October 30, 2005
Rhiannon improvises in life and music
It began in New York in the late 1960s, where Rhiannon (her legally adopted single name) lived for a few years after graduating Cornell with a degree in theater. She arrived to teach drama at a predominantly black Long Island high school, and her students and their parents encouraged her to check out the jazz clubs in Manhattan. Not that she needed much prodding. ''I heard Ella Fitzgerald two nights after I got to New York," she recalls by phone from Madison, Wis., where she recently spent several days teaching and performing. Rhiannon comes to the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center tonight to celebrate the release of her new CD, ''In My Prime," backed by Tim Ray on piano, John Lockwood on bass, and Pedro Ito on drums and percussion.
''It was in a small club in midtown. I could have reached out and touched her. With those little bitty tables, you know, big enough for two drinks. And I remember what impressed me about her was how calm her body was while she was singing so fast. Her body was very still and relaxed."Soon she was driving into the city several nights a week to hear music, where her other early influences quickly accumulated.''I just got to thinking about voices and horns and texture and bel canto and lyrics and original music and jazz," she said. ''I was really a sponge." She wasn't singing at the time, though. After studying classical voice and piano for 10 years growing up, she'd caught the theater bug. ''I stopped singing completely," Rhiannon says. ''I don't even know if I sang in the shower."
Her singing resumed a few years later, in the mid-1970s, after she moved to San Francisco, became disenchanted with acting, and put together a cover band by tacking a notice to a bulletin board. ''Then along came the women's movement," she says, which led her to hitch rides to a pair of all-women's music festivals. There she made an important discovery: ''There was nobody doing jazz at these festivals," she says. ''I thought, 'Well, I could say that I don't belong here, or I could say that there's a big open space for me.' "
She returned from those festivals and joined a jazz workshop for women taught by pianist Michele Rosewoman. The first night she met the musicians with whom she formed the group Alive! That all-women jazz quintet stayed together for a decade, recording three albums before disbanding in 1986. Rhiannon's subsequent, ongoing association with Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra has lasted nearly twice that long and counting. McFerrin sings improvised duets with Rhiannon on two tracks of ''In My Prime," the two weaving their voices together like a pair of instrumentalists. But improvisation is paramount even in such covers as Joni Mitchell's ''A Case of You" and the Beatles' ''Blackbird," the latter featuring a rapid-fire stretch of improvised storytelling that Rhiannon says changes every time she performs it.
I have had the pleasure of working with Rhiannon on many occasions over the years, especially when she was a member of SoVoSo, and have great respect for her abilities as a vocalist and one of the very few who can truly hold their own when improvising with Bobby. A great and unique talent.
October 27, 2005
Tasteless tribute to Len Dresslar on Letterman
I just now saw Dave Letterman doing a bit on tonight's show called a Tribute to Elmer Dresslar. After announcing the date of the memorial service they showed a grave and played a parody of the Green Giant jingle going something like "in the ho ho ho hole.." Dave himself said that it was awful.
I quite like Letterman but found this to be tasteless at the very least.
October 26, 2005
Connecting Three Faiths in Melodies of Devotion
New York Times:
Given the state of world affairs, you don't need to buy into Samuel P. Huntington's flawed "clash of civilizations" theory to concede that a bit more understanding among cultures could go a long way. In that vein, "Sacred Bridges," a concert on Sunday devoted to making connections among the music of three world faiths, pointed in a helpful direction.
Presented by Lincoln Center in the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, the concert united the King's Singers, a well-known men's a cappella group from England, and Sarband, a traditional Turkish ensemble making its New York debut. The program, conceived by Sarband's music director, Vladimir Ivanoff, featured performances of 16th- and 17th-century psalm settings by composers of different religions: Salamone Rossi (Jewish), Ali Ufki (Muslim) and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Claude Goudimel (Christian). A recorded version of the project was recently released on the World Village label.
Among the composers represented, the most fascinating case was Ufki, who started life as a Polish church musician named Wojciech Bobowski but was captured by Crimean Tartars and sold as a slave to the Ottoman court. He converted, changed his name and, among many other projects, translated biblical psalms from the French into Ottoman and transposed existing melodies into Turkish meters and modes.
The program wove all the various settings into a 75-minute tapestry, with the King's Singers and Sarband trading off not only individual psalms but sometimes even verses within the same psalm. The performances were first-rate, with the King's Singers' impressive tone, blending and control demonstrated most vividly in Rossi's ornate polyphony. Sarband's vocalist, Mustafa Dogan Dikmen, delivered the Ufki settings with great force and presence, and the rest of the ensemble offered virtuosic improvisations on instruments like the kemence (upright short-necked fiddle) and the nei (flute).
The program was warmly received, so I was clearly in the minority in thinking that despite its virtues, it did not entirely work. The challenge inherent in this project is that the commonality of the shared psalm texts is easily overshadowed by the huge musical differences. Perhaps each composer could have received his own portion of the program, thereby allowing the music to breathe and the differences to sink in. Instead, by interweaving the composers so tightly and eliminating any pauses for applause or silence, the program guaranteed that the ear was almost constantly shuttling among musical styles, among languages (French, Hebrew and Turkish) and - most jarringly - between Eastern and Western approaches to modes, tunings, vocal delivery and rhythmic meter.
More important, the all-in-one approach ran the risk of deracinating its sources in the name of its message of unity. This risk felt particularly acute when two whirling dervishes appeared in the wings and began spinning not only to the Turkish music but also to a French Goudimel setting. It was hard to see how a deeply rooted Islamic mystical ritual could retain much meaning when grafted onto Christian polyphony. "Sacred Bridges" would have been stronger if it worked more like real bridges, linking two points without erasing the distance between them.
Green Giant Voice Dies
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Elmer "Len" Dresslar Jr., who extolled vegetables to generations of TV watchers as the booming voice of the Jolly Green Giant, has died. He was 80. Dresslar died Oct. 16 of cancer, according to daughter Teri Bennett.
Dresslar was an entertainer and singer for nearly six decades. But his voice rang through millions of households when he sang the simple refrain, "Ho, Ho, Ho," in an ad jingle for Green Giant foods.
"His was the most consistent and most frequent voice of the Jolly Green Giant over the years, the one consumers are going to recognize," said Tara Johnson, a spokeswoman for General Mills, which owns Green Giant Co.
Dresslar, a Kansas native, moved to Chicago with his wife in the early 1950s to study voice after touring with a production of "South Pacific." By the 1960s, the Navy veteran had carved out a career singing in clubs, on television and in advertising jingles.
He recorded 15 albums with The Singers Unlimited jazz group and appeared on the CBS television show "In Town Tonight" from 1955 to 1960. He and his wife, Dorothy, retired to Palm Springs in 1991.
Ad jingles were the most consistent part of his career, and he landed roles for Rice Krispies cereal, Marlboro cigarettes, Amoco oil and Dinty Moore canned beef stew.
He periodically re-recorded the "Ho, Ho, Ho" for Jolly Green Giant commercials, most recently about 10 years ago.
Bennett said her father auditioned for the Green Giant job without any idea his baritone would become so recognizable.
"He never got tired of it," she said. "If nothing else, it put my sister and I through college."
He is survived by his wife, Dorothy H. Dresslar of Palm Springs; two daughters, Teresa D. Bennett of Baltimore, Md., and Jody H. Fossell of Spokane, Wash.; a sister, Corrine "Connie" Weber of Denver; and three grandchildren.
October 25, 2005
Take 6, P.R.A.I.S.E. Team a heavenly pairing
Louisville Courier-Journal, KY):
Take 6, from left, Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, Alvin Chea, Joel Kibble, David Thomas and Cedric Dent, shifted easily between religious and secular themes during their Saturday performance.
It's common practice in concert reviews to relegate opening acts to a few vague phrases in the final paragraph. But The PRAISE Team, which opened Saturday night's Brown-Forman Midnite Ramble at the Brown Theatre, is no common opening act. It's an 11-piece a cappella gospel ensemble (six men, five women) from Louisville that harkens back to the rootsy sounds from which Motown, soul, and R&B drew their inspiration in the '50s and '60s.
Led by Tierra Watkins, the group (affiliated with Christ's Church For Our Community) roared through an exuberant 30-minute set full of spine-tingling sounds. "I Really Love U Lord" featured hairpin dynamics and pristine, densely textured chords topped off by a fiery solo descant that would have made Aretha Franklin proud.
"Marching To Zion" was a stirring call-and-response anthem full of rustic improvised energy. When Dan Forte, the Kentucky Center's director of programming, introduced the group, he described it as "awesome," and urged the audience to seek its CD. It was an apt description and very good advice.
And as for the headliners, Take 6, in a 90-minute set that ranged generously across their 25-year career and included a preview of their upcoming release "Feels Good," they demonstrated why they've earned multiple Grammy awards and remain among the most popular touring vocal ensembles in America. They shifted easily between religious and secular themes, mostly cultivating a sophisticated jazzy sound couched in technical precision one might expect from a choir steeped in Renaissance traditions.
A vocal adaptation of Miles Davis' "All Blues" invoked the spirit of the jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. "Lamb of God," with its sudden caesuras and sculpted sonic arches, echoed through the Brown as if it were a great cathedral. But the group is equally comfortable with the rougher sounds of Southern gospel, as it showed in a handful of tunes, including a humor-laced "Grandma's Hands."
Washington Post Magazine (DC)
"Drop your jaw, Nick!" Ms. Boley is saying, standing indomitable at the front of the chorus classroom. "Nick, drop your jaw!" But Nick, a fresh-faced underclassman wearing jeans and a long gray polo shirt, isn't dropping his jaw. At least, he isn't dropping his jaw enough to suit Ms. Boley.
"If muuuusiiic be the food of loooove, sing on, sing on!" he sings, working his way through a complex vocal arrangement that students in Ms. Boley's upper-level concert choir class are expected to master. Even as Nick sings, his jaw remains clenched, so Ms. Boley takes hold of it, grasping his jaw and tugging it downward while Nick, gamely, keeps singing.
Before long, Ms. Boley is scanning the room for someone else to call on. And the person she spots is: Katy Haddow. Katy has been dreading this possibility since she got to school this morning. A blond, sweet-faced junior, Katy very much likes concert choir, an advanced choral music class at Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas.
But she hates having to sing by herself in front of some 75 classmates, many of them strangers. It makes her so nervous, standing there singing while Ms. Boley assesses her diction, her breathing, her pitch and, often, her ability to sight-sing an unfamiliar song, cold, from looking at the score. So nervous does it make her that she's adopted a strategy to reduce the likelihood of this happening. Nestled halfway up the risers among the second sopranos, Katy has been sitting with her hands demurely in her lap, her eyes carefully directed floorward so as to avoid making eye contact whenever Ms. Boley sweeps the room with her gaze.
That strategy having failed, Katy obediently makes her way down the riser steps, along with several others similarly summoned. "If music be the food of love, sing on!" they sing, and while they are singing Ms. Boley goes up to one girl and pokes her abdomen so that the girl stands up straight and sings louder. And then Ms. Boley pokes another girl's abdomen, and this goes on until, mercifully, the song ends before Ms. Boley gets to Katy. Even so, the whole experience raises anew, in Katy's mind, the question of whether she should drop concert choir, which, just weeks into her junior year, is turning out to be her most anxiety-producing class. Even IB history, Katy is starting to think, might be less stressful. IB history! Less stressful! This lengthy article continues here.
October 24, 2005
Ball in their court
Loveland Herald Reporter CO):
When the five members of Ball in the House belt out Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” they don’t just sing the lyrics. They provide the bass lines and horn parts — all with their voices. On Friday, the Boston-based “mouth band” shared some tricks of a cappella singing with six boys from Berthoud High School before Ball in the House’s evening performance at the Rialto Theater. “Girls always show up for us,” commented group member Dave Guisti. “Hanging with guys is really cool.”
The choral students later joined the singers on stage to perform “Superstition” and “My Girl” by the Temptations. “It’s a huge opportunity to perform on stage with nationally recognized talent,” said Kim Akeley-Charron, Loveland’s cultural events coordinator.
Whether they bring students to an a cappella singing workshop, send a world-percussion ensemble to play at a school or introduce aspiring writers to poet Billy Collins, the Thompson School District and the city have long partnered to bring cultural opportunities to children. Last school year, the district received a National Golden Achievement Award from the National School Public Relations Association for partnering with the Rialto and the Loveland Museum and Gallery. “It has been a focus of mine since I started at the theater,” Akeley-Charron said.
Sometimes, grant money pays to send the performers to schools. Other times, they offer affordable rates for students or schools, Akeley-Charron said. Performers and artists often like to share their work with young people when they go to different towns. In turn, the students encourage their families to attend community performances, she said. It’s a win-win for the performers. “If you’re traveling a great distance to do your show, you want to make it worth your while,” Akeley-Charron said.
October 23, 2005
Islam in harmony
New Straits Times (Malaysia):
If there is a must-have album for Ramadan, then Raihan’s seventh album it is. It reminds Muslim listeners of their duties, while providing and guiding them through the much needed spiritual enlightenment through zikir (religious chants and praises). Raihan’s four-part harmony of 99 Names — or Asma ’Ul Husna, the traditional zikir of 99 names of God in a capella is simply spellbinding. Listeners are likely to play it again and “sing” along. The group’s decision to release the album this month — while many groups and record labels are focusing only on Hari Raya – is a commendable initiative that many, sadly, have overlooked.
Apart from the traditional nasyid tunes, the album also includes dikir barat-style nasyid tune, Dikir Raihan Zikir. Another impressive showcase was the hip-hop collaboration Do You Know Him, featuring Mecca2Medina. What’s beautiful about Raihan’s music is its honesty and “friendliness”, making it easy to love — from children to adults alike. I won’t be surprised if the young ones start singing songs from this album during the Raya break.
Vocal group Raihan is hugely popular in Malaysia where they have sold over 2,000,000 CDs.
October 22, 2005
Take 6 strives to be spiritually uplifting
Louisville Courier-Journal (KY):
Take rhythm and blues, mix in a bit of gospel, pop, jazz and 1960s soul and top it off with a touch of doo-wop, and you'll have some idea of what to expect tomorrow night at the Brown Theatre when Brown-Forman Corp. presents a cappella group Take 6 as the latest Midnite Ramble Series artist. Formed originally as a quartet in 1980 at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., Take 6 has performed with such legends as Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau and Stevie Wonder. Producer and composer Quincy Jones wrote in his liner notes for "Q's Jook Joint," which included a collaboration with the group: "Take 6 is the greatest vocal group ensemble on the planet. On this subject there is nothing else to discuss. That's the way it is."
We caught up with Take 6 founding member Claude McKnight by phone.
How have the six of you stayed creatively on the same page for 25 years?
It's been a journey for us. There are times that because we are six men, we make sure that we're "prayed up" to keep that ship on the same path! Take 6 has especially gotten it right with our newest CD, "Feels Good," which will be released in January '06. It's the first CD since our debut (1988's platinum-selling "TAKE 6") about which the six of us love every single song. We had an incredible time making the latest CD, hence the title.
One of Take 6's original intentions was to never be locked into one musical category. To that end, over the years you have received Grammy nominations in seven different categories.
We came to realize a long time ago that what we do is what we do. … Now, having said that, because we are primarily an a cappella gospel jazz group, we let the critics and the audiences decide where they want to put our music. The unifying factors in what Take 6 does is that our arrangements are in the jazz realm -- even the gospel songs. … We tend to do things that are uplifting spiritually. That's important to us, so whatever song we do falls into that category.
Since Take 6's formation at that small religious Huntsville college there has been only one member change (in 1985). That says a lot about your commitment to one another.
(Laughs) It's definitely a lifetime gig! We're committed to this for as long as the Lord leads us to do it.
October 20, 2005
The passing of a Giant
Sad News from Don Shelton (10/19/05) ...
"It is with a very heavy and saddened heart that I report the passing of a dear friend and colleague, Len Dresslar, bass of the Singers Unlimited and certainly the voice of the Jolly Green Giant "Ho, Ho, Ho" -- for over 40 years -- as well as countless other jingles that I was privileged to be a part of while in Chicago for 25 years. I mention this to all who have known of his resounding Bass voice both on recordings and on radio and television.
Len was President of Chicago AFTRA for several years in the mid to late 80's. To lose two "Giants" (Thurl, as Tony the Tiger, and Len, as the Jolly Green Giant) in the space of four months, not to mention the loss of Loulie Jean Norman as well, just leaves me almost speechless. Three of my mentors for sure -- and good friends. I shall miss them all so very much. It gives me pause to reflect on my career -- getting to sing with the likes of these stellar performers, who always displayed a sense of the "music" with style and a grace beyond belief.
We will have a Memorial for Len in Palm Springs this Friday at his home with family and close friends. May God continue to bless these families as they live with their losses. May we never forget what they brought to our Singers Community in both Los Angeles and Chicago. I thought you would want to know.
We will have more on this a cappella legend soon - Editor
October 18, 2005
The healing power of song
Daily Telegraph (UK):
Moshing at a gig or attending a classical concert aren't just aurally stimulating - they can benefit your health, too. According to new research, listening to Beethoven or Badly Drawn Boy may help heart disease and stroke patients, as well as people suffering from stress. Earlier this month, British and Italian scientists found that meditative tunes helped to slow breathing and circulation, and that the effects were particularly positive among those who are musically trained, as they synchronised their breathing with the musical phases.
A study undertaken in Taiwan earlier this year found that listening to gentle music for 45 minutes in the evening makes for a restful night's sleep. And this summer, Malcolm Hilton, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, began to trial a singing course that aims to tackle snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a condition that can cause people to stop breathing during deep sleep. The course features songs and vocal exercises that tone up the weak muscles in the soft palate and upper throat that are often to blame. "It would be wonderful to be able to offer patients with snoring or sleep apnoea problems a self-help alternative to surgery or having to wear a nasal mask every night," says Hilton.
Joining a choir helps to tone up the body, as well as the brain. "Singing exercises the abdominal and intercostal muscles, and stimulates the circulation," says Helen Furness, a professional choral trainer who leads a "Singing for Health" programme for over-fifties in Midlothian. "I teach the group deep-breathing exercises, which enables them to make full use of their lungs." Learning to sing correctly also encourages people to concentrate on improving their posture, says Furness. "And I teach mostly without song sheets. This stimulates choir members to engage their brains and keep their memories sharp."
At the National Society for Epilepsy's (NSE) therapy centres, music is used in several settings. "We play structured pieces that are 60 beats per minute - primarily Mozart and baroque - in our art area; and in our sensory room, too, in combination with massage and visualisation, to help people to focus and relax," says Lorna Bailey, the manager of the NSE Chalfont Centre's therapy rooms. "If they can remain calm, stress-related seizures occur less frequently. We also encourage residents, particularly those who can't communicate in the usual way, to let off steam by playing percussion instruments. It is a very good means of self-expression and gives patients an identity that is not associated with their condition. I have found that some patients become so engaged in the music that they don't have fits."
Just like a game of tennis or a swim, singing releases endorphins into the bloodstream, making you feel positive. "I run groups for people who feel depressed, isolated or in need of stress relief," says Maggie O'Connor, a health-care musician at St Mary's Hospital on the Isle of Wight. "ME sufferers, cancer patients, carers, disabled people and the elderly come to my classes, to find their voice. The physical warm-up and breathing exercises help them to relax, and singing in harmony with others brings self-confidence, empowerment and a sense of team spirit."
Many experts believe we are born musical. "The inner part of the ear is the only organ to reach the full adult size at 24 weeks," says Dr Michel Odent, director of the Primal Health Research Centre in London. "Music provides the foetus with sensory stimulation, and singing improves the emotional state of a pregnant woman, which can influence the growth and development of the baby in the womb." Song can help to develop the bond between mother and child, too. "Babies recognise melodies earlier than they do language," says O'Connor. "That is why a mother traditionally sings a lullaby to a baby at bedtime, as a signal that it's time to sleep. Playing music and singing to a child also promotes language and cognitive development, co-ordination and listening skills."
Maldon & South Chelmsford Primary Care Trust has just launched a tuneful new project to improve the quality of life of local children with asthma. "Asthma is a serious condition for many youngsters," says Sarah Southerby, the PCT's healthy living co-ordinator. "The 'Huff and Puff' project holds innovative classes using song and art as mediums for helping children to control their breathing." The workshops include simple songs, rhythms and breathing techniques, to teach the children not to panic when they suffer shortness of breath.
"A recent study undertaken in Denmark found that singing traditional songs to people with dementia - including Alzheimer's - helped to reduce agitated behaviour, increase communicative engagement and bring into balance over- or under-arousal," says Professor Tony Wigram, head of PhD Studies in Music Therapy at Aalborg University in Denmark. This may be because the part of the brain that recognises and enjoys music is less affected by dementia than other areas.
At Birmingham Children's Hospital, vocal tutors provide weekly musical activities for children with life-limiting conditions, as well as their parents and siblings. "Everyone benefits from the feel-good factor that the games provide," says Rebecca Ledgard, joint director of the "Singing Medicine" project. "Taking part helps children to cope better with their illness and it distracts them from the pain, trauma and boredom of being in hospital. The activities stimulate the brain - particularly among those who have suffered a head injury - and encourage children to get out of bed and play an instrument or join in. It also gives their parents a much-needed break."
October 17, 2005
Review - The Sixteen
The Herald (UK):
The challenge of successfully reconciling the apparent anachronism of renaissance music and language with contemporary cultural values is no easy affair, but, as The Sixteen continue to prove, it is most definitely a task worth pursuing. To celebrate the end of the Paisley Choral Festival, Harry Christophers skilfully lead his singers through a programme chosen to mark both the 500th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585) and the centenary of the birth of Sir Michael Tippett (1905-1998).
The Sixteen breeze in and out of Paisley Abbey with the kind of slick professionalism that fixes them firmly in the 21st-century camp of commercialism, but only when they forget the relative arbitrariness of their own place in time can we drift ethereally into the poetic acoustics of the abbey.
The polyphony of Tallis and the oblique dissonances of Tippett and MacMillan are caressed into life by Christophers, who manages to construct an effective dualism of anticipation and resolution with each lingering phrase, but just occasionally the performance feels stifled, and perhaps doesn't deliver the overwhelming sense of exaltation so inspired by the music.
That said, the men provide the most convincing displays of sensitivity, particularly during Tallis's If Ye Love Me and MacMillan's Bone Jesu and we are confronted with the harrowing yet compelling beauty of the counter-tenor lines and the intriguing anomaly of 12 men resonating as a single voice. One only wishes there had been more of these instances. Certainly, The Sixteen know what works and as they pierced the echoes of the cloisters we knew only too well that the desired effect had been achieved.
October 13, 2005
Medieval women celebrated
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (NY):
Anyone who thinks medieval music is dry, esoteric and largely unapproachable has clearly never attended a Lionheart concert. This remarkable a cappella group, which appeared Tuesday evening at Kilbourn Hall, devoted its entire program to music that explored images of women in medieval England. Make no mistake, the aptly named Lionheart sang highly charged songs and chants that were far more erotic than esoteric. What else can one say about William Cornysh's magnificent 16th-century Blow Thi Horne, Hunter, a doozy of a double entendre that treats the sexual pursuit of women in terms of bagging a deer?
Clearly, Lionheart — countertenor Lawrence Lipnik, tenors John Olund and Michael Ryan-Wenger, baritones Richard Porterfield and Jeffrey Johnson and bass Kurt-Owen Richards — are all musical meat eaters. Of course, medieval views of women weren't simply limited to bawdy, Chaucer-like tales. Sexual tensions and ambiguities abounded in Tudor England. Some things never change. As Lionheart outlined in its program notes, medieval songs portrayed women as figures that were alternately maternal, beloved, unfathomable, hunted and sorrowful. Lionheart, which has been in-residence at New York City's St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church since 1993, performed all of these songs in high style.
The concert began with the singers out of our view, intoning a chant at the rear of Kilbourn and entering up a center aisle in single file, like monks entering a cathedral. Then, they divided into two groups of three and sang at opposite sides of the hall, creating the sort of antiphonal effect that was a trademark of medieval church music. Kilbourn, with its warm and intimate acoustic, served as a worthy substitute for a reverberant cathedral.
Not surprisingly, the dominant female figure in medieval Europe was the Blessed Virgin, who figured prominently in a variety of Lionheart's songs. The concert's opening processional, Salve Regina Misericordie, from the Sarum Chant of Catholic liturgy, was remarkable for its utter sensuousness, which in turn served as a splendid metaphor for the Virgin's spiritual perfection.
Lionheart showed off its virtuosity in the next song, Cornysh's Ave Maria Mater from the Eton Choirbook, which called on the six different voices to dovetail in vocal acrobatics. There were some wonderfully intimate moments, especially countertenor Lipnik's silky solo rendition of Iff I Had Wytt for To Endyght from Henry VIII's Book; and wonderfully wanton ones, such as And I War A Maydyn. Lionheart sang all of them with luminosity and love.
Sing and You are Grinning
Glasgow Daily Record (Scotland):
There can't be many easier ways to get in shape - pick a song, take a deep breath and sing your heart out It maysound unbelievable but research shows singing is very good for your health. By exercising your vocal chords, you can get your body in better shape and make yourself feel happier at the same time.
But it's not just a question of elevating your mood. It seems singing can actually boost the body's immune response and the more passionate your singing, the greater the benefits.
Researchers at the University of California found singing leads to increased levels of immunoglobulin which helps the body to fight infections and is as effective to bodyand mood as light exercise and meditation. So rather than an hour spent contorting yourself into odd positions on a yoga mat, try singing your way through an album.
For the past decade, listening to music has been linked to helping people cope with disease, ageing illnesses and depression. In the US it's even part of treatment programmes in some hospitals. But now it seems singing along can have even greater benefits.
Amanda Baldwin, soprano in the Welsh National Opera Chorus, said: "Singing is definitely good for your health. It is no longer over when the fat lady sings. "In terms of the profession there aren't really that many fat singers anymore - just look at Lesley Garrett. "She keeps herself so slim and still has a beautiful voice. A lot of singers used to be big but it is actually harder to breathe when you have a lot of fat surrounding the abdomen. "It is hard to say what comes first - singing being good for your health or your health being good for your singing, but the two are certainly complimentary. "As a member of the WNO Chorus we are expected not only to sing but also to act and dance as well, so it is important to stay in shape.
"In fact, this season, six of us sopranos have trained as can-can dancers for The Merry Widow, not something we could have done unless we were already very fit and healthy." She added: "Singing also has other benefits such as keeping you young. It also makes you a lot more relaxed and easy going. "You don't have to be a professional singer to get the benefits. Singing is the perfect way to relieve stress and tension whether you sing in a choir or even just in the shower."
October 12, 2005
Minnesota's choral tradition alive and well
Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota has often been called the choral center of the U.S. The state is filled not only with church and school choirs, but also professional choirs with reputations that extend beyond Minnesota's borders. This is a busy time for many of those choirs as they get ready for their season-opening concerts this month. But missing for the second year is one of the best-known choruses in the state.
As a new season gets underway, the Twin Cities choral community has had a full year to adjust to the absence of the Dale Warland Singers. They've just released a new CD, "Harvest Home," but Warland disbanded his group last year to concentrate on teaching, guest conducting and composing. Over the course of 31 seasons, The Dale Warland Singers helped further Minnesota's reputation as a choir capital and won the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence the first year it was given out. The award was subsequently won by two other professional choirs from the Twin Cities, VocalEssence and the Rose Ensemble.
Warland says Minnesota is such a fertile ground for choral music because it's valued here. "Choral music is a very important part of our spiritual and cultural life," Warland says. "It's not just recreation. It's the spirit and the commitment to choral singing that is the most important thing about the Minnesota tradition."
Kathy Saltzman Romey is the director of Choral Activities at the University of Minnesota and conducts the Minnesota Chorale. She says Dale Warland was a pioneer in this community, and his organization served a model for other choirs. She says Warland's commitment to new music and his group's unique clarity and blend was something for others to emulate. "I do think that Dale was very gracious about passing the torch on to new organizations," Romey says. "I think that he really felt strongly about encouraging younger organizations to step up and take this tradition, and carry it on in their own way."
One professional choral group that's been around even longer than the Dale Warland Singers is VocalEssence, which conductor Philip Brunelle founded 37 seasons ago. Twin Cities composer Stephen Paulus has written music for both groups. He says Philip Brunelle is a gifted programmer, and is usually three steps ahead of everyone else. "He'd commission a piece, and by the time you'd finish the work he'd already scheduled a performance at the Kennedy Center, one in Belgium and one in Stockholm," Paulus says. "He'd also have a recording of the work featured on some radio show. That's always very exciting."
Stephen Paulus says he appreciates having a champion of his music like Philip Brunelle in the community. Brunelle says that's part of VocalEssence's mission of performing new music along with seldom-heard works. It's not easy to win an audience with new music, but in his 37 years leading the group Brunelle says he's found an approach that works.
"First of all, you don't apologize," Brunelle says. "You don't tell audiences that you have to do something contemporary in order to get a grant. Personally, if I don't like a piece there's no way I can conduct it. I really have to believe in what I'm doing." Brunelle says with so many different choral groups in Minnesota competing for an audience, they each need to have their own niche. The Rose Ensemble, for example, focuses on early music. Cantus performs music for male voices.
One of the newest professional choirs in the Twin Cities is a group simply called The Singers. Now in their second season, The Singers have a repertoire of music from around the world and from all time periods. The bulk of the group is made up of former members of the Dale Warland Singers. Conductor Matthew Culloton sang bass with the Warland Singers and was the group's music advisor, but he stresses that the new group is not The Dale Warland Singers by another name.
"For us, the challenge is to find what we want to keep from Dale, but find our own direction," Culloton says. "One of the key differences is that we've broadened the repertoire a little bit, and highlight everything from the old to the new." Culloton says he wants The Singers to bring something new to the Twin Cities choral scene. VocalEssence's Philip Brunelle says he welcomes the competition.
"Competition is a good thing. It makes everyone work harder," says Brunelle. "In the orchestra world, I always thought the Minnesota Orchestra jumped a notch when the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra came around. I think that in the choral world, competition makes all of us work just that little bit harder to do our very best."
VocalEssence opens its new season this month, as do The Singers and the Rose Ensemble. After several weeks of touring, the male choir Cantus returns to Minnesota for its first home concerts of the season. Cantus Artistic Director Erick Lichte says if the past is any guide, all of these concerts will be well-attended."Cantus had a concert last spring. That same weekend VocalEssence and the Rose Ensemble also had concerts, and the Concordia Choir came down from Moorhead for a performance," Lichte recalls. "I talked to people who were either at the concerts or involved in the organizations, and everybody had good attendance. So there's still a place for all of these groups. It's just an amazing thing to be a part of." Lichte says that as the old song goes, all God's critters got a place in the choir and, he adds, all choirs got a place in Minnesota.
So much talent yet they didn't even mention choral heavyweights the St Olaf Choir nor the National Lutheran Choir who, along with Concordia Choir, are all based in Minnesota. The Nordic tradition of choral singing has obviously had a huge influence to allow the state to stake a claim to be the choral center of the US
October 11, 2005
Singing tradition in touch with its masculine side
The Scotsman (Scotland):
Veljo Tormis is 75 years old and one of Estonia's most celebrated living composers. He lives several floors up in a modest apartment block near the centre of Tallinn. From the outside, its stark, impersonal architecture reeks of Stalinist utilitarianism. Tormis took up residence 40 years ago when Estonia was under Soviet control. He had little choice. "These were hard times, and these were state-funded apartments assigned especially to musicians," he explains.
His original neighbours in this cultural ghetto included Estonia's other celebrated septuagenarian composer Arvo Pärt, a jazz composer living upstairs, and even the young Neeme Järvi, who, wooed by the West, was later to become a conducting phenomenon in Scotland and then America. In his tiny study, jam-packed with books and scores and with barely room for a piano, Tormis wrote, like most composers working under the Soviet system, extensively for theatre and film. He did well enough to afford his own car - "the inevitable Trabant" he chuckles.
Surprisingly, when he extended his composition studies at the Moscow Conservatory in the 1950s - in the same class as Schnittke - he managed to secure himself enough freedom to experiment with his own compositional style (although in the 1970s he recalls being told he was writing too much in a nationalist folk vein, and was beginning to be treated like a dissident). His vehicle was song, and his stimulus was the folk music of Estonia.
Tormis's music, which centres on the repetitive runic style of ancient Estonian folk song, which he painstakingly researched in remote villages, has, in an Estonia finally free since 1989 of either Russian or earlier German domination, become a potent musical mouthpiece for expressing national pride and identity. His approachable, highly individual music is widely performed in a country where singing is, quite literally, a national institution. Apart from the huge Eisteddfod-style song festivals which grew up in the mid-19th century, and which are a vital part of today's Estonian cultural calendar, the state actually funds several professional national choirs.
At a typical daily rehearsal of the Estonian National Male Choir in Tallinn's main concert hall a couple of weeks ago, I experienced something of the astonishing virility of the national singing tradition. Musical director Kaspar Pistnensa dissected two of Tormis's folk-inspired works - one in which the male chorus imitate a lusty band of balalaikas and accordions - with the same rigorous attention to detail a conductor might inflict on a professional symphony orchestra. The sound was immense - a radiant tenor line that soared effortlessly to extraordinary heights; a bass line so profound as to suggest a lingering Russian influence.
These are professionally trained musicians who earn a state salary. But as William Vesilin, one of its members, explained, they also have jobs to fill the afternoon. He himself works in Estonia's burgeoning real estate industry. Some are employed as chorus extras with the national opera company, and some even work on building sites.
"Choirs like this came about because Estonia didn't have an army," the leading folk musician Jaak Johannsen told me. Estonian men, it seems, promote their nationalist machismo through their vocal chords. A gigantic painting on the wall of the choir's practice room depicts its original director, Gustav Ernesaks. He, like so many Estonian men during the Second World War, was sent to Russia for enforced labour, where he gathered together his compatriots to form what is now the Estonian National Male Choir.
October 10, 2005
It's all in the voice
San Francisco Chronicle (CA):
They hover like hawks, waiting to snatch the best voices out of the crowd of slightly befuddled freshmen finding their way around the Stanford campus. Excellent sopranos, altos, tenors, basses and baritones are out there among the university's newest students, but which of Stanford's nine a cappella groups will reach them first?
"I said, 'Do you sing?!' " sophomore Jessica Jacobs called out the other day to passers-by in White Plaza. "Audition for Harmonics. DO IT!!!" Not far away, Fleet Street's members tried to sell themselves with glossy knockoff James Bond posters that read "Gold Singer 007." "We all want the best auditionees -- we're looking for the incredible freshman high voice or a great bass," said Ben Rosebrough, standing behind a CD-stacked table in the student commons. "We're here assaulting people in White Plaza."
The competition has grown so great that the university now regulates when its a cappella groups can begin papering the campus with their slick posters and holding auditions. The idea is to prevent anyone from gaining an unfair advantage, which means late September is dominated by students bent on harmonizing in their free time. Singing a cappella at Stanford carries prestige -- people know who you are, maybe not by name but by sight: That guy sings in Fleet Street. It's also about social relationships. Joining an a cappella group is like pledging a sorority or fraternity: A kinship is born of the highly selective process and the fact that members spend much of their free time together.
It's not clear why a cappella is such a big deal on campus. Some theorize it's a natural by-product of a student body full of renaissance folks. It's the same reason, they say, students trip over each other to take swing and ballroom dancing. "By nature, it's a dorky, nerdy thing to do," said junior Bryan Tam of the Harmonics.
Healthy a cappella cultures abound on the East Coast, most notably at Yale, with its famous Whiffenpoofs. UC Berkeley has a fair share of groups as well, although it's not a "scene" the way it is at Stanford. A person has a better chance of getting into the university than of singing with Talisman, known for its repertoire of South and West African folk songs and African American spirituals. About 100 people auditioned for just a handful of open spots this year. Over the years, Talisman has sung at the White House and the Olympics, and in South Africa. Most recently, it recorded music for the video game Civilization 4.
Amy Sun, 18, signed up for a 10 p.m. audition. "I'm kind of nervous," she said, adding that a cappella is more popular at Stanford than she would have imagined. "I guess it's really big."
Each group has its niche. The Mendicants are the all-male oldest group at Stanford, founded in 1963. Testimony sings Christian songs. Everyday People sing R&B and hip-hop. Counterpoint is all female. Raagappella, founded in 2002, is the newest and focuses on Southeast Asian music. The Harmonics cover rock songs from groups like Metallica. Mixed Company is Stanford's oldest coed a cappella group. And then there's the Fleet Street Singers, a crowd-pleaser known for their comedic repertoire.
Most of Stanford's a cappella ensembles have 16 to 20 members and record a CD every few years. At least one of the groups always seems to make the annual "Best of College A Cappella" CD. They often practice several times a week and perform big shows in the winter and spring. On Valentine's Day, a couple of groups do old-fashioned serenades.
Maybe one reason it's so captivating is its simplicity in an increasingly distracting, technological world. Mehul Trivedi, who founded Raagappella, can only make musical arrangements using "what complexity there is in the human voice."
But perhaps more than anything it's just fun and comes with a little fame. At the Fleet Street audition, students trying out are ushered into a room as members stamp their feet, applaud and chant "Name! Name! Name!" until an introduction is made. The auditioning students sing scales -- "la, la, la, la, la, laaaa" -- while members exclaim in delight no matter how they perform. Afterward, the students trying out hear wild cheering as they're quickly escorted from the room, given a CD and a pat on the back.
Gordon Koo auditioned again this year after making it as far as callbacks last year. This time he made the cut. "Everyone knows all the a cappella groups," he said. "They're kind of like Stanford's mini-celebrities."
Reality drifts away with the a cappella
And here is another perspective on the phenomenon..
The Stanford Daily (CA):
By Navin Sivanandam
To call Stanford a bubble would be unfair to surface tension — the disconnect from reality on the Farm is an impressive thing. Far away, and viewed through well-frosted glass, the rest of humanity appears to struggle through a very different game than the one we’re playing. Of course, most of the time, you happily get on with your life on campus without realizing just how far removed you are. Most of the time.
Occasionally, however, there are moments of clarity when the absurdity of the Wonderland surrounding you is depressingly apparent. For example, now. Like a scab that’s been picked too early, the opening of the University’s doors at the start of the season exposes its bilious innards. And all kinds of unsavoury things start oozing out. Now, most you have been well indoctrinated in the Stanford mindset, so you may not recognize said ooze; luckily, I’m here to help.
Enthusiasm is a terrible thing in the wrong hands. It’s blinding, and it rips through everything in its path, tearing away nuance and subtlety.
There’s a lot of singing at Stanford. In fact, there’s a quite frightening amount. Aliens wandering around White Plaza last week would have probably assumed that the University was home to a many-factioned tribal war. Complete with chanting. In fact, it seems that every fringe group around here prefers to do it in harmony. Well, it’s either that or people really do prefer singing to having fun.
Now, I’m not completely immune to the charms of the voice, but I’m still puzzled by just how much a cappella can exist in one place. What draws you all to singing? Shouldn’t you be taking drugs or something? I mean, it’s not like we’re talking a rock band here; there are no million-dollar record deals or fawning groupies in this gig.
Perhaps I’ve missed out on some dramatic social phenomenon. Maybe, when I wasn’t looking, group singing suddenly became the thing to do. Hey, I know I’m no longer au fait with all the trends coursing through college life; conceivably a good chant could be what all the kids are after these days. Then again, the 912 different singing posses do seem a little excessive. Are these groups any different? Do they just pick, like, a different octave each? Or is it something else that ensures that Stanford’s musical menagerie lives on?
In the end, though, whatever lies beneath the continuing popularity, at least we can be grateful that the often oppressed harmonious-but-socially-awkward-in-high-school minority has a voice (or 10) here on the Farm.
October 8, 2005
Spotlight in the spotlight
The home-town favorites Spotlight were today crowned the new Queeens of Harmony by winning the 2006 Sweet Adeline competition held in Detroit, Michigan. Members LeAnn Hazlett (lead), Kerry Denino (baritone), Patti Britz (bass), Kendra LaPointe (tenor) dazzled the judges with their three songs "I'm All Bound 'Round With the Mason-Dixon Line", "Beware My Foolish Heart" and "Old Quartet of Mine". Salt, from Sweden, took second honors with the Four Bettys of Illinois placing third.
Winners of the chorus competition are Arizona's Scottsdale Chorus, directed by the highly regarded Lori Lyford, who sang "Make 'Em Laugh ", "Lazy Days", "Swanee", "If You Love Me, Really Love Me" and finished with "Goodbye World, Goodbye".
October 7, 2005
Finding common threads
Gainesville Sun (FL):
When Christopher Gabbitas, a baritone with the English vocal group the King's Singers, first heard the idea behind "Sacred Bridges," he found it intriguing. And when he began working on the piece that will make its U.S. premiere in Gainesville Tuesday, his enthusiasm began to build. For "Sacred Bridges," the King's Singers will team with Sarband, a musical group that combines Eastern and European styles. "Sacred Bridges" draws its text from the Psalms, weaving together Islamic, Christian and Jewish musical settings from the 16th and 17th centuries for scripture all three faiths hold sacred.
"I think the focus in the modern era is to look at the differences between the three faiths and to see the ways in which they conflict and ways you can drive wedges between them," Gabbitas said by telephone from England. "Sacred Bridges" takes the opposite approach.
Tuesday's performance - sung in Hebrew, French and Turkish - will feature composers Salamone Rossi Hebreo, Clément Marot, Théodore de Bèze and Ali Ufkì. Gabbitas says Sarband founder and director Vladimir Ivanoff pulled the strands together to show the "extreme similarities." "He's shown that the same words and themes, even the same melodies are used in the Jewish faith and also in the Islamic faith," Gabbitas says.
The King's Singers formed in 1968 at King's College. They are six men: bass, two baritones, a tenor and two countertenors. The sound is unique, with a vocal range in which the falsetto of the countertenors can reach the F of a soprano, while the bass can explore the basement with a low B flat. Since forming there have been only 19 singers in its exclusive membership; and Gabbitas is the newest, joining in 2004. "To be honest, they welcomed me with open arms, they're extremely kind and caring and a generous bunch of people with their time and the way they welcomed me in," said Gabbitas, jokingly calling himself "new guy."
The King's Singers' unique style is complemented by the wide variety of music. In a church concert it may be works from the Renaissance. Visitors to the group's Web site may be serenaded by the tight harmony a capella version of the Beach Boys classic "Good Vibrations." The group travels all around the world, performing about 100 concerts a year. When the group joined Sarband in May 2005 to record a CD at St. Andrew's Church, Toddington, Gloucester, it crossed a couple of new musical bridges, as well. Gabbitas said Sarband vocalist Mustafa Dogan Dikmen did 99.9 percent of the singing in Turkish, "and did it jolly well," allowing the King's Singers to add a new language to its musical résumé, albeit, briefly.
"It has been an interesting experience; we're used to singing in French, we're used to singing in German and Latin, even Hungarian, Finish and Polish, but not so much Turkish," he said. And while they've sung with church organs and symphonies, being accompanied by Sarband's reed flute, bowed three-string fiddle and trapezoidal zither, was a first. "The three-string fiddle is unlike any Western instrument. It's a tiny instrument played resting on the knee of the player. You don't push the strings down, you place your finger by the side of the strings, which gives it a slightly reedy harmonic sound," Gabbitas says. "It was fascinating."
Singing Sisters of Tibet
Mainichi Daily News (Japan):
Three singing sisters from highland Tibet drew attention with a miniature live concert staged in Tokyo prior to the release of their album in Japan on Friday. The trio, named Xuelian, is formed by three sisters aged 22, 23, and 24, who were bought up singing in the mountains and plains in their homeland 4,000 meters above sea level.
During their performance in a studio in the Tokyo metropolitan area on Thursday, they overwhelmed listeners with the volume and acoustic pressure of their voices. The name Xuelian comes from a mountain flower that continues to bloom in high mountain areas regardless of the season. They have been performing in China since 2003, and made their debut in Japan after a music official noticed their talent.
On Thursday they performed a song in Japanese called "Saita" (It bloomed) and two other a cappella songs.
When asked about their opinion of Japan, one of them said, "Everyone walks fast and looks busy." They added that they felt sleepy in Japan, possibly because of the difference in altitude of their hometown. The place they wanted to visit while in Japan was Mount Fuji, they said. "We're going to do our best in Japan, so please support us," one of the group members said in Japanese.
So much sweet singing
Detroit Free Press (MI):
It's a muggy, unseasonably hot Monday afternoon as the Sweet Adelines begin to converge on Cobo Center. They seem happy to be there, even though they expected to be in New Orleans. Plans changed when Hurricane Katrina stormed in. Inside Cobo's main entrance, a quartet called Fourth Avenue is singing a few spontaneous bars of "Last Night on the Back Porch." Their pastel V-neck blouses match. So do their chipper attitudes. "We went to Greektown for dinner. That was awesome," says Kris Pederson, 53, of Portland, Ore. "We did the flaming 'opa!' Awesome experience!"
Outside, more than 50 women in scarlet-red T-shirts are striding in brisk formation up Washington Boulevard. They're the Flying High Singers, who just flew in from Holland. "Beautiful weather!" says one of them as she strides past.
Two things are clear about the Sweet Adelines International convention and competition, which is happening this week in downtown Detroit. One, these women, who sing four-part harmony in the barbershop style, are a cheery bunch. Not in a placid, knee-jerk "Stepford Wives" way, but in a fun-loving, exuberant, life-is-too-short-to-mope way.
"Basically, when our members meet in a city, they take over the city," says Joey Mechelle Stenner, a spokesperson for Sweet Adelines International. Already, stories are circulating of women bursting into song at Fishbones restaurant and People Mover stops. And on Friday morning, a horde of Sweet Adelines will participate in a mass sing at Hart Plaza.
October 6, 2005
New Release: Persuasions - Sing U2
A Cappella pioneers and legends The Persuasions, who headlined to standing O's at the A Cappella Summit in San Rafael a couple of years ago, have been one of the most prolific a cappella recording groups we know of, with 19 titles in the Primarily A Cappella catalog, 20 counting "Sing U2." In the past few years, the Persuasions have treated us to CDs covering the work of some of their (and our) favorite groups: The Beatles ("Sing The Beatles"), their patron and mentor Frank Zappa ("Frankly A Cappella"), The Grateful Dead ("Might As Well") and now "Sing U2." The Persuasions' soulful, deep-bass a cappella takes on these groups, some of the most influential musicians of our time, are just what the doctor ordered! 10 songs, some favorites are "Even Better Than the Real Thing," "Angel of Harlem," "The Wanderer," a marvelous cover of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of," "When Love Comes To Town," "Trying to Throw Your Arms Around The World," a surprising Doo-Wop interpretation of "Pride" (In The Name of Love), "One" and "Mysterious Ways." This is sweet, soulful stuff that we regard as the ultimate tribute to U2 and the other groups, and we can only hope that the series continues for as long as possible. Who could be next—Bob Dylan? Hendrix? The Stones? Led Zep? Ray Charles? Janis Joplin? Listen, guys, whoever you pick wPrimarily A Cappella ill be perfect, and a gift to their fans and yours everywhere! Available now from Primarily A Cappella
Listen to "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World"
October 5, 2005
Chapter 6 blends harmonies, humor
Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewn (PA):
Not many bands can build a career on singing about their love for donuts. But Chapter 6, an a cappella band from Chicago, garners attention with their ballad about Krispy Kreme donuts. Several years ago, group members were stunned to discover that two of them had never tasted a Krispy Kreme donut. While on the road one night, the group stopped at a store and purchased several dozen donuts. The result, which was written for a performance at an awards show, is the popular "Ode to Krispy Kreme."
"That was an inspiring moment," says Chuck Bosworth, the group's baritone. Humor is just one of the aspects that has turned Chapter 6 into an award winning band in such a short time. People will be able to see what all the fuss is about when Chapter 6 performs Oct. 8 at the Robert S. Carey Performing Arts Center, St. Vincent College, near Latrobe.
Since the group's formation six years ago, Chapter Six has garnered a number of awards. In 2000, they became the youngest group to win the Chicago Regional Harmony Sweepstakes. They went on to become that competition's grand champions three times. In 2004, they made history when they won both the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella and the Harmony Sweepstakes. Last month, Chapter 6 was honored at the A Cappella Community Awards with five awards, including favorite jazz group, favorite religious group, favorite songwriter and arranger for band member Mark Grizzard, and favorite male vocalist runner-up for band member Luke Menard. "It was a huge blessing," Bosworth says about the recent awards. "We just want to go out and have a good time and want our audiences to have a good time. I think the awards reflect that that is happening."
Bosworth met his fellow band mates -- Grizzard, Menard, John Musick, Nathan Pufall, A.D. Stonecipher and Jarrett Johnson -- when they attended college at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. A musical group Chapter 6 had existed at the school for years, rotating members out as they graduated from the school. The group was disbanding when Bosworth and the others decided to compete in a competition during their senior year. When they won, the group decided to keep Chapter 6 alive and see if they could make a career out of their love for singing.
The band derives its name from the biblical book of Acts, chapter six, versus 3-4. The Bible verse reveals the story of seven Christians who like to help people through their love of music and song. The group openly admits that faith plays an important role in their life, but it does not dominate their music. "We're all Christians," says Bosworth. "(Jesus) is the rock we lean on. We don't want to preach to people or shove anything down their throats." "We want to play to the audience we are playing to, but we want to be honest about who we are," says Musick, adding that 10 percent of the show consists of Christian music.
What may be more prevalent in their music than faith is their love of humor. Chapter 6 has developed a reputation for entertaining crowds with their versions of the "Wizard of Oz" story and other musical medleys. The "Wizard of Oz" "is our staple song," says Musick. "It always works well. We all take roles. We play a bit more theatrically on that. The arrangement is one of the best arrangements in a cappella music." "We believe God has a sense of humor," says Bosworth. "We want people to walk out of our shows feeling good. We think humor is a key to that."
Bosworth and Musick promise a variety of music in their up-coming show. The band performs jazz, gospel, swing and pop. "We even try to do rock 'n' roll a cappella," says Bosworth. Musick warns audience members that they may be called on stage during the show. The group will also honor any requests.
Chapter 6 travels the country performing at many colleges and universities. They also perform at high schools and offer those students a master class in singing. Churches are another venue, where the group focuses on gospel arrangements. They have also begun performing a 1950s-inspired show and hope to perform in some country-music venues. Musick, who sings bass and is the band's music director, began singing when he was a child. Most of the men share the same love of music and early discovery of talent. "A lot of the guys would have the same story," says Musick. "Choir was good, but didn't fill them up in a way." The band has released four albums, which have sold more than 18,000 copies. The latest, "Swing Shift" is receiving critical praise since it's release last spring. That album won three nominations from the 2005 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, with "The Wizard of Oz" winning for best humor song.
October 4, 2005
Chor Leoni Men's Choir Calls For New Compositions
Are you a composer with a new work for male choir? Do you want to hear your music sung by Vancouver's renowned Chor Leoni?
Chor Leoni and Diane Loomer, C.M., artistic director, welcome submissions of new TTBB works for consideration, to be sight read at the choir's Reading Session of New Compositions for Male Choir, on Wednesday January 18, 2006 (7 pm), held at Vancouver's Ryerson United Church, 2195 West 45th Avenue.
Each submission will receive a 10 minute session which includes sight-reading by the choir as well as constructive comments from the singers' viewpoint. Each performance will be recorded and given to the composer.
* Works must be for TTBB choir.
* Scores must be computer-generated (hand-written scores will not be accepted).
* If chosen, composer must bring 35 copies to the reading session.
* Please include full contact information with all submissions.
* Submissions will not be returned unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included.
* Submission deadline: December 5, 2005.
for further information, contact Chor Leoni:
October 3, 2005
This chef sings with his supper
Yakima Herald (WA):
Puccini simmering with polenta, "Carmen" with cannelloni and Tosca with tiramisú. Where else but the State fair? Wedged between displays of elephantine zucchini and antique apples, there's a twice-daily serving of choral cooking — think of it as melody meets minestrone — in the Ag Building. "The Singing Chef," Andy Lo Russo, combines Italian food with Italian opera in free demonstrations for Central Washington State Fair-goers.
With the aura of aria, Lo Russo creates an Old World atmosphere, where mingling scents and flavors conjure a feeling of family togetherness, all centered on the kitchen. People who cook together, harmonizing all the while, are partaking in one of life's great pleasures, maintains "The Singing Chef." So he's showing Yakima how to do it.
While Lo Russo whisks and sautés, he's also crooning, leading audience singalongs of "That's Amore" and "Arrivederci, Roma." "It's all about enjoying the process," he says. "Get the family together, and sing, cook and bond." He adds, "When you're in a happy mood, you can transport yourself and your family from the kitchen to Italy."
It's a message Lo Russo underscores wherever he appears, whether it's on television on the Food Network, in Las Vegas, at special events, in opera houses or at state fairs. In Yakima, the tenor transforms chopped eggplant, garlic and onions, dolloped with red peppers and fresh basil, into "Bellini's Pasta Norma" (named after the Italian composer's romantic opera). It's as close as rigatoni can get to "Rigoletto."
Not only do audience members watch the process and smell the progress, they are also immersed in Lo Russo's bel canto throughout the hourlong show. "He's very good," notes Don Smith of Yakima, as he listens to Lo Russo whipping up the audience as well as a pomodoro sauce.
Lo Russo didn't start out as a crooning cook, nor as an opera singer for that matter. His earliest musical career was as a pop singer with Epic Records. Then about 12 years ago, as he was riding his mountain bike (and singing) near his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., he realized how much he missed his family — and the attendant joyful meals — in New Jersey. "I had an epiphany," he recalls. "I could combine my two loves, cooking and singing."
October 1, 2005
Singers should rest their voices for three days after a gig
New Scientist (UK):
Classical singers know they need to rest their voices after a performance, to avoid overstraining the larynx. Now measurement of the vibration of singers' larynxes has shown that the vulnerable period may last much longer than most performers realise - possibly for as long as three days after the event.
But there is good news too. By resting their voices for two days before a heavy gig, singers can ease post-performance strain and hasten recovery before the next big challenge.
Thomas Carroll and his colleagues at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver attached a vibration sensor to the breastbones of four opera and three choral singers to measure the work done by the larynx during rehearsals and performances. The sensors, which were in place for two weeks, fed a stream of vibration measurements to a small computer the artists carried on their belts.
Carroll found that the larynx's workload as measured by the sensors tallied with the singers' subjective reports of discomfort after the performance. He hopes that similar sensors might eventually allow singers and their coaches to monitor the voicebox and spot potential problems early enough to avoid overstrain.
He presented his team's findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology's Head and Neck Surgery Foundation in Los Angeles this week.