December 31, 2004

Fred Waring blended music, gadgetry

Arizona Republic (AZ):

What does a celebrated 1930s through '60s band and choral leader have in common with one of our most popular kitchen appliances? They both are associated with Fred Waring, a household name of his generation. Like others before him, Waring has been inadvertently credited with something not of his creation. Instead, Waring took an unperfected commercial blender, improved it and successfully marketed it.

As often happens, the true inventor is consigned to obscurity. Such is the case of Steven J. Poplawski. While with the Horlick Corp., Poplawski worked on an electric beverage mixer for a soda-fountain malted-milk drink for which Horlick was famous. In 1922, after nearly seven years, Poplawski received a patent for his blender. Eventually, the John Oster Co. took over the manufacturing of Poplawski's improved blenders.

Fred Osius, once a partner in the Hamilton Beach Co., had been working on improving the Poplawski design since 1926. In 1933, he received a patent for a prototype device. Short on capital, Osius contacted Waring through an associate in the Waring organization. (Waring had been an architectural and engineering student at Pennsylvania State University, and he always had been fascinated by gadgets.) Fascinated by Osius' blender, Waring agreed to a partnership. After six months and $25,000, the blender was no closer to coming to market. Waring asked Ed Lee, an associate, to solve the blender's problems. The rest is history.

Waring introduced his new $29.75 Miracle Mixer at the 1937 National Restaurant Show in Chicago. Initially intended for the commercial restaurant and bar market, it was touted as a better way to mix frozen daiquiris and other drinks. An inveterate showman, Waring, who for a short time called his band and choral group the Waring Blenders, aggressively marketed his new product on his radio programs and at concerts. Combining the growing popularity of the Blendor, as it was peculiarly spelled, and the name recognition of Fred Waring, it wasn't long before department and specialty stores were selling the Waring Blendor directly to consumers.

By 1954, the Waring Blendor became a staple in the American home. More than 1 million sold in less than two decades. Never one to rest on successes, Waring introduced the first colored blenders, ice-crushing and coffee-grinding attachments, variable speed and timers. Waring died in 1984, at age 84, after a stroke. His Blendors continue to sell.

Posted by acapnews at 12:03 AM

December 30, 2004

Vocal Music Hall of Fame sued; struggling financially


The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum in Sharon is anything but harmonic these days. Officials at the museum have called off this year's inductions at the seven-year-old Hall of Fame -- which honors doo-wop and other vocal stylists of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. But the hall has abandoned the former Willson building in Sharon and, just this week, was sued for ten-thousand dollars by James Winner, a local businessman best known as head of Winner International, the company that markets the anti-car theft device known as 'The Club.'

Winner's suit contends he lent the Hall of Fame the money to promote a 2002 concert -- and that ticket sales were supposed to be used to repay him. Robert Crosby, president and chief executive of the foundation that runs the Hall of Fame, says he wasn't aware of Winner' suit. But Crosby and others associated with the hall have accused Winner in the past of trying to cash on its success; Winner has said the hall was hopelessly mismanaged and mired in debt

Posted by acapnews at 12:10 AM

Singing the Praise of Singing

Baltimore Sun (MD):

November and December are to choral singers what July and August are to Ocean City: peak season. For the last two months, all across the United States, singers in choruses large and small have rehearsed and performed thousands of holiday programs. For singers, Santa's arrival means they finally have a day off. In a recent study conducted by Chorus America, the association of choruses, researchers found that there are more than 250,000 organized singing groups in the United States. More than 28 million people participate in these groups, far more than in any other performing art. Fifteen percent of American households include an adult who has performed publicly in a chorus within the last 12 months. If you include children, that number jumps to 18 percent. They obviously enjoy singing, because they put in hours and hours of practice. But it turns out that it's not only good for them, it's also probably good for their neighbors.

In his book "Bowling Alone", Harvard University's Robert D. Putnam suggested that when people participate in community activities, they create what he calls "social capital." Mr. Putnam has identified group singing as one of the activities that generate tremendous social capital, and he has demonstrated that high levels of social capital are directly related to higher standards of living, lower crime rates and higher employment.

There is also a growing body of research that shows that choral singing and academic achievement are closely linked. The skills that students learn singing in a chorus - team-building, listening and following, creativity, social interaction and discipline - are important components in their academic development.

Mr. Putnam's work and the Chorus America study showed that choral singers are among America's most involved, active and engaged people, and that they participate in activities outside of singing that benefit and strengthen their communities. Nearly 76 percent of choral singers are involved in charity work, compared with 44 percent of adults in the population at large. While more than 60 percent of Americans voted in the last election, a level not reached since 1968, a whopping 93 percent of choral singers regularly vote in local and national elections, and have done so for a long time. These folks are involved not only in their choruses but in their communities. Choral music is, at its heart, about community.

As the great conductor Robert Shaw once observed, choral music concerns itself with texts that are worthy of communal utterance. The operative pronouns in classical choral music are "we" and "us," not "me" and "I." For example, the words "grant us peace" are the final lines of the Catholic mass liturgy, a text that thousands of composers have set to music. When these words are clothed in beautiful melody and glorious harmony, it doesn't matter if you're Catholic or Jewish, black or white, rich or poor, old or young, smart or dumb. It only matters that you are a human being who yearns for peace - peace on your block, peace in your country, peace in your heart - and that you wish to add your voice to that simple, direct, universal plea.

So if you notice some of your co-workers and neighbors walking around a little bleary-eyed at this time of year, perhaps it's because that in addition to their responsibilities at home and in their jobs, they have spent several nights a week rehearsing and performing as choral musicians. When they and their fellow choristers make their voices heard, and when those voices are united in purpose and love, chances are they have something to say that's worth hearing.

Posted by acapnews at 12:04 AM

December 22, 2004

NBC show has an a cappella special.

The Jane Pauley Show will be airing a special "Holiday Hamonies" edition this Thursday which will feature five a cappella groups. Performing will be Rockapella, barbershop champs Power Play, The Yale Whiffenpoofs, Out Of The Blue, Key of She and the so called Jane Pauly Singers which includes Jane's daughter, who also sings in a collegiate a cappella group, and who gave her mother the idea for this show. See a short promotional video featuring the groups here.

Posted by acapnews at 12:47 PM

Doo Wop musical "Avenue X" a hit in Vienna

Financial Times (UK):

To hell with Johann Strauss: Avenue X is the show to see in Vienna this holiday season. Ray Leslee's a cappella musical is having its European premiere at the Kammeroper, and you will not find a more emotional theatrical experience or finer singing in this city. Set in 1963 Brooklyn, Avenue X traces the lives of two families on the street which separates a new housing complex inhabited mostly by Afro-Americans from an old Italo-American neighbourhood (hot-headed, bigoted Chuck recalls, "Old lady Tedeschi lay down in front of the bulldozer" when the buildings were being erected).

Despite palpable racial tensions, two confused young men, Pasquale and Milton, discover a common dream of fleeing the neighbourhood and a possible means of escape through a doo-wop singing contest. In the daily struggle for survival, we also meet Milton's mother, proud of getting her boy out of Harlem ("You'd either be dead or in jail") but who takes a bus to a black neighbourhood to shop for groceries; her abusive, alcoholic boyfriend; Afrocentric Winston, eager to embrace Malcolm X without quite understanding why; Pasquale's drug-addict sister, who sports heels two inches too high and a skirt two sizes too small; and well-meaning goombah Ubazz.

The Italians' music is too stale; the blacks' gospel hymns are hackneyed. Pasquale and Milton realise they need each other to create a new kind of harmony musical as well as racial and collaborate on the moving "Where Is Love?" But tragedy obliterates hope, and at the gripping conclusion, the divide across the avenue is even deeper. Ramin Dustdar and Gino Emnes entwine their voices in intricate bel canto riffs as Pasquale and Milton. Carole Alston-Bukowsky rocks the house with the gospel-infused "You Got To Go There," showing a voice as dark and sweet as molasses. Joe Garcia's obsidian bass sounds like he is taking a holiday from the State Opera. John Jiler's clever, witty book and lyrics can be manipulative, but in all the right ways. Bring Kleenex.

Posted by acapnews at 12:21 AM

December 21, 2004

Jewish and Arab Israeli singers join in song.

Ha'aretz (Israel): The approaching Christmas holiday brings with it a unique, cross-border choral concert to Israel, in which Jewish and Arab Israelis and Europeans are all cooperating. At the heart of the concert are two Israeli choirs that sing together: the Efroni Choir from Emek Hefer, and the Sawa Choir from Shfaram. Efroni was founded more than 20 years ago by Maya Shavit, and over the years has been involved in extensive cultural cooperation - with choirs from Bethlehem and Nazareth, among others. Sawa was founded 18 months ago and is conducted by Eva de Mayo and Rahib Hadad, a choirmaster who studied with Avner Itai in the musicology department of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University.

Both choirs participated in Forum Barcelona 2004 this summer in the context of the Peace Camps project and are regularly involved in musical-cultural projects. Now, they once again find themselves side by side in a joint concert that will take place on Wednesday at 7:30 P.M., at the Kiryat Yearim Church, Abu Ghosh.

The senior choir in the concert is The Choir of London, conducted by Jeremy Summerly, with 40 young professional singers. The Choir of London had originally planned to perform only in the Palestinian Authority. In the coming week, it has many concerts scheduled in East Jerusalem and in the PA: For the Palestine Bach Festival, it will sing Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" in Ramallah (tomorrow), and in Bethlehem (Thursday), together with singers from the National Palestinian Conservatory, in a concert that is the first of its kind in the PA; and on Friday, it will participate in the mass in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and perform an a capella concert in the Santa Anna Church in East Jerusalem, with works by Tavener, Britten, Poulenc and others (1 P.M.).

When conductor Maya Shavit heard about the visit of The Choir of London, she approached the head of the choir and presented her views regarding cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, and the ability of the choir to constitute a bridge between the communities. The choir agreed to take part in the joint concert and, moreover, chose for its program in Israel a work that will be having its Middle Eastern debut and that is linked to the place: "Lament for Jerusalem," to Jewish, Christian and Muslim texts, by one of the greatest British composers today, John Tavener.

Tavener, who was born in 1944, is known for his avant-garde style and his attraction to mysticism and religion. Tavener has said that many people, when they hear the name of the work, will probably think it is a lament about the fate of present-day Jerusalem, beleaguered by wars. But he said that such an approach limits and misses its real intention. "`Lament for Jerusalem' is a mystical love song. It is only through love that there can be a transcendent unity of all religions. I offer this love song to all who seek God, from whatever tradition they come."

He combines Jesus' lament for Jerusalem in the book of Luke, "By the Waters of Babylon" from the Psalms and a text of Muslim origin, by Sufi poet Rumi, and from the third Sura in the Koran. "Through the act of composing, which is an act of love, [the composer] attempts to form a unity," says Tavener. "The music of `Lament for Jerusalem' should be sung and played with great intensity, but at the same time, with great purity of heart. Also, although increasingly tender, it should have a magisterial dignity, transcending any human dimension."

In Abu Ghosh, the British choir will also sing "Threnody," by British composer Tarik O'Regan; the orchestra will play Bach's Second Brandenberg Concerto and the Sawa and Efroni choirs will sing three songs: in Arabic - by Feiruz and the Rahbani brothers; in Hebrew - by Mati Caspi ("Shir Hayona" - Dove Song) and in English, together with The Choir of London - a song by John Rutter.

Posted by acapnews at 12:01 AM

December 18, 2004

Singing Blues go for a first at the Grammy awards

The Times (UK):

Although more used to competing on the Thames and the rugby pitch, Oxford and Cambridge will soon enter an entirely new arena: the Grammy Awards. The choirs of King’s College, Cambridge, and Magdalen College, Oxford, have both been nominated in classical categories of the 47th Grammy Awards, the musical equivalent of the Oscars. Although it is not unknown for a college choir to be nominated for an award — New College Choir, Oxford, was last year — this is the first time that both universities have fielded nominees, and the race is on to become the first to win a coveted Grammy 24-carat gold-plated gramophone statuette.

King’s College Choir, known internationally for its Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, features in the Best Choral Performance category for its rendition of Rachmaninov’s Liturgy Of St John Chrysostom. The choir, conducted by Stephen Cleobury, the college’s director of music, won the Ensemble Album of the Year prize at the first Classical Brit Awards in 2000 for another Rachmaninov composition, the Vespers.

“This nomination is a great thing for us, an excellent thing,” said Mr Cleobury, speaking from the choir’s pre-Christmas tour of the United States. “We’re engaged in trying to achieve the best in musical standards that we can. If we get this recognition, it’s great for us.”

During the American tour the choir has performed a programme dominated by Christmas carols to sell-out crowds in six cities, culminating in tonight’s final concert at the National Cathedral in Washington. “The tour is proving to be a resounding success; we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people attending,” said Dame Judith Mayhew-Jonas, Provost of King’s College, who is travelling with the choir. “They are such a brilliant choir and there is a huge public following for them out here. We’re reaching out to a huge number of people,” she added.

Magdalen College’s nomination, in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category, is for With a Merrie Noyse, a recording of works by the 17th-century composer Orlando Gibbons. Anthony Smith, the president of the college, was “absolutely thrilled to bits” at the news. The choir is best known for its annual May Morning performance, when it sings the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of Magdalen’s Great Tower at 6am to usher in the spring.

The competition between the two colleges is heightened because Bill Ives, who conducts Magdalen’s choir, is a former member of the King’s Singers, the a cappella sextet originally formed by choral scholars of King’s College. Mr Ives, who holds the ancient title of Informator Choristarum at Magdalen, said: “The nomination is accolade enough; but it would be very nice to win.” The choral crossover between the two colleges does not end there. Orlando Gibbons, the Baroque composer who wrote the piece for which Magdalen has been nominated, was a choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, in 1596, and was born in Oxford.

Posted by acapnews at 12:59 AM

December 17, 2004

Review - Idea of North and Mal Webb

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia):

Perhaps it was Christmas spirit, but the members of the Idea of North are very brave: not because they sing unaccompanied - that has taken off like bird flu - but because they asked Mal Webb to open the show for them. This was like asking Bob Brozman to open if you're a slide guitarist; James Morrison if you're a trumpeter; Han Bennink if you're a drummer; Christine Johnston if you're a saw-playing, bird-imitating, opera-faking wonder girl. Those artists can simultaneously amuse us and play the hell out of their instruments.

As with the members of the Idea of North, Webb's instrument is his voice - or make that voice plus digital delay. The Melburnian is also a natural comedian, who looked like a Darlinghurst vagrant, and who used the loops of mouth percussion and harmony (and the process of building them up with his prized digital delay pedal) to humorous as much as musical effect. However dense these on-the-spot concoctions became, one thing was obvious: Webb is an enormously accomplished singer, drawing on styles from jazz to African yodelling. He fooled around with I Got Rhythm (which his hip mouth percussion confirmed), created a spontaneous piece around a spoken phrase from an audience member, and played his own witty songs.

On one, about his car and his bike, he even did a first for these ears - singing backwards - not to mention getting the audience to enthusiastically participate in sign language and mock-operatic variations on the chorus.

While the Idea of North have become deft entertainers, there was no competing with Webb on that score. The group's strong suits are the arrangements and precision, the seamless blending of soprano Trish Delaney-Brown, alto Naomi Crellin, tenor Nick Begbie and bass Andrew Piper being stronger than the individual voices. I am, however, still at a loss to understand what it is about a capella singing that makes for such a premium being placed on artifice and effect rather than on emotional commitment. Still, these performers are phenomenally accomplished at what they do, and beyond some carols and spirituals, the foursome spread further Christmas cheer when the remarkable Webb joined them for a couple of songs.

Posted by acapnews at 12:19 AM

December 16, 2004

'Hallelujah, I'm finally singing in tune!'

Lexington Minuteman (MA):

At the annual Masterworks "Messiah Sing," the audience is the chorus. For the next two hours, the assemblage - without benefit of rehearsal or an audition - will put Handel's most beautiful choral works through the equivalent of a musical wringer. The hall is segregated into the four vocal groups: sopranos fill every seat on the sloping right balcony, across the hall from the altos. On the left side of the floor was my former home with the tenors, to the right, basses.

I made myself a nuisance for the first, and not final, time. I tapped the shoulder of a thinish man wearing black, just as tenor Martin Kelly called out, "Comfort ye!" "Basses?" I queried in a whisper. The man in black looked at me with a quizzical expression as I was standing next to a large, white sign perched on a chair with large black words declaring "Bass." But he nodded, and I scooted into the back row.

Like a sheep, I eventually was led astray. Having previous sung Handel's soaring melodies as a tenor, I find myself in the basement of the chorus world, laying down what is fast becoming a very shaky foundation. This shouldn't be so difficult, I wondered, having spent most my time playing bass and alto clarinets in orchestras and bands, accustomed to long sustained notes as the harmony bounces over my head. But the sudden off-the-beat rests along with quarter note syncopation in the chorus "All we like sheep" has left me grounded on some unrhythmic shoals, and I'm sinking fast.

"Damn," I thought, "I now have to actually read these friggin' notes!" I resort to taping time in my all-weather boots: Thud! Thud! Thud! "We have turned," Thud! Thud! Thud! "We have turned." I try the old trick of clueing into the double basses as my musical life raft. But that isn't working as the orchestra is performing from a slightly different score, entering when they should be stopping. Then, in the midst of this whirlpool of sounds, I have the unsettling realization that Kevin and Sam are keying on me as their guide on when to enter and the pitch. I'm certainly not going to tell them I'm hanging on to dear life to Dick's singing. And I know I'm causing Dick all sorts of misery as I'm singing two notes higher then him.

"Don't tell them you're lost" I tell myself as three pairs of eyes look at me, fearing panic would run ramped in the back row. It would be every bass for themselves. Yet my now tapping, Dick's ability to drown me out, and remembering that all those octave jumps are like the opening notes of "Over the Rainbow" ("Some - WHERE") has steadied me so I can stumble to the finish. I can sit and regroup.

After an hour and a half, the time had come most of us had come for. One old-timer in front of us dubbed it, with glee, "Number 44!": The "Hallelujah" chorus. Even those who despise classical music and have lived in a cave, they've heard this chorus. The repeating four notes calling out Hallelujah is heard in shopping malls and on television incisively during the holidays, the local classical music radio station that refuses to transmit vocal exempts will put this on.

And we singers love it! This was the one chorus I had practiced the night before. And damn it. I was ready. And so, it appeared, is everyone else as the hall, joining in to belt it out like Ethel Merman. The sopranos threw away their inhibitions, altos and tenors sing at full in-the-shower bravado. And we in the back row bellowed. More

Posted by acapnews at 12:32 AM

December 15, 2004

Sacred Seasonal Works in a Struggle for Clarity

New York Times (NY):

The long haul would seem a rewarding one for the Tallis Scholars, who have tirelessly been promoting the wonders of Renaissance sacred music for more than three decades. As a result, this British vocal ensemble can draw audiences not only with its excellent reputation but also through the broader awareness and appreciation of this repertory that the group itself has done so much to create. Both factors no doubt helped it sell out its performance on Friday night at the Low Library Rotunda of Columbia University.

The first half of the program was devoted to the luxurious polyphony of Palestrina's Christmas motet and mass "O Magnum Mysterium"; the second offered shorter selections by Orlando di Lasso, Heinrich Isaac and their contemporaries, including Cipriano de Rore, whose "Calami Sonum Ferentes" was astonishing for its achingly expressive dissonances and pungent chromatic lines. The group sang with its trademark tonal beauty, finely blended sound and elegantly sculptured phrasing. But as its conductor, Peter Phillips, has rightly argued, this repertory demands more than prettiness: it requires a pristine clarity of individual vocal lines so that the exquisitely woven textures can land clearly in the ears.

In this respect, the ensemble faced an uphill battle on Friday, with the high arching ceilings of the rotunda producing a hazy echo-chamber effect (at least from a seat in the middle of the room). Clarity in the upper voices lost out most. The Low space is certainly impressive, but this otherwise rewarding concert served as a reminder that beauty in physical and musical architecture can often make contrary demands.

Posted by acapnews at 12:30 AM

King's College choir brings light, heat to cold night

Pioneer Press (MN):

When it comes to hot tickets on the local classical music scene this year, few have been as hot as those for Monday's concert by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, a group that has been the standard-bearer for the English choral tradition for 550 years. But other factors added to the precious nature of this ticket: The group is visiting over the holidays, and listening to its annual "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" broadcast is a Christmas tradition for many. Throw in the fact that the group is performing only six U.S. concerts, and you had lovers of classical music clamoring to get inside the Cathedral of St. Paul on Monday.

Those who secured one of these hot tickets on a frigid night, the Choir of King's College more than lived up to its sterling reputation. Smoothly blending the voices of 16 boys and 15 men, the ensemble showed its sublime skills on a program of modern carols with a traditional touch. Director Stephen Cleobury and the group spent most of the evening in the 20th century, opening with a version of Francis Poulenc's "Four Christmas Motets" that bore echoes of Gregorian chant, but found bright hues where other choirs may have lingered in darkness.

The highlight of the evening came when the men left the singing to the boys on Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols." Accompanied by renowned harpist Alison Nicholls, the 16 choristers proved everything you could wish for in a collection of young voices, especially so on the haunting soprano solo of "That Yonge Child" and a duet of two high, crystalline voices on "Spring Carol."

The concert's second half was almost equally arresting, concluding a collection of contemporary carols with Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on Christmas Carols," a work that spotlighted a bass with a commanding voice. And the group's final encore, "And So Lord Jesus Quickly Come" by Paul Manz — the longtime music director at Minneapolis' Mount Olive Lutheran Church — proved a moving farewell and a nice acknowledgment from one of the world's most respected choirs that the Twin Cities area has a fine choral tradition of its own

Posted by acapnews at 12:19 AM

December 14, 2004

New York Voices singer Kinhan takes fling back home

The Oregonian (OR):

"When I was a teenager," says Lauren Kinhan of the vocal jazz group New York Voices, "I remember waiting in the restaurant side of the Jazz Quarry" -- where minors were allowed in the bar only to perform -- "with Chris Botti to sit in with the band." Now, 20 years later, Kinhan and Botti have gone on to successful careers in New York, where the singer has shared Grammy awards with the New York Voices, and Smooth Jazz trumpeter Botti has recently received celebrity attention for his liaison with TV personality Katie Couric.

That early bandstand training was the key to her future, Kinhan says by telephone from New York, where she's anticipating a return to her hometown for a solo show Tuesday at The Blue Monk. "That was one of my most profound experiences. Even though I'd make a fool of myself, Ron Steen and Eddie Wied and the other guys allowed me to try, and they were really good musicians. It taught me how much I love the art form and simply letting your hair down and trying to have a spontaneous musical experience. I'm addicted to that." In her solo efforts, though, Kinhan, 40, has moved away from the straightahead jazz she learned in Portland. Her '99 solo debut, for instance, "Hardly Blinking," found the Aloha High School grad working territory closer to Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt. Oddly enough, it was the legendary avant-garde pioneer Ornette Coleman who inspired Kinhan to pursue that pop sound.

"I'd put my solo work away and New York Voices became my primary job," she says, recalling the time in 1997 when she sang on the Coleman CD, "Sound Museum, Three Women." "I remember him sitting for hours with me in a practice room, teaching me this song. . . . He told me, 'You need to go and do your work, you have to go back to what's in you and do it.' So it was goodbye harsh dissonance and hello sweet harmonies. "Shortly after that, I put together a show of my original material at The Bitter End," she adds, "and sitting in one booth was Ornette, and in the other was (producer and punk rocker) Phil Ramone. It was like a scene from a movie. Phil signed me to a record deal the next day."

Now Kinhan's got a new CD in the works. While still featuring her pop-oriented compositions, it reveals different colors in her voice and a wider range of styles with Brazilian, swing and blues tunes. "This next recording will solidify my vision as an artist," she says. "Since 'Hardly Blinking,' I've become a mother, and how that informs your artistry is enormous." Her new vision includes the West Coast, and her Portland show is a step toward establishing a presence out here. "It's a new beginning for me," she says. Kinhan's partner in New York Voices, pianist and singer Peter Eldridge, will play the first set as well as take the piano chair in Kinhan's trio. The full New York Voices will perform Wednesday at the McMinnville Community Center.

Posted by acapnews at 12:34 AM

December 11, 2004

Just The Tonic

Sioux City Journal (IA):

Shaun Johnson has a high school teacher to thank for his career. And the Christmas holiday. For it wasn't too long ago that Johnson was more interested in sports than music. In stepped a teacher at Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona, Iowa. Terry Voss boldly suggested Johnson sing one verse of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" at the school's holiday concert.

One verse? "That's all it took," says Johnson, now part of the foursome that makes up Tonic Sol-Fa, the a cappella group now finding its own voice nationwide."I would have rather played sports at the time," he recalls. "But Mr. Voss forced me to sing this one verse and that lit the fire. The next day at lunch I had upperclassmen, mostly girls, asking me to sing duets with them for concerts. I thought that maybe this singing thing was OK."

OK? Tonic Sol-Fa, which performs at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in a holiday concert at the Orpheum Theatre, is being featured throughout December on NBC's "Today" show. The group taped one song in its entirety for a Christmas "Today" show; other songs are shown in clips. Tonic Sol-Fa has also inked a national recording contract which will culminate in the release this summer of a CD yet to be named.

Word has it that Michael McDonald, formerly of The Doobie Brothers, may join Tonic Sol- Fa on the album in a version of "Takin' It To The Street." OK? Sounds like Johnson and Tonic Sol-Fa have arrived. "It's been an interesting few months," Johnson says.Tonic Sol-Fa, which visited Sioux City a year ago for the 2003 holiday concert, features a strong local tie as one member of the quartet, Mark McGowan, was born and raised here. The other members are Greg Bannwarth of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Jared Dove, a native of Green River, Wis.

The recording contract represents a jump nationally, especially considering the group didn't sacrifice its sound to land the deal. "We've had offers for national albums before, but we've always refused because they always want to add instruments to our music," Johnson says. "We want to stay the same, keeping it a cappella." The group might be the first true a cappella group to land a national deal without adding instrumentation (beyond percussion).

The group also signed with manager Ken Kragen, who represented Kenny Rogers for more than 28 years, worked for other stars such as Lionel Richie and Burt Reynolds; and created "We Are The World." "We're honored and excited that someone of his stature would take a chance on us," says Johnson. The summer CD will showcase 12 songs, some being fine tuned now by the group in stops like Sioux City. Otherwise, concert goers will see much of the same holiday fun Tonic Sol-Fa has created in three previous Yuletide tours.

"We brought back a few songs people have requested heavily," Johnson says. "We'll involve the audience in a different way, and we're bringing back Plastic Santa in a big, new way." Johnson says this time Santa's running for election. He won't divulge the returns, though. "You've got to come to the show to see if he wins," says Johnson of the Santa bit, a routine started by Bannwarth when he spotted the plastic lawn ornament on the side of a stage at a Wisconsin show four years ago.

As for Johnson's holiday season? He'll spend much of it with the group, traveling and delivering holiday cheer. He'll wind down Christmas Eve by making oyster stew for himself (he's the only bachelor of the group) at home. Is oyster stew a sign of showbiz stardom? Nope. It's Johnson family tradition. "On Christmas Eve, we always had oyster stew at home," he says. "I wasn't home the last two years, so I made it myself. I remember calling my mom and asking her about how much butter I should be adding." How did the stew turn out? Much like his singing career, which started at Christmas many years ago: Not bad. Not bad at all.
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Posted by acapnews at 12:06 AM

December 10, 2004

Powerful voices for The Shouting Fence

The Daily Star (Lebanon):

The Westergasfabriek Culture Park in Amsterdam provided a natural setting for a unique performance at the end of last month of "The Shouting Fence," a musical expression of emotions about the separation wall built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Aimed at shedding light on the situation in Palestine over 1,500 people provided their voices for this powerful choral performance.

These groups included a professional choir named "The Shout," were directed by Orlando Gough and Richard Chew; the "Exile choir," "Trajecti Voces," "Utrechtse Studenten Cantorij," "Childrens' choir De Kickers" and 400 singers from various other national and local choirs. "In the shadow of the wall, in the shadow of the wall, we are waiting, we are waiting for peace, we are longing for peace," comes the chanting. It is at first a soft tone, whispering before gradually becoming louder and louder, merging into hundreds of voices shouting. Between what resembles concrete parts of the wall and the audience in the middle, inside a fence and barbed wire, on two sides of the arena two large groups of singers shout, sing and whisper.

"The Shouting Fence" is a vocal story of a community split in two. The story is based on the Majdel ShamsDruze community. Following the 1967 war, Israel occupied and illegally annexed the Syrian Golan Heights. Majdel Shams is a community of 11,000 Syrian Druze. Israel decided to divide the valley into two parts and to prohibit any communication and any access to the Syrian Druze community residing on the other side of the valley. The families separated by this border have called it the "shouting valley," because it is the single means they have to communicate.

On the Syrian side a platform has been built that can accommodate about 200 people. Across the cease-fire line, in front, about 110 meters away, is the bustling Druze village of Madjal Shams. The Druze from the village of Haddar on the Syrian side and the villagers of Madjal Shams across the fence, shout to each other through hand-held microphones. A lone United Nations post stands about 50 meters from the platform. The reality then of "The Shouting Fence" in 2004 is striking. Soon Israel will complete the construction of the wall built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The wall will leave Palestinian families marooned. Villages and towns will be almost completely cut off.

The venue in the Culture Park, "De Gashouder" (Gasholder), a 3,000-square-meter structure erected on a former gas works complex, was the perfect location for "The Shouting Fence." Two large choirs stood on each side, separated by barbed wire fences, 20 meters from the audience in the middle. In this way, the audience directly experienced the attempts of the choirs to connect with each other. The audience represented the wall and barrier. From three sides, the two big choirs on either side and the exile choir in the back, voices sang together and alone, mixed and toward each other. Part of the intention of "The Shouting Fence" was to make the audience feel what the wall does emotionally to communities when they are separated. It made the audience understand that the wall is divisive and destructive. It also showed that whatever barriers are made, human beings will always find ways to connect through them, over them, across them or under them.

Posted by acapnews at 12:57 AM

Sublime voices, dry setting

The Globe and Mail (Canada):

The illustrious Tallis Scholars exercised their scholarly mandate Tuesday night somewhat out of place at Roy Thomson Hall, with a program of 15th- 16th- and early 17th-century unaccompanied choral music most of which would have been comfier in a cathedral. The cumulative effect of the British choir's rather unbending program, gorgeous singing notwithstanding, reminded me of Igor Stravinsky's remark in another context: "Beautiful. Very beautiful. Dull, mind you." The dullness actually dawned later in the program. In spite of the hall's dry, voice-unfriendly acoustics, the nine singers under their founder Peter Phillips made exquisite work, during the first half, of Palestrina's Missa O magnum mysterium, one of the Italian master's most subtly varied and beguiling Mass settings. Intrusive applause between the sections took some of the bloom off the exalted aura of the performance, but the singers did not let it spoil their concentration.

As a choral instrument, they are extraordinary. Each of the nine voices is its own, with a lovely yet distinctive timbre. You can hear each among the others, yet it fits with them and there is never a sense of obtrusion or imbalance. The achievement of this paradox lies in other qualities the nine voices have in common: intense musicality and impeccable pitch. These somehow blend the differences. We were thrown back on this purely sonic consideration of the singing by the unfortunate absence of English texts for this all-Latin program. This was not so serious a lack in the Mass, of which many in the audience would have known the meaning, or even in the Magnificat IV and Laudate pueri, which followed the intermission in beautiful settings by Orlandus Lassus.

But in the short pieces by Heinrich Isaac, Cipriano de Rore, Benedictus Appenzeller and Mikolaj Zielenski which completed the program, we not fluent in Latin were given no clue of what they were about and had to like or lump them purely as vocalized sound. And in fact, as music, most of them were also less interesting than the Palestrina and the Lassus. In them, I felt conductor Phillips was exercising his scholarly passion for the byways of historical repertoire at the expense of his audience's pleasure. After the lofty satisfactions of the Palestrina and Lassus, it would have been a delight to hear, say, a chanson by Clément Janequin or madrigals by Thomas Weelkes and Claudio Monteverdi, all within the Renaissance purview of the scholars and with a bit more oomph than the Isaac Regina coeli, the Appenzeller Musae Jovis or, especially, the Rore Calami sonum ferentes, a darkly chromatic, deeply lugubrious little curiosity which seemed to waste all the beauty of Phillips's four superb male voices.

It was these pieces that brought Stravinsky's wry remark to mind. The final piece on the program, Zielenski's Gaudete justi, had a bit of life and even some syncopation. But the only encore, the Scholars' preferred version of the beloved German carol Joseph, lieber Joseph mein, slows the rhythm -- a six-to-the-bar somewhere between a siciliana and a jig -- to a crawl and buries the tune in the alto so that you can't hear it for the bright soprano harmonics above it. One hugely admires the Tallis Scholars for their voices, their erudition and their skill. But one would love them if, without compromising their ideals, they would program a bit more perkily.

Posted by acapnews at 12:07 AM

December 9, 2004

The true colours of Christmas

Toronto Eye Weekly (Canada):

When you consider that some folks reveal their hang-ups about race through their opinions of who should be performing what styles of music, it makes you question whether music is indeed a universal language. I've always felt that those who buy into that universal-language cliché are as naïve as those who vociferously declare that they "don't see colour" whenever the thorny issue of race enters a conversation.

Those who refute the incontrovertible fact that race matters should spend some time chatting with Dr. Walter Turnbull, the director of the world renowned Boys Choir of Harlem. In an interview a few years back, he told me that he's been accused of both "preaching reverse racism" and "trying to be white." Apparently, talking about the struggles of black people in your songs is somehow equated with being anti-white. Equally absurd is the charge that Turnbull's "trying to be white" because the Boys Choir's eclectic repertoire includes classical music.

Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, the artistic director of Toronto's Nathaniel Dett Chorale, can relate to the disparaging comments levelled at Turnbull. "Absolutely!" he says, "There are those who say that I'm a one-pony show and there are black folks who'll tell me I'm a black man with a white heart. What do you do? You soldier on and keep going forward." In the lily-white world of classical music, it's hard not to acknowledge a multicultural chamber group that's attempting to redress the lack of minority voices in classical music while raising the profile of black composers of choral music. It accomplishes this by deftly incorporating elements of jazz, gospel, blues spirituals and Caribbean music into its repertoire.

Formed six years back, the ensemble was named after R. Nathaniel Dett, a composer/pianist whose choral works were based on black spirituals and folk songs. He was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 1882, and during his career he performed at prestigious concert halls and for two American presidents.

Given the void that the 21-strong Nathaniel Dett Chorale is filling, it's no surprise that its audience reflects this city more accurately than the crowds that show up at recitals by other classical outfits. "When I look out at the crowd, I go, 'This is my Toronto, this is my country.' I feel really honoured to have that mix of people coming to our shows," Blyden-Taylor says. "I formed the ensemble six years ago to really speak to these issues to humanity in general, but to people of African descent in particular. There are communities within what people perceive as 'the black community' that need to hear music that's part of their heritage.

"I have to be careful how I say this but some [other ensembles] might be envious of the audience we get and some might be happy with the audiences they get. And then you have others who talk about reaching across ethnic and age boundaries but they don't do the things necessary to do that. We try to cast our net as wide as possible." By that, Blyden-Taylor means that the chorale is open to performing music by composers who are not of African heritage but who have been profoundly influenced by Afrocentric music.

The Trinidadian-born conductor says that, before founding the chorale, he spent a few decades doing "what people call serious classical music." "But all of the music we do is serious, whether it's reggae or spirituals," he says. "That's when I began to realize there's a void in this country. There wasn't a vocal ensemble that was drawing attention to a wide range of Afrocentric choral music. The perception was that if you see a group of black singers they probably belong to a church and sing gospel."

Blyden-Taylor laughs when I suggest the Chorale's concert with Trinidad and Tobago's Signal Hill Alumni Choir won't be conjuring up images of a white Christmas. "Indigo is a wonderful colour," he says. "I didn't want to call it a black Christmas or an Afrocentric Christmas. When I was younger I felt I had to break people through. The older I get, the less I feel that way."

I can't speak for all classical music but choral music is well represented by black artists such as Moses Hogan, Joe Jennings (director Chanticleer), Brazeal Dennard and St Olaf Choir director Anton Armstrong. - Editor

Posted by acapnews at 12:29 AM

Peruvian chorus brings past to life

Houston Chronicle (TX):

Like archaeologists searching for treasure, musicians are slowly unveiling the riches that helped drive culture during the Spanish colonial era. Houstonians have been hearing a few musical treasures, thanks to visiting ensembles such as the Peruvian chorus Lima Triumphante, which wrapped up a brief American tour Monday at Rice University.

Lima Triumphante is the musical arm of the Laudate Project, commissioned by the Peruvian government to preserve and promote the culture of the vice-regal era. Ancient manuscripts lie in places such as the Archives of the Archbishop of Lima. Chorus director José Quezada Macchiavello and others are ferreting them out and transcribing them for modern performance.

The tour music was getting its first North American performances. While the quality was not in the category of Machu Picchu, the legendary pre-Columbian fortress city in Peru, the pieces were strong, attractive and, in some cases, influenced by indigenous culture. The most fascinating example came first: the a cappella Hanacpachap Cusicuinin (1631). Composer Juan Pérez Bocanegra used a text in the Incan language Quechua (or Qechua) but set the words in a refined contrapuntal style reminiscent of Baroque motets from Spain or England.

Posted by acapnews at 12:13 AM

December 8, 2004

A cappella garners GRAMMY nominations

A cappella has won three inclusions in the 47th Annual Grammy nominations announced on Tuesday. Nominated in the Best Choral category are "Baltic Voices 2" (Sisask, Tulev, Schnittke, Etc.) - Paul Hillier, conductor (Estonian Philhamonic Chamber Choir) and "Rachmaninov: Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom" - Stephen Cleobury, conductor (Choir Of King's College, Cambridge). In the Best Traditional World Music Album category Ladysmith Black Mambazo is nominated for "Raise Your Spirit Higher".

Posted by acapnews at 12:58 AM

December 7, 2004

Weston Noble retires after 57 years at Luther College

Quad City News (IL):

Though it’s already after 3 p.m., lunch can wait. A trenchcoat veers from the main hallway toward locked double doors. This is first-class.” Inside, a thin finger attached to a slight figure slides a set of switches. The lights raise, and the glory of The Weston H. Noble Recital Hall is revealed. Gradually, illumination fills a perfectly sculpted cathedral to music and the human voice. Finely tuned silence surrounds a piano waiting quietly at center stage. Walls support towering panels of wood imported from Indonesia and concrete hardened to reflect nuances. “The material on the seats is special. The acoustics don’t change whether the seats are empty or full.” The guide lingers, savoring the space, then turns and closes the door. Satisfied, Weston Noble, namesake and icon, heads for a waiting bowl of soup.

The walk from Jenson-Noble Music Hall to the student union takes about five minutes. Along the way, Noble stoops to collect a scrap of paper, a plastic cup and a disposable spoon. He drops the items in a trash bin. On the return trip, he picks up a pop can and an orange peel. “When you have a beautiful campus, you want to keep it that way,” he says.

Luther College has had one choral director for 57 years, and that man, Noble, reached the lofty plateau of living legend decades ago. At the start of his career, Noble also served simultaneously as Luther’s concert band director. He held that position for 25 years. On Nov. 30, Noble marked his 82nd birthday. He celebrated where he spent most of his life, on campus creating a joyful noise.

“He is probably the most respected conductor in the United States in choral music,” says friend Paul Torkelson, director of choral activities at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. “He ends up being a competitor, but I look at him as more of a mentor,” Torkelson says. “We recruit against each other, but I’m always looking at what he does and how he does it.”

Since Noble started at Luther, thousands of others have been watching and learning as well. He shares his expertise with choirs, bands and orchestras. Besides directing Luther’s world-renowned Nordic Choir, Noble has participated in more than 800 music festivals and all-state competitions in 48 states. In one outdoor event in the Republic of Estonia, he conducted a choir with an estimated 25,000 voices. From a long list of large accomplishments, Noble selects two as particularly important. The Nordic Choir once shared the program with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir —- in the Tabernacle’s own house. And Luther’s concert band once gave a full concert at the Lincoln Center in New York. Over the years Noble’s groups also charmed Russian communist leaders in the Kremlin and enchanted two different kings of Norway.

As a sign of their esteem, members of the Iowa Choral Directors Association in November at Iowa State University unveiled the Weston Noble Endowment Fund. Scholarships will benefit vocal music educators with less than two years experience who attend the organization’s summer symposium. But others revere the master for smaller, more personal achievements. “You feel like he knows you and wants you to do well,” says Maria Smith, coordinator for music tours and marketing for Luther’s music department. Smith also was one of Noble’s students and sang in Nordic Choir two years. She picked Luther in the early 1990s after meeting Noble at an all-state high school choir event in Tacoma, Wash. Noble, a native of Riceville, Iowa, started at Luther as a music student in 1939. He was 16 years old. By 18, he was occasionally leading the choir.

The music stopped in 1943. Noble graduated early and entered World War II with the Army’s 750th Tank Battalion. His unit fought at the Battle of the Bulge and was part of the mad dash across Germany. He has photos from the era standing on Adolf Hitler’s balcony in Berlin. “I thought I knew where his headquarters were. And it proved to be right,” Noble says. After the war he taught high school at LuVerne, Iowa, for two years. Luther hired him —- for what was supposed to be one year —- in 1947. He was 25 years old, held no advanced degrees and had precious little experience. “Looking back on it, it’s just part of the master plan,” he says. The 2004-05 school year will be his last. Luther officials will likely name a successor within 30 days.

Posted by acapnews at 12:53 AM

December 4, 2004

Vienna Boys' Choir concert heavenly

Cincinnati Enquirer (OH):

Thursday evening in the sanctuary of St. Margaret of York's spectacular new church, The Vienna Boys' Choir presented a concert that continues a 500-year tradition of bringing vocal music by young voices to audiences around the world. A full house of almost 1,000 people heard the famous choir under the direction of Kerem Sezen. The Hapsburg emperor, Maximilian I of Austria, began the institution of a boys' choir in 1498 that has evolved into a group of 100 choristers between the ages of 10 and 14 and is divided into four choirs that present 300 concerts a year.

The choir marched into the church wearing their traditional "sailor suits" and opened the program with a strong performance of Carl Orff's dark and solemn "O Fortuna" from "Carmina Burana." Evident from the beginning was a precision of diction and harmony and a surprising strength of sound from such young voices. The Gregorian chant "Ave Maria" was sung a cappella and in unison for a chilling and gothic sound. The ethereal and transparent harmonies of "O salutaris hostia" by Giovanni Nascus floated up to the ceiling of the cavernous space like wisps of smoke. "Jubilate Deo" by Heinrich Schutz was a remarkable demonstration of antiphonal singing from both sides of the stage. "Hebe deine Augen auf" from the oratorio "Elijah" by Mendelssohn contains delicate melodic lines that were carefully interwoven and sustained by the young singers. "Zigeunerleben" (Gypsy Life) by Robert Schumann had lots of vigor and a beautiful piano accompaniment by Director Sezen.

The Aaron Copland nonsense piece, "I Bought Me a Cat," was sung with appropriate frivolity, but Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom" lacked the jazzy swing of true African-American spiritual music. The "Annen-Polka" and "Vergnügungszug" by Viennese waltz king Johann Strauss Jr. were certainly closer to the heart of this Austrian group.

After the intermission, the choir sang a mix of Christmas carols from Germany, France, England and America. They were all sung with impeccable phrasing, diction and clarity of sound. After a standing ovation, the choir sang two encores: a song by Mozart and a heavenly "Silent Night." St. Margaret of York's music director, Javier Clavere, has created an auspicious beginning for a concert series.

Posted by acapnews at 12:45 AM

December 2, 2004

Chorus to deliver full plate of holiday music

Seattle Times (WA):

What's the recipe for 230 servings of lasagna? Ask the folks at Pavé. This restaurant and bakery caters dinner for the Seattle Men's Chorus when the chorus performs at the Everett Civic Auditorium each year. This year's concert, "Underneath the Mistletoe," will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Everett Civic Auditorium. Upstairs at the Everett High School cafeteria will sit 13 trays of lasagna, bowls of pasta salad and Caesar salad, fruit plates, desserts and beverages — all to be consumed by the 230 men in the chorus before they change into tuxedos for the concert.

"They practice all day long, eat this big meal and go on to perform," said Nan Wilkinson, who owns Pavé with Lil Miller. "By the time they get there, they've worked up quite an appetite. Those guys are hungry." The catering staff attends the chorus's annual concert each year, Wilkinson said, and "once you go, you're hooked." "Each year, it's so uniquely different. They're able to bring together traditional songs with their own flair. It's wonderful and funny and heartfelt and light all at the same time, a combination of all the feelings you get around Christmas."

The Seattle Men's Chorus is known for packaging choral singing with sets, costumes and a dramatic flow. "The joy that they have in singing, you can just feel it," said Maria Lamarca Anderson, a chorus spokeswoman. "There's an amazing thing that happens with the chorus. You laugh one minute; you're crying the next." The chorus has offered 80 programs during Coleman's directorship. "The development of the chorus from a total community chorus and nobody paid except me — and I was paid $200 a month — to a professional arts organization with 13 full-time staff makes us about the largest community-choral organization in the United States," Coleman said.

The 230 to 250 singers volunteer their time nine months a year to present three to four programs to about 40,000 ticket holders, Coleman said. Guest artists have included Bobby McFerrin, Maya Angelou, Rosemary Clooney and Frederica von Stade. Melissa Manchester will appear in the chorus's Dec. 5 and 6 concerts at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. The chorus will bring its entire show to Everett, including two of its associate groups: Captain Smartypants, a musical-theater ensemble, and Aedonis, an 18-voice close-harmony choir.

Since its inception 25 years ago, the chorus has traveled outside Seattle, performing this year in Bellingham, Everett, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, Ellensburg and the Aberdeen-Hoquiam area. The chorus spreads money to social-service agencies throughout the state that way, Coleman said. "They are similar to a church choir in that they sing together in order to try to make a difference in their world," he said. "In their world as gay men, they want to sing to people both gay and straight, and sing in a powerful medium that we are more alike than we are different and that there is no reason for prejudicial treatment or fear." Coleman said much of what draws people to perform in the chorus is the high level of artistry expected. "Many of these men have been in the choir for 20 to 24 years. All of that, I think, comes across in their performance."

Posted by acapnews at 12:04 AM

Twelve Voices. One Clear Sound.

Style Weekly - Richmond (VA):

The Grammy-award-winning ensemble Chanticleer is coming back to Richmond — but this time they’re hoping to be fully clothed. “The last time we performed in Richmond, the airline lost half our luggage,” recalls tenor and associate music director Matt Oltman. “For the first half of the concert we dug up any black clothes we could find.” Luckily, during the intermission the rest of the luggage arrived, and they finished off the concert in their regular dress, full tux with tails.

It’s a sophisticated attire that reflects the impressive sound created by the 12-member, male a cappella group now in its 27th season. Named after the clear-singing rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” the group not only has a lucid, ringing sound, but also has programs that span 10 centuries of music. In one concert, members can be heard performing with ease and authenticity everything from Renaissance music to gospel “The nicest thing about being a singer in Chanticleer is that you grow and expand as a musician,” Oltman says. “Everyone’s open and versatile to trying new styles of music.”

A testament to these singers’ versatility is their newest CD, “How Sweet the Sound,” which came out Sept. 14. The album is a tribute to gospel music, and the group’s African-American music director Joseph Jennings taught each part of every song to the group from his memory. “It’s challenging for us to learn that way. We’re trained to read music. It’s a problem of classical training,” Oltman says. “But gospel is an oral tradition. So to learn it right, we learn it by ear.”

Although most of the group’s members are classically trained, diverse experiences are something the group looks for when auditioning new members. “If someone’s been a jazz pianist or has lived in China and speaks Chinese, that’s an asset to the group,” Oltman says. The ensemble receives hundreds of audition tapes but selects only 12 people to audition live. The audition is like a two-day camp, where all of those who audition sing two songs in front of everyone and also do sight-singing exercises and vocal exercises. On the second day, they sing with Chanticleer, where their blend is almost as important as their personality. “We can’t be completely objective,” says Oltman. “We’re going to have to like them too.”

Chanticleer is the only full-time classical vocal ensemble in the United States and was founded in 1978 by tenor Louis Botto, who wanted to have a group with which to sing the neglected music of the medieval and Renaissance periods. Twenty-six years later the members of the group have not only expanded their wide-ranging repertoire, but they feel like a second family. “It’s like having eleven brothers,” says Oltman. When they’re not on the road touring, they’re rehearsing four hours a day Monday through Friday in their home base, San Francisco.

Christmas is the busiest season for this “orchestra of voices.” This year, they’re performing 22 concerts between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. As is traditional for their Christmas concert, they’ll be performing “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebel. “I’ve probably sung it 5,000 times in my life, but I still love it,” Oltman says. They will also be singing Benjamin Britten’s “Hymn to the Virgin” and many other Christmas favorites. The Christmas program has become a holiday tradition not only in concerts but in recordings and public television broadcasts. A critic for The New Yorker observed, “No one does a better choral Christmas than the virtuoso male voices of Chanticleer.” And Chanticleer has proved this to be true with or without the luggage. S

Posted by acapnews at 12:02 AM