December 22, 2005

Opportunity to sing a cappella professionally

Chanticleer, the Grammy-winning male ensemble, is accepting audition tapes of Countertenor, Tenor, Baritone and Bass singers for their 2006/2007 season.

"Founded in 1978, San Francisco-based Chanticleer annually performs 20-25 Bay Area concerts, and tours an average of 25 weeks across the U.S., Europe and Asia. Chanticleer's wide-ranging repertoire includes Gregorian chant, Renaissance, pop, jazz, gospel and contemporary commissioned works. Chanticleer has a total of 29 recordings released under the Teldec Classics International and Chanticleer Records labels. Chanticleer offers full-time, salaried positions (starting high $30s) with benefits."

More information here.

Posted by acapnews at 12:12 AM

December 21, 2005

Toxic Audio Shares in Grammy Nod

The popular a cappella group Toxic Audio is sharing in a Grammy Award nomination for participating in the Actors’ Fund of America's September 2004 benefit concert of Hair.

Ghostlight Records released a CD of the benefit concert of the musical, Hair¸ which was announced as one of five nominated for Best Musical Show Album in the 48th Annual Grammy Awards. The winner will be announced February 8, 2006. Toxic Audio’s performance of the song, “Electric Blues,” is featured alongside performances by Harvey Fierstein, Jai Rodriguez, Billy Porter, John Tartaglia, Ana Gasteyer and others. The concert originally took place at New York City’s New Amsterdam Theater.

“That show supported a great cause, and we had a lot of fun sharing the stage with so many talented entertainers,” said Toxic Audio co-creator, Rene Ruiz. “The fact that it has been recognized by the Grammys and at the same time, gives us our first Grammy nomination, is an unexpected honor which makes that concert even more special for us.”

Toxic Audio picked up a 2004 Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Unique Theatrical Experience” for their extended Off-Broadway run where their show was rated Number One in the Wall Street Journal/Zagat Theatre Survey surpassing Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. The group just completed a three month stint at the Luxor Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, NV and they will be bringing their critically acclaimed show to Japan for a six week tour beginning in January. Their most recent album, Word of Mouth, is available on DRG Records.

Posted by acapnews at 1:35 AM

NPR to Offer Choral Music on Sunday's

National Public Radio will offer three hours of choral music to all its 815 stations every Sunday, beginning with a sample program Christmas morning. "Sacred Classics" will explore music for choirs and choruses through the centuries, from medieval chants through 21st century gospel singing.

"Every week millions of Americans join their voices in a fellowship of song in choirs, in communities, colleges and houses of worship," said Benjamin Roe, NPR's director of music initiatives. "With the acquisition of `Sacred Classics,' NPR will be able to extend that fellowship." The program is already available to 51 NPR stations that belong to the Classic Public Radio Network (CPRN), a joint venture of KUSC in Los Angeles and Colorado Public Radio.

The Christmas program will include familiar carols as well as motets and cantatas, with singing by Chanticleer, the Cambridge Singers, the choir of King's College and the group Anonymous 4. Old and new Jewish music will be included. This year, Dec. 25 is the first day of Hanukkah.

"It's about choral music, not about any particular theology," said Scott Henderson, managing director of the CPRN. He said he wanted the word "sacred" was to be understood in the sense of serious or solemn _ "any music that an audience in a concert hall would be comfortable with."

Stephanie Wendt, the host of the show, tells 30 to 40 seconds of background on each piece, about five minutes in an hour, Henderson estimated. The program is arranged so that each station can use one, two or all three hours, as it chooses. Henderson predicted that 50 to 100 stations will gradually come to use the program over the next few years.

Posted by acapnews at 12:58 AM

December 19, 2005

Kinsey Sicks stage irreverent, irresistible holiday spoof

Napa Valley Regester (CA):

Irreverent, irresponsible, irrepressible and, for the most part, irresistible. That about sums up the Kinsey Sicks, a San Francisco based vocal ensemble that bills itself as "America's favorite dragapella beauty shop quartet." Combining a cappella, sarcastic wit and over-the-top drag, the Kinsey Sicks returned to Copia Thursday night for the third "straight" year to deliver their off-the-wall holiday rib-tickler, "Oy Vey in a Manger," to an approving sell-out crowd.

Nothing escapes the satirical gaze of these four entertainers, dolled up in festive gowns and outrageous hair-dos. And there's little to which the lovely Trixie, insolent Rachel, well-meaning Trampolina and frustrated old maid Winnie won't stoop. Their holiday show is a prime example of the off-the-wall parody the ensemble revels in.

The Kinsey Sicks began in 1993 as a group of friends who went to a Bette Midler concert in San Francisco, dressed as the Andrews Sisters. The group's name is a pun on the scale of sexual orientation developed by sociologist Alfred Kinsey in the 1950s. On a 1-to-6 scale of sexuality, Kinsey "6" represented exclusively homosexual behavior. Performing both original material and parodies of popular tunes, The Kinseys have become one of the country's most popular drag acts by combining talent, flamboyance and brains.

Two of the four members, Ben Schatz and Irwin Keller, are civil rights lawyers. In 1988 Schatz played a key role in adding sexual orientation to Chicago's human rights ordinance. He later advised President Bill Clinton's HIV on HIV issues. Schatz sees the Kinseys and their humor as an effective way to expose audiences to important issues. Some of their lyrics "push the envelope," said Schatz, such as their version of "Goin' to the Chapel" with its repeated refrain "but we can't get married."

The group is rounded out by singer-actors Jeff Manabat and Chris Dilley. Dilley has said that their show, "I Wanna Be a Republican," appeals to people of all ages, sexual orientations and political persuasions. "As we travel around the country performing, we find that there are people everywhere with bad taste," said Dilley. "And that's inspiring." "Oy Vey in a Manager" pokes fun at everything, particularly organized religion. The biblical story of Mary and Joseph spending a night in a manger has a much different focus, and includes a trio of property managers -- three Weissmans -- and such new characters as Uncle and Aunty Christ.

As two of the members are Jewish, the ensemble takes liberties here all over the map. "Jews don't celebrate Christmas, just after Christmas sales," advises Winnie. And the group sings a parody of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with a new lyric, "Jews Better Watch Out!" "Silver Bells" becomes a comment on drugs ("It's Crystal Time in the City"), a slam on office party behavior is featured ("Tis the Season to Drink Stoli!"), there's a tribute to feminist empowerment ("I'm Dreaming of a Vanna White Christmas") and "Have Yourself a Harried Little Christmas" is destined to become a holiday favorite for those who buckle under the pressures of yuletide activity.

Incorporating everything from songs about cannibalism to the spoof of a Latin dance (with a new Jewish sensibility), "Oy Vey in a Manger" is rife with side-splitting humor, bad taste jokes, adult wisecracks and assorted craziness. After all, the Kinsey Sicks are acquired tastelessness -- and damned funny at that. And looking around at the standing throng of cheering Napans the other night, it appears this outrageous foursome has a following in wine country.

Posted by acapnews at 9:38 PM

December 17, 2005

Busy busy season

It's been light blogging recently as we have been "enjoying" the busiest week probably ever in the history of Primarily A Cappella. Orders are streaming in from all over the world and the staff and I have been working late and weekends to keep up. Christmas is almost here and after a long nap this blog will be back to usual.

Posted by acapnews at 12:21 AM

December 16, 2005

Rockapella gets standing ovation

Napa Valley Register (CA):

With a simple setting of only four stools, the world-renowned quintet, Rockapella, delivered a vivid and highly energetic performance last weekend at the Napa Valley Opera House. Rockapella is known for its complete a capella style, and ability to perform, and sound, like a full band. Its Saturday night performance drew a large crowd of all ages, many of whom were faithful fans.

Scott Leonard, lead singer, led the performance and often provided comic relief with his witty dialogue and uninhibited dancing style. Also singing was John Brown and Kevin Wright. Brown, who has performed on Broadway and toured with stars such as Phil Collins, delivered a impressive and passionate performance. Wright, who is described as having a "smooth tenor voice," often joined in with Leonard's hilarious dancing.

Rockapella's "band" is made up by George Baldi and Jeff Thacher. Baldi is the group's "super bass," and he wooed female audience members with his soulful voice. Thacher, who delivered an amazing performance, performs the group's percussion sounds. Thacher, who Leonard calls "our superior life form," uses nothing more than his mouth to produce sounds such as drums and cymbals. His unique talent has placed him in a special group of professional mouth drummers, and is known as a living legend among his peers.

Their performance included several original songs, and classic oldies such as "By the Boardwalk" and "Stand by Me." The group also performed other songs by the Mills Brothers and the Temptations. To continue with the light and humorous tone of the performance, Rockapella sang several of their advertising jingles. Jingles ranged from Budweiser, to Almond Joy, Dr. Pepper, and more. "For the right amount of money we'll sing about anything," said Leonard.

Towards the end of the show, Rockapella invited the Napa High School Vocal Music Workshop to perform on stage. The 10-person vocal ensemble performed a tune from their Christmas show, impressing audiences and Rockapella. Rockapella left the stage to a standing ovation, filled with loud cheers and energy streaming from every part of the house.

Posted by acapnews at 9:54 PM

December 9, 2005

GRAMMY nominations light

Not a good year for a cappella and the GRAMMYs this year. Only two nominations for a cappella groups although neither album is completely unaccompanied. Nominated for Contemporary World Music Album is Ladysmith Black Mambazo & The Strings Of The English Chamber Orchestra for "No Boundaries" and for Choral Performance is Stephen Layton, conductor (Polyphony; Britten Sinfonia) for "Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna."

Posted by acapnews at 12:22 AM

New Wave of Ancient Music

Playbill (NY):

Carnegie Hall offers ancient music for a modern world with a new series this season titled Early Music in Weill. The jewel-box-like Weill Recital Hall, with its warm, chandelier-lit ambience and friendly acoustics, has always been a favorite venue for chamber musicians and solo recitalists. Now it will also be the home of today's top early-music performers. On December 10, Carnegie Hall inaugurates this new series with the rising sensation Trio Mediæval.

In the eight years since its founding, Trio Mediæval has found fame with three recordings, a judiciously paced touring schedule of 50 to 60 concerts a year, and dozens of rapturous reviews. The group was openly greeted by the New York Times as the legitimate successor to Anonymous 4, which hung up its touring spurs for good last season.

"Even though this music is very, very old, and hardly ever heard," says Linn Andrea Fuglseth, the Trio's founder, "it is clean, clear, and direct: very right for modern audiences. In itself, it is interesting that we can actually find manuscripts from the 12th and 13th centuries--and more so when we find that the music sounds so fresh and is really astonishing."

Early music was first officially invited into the sound world of Carnegie Hall last season, with the new Zankel Hall series Baroque Unlimited. Says Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall's Executive and Artistic Director, "The immediate success of our inaugural baroque series has greatly encouraged us to expand upon our early-music programming. The wonderful intimacy and vibrant acoustics of Weill Recital Hall are perfect for smaller early-music ensembles and recitals."

With musicianship skills honed in years of music-making throughout chorus-mad Scandinavia and northern England, plus an openhearted appreciation of the new and unusual, Fuglseth was well-suited to found Trio Mediæval. She was eager to try out some medieval pieces that she discovered in a Hilliard Ensemble workshop, so she approached singer Torunn Østrem Ossum, whom she had known for years through choral circles in Norway. To complete the threesome, Fuglseth contacted Anna Maria Friman, a Swedish soprano whom she had recalled encountering in a previous project with the Norwegian Soloists' Choir.

Ossum was teaching kindergarten and raising children when she got the call. She admits that she always wanted to sing but never believed she was "good enough." Numerous critics have by now singled out her rich low tones for special praise, although she also has an easy top range. A self-taught guitarist, Ossum also loves jazz and vintage rock.

Medieval and modern music companionably share space on Trio Mediæval concert programs. Fuglseth, whose master's thesis focused on the "mad songs" of the English Restoration lyric theater, says, "I think I always really wanted to do music that nobody else did. I always look for the very old, or the contemporary." These days, in fact, the Trio finds that contemporary music comes looking for them. "Many times we just receive pieces in the mail from composers," says Fuglseth.

Responding to the avid interest shown by modern composers (including Fuglseth's husband, Andrew Smith), the Trio has begun to commission works from such composers as Norway's Trygve Seim. And programming decisions are based not so much on historical themes as on all three singers' resolution never to do a piece they do not unanimously love.

The Trio glories in the creative freedom afforded by medieval music. "With mainstream repertoire, people have expectations about how it will sound," says Friman. "With the music we do, nobody expects anything. They hear it with unprejudiced ears. We can fiddle with tempos and allow ourselves to be very creative." Popular culture has veered recently toward a fascination with myth and allegory, a longing for connection with the unknown past. Could there be a better time to discover medieval music through a group as fascinating as this trio?

Posted by acapnews at 12:11 AM

December 8, 2005

Unshamed melody

Mountain XPress (NC):

At an age when most surviving pop groups grind out a living with warmed over retreads of greatest hits, the Bobs still shine, breaking new ground each time they tunnel out of the sanitorium. Twenty-four years together qualifies as geriatric in the music biz and it's clear that the group never kept all its marbles in one box from the get-go, making their ongoing ability to surprise and delight audiences a rare treasure indeed.

The twin keys to the group's creative safe deposit box are unflagging dedication to vocal excellence and utter disregard for everything else. The Capitol Steps are occasionally as funny, and the Roches and the Mockingbirds sometimes achieve similar a cappella excellence. But do those Bobs wannabes also brandish power tools? I thought not.

Long reknowned for their Grammy nominated rendition of the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" and a Clapton-stomping version of Cream's "White Room," the Bobs are happily unwilling to rest on their bobbels. The current tour, "Rhapsody in Bob," showcases the group's virtuosity at every bend in the notes, from a warped love paeon to a costumed sandwich man flogging fast food to their Olde English madrigal version of Jim Morrison's "Light my Fire," or a spot-on delivery of the 30s Louis Jordan swing tune "Nobody here but us chickens." And despite what must be long practiced and oft repeated patter, their Asheville performance, Nov. 17, felt consistently fresh.

Amy Bob Engelhardt the sole girl-Bob, laced the group's patter with zingers, often two jumps ahead of an audience whose late laughter gradually burbled across the hall as jokes soaked in. Tangled mic cords elicted a call for "Conditioner, anyone?" and a segment where conversation between the four performers devolved into barked confusion brought Engelhardt's carefree, "Tourette's!" A riff on the name of a nearby Carolina town, "Cullowee. Culloh-weee! Cuh low weeeeee!" morphed into "Cullowee, Cullowah, with a knapsack on my back."

Underlain by Richard Bob Greene's mellifluous bass, and Matthew Stull 's ebullient tenor, with (the tallest Bob ever), Dan Bob Schumacher's beat-boxing and vocals soaring into the ozone, the ensemble was in excellent form as they headed into the second half of their show, a nearly orchestral delivery of "Rhapsody in Blue." The only disappointment in their otherwise stellar rendition of Gershwin's piece is a heavy reliance on piano, though it is, after all, a piano piece and 88 keys might have been an overload for four voices filling in for the rest of an orchestra. The clarinet was to die for. Guest pianist Bob Malone provided a flashy half time show with his very physical, attack-the-keyboard style, but his approach to Gershwin felt heavy handed.

The Rhapsody in Bob CD captures all of the vocal excellence and some of the humor of the live show and is worth a listen. But, if I had to choose, I'd put the CD money in my gas tank and catch up with the tour before the Department of Homeland Security drags them back to their cages. Nothing is safe from skewering with the Bobs on the loose.

Posted by acapnews at 12:14 AM

Always happy Bobby

That old Bobbby McFerrin chestnut "Don't Worry Be Happy" is included on the soundtrack of the hit new war movie "Jarhead". The song that keeps on giving!

Posted by acapnews at 12:08 AM

December 7, 2005

Swingling in the USSR

The Swingle Singers have just returned from a hugely successful tour of Russia and Latvia and before they left for Japan sent us the following report. They also sent us an hilarious holiday video greeting which I will share with you here.

"We have just returned from the first-ever Swingles tour of Russia and Latvia! It was truly breathtaking! Since jazz music was forbidden under Soviet rule, swingle singers records had only been available on the black market. As you can imagine the reception was rapturous - all concerts in Russia were completely sold-out. Moscow saw us perform in its newest concert hall, the 1600-seater International House of Music - all major Russian TV channels followed our every footstep. In St. Petersburg we were guests of the Terem Quartet, Russia's best and most well-loved Balalaika Quartet. They have recorded for Peter Gabriel's Real World label and are superstars not only on the world music circuit but also in their home country. Terem invited us not only for their festival but for a musical collaboration and an artistic encounter. We spent three days with them in their inspiring city, making music, discussing, socializing, exchanging ideas. As a result, we performed two pieces together in the two sold-out shows in the Shostakovich Philharmonia Hall - the place where most of the great works of Russian composers had been premièred. Full of impressions and inspiration we left for Latvia. The reception here was similar like in Russia - the two performances in the beautiful Riga Opera House were well received and reaction from audience, media and promoters great. We shall be back soon!"

Posted by acapnews at 12:20 AM

December 6, 2005

Vocalesence directors gets high British award.

Pioneer Press (MN):

VocalEssence choral conductor Philip Brunelle was honored Monday for his outstanding service to British music and culture by being named an honorary member of Order of the British Empire (OBE). British Ambassador Sir David Manning conferred the award in a private ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The Order of the British Empire recognizes service to Great Britain in many fields, including the arts, sciences and public service. U.S. citizens may be named honorary members. Brunelle's award "is in recognition of his record of musical achievement; his promotion of musical links between Britain and the U.S.; and his introduction to the U.S. of some exceptional British music — in particular the best of contemporary British choral music," Manning said.

A Faribault native, Brunelle attended Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota. At 19, he was the youngest musician ever engaged by the Minnesota Orchestra. In 1969, at 25, he became choirmaster and organist of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, a position he still holds. That year, he founded the Plymouth Music Series, which has since grown into VocalEssence.

Posted by acapnews at 9:54 PM

December 3, 2005

Trio puts past, present in harmony

Rocky Mountain News (CO):

The phenomenon that was Anonymous 4 unofficially ended last year when the fab four, all-woman vocal ensemble quit touring.

Exit A-4, enter the Trio Mediæval

On Thursday night in a surprisingly full Gates Concert Hall, the Norwegian threesome made their local debut in a Newman Center Presents holiday concert. Surprising, in that the three women have been on the scene for only a few years and thus haven't enjoyed the high level of media exposure that helped catapult their predecessors to stardom. What the two groups have in common - and what seems to excite their audiences - is an unearthly ability to float through an evening of serene music from long ago.

Considering that the human vocal cords haven't changed much in the past 1,000 years, it's safe to say that the a-cappella music sung in the 12th or 13th centuries sounded pretty much like what the Gates audience heard Thursday. You'll have to admit, that's pretty special.

Alas, Trio Mediæval also shares with Anonymous 4 a total disinterest in chatting with their listeners between songs. Too bad, since it would have been nice to hear them introduce themselves and the intriguing offerings of ancient and contemporary pieces sung in tight, ethereal, often hypnotic harmony.

The Norwegians are not, however, a Scandinavian version of the retired foursome. We just gave two clues as to why the trio is, if anything, even more delightful than the departed American quartet. Anna Maria Friman, Torunn Østrem Ossum and Linn Andrea Fulseth (standing onstage from left to right on Thursday) bring a wider range of repertory than Anonymous 4, while singing in three-part harmony - a refreshing departure from the quartet's often numbing reliance on unison singing.

Whether in English carols from the 15th century, traditional Norwegian songs or in modern works written for them by Gavin Bryars and Isobel Davies, the three singers blended with remarkable ease. The perfection of the harmony never flagged, while the three-part writing also never outwore its welcome.

Davies' Hymn to Seinte Mari, in particular, dazzled listeners with its pleasurable mix of close harmony with some equally intriguing close dissonances. Similarly, the English carol Nowell, nowell was a fluid blend of intertwining harmonies that were both astonishing in their intricacy and direct and honest in their simplicity. The Latin text of the Sancta Mater from the 13th century was sung in a mystical round that made the passage of time immaterial. Come to think of it, maybe it's best that the trio didn't break the mood with idle chatter.

Posted by acapnews at 12:45 AM

Tonic Sol Fa delivers with upgraded production

Souix City Journal (IA):

There's a new recipe for holiday Tonic this year and it ain't bad. Although the "four guys and a van" concept has always been appealing, an upgraded, high-tech production backing Tonic Sol-fa was more than welcome Thursday night, suggesting the a cappella group may be edging even closer to getting that big national break. The songs were solid -- particularly three from their new album, "Boston to Beijing" -- and the Christmas vibe was just as jolly as ever. Our only complaint? Someone skimped on spotlights. With a new video screen behind them, it was often difficult to see the four. At times, too, the videos that accompanied the songs were difficult to discern. Still, that's all fixable. The songs, the harmonies were brighter than ever.

Led by Shaun Johnson, the four have developed a style that cuts across all generations. Kids love the goofiness of Greg Bannwarth (heck, even old guys like me enjoy it); parents warm to the boy-next-door charm of Mark McGowan and grandparents appreciate the bone-thumping bass of Jared Dove. Thrown in Johnson's songwriting skills and well-honed voice and the group is pretty good at just about everything. Thursday's show included a few favorites from past holiday efforts ("Joseph's Song" is still effective, "I'm Gettin' Nothin' for Christmas" may be ready for retirement), a nice arrangement of "Happy Holidays" and a funny bit done to "Adeste Fideles."

Bannwarth, known for prancing about in Christmas tights, did so while conducting the others singing the Christmas classic. As their topper to his reveal, they pulled off their pants and were wearing tights, too. Bannwarth got two good bits with Plastic Santa as well. It's about time, though, that Tonic Sol-fa uses Plastic Santa (yup, that's what he is, a plastic Santa Claus lawn ornament) to host the show. Now, he's kind of a shill for the quartet's charity work. But at one point, Bannwarth (who provides his voice) suggested that we were going to see a Plastic Santa travelogue. Great idea. Like those lawn gnomes, he could visit all sorts of landmarks with the boys in the back. Then, with a little bit of big screen magic, he could introduce most of the show.

Now that Tonic Sol-fa has the electronic equipment, it's just a matter of time. While Johnson and Bannwarth got an audience member to join them for one number, they didn't play with the crowd as much as they could have. Quite skilled with ad libs, the two had more fun in the past. Nonetheless, less chatter meant more music. "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" gave Dove a good showcase; "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" continued the good will and led to Plastic Santa's arrival.

"Grace," a cut from the new album was a fitting addition and "Save a Horse, Ride a Reindeer" meshed nicely with the group's personality. For those who have seen Tonic Sol-fa in the past (and let's face it, if you haven't you haven't lived in Siouxland very long), the Christmas show is like a visit from the kids. You see how they've changed, you appreciate how they've grown and you rejoice that they haven't forgotten their roots.

Posted by acapnews at 12:18 AM

Now Christmas Can Begin

New York Sun (NY):

Last night, Chanticleer gave its annual Christmas concert, at the Metropolitan Museum, in the Medieval Sculpture Hall, in front of the big, elegant Christmas tree and the Neapolitan Baroque creche. Actually, the group did this twice: They gave one concert at 6:30, and another at 8:30. (I caught the earlier one.) They will give two more on Sunday night.They really pack 'em in, these guys. I imagine they could sell out concerts more.

Chanticleer, as you know, is the 12-man a cappella singing group from San Francisco. Every year, I say that their Christmas concert is a highlight of the season - not just of the Christmas season, but of the music season at large. And every year it's true. What do they have, these fellows? Technique, smarts, taste. Discipline, unity, inspiration.They embody a musicianship that could instruct any group - from a guitar duo to the Berlin Philharmonic.

Last night,they processed to Gregorian chant, then sang some Byrd. What a genius, that Elizabethan Englishman! The singers were obviously delighting in their own sound - as well as Byrd's - and why not? Then they sang some more Gregorian chant, followed by something Spanish - a piece by Victoria (not the equal of Byrd). Of special interest was a 16th-century Basque carol, lively, virtually jazzy. Of even more special interest was a 17thcentury Portuguese number, flavored by Guinean culture - this piece was both rousing and beatific. A find, as far as I'm concerned.

Arvo Part is a top composer of our day, and his "Bogoroditsye Dyevo" is cheerful and angelic, with masterly modulations. Chanticleer pulled it off superbly. And they stayed to the East, singing the Magnificat, Op. 93, of Cesar Cui, known as one of the Russian "Five,"or "Mighty Handful."In this,the singers were both correct and soulful. It's hard to ask for more, in anything. They showed more Western polish than Russian grit, but that was all right.

"The First Nowell," in the arrangement by David Willocks, was unbelievably beautiful and moving - maybe the highlight of the evening. The countertenors opted out of the high notes at the end, which was slightly disappointing, but the carol was impressive enough. Then they sang the "Huron Carol," by St. Jean de Brebeuf, which the group likes, and sings hauntingly. And they closed their printed program with a Christmas medley, arranged by their music director, Joseph Jennings. The medley ends with the soaring, righteous "Jerusalem in the Morning." The group has sung it more robustly than they did last night - at least in the first concert - and, in fact, they were a little vanilla. The audience loved it nonetheless. Their encore was their signature encore, Biebl's Ave Maria, effective as always.

Last year (I think), I heard a woman say, as she was leaving,"Now Christmas can begin." No doubt others feel that way.At Christmas, Chanticleer is an antidote to cynicism and nihilism. Their concert defeats both nastiness and apathy. They are "Merry Christmas" substance in a land of "Happy Holidays" emptiness. I wish they'd give that concert more often.

Posted by acapnews at 12:13 AM

December 1, 2005

Choir supremely lucky

The Vacaville Reporter (CA):

The Vallejo-Benicia children's choir Voena was about 20 feet from becoming international news in Washington, D.C., Monday morning when a basketball-sized chunk of marble fell from the top of the U.S. Supreme Court building. Nobody was injured, but some nerves were rattled, parents said in a phone interview.

"It was startling because we were so close," said Teresa White, mother of 16-year-old vocalist Cherise White. "My goodness! It shook the ground."

About 35 members of the a cappella choir and their parents were waiting to enter the 10 a.m. session as part of their trip that includes performing Thursday for President George W. Bush and The First Lady in the Pageant of Peace ceremony. The marble chunk smashed into a number of pieces, White said. Had the choir been on the steps leading to the entrance, it could have been catastrophic, White said. "It happened so quickly. There wouldn't have been anything anyone could have done.

Donna Wapner, mother of Aleza D'Agostino, of Benicia, said "It's good nobody was walking on the steps at the time. It would have killed a person." The chunk of Vermont marble was part of the dentil molding that serves as a frame for nine sculptural figures completed in 1935. Workers loaded roughly 40 pieces into plastic crates and carried them away.

"They let us keep the teeny pieces but made us put the big pieces down," Teresa White said. The front entrance was quickly closed as visitors were herded through the back where the justices enter, White said. "It was the highlight of the kids' day," she said. "Kids like drama."

Posted by acapnews at 12:02 AM