We learned a lot, saw a lot and sang a lot. Being a cappella, we not only did our regular performances, but also did spontaneous jamming in the mess halls, barracks and for individual soldiers from all over the world." A special thrill for "old school" street-corner singer Farag was being able to "doo-wop" on the thousand-year-old street corners of Vienna and Amsterdam.

Posted by acapnews at 9:52 PM

September 1, 2004

Pennington Post

Why Do People Sing?

Fish gotta swim, and birds gotta fly, people gotta sing, why oh why? The answers are as various as the singers, says Dr. Lynne Ransom, director of the VOICES Chorale, one of New Jersey's outstanding choruses. They sing to be more creative, to reduce stress and socialize with other singers, and they sing for the pure pleasure of recreating some of the world's greatest music.

Singing is innate, Ransom explains. Babies sing long before they talk, as all grandmothers and early childhood teachers know. They begin with "cooing" and copying sounds around them. Children of three or four often sing to themselves in a stream of consciousness song, while adults whistle, hum or sing to themselves. People with speech problems, such as stuttering or loss of vocabulary, may be able to sing freely, according to speech pathologists.

Singing is primal. People traveling to another area where their first language is not spoken recognize that music is an international language, supporting universal understanding of common themes and emotions. Singing provides a bridge to other cultures and people. "One reason people enjoy singing is that it draws on left-brain thinking," Ransom says. That's why many business people and researchers are drawn to singing. It gives them an opportunity to use left-brain or more creative "artsy" thinking.

Another benefit of singing is that it improves health, Ransom notes. Scientific research shows that the deep breathing and resonation used in singing often reduces stress. In her 17 years of working with VOICES, Ransom has often heard singers talk about how singing affects them. They constantly report that no matter how tired they are when they arrive at rehearsal, they feel relaxed and refreshed when they head back home. Choral singing is also rejuvenating because of the social aspects of choral singing. "A chorus becomes a community of people who share experiences and work to achieve a common goal as they come face to face with great art," she says. Singers make friends with other chorale members, and they enjoy performing in VOICES' volunteer programs. More

Posted by acapnews at 9:42 PM


The Boys Choir of Harlem performed at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." NPR's Tavis Smiley talks with choir member Anthony Taylor and Walter Turnball, the choir's founder, president and conductor. Listen here

Posted by acapnews at 9:19 PM

Austin 360

After graduating, John Pointer began working with his band Schrödinger's Cat. He produced and released "Big Beat A Cappella"(1999), and "Spin"(2001) for them. He developed a musical style using his voice to express the different kinds of music he had previously studied, and combined it with intense body percussion to create the sound and energy of a full band without any instruments. He cites Bobby McFerrin, Stevie Wonder, and Kenny Muhammad as his main vocal influences. With Schrödinger’s Cat he toured the United States and Japan, appeared on the Roseanne Barr show, and won the national Kit Kat "Gimme a Break" Contest in 2001. More

Posted by acapnews at 9:13 PM