July 31, 2006

Minimum Wage returns to NYC Fringe Theater Festival

After successful productions in Montreal and Dallas, Minimum Wage returns to New York and the place where it all began. As part of their 10th Anniversary Celebration, the NYC Fringe Festival has invited back 10 of their favorite shows from the past 10 years! And Minimum Wage was chosen to be in this delightful menagerie.

The Burgerboys (and girl) welcome you back to their hilarious, witty, slightly subversive and delightfully goony musical in which employees of a Big Brother-type fast food chain must initiate the audience into the wonders of hamburgerology.

Learn the art of spatulary, discuss the finer points of Post-Mustardism, perfect grill maintenance, and avoid the pitfalls of bathroom duty. Be on your way to Employee of the Month in this a cappella musical revue, a sort of “Fast Food Nation” as if it were performed by the Marx Brothers and Bobby McFerrin. Songs By Sean Altman and the Brothers LaGreca

Charlie and Jeff LaGreca have been brothers for as long as they can remember. They are the creators of Minimum Wage, an a cappella group, a show, a comic and a soon to be fizzy and sugary soft drink. Charlie is a graduate of the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Illustration, and has become an award winning freelance artist for numerous top publications including Nickelodeon Magazine and Disney Adventures (The Hair Pair). There is now an official Minimum Wage cartoon and here is the latest strip:-

Posted by acapnews at 11:47 PM

Paul McCartney's new choral composition

NEW YORK, July 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Paul McCartney releases his new full- length work of classical music Ecce Cor Meum through EMI Classics on September 26th, 2006. Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart) is Paul's fourth classical album since his first released in 1991, The Liverpool Oratorio.

The piece was commissioned by former Magdalen College president Anthony Smith in hopes McCartney would create "a choral piece which could be sung by young people the world over in the same way that Handel`s Messiah is."

Like many great composers McCartney, started with the music and then looked for a subject that fits. Several ideas for lyrics occurred to him, but they only gelled when he took part in a concert of John Tavener's music in the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York. "While I was waiting to do my bit, I was looking around the church and I saw a statue, and underneath it was written 'Ecce Cor Meum.' I had done some Latin at school and I always had a fondness for it. So I worked it out. I believe it means Behold My Heart."

In November 2001, the first version of Ecce Cor Meum was given its first preview performance by the Magdalen College Choir, which was conducted by Bill Ives at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. This was a great learning experience for Paul. "Eventually I made it all come together through correcting a lot of misapprehensions -- a lot was learned before the Sheldonian performance, but a lot of it was learned afterwards. An experienced choral composer knows that children can't be given huge sustained passages; they don't have the energy and the stamina. At the Sheldonian there was some quite hard stuff that I didn't realize because I'd done it on the synthesizer (which has endless stamina!), but during that first performance, the solo treble couldn't come on for the second half -- I think I'd used him up in the first half! These are things that people either learn because they are taught them immediately at the first lesson or you learn through the years, so it was good to go through the piece a lot of times, and we took out huge choral sections and gave them to the orchestra. If it had been a Beatles song I would have known how to do it. But this was a completely different ball game."

Produced by John Fraser, Ecce Cor Meum was recorded this year at the legendary Abbey Road Studios between March 13th and 17th. It was performed by EMI artist Kate Royal (soprano); The Boys of King's College Choir, Cambridge; The Boys Of Magdalen College Choir, Oxford and The Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields conducted by Gavin Greenway.

Posted by acapnews at 11:18 PM

July 28, 2006

West Coast A Cappella Summit

Boston's Vox One co-headlines this year's West Coast A Cappella Summit

Primarily A Cappella (Singers.com) is pleased to announce that we will once again be presenting the West Coast A Cappella Summit this coming fall. As the original and largest event of it's kind we have a long history of presenting top-notch vocal harmony groups and this year is no exception. Headlining the Saturday night concert will be Vox One and M-Pact, two of the most creative and talented groups performing today. As usual there will be workshops, seminars and showcase performances during the day by luminaries in the a cappella field. As most of Vox One's members teach at the highly-regarded Berklee College of Music (along with one of the very best vocal harmony arrangers Yumiko Matsuoka) we can guarantee some fascinating classes for all levels of singers.

We are currently lining up the other talent and getting ready to set the classes and are most open to any suggestions, comments or if you would like to participate in any way please do let us know. Always lots of fun so mark your calendars now!

WEST COAST A CAPPELLA SUMMIT
Saturday Nov 11
Angelica Hall
Dominican University
San Rafael, CA

Tickets on sale soon. More info

Posted by acapnews at 10:28 PM

July 27, 2006

Go Fish + Dad Ideas on Fun

Christianity Today (US):

What do farm animal noises, doo-wop and three grown men have in common? Well, if you guessed the a cappella group Go Fish, you'd be right. With a fresh blend of classic kids' music and fun new songs, the "happy music" of Go Fish is a unique and toe-tapping experience.

Go Fish was conceived ten years ago and now includes members Jamie Statema, Jason Folkmann and Andy Selness. What began as a passion for adult Christian music has shifted in the past few years. "We always noticed that we had lots of kids who liked our music," says founding member Jamie Statema. Thinking that it might be fun to try something new, Go Fish produced their first kids' album, Splash, three years ago. They wanted to create kids' music "that wouldn't drive their parents absolutely bonkers." Splash was immediately met with rave reviews from kids and parents alike. Two months later, the group performed six sold-out kids' concerts in one weekend. It was then that Go Fish realized the great need for quality children's music.

"It's such a major battle for kids—for what you're going to instill in them. There are so many options that are being taught nowadays and so many things that are being taken out of our culture that we've just always kind of relied on for stability," says Go Fish bass Andy Selness. And parents are trying to seek out good influences for their children.

Watching the reactions of parents, children and even grandparents at these first kids' concerts affirmed to Go Fish where they needed to focus their music and energy. "It was evident that this was where God wanted us," explains Jamie. "Whether you think it's cool or not, Go Fish is a group that makes music for families."

This new musical direction has taken a very special place in the hearts of Jamie and Andy, both fathers of preschoolers. Andy describes his eldest daughter, Ella, 2, as one of the group's biggest fans—loving to watch their DVDs over and over again and often wearing her Go Fish T-shirts for days. "Seeing that in my daughter's life is a huge thrill," shares Andy as he described the "perfect fit" Go Fish has with family and children's music.

So where does third member Jason Folkmann fit into this mix? Even though not a dad himself, Jason explains that growing up in a rural community in Iowa with three younger brothers has given him lots of experience with kids. He says he loves engaging kids and encouraging them through the group's music. And not to be outdone by Andy's strong low notes, tenor Jason will often throw in animals noises to their songs. "Kids are drawn in by being a little goofy and animated. They get over any feelings they have to act cool once I bust out with a sheep noise!"

Animal noises aren't the only fun experience in a Go Fish concert. "A lot of kids' concerts today have the big characters dancing around, lip-synching to music—really, really kidsy," explains Jamie. "Most kids have never been to a real concert before C9 so at a Go Fish concert, they're freaking out at the smoke machine and the lights and the whole thing."

These guys love what they do and treasure the trust parents give them by allowing their young children to listen to their music. "I can't think of anything better than what I am doing," says Jason. "Music has always been a big part of my life, and the fact that I get to do it for a living and enjoy what I do is probably my favorite part about what we do in Go Fish. And more importantly, sharing a message of hope through that music and ultimately see liv es changed because of it."

As with any group or artist, having fun outside of work is important, and Go Fish is no exception (although the three best friends confess that just working together on Go Fish is a lot of fun!). Jamie, who writes much of the group's music, loves spending time doing normal day-to-day stuff with his wife, Julie, and sons Mason, 2, and Parker, born December 2005. Andy spends time with his wife, Amanda, and daughters Ella, 2, and Britten, born in September 2005. Andy also enjoys working on his motorcycle and riding it with Jason, his Go Fish pal. Jason and wife, Amber, spend a lot of time outside. He loves going to his parents' hog farm in Iowa to work alongside his dad and drive the heavy equipment.

Posted by acapnews at 11:02 PM

July 26, 2006

Review - Toxic Audio’s lavish imagination

Colorado Springs Gazette (CO):

Toxic Audio, the a cappella group appearing at the Fine Arts Center as part of the Colorado Festival of World Theatre, will have you doubting your ears. Monday, the group’s blend, ensemble and intonation were almost flawless, and the imagination was almost perversely lavish, as one virtuosic moment followed another.

Yet it was a concert that was more amazing than pleasing. The problem was the material’s extremely light weight: You know a group isn’t exactly going for the jugular when its program includes an imitation of an airline toilet flushing, a medley of classic TV show themes, an a cappella rendition of “Wipe Out.” The result was a curious blend of 21st Century technology and vaudeville sensibility — but a show that only Toxic Audio could deliver. Toxic Audio — Jeremy and Shalisa James, Michelle Mailhot-Valines, Rene Ruiz, Paul Sperrazza and sound guy John Valines — has created its niche.

Although none of the Toxins is the kind of headline talent that Lillias White proved to be at last week’s World Theatre Festival gala, they’re a tight ensemble, and they’re all given opportunities to show off their strengths. Sperazza is the best dancer, and his Michael Jackson imitation had me laughing out loud; Jeremy James is the improv guy, creating a rap song based on words pulled randomly from a book; Mailhot-Valines is an accomplished scat singer; Shalisa James is the jack-of-all-trades, at one point putting down about a dozen tracks that were looped to form her own accompaniment; and one microphone isn’t enough for mouth percussion/low-note specialist Ruiz.

A cappella usually connotes the simplicity of unaccompanied voices, but simplicity isn’t in Toxic Audio’s vocabulary. Though no instruments are used, the voices themselves are heavily processed — and not just the usual reverb and equalization, but octave shifting and looping that enables the group to get its rich sound. During the rare moments when they abandoned the gimmickry, Toxic Audio proved to be a very good, but not great, a cappella group. The closing rendition of “Stand By Me” was meant to be touching, but it was too processed to exude charm.

P.S. No. 1: If you dread being dragged up on stage, do not sit anywhere near any aisle — not easy advice to follow in the Fine Arts Center, I know. But if you’re going to do as great a job as the gray-haired guy in the Hawaiian shirt did on Monday night, then by all means take the chance. There may be an agent in the crowd.

P.S. No. 2: The sound system was not so much loud as extremely bright, in order to bring out the brightness of the sibilants.

Posted by acapnews at 10:35 PM

July 25, 2006

Group melds a cappella and jazz like clockwork


Marin Independent Journal (CA):

It began innocently enough. According to Angela Doctor, a few singers from the Grammy-nominated Pacific Mozart Ensemble said to each other, "Hey, we should sing some stuff together; it would be kind of fun." So, a half-dozen friends - some of whom had known each other since high school 30 years earlier - met on an occasional basis to sing for fun. Along the way, they coalesced into Clockwork, an a cappella ensemble specializing in jazz. They'll take the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday at San Geronimo Valley Community Center.

"At one point about three years ago, we focused and said, 'This is what we want to do,'" Doctor explains. "We decided what our strong points were. One of those is really complicated jazz music - stuff that's usually done by instruments." The five musicians - one had dropped out, leaving Doctor as the only woman in the group - began making a name for themselves, not just for their unique repertoire but also for their precision performance. They were invited to enter the local competition of the A Cappella Harmony Sweepstakes, a national contest for vocal groups unaccompanied by musical instruments except percussion. "We decided to do it because it was such a great audience," Doctor says.

But they fully expected to be odd-man-out since most a cappella groups sing everything but jazz. To their surprise, they won. When they went on to the finals and took second place, Doctor says, "It truly acted as a springboard."

Since then, the quintet has performed in venues from Sonora to Santa Cruz, including the famous Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, at various jazz festivals, for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and more than once singing the national anthem at a Giants game. They also recently released a CD. This year, Clockwork returned to the A Cappella Harmony Sweepstakes and won again. Not only did they take first place at the regional competition but they received the Audience Favorite Award.

Part of the reason for Clockwork's popularity is that the musicians do their own arranging. "We like to arrange our songs in ways that are not transcriptive, taking songs that are not normally a cappella and doing them in our own way," Doctor says. Marin music lovers can hear this unique group singing everything from bebop to "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" in great acoustics Saturday. But don't expect to hear Manhattan Transfer, Doctor warns. "We do jazz," she says, "but we do it our own way. We're not copying someone else's version."

We are all big fans of Clockwork and are pleased to have them on our record label. Singer Eric Freeman has actually won the SF Sweeps regionals 4 times with 4 different groups over the many years he has been singing.

Listen to Rhode Island Is Famous For You

Posted by acapnews at 9:50 PM

July 22, 2006

Look I'm At The Albert Hall!

The Times (UK)

Here’s how Neil Fisher went from singing in the shower to joining a top choir for the First Night of the Proms

Plenty of opera buffs will tell you that they sometimes sing along with their heroes — at least in the privacy of their living room. Some might even be known to mouth the best lines safe in the darkness of the Covent Garden auditorium. As for me, well, I try not to limit myself to one character. In the friendly acoustic of my bathroom shower I can attempt any number of hits from Tosca, La Traviata, or even, on a good day, Wagner's Parsifal.

But could I really sing with the BBC Symphony Chorus at the First Night of the Proms? Apparently there was nothing to worry about. It was February. There were two months until the last auditions were being held for this year’s line-up. Until then, I would get the benefit of elite training from the chorus’s vocal coach, Debbie Miles-Johnson, who also sat on the chorus’s audition panel — along with the fearsome chorus director Stephen Jackson.

Thankfully it turns out that Debbie is exactly the right kind of person to turn me into a choral singer, mainly because she crushes my operatic ambitions to dust in a brutal five minutes of screeched scales and cracked (middle) Cs. My breathing is the problem: projecting in the bathroom may be one thing, but sustaining a long legato line in the Royal Albert Hall will be impossible without learning the basics of the allimportant air intake.

Debbie’s first piece of seemingly whimsical advice — “pretend you have Falstaff’s belly down there” — turns out to be spot-on. Cushioned by an imaginary layer of fat, I slowly work out how to support my voice with my diaphragm, rather than my throat. I also, apparently, need to stop moving my mouth: vowels, the focus in anything you sing, need to connect up with the rest of the body; too much eager chin work cuts off the sound. But the signs are looking hopeful that I can be turned into a passable cog in the Symphony Chorus’s well-oiled machine.

To my surprise, the verdict after one hour’s hard slog is positive: “You’ll make a very useful baritone.” On the one hand this is a blow — baritones are the boring fillers between the sonorous basso profondo and the glory- hunting tenor. On the other, Debbie and I settle on Papageno’s Vogelfänger aria from The Magic Flute for my audition piece. Apparently my proficient German diction will earn me brownie points with the chorus director.

Working on the aria takes up my remaining lessons. In three concentrated Debbie doses, it slowly comes together. What still remains is nobbling the high notes. My range remains stubbornly limited, and despite Debbie’s endlessly inventive description of what it feels like to let my larynx “drop” (the secret of high notes, apparently) I still sound like a strangled cat the moment I start to rise from a middle C. As a baritone, that’s going to be pretty fatal.

I’ve been warned that the main rehearsal room at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios, where I’ll be auditioning, has a “tricky acoustic”. This is an understatement: John Tomlinson, the great bass who will be joining the chorus for the Dvorák Te Deum on opening night, would probably make an impact; warming up before the audition, my vocal muscles produce a thin, reedy sound.

But I don’t do too badly by the Mozart, even if the accompanist does decide to take the aria twice as fast as I had rehearsed it. Desperately trying to channel the spirit of a great Papageno such as Simon Keenlyside, I make an impromptu decision to make my Papageno a bit of a cheeky chappie. Unfortunately, the resulting snaps taken by the Times photographer show the horrible truth — awkward posture, goldfish mouth, panic-stricken eyes. I hadn’t realised just how nerve-racking it would be to have my voice exposed to this level of scrutiny.

Still, best to dwell on the positive. My Papageno passes muster, as does, curiously, my triumphant rendition of Happy Birthday — the song, according to Jackson, that “sorts the sheep from the goats”. I am pronounced a sheep and welcomed in for the First Night. I get a smile from Jackson, a hallowed BBC Symphony Chorus membership pass, and a welcome pack full of stern edicts on dress and onstage etiquette. I am firmly reminded of my contractual obligations: skip more than one out of four rehearsals, and you’re out. Months of hard slog loom before I will be unleashed on the Albert Hall.

Did someone say that the BBC Symphony Chorus were amateurs? The 230 dedicated members, some of whom have sung with the chorus for more than 30 years, aren’t paid for their services, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the slickest of professionals when it comes to singing some of the hardest pieces in the repertoire.

The first rehearsal for the Dvorák soon shows that there’s no time for spoon-feeding. The punishing schedule for the summer, the chorus’s busiest time of year, allows for relatively few rehearsals. Even a 20-minute piece such as the Te Deum would normally be worked over for months by a small choral society; these guys get six rehearsals in total, only four of which are with the chorus director.

I turn up expecting each section of the choir to be coaxed through their parts separately. Instead, we all dive in head first, and my abominable sight-reading leaves me clinging on to the cues from my fellow basses. But I soon realise that this is the best possible section to be in, thereby subscribing to the partisanship that distinguishes every choir. The basses clearly are the best. We’re picked out least often for criticism, we snigger the most at the altos and we make the biggest noise when all singing together. Plus, judging from the number of guys around me making disparaging noises about Dvorák’s “Tedium”, we have a neat line in withering scorn.

By the end of the rehearsal, after numerous scribblings of “diminuendo”, “crescendo” and “glottal” in the appropriate places on my score, I feel I fit right in, a feeling cemented by a post-rehearsal trip to the pub for some team-bonding.

Then comes the catastrophe. Busy at work, I miss two rehearsals. When I return for the second batch of rehearsals just two weeks before the performance, the Dvorák has changed beyond recognition. Entrances are all perfectly crisp; the subtle effects that my pencil markings were supposed to indicate have all been brought in, and suddenly the piece seems unrecognisable. This is our first rehearsal with the conductor, Jirí Belohlávek, and I find myself worryingly out of step with his requests. Just how do I sing a staccato amabile? How can I bring more “operatic solemnity” to an exposed pianissimo passage when I’m mainly concentrating on not running out of puff? But the worst moment comes when the basses are suddenly accused by Jackson of “dodgy intonation” — in other words, we’re flat. Row, by row, each line of basses sings the offending phrase so that Jackson can find the offender — “the creeping death”, as the bass on my right describes it. Amazingly, I’m not the guilty party — but the episode reminds me just how easy it is for one singer to ruin a glorious harmony.

I’d love to say that my Proms debut passed by in a blaze of glory, that my high notes stayed up, my larynx dropped, and my staccato amabile was perfectly judged. Maybe all those things happened. Maybe they didn’t. The truth is that my 20 minutes of singing pass by in a blur of rigid arm muscles (no one told me how to hold the music), anxious looks at the conductor (helpfully mouthing our words) and suppressing the desire to sneeze during Tomlinson’s solo.

What impresses most, naturally, is the sheer scale of it. There is nothing like singing in a packed-out Albert Hall, and nothing like joining 200 other singers in massed harmony. Moments after our final, fortissimo blast, I sink into exhausted elation — I didn’t sing out of turn (a half-bar solo, the chorus members call that), I didn’t drop my music — I even look reasonably professional on telly. Even better: The Times critic calls us “ exceptionally responsive” in the next day’s paper.

But the main boost that will stay with me is how massively exhilarating choral singing really is. In a crack team such as the BBC Symphony Chorus, the professionalism and musicianship are breathtaking. So is the camaraderie. Maybe I’ll pitch my next performance at a slightly smaller audience, but I’ve definitely got the choral bug.

Posted by acapnews at 12:27 AM

July 21, 2006

Fab Four sing way to top of barbershop

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO):

A local group of a cappella harmony singers is king of the barbershop. Vocal Spectrum, a barbershop quartet formed at Lindenwood University, recently sang its way past 47 other groups to win this year's international Quartet Championship in Indianapolis. "It's unbelievable and pretty unexpected," said Chris Hallam, 26, a special-education teacher who sings bass for the group.

Hallam is joined in the group by baritone Jonny Moroni, 25, an insurance salesman, and Lindenwood seniors Tim Waurick, 25, and Eric Dalbey, 22. Moroni, Hallam, and Dalbey, all choir members, began singing barbershop together at Lindenwood when Moroni discovered the style on a public television program and thought it would be fun to try. Waurick completed the quartet after meeting the others at a barbershopping function in St. Joseph, Mo. "It was random luck," he said.

During the three-round competition, judges score a quartet based on the music it selects, the quality of its singing and how well it brings the lyrics to life through performance. Group members said they followed the same formula that led to Vocal Spectrum's 2004 victory in the collegiate competition: They sang to the audience. "A lot of quartets that compete worry about judges and scores," Dalbey said. "But we just leave all that behind and sing to the audience."

As part of their winning act, Vocal Spectrum performed a mixture of traditional barbershop songs such as the 1930s hit "South Rampart Street Parade" and modern show tunes such as "Cruella DeVille" from "101 Dalmatians" and "Cheer Up Charlie" from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Group members practiced for more than two hours every day in the months leading up to the contest and picked music they thought could be brought to life on stage. "It's like a second full-time job," Hallam said.

According to the rules of competitive barbershoping, a quartet that wins the championship cannot compete in future championships. But Vocal Spectrum members are unconcerned about this restriction, hoping to focus instead on traveling to perform for audiences of barbershop music fans. Already, the championship has netted them invitations to perform in St. Petersburg, Russia, and at numerous U.S. events from Hastings, Maine, to Honolulu. "We joke around and say it's kind of like being a rock star on a very small scale," Moroni said.

Posted by acapnews at 11:46 PM

July 20, 2006

Group enjoys performing for Villages audience

Villages Daily Sun (FL):

Hearing the Liberty Voices sing may send goosebumps down one’s spine, including the people creating the harmonies. “If we’re singing ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ and we get to the climax, I’m enjoying (the song) more than the audience,” Gary Baer said. “I still do get thrilled.” The nine-member a cappella group from Orlando were the special guests of the Mickey Finn Show on Monday night at Savannah Center. “The Villages crowds are the best crowds,” Dirk Donahue said.

After the Liberty Voices opened the show with a powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the band — headed by Fred “Mickey” Finn on piano and his wife, Cathy Reilly Finn, on banjo — put its unique spin of Dixieland jazz on several standards, from “When You Wish Upon a Star” to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Dueling Banjos,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and the Beatles’ “Something.” Every now and then, Finn threw in a seven-note phrase to let the audience know they were supposed to shout, “Hey!”

Later in the show, the Liberty Voices returned to sing such songs as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Clementine,” “Danny Boy,” and from the pen of Stephen Foster, “Camptown Races,” “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” About six years ago, Finn had heard the Liberty Voices perform at Epcot in between his gigs and wanted them to be a part of his show. They now appear at least twice a year with Finn’s group, usually around the Fourth of July or Christmas. “Oh, he’s great,” Donahue said of Finn. “A lot of fun. I like standing backstage and listening to his band play. He loves us, and we love him.”

The Liberty Voices have been in existence since 1982, performing mainly Americana, folk, patriotic and inspirational songs. All the members have worked together and sung together at Walt Disney World. Donahue, who joined the group 11 years ago, first heard the Liberty Voices perform while he was in high school. “I was thinking, ‘I want to do that’,” Donahue said. “Now I’m lucky to do that. It is a unique sound.”

Baer has been with the Liberty Voices since 1983; a year before that, he was touring with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians and had a chance to hear the Voices. After he left the Pennsylvanians, the Liberty Voices needed a bass singer and asked him to join. This is the longest amount of time Baer has spent in one group. “I love that it’s a cappella; that there’s such challenging music to do,” Baer said. “The arrangements are incredible.”

The Liberty Voices have become an extended family of sorts — before the first show, the members sang a harmonized “Happy Birthday” to one of their own. “I enjoy getting to see our friends and singing with our friends,” Donahue said. “There are deep friendships,” Baer said. “I keep in touch with the people who aren’t in the group anymore.”

Posted by acapnews at 12:41 AM

July 19, 2006

Artist Spotlight - Club For Five

There's been the usual summer slowdown of interesting a cappella news so I thought I'd introduce a new feature - The Artist Spotlight. This once-in-awhile post will highlight a new or lesser-known group with a particular emphasis on overseas artists as I personally enjoy listening to groups from all over the world. So the fine new release we just received from Finnish group Club For Five is a perfect candidate for the Spotlight. Here in their own words is more about the group:-

Club for Five is an innovative Finnish contemporary a cappella group whose speciality is an open-minded approach to singing and skillful, instrument-like use of the human voice. The lively performances of the band have charmed people in numerous sold out concerts. The creative ways of "playing" rhythm music without a single instrument often disarm the spectator: he sees only five singers on stage, but based on the sound, he can easily imagine an entire rock band in front of him. Founded in Helsinki 2001, Club for Five consists of musicians with diverse and extensive musical backgrounds: Maija Sariola (soprano), Susanna Hietala (alto), Jouni Kannisto (tenor), Tuomas Ahola (baritone) and Tuukka Haapaniemi (bass). The multifaceted musical history of the group can be clearly heard in the way it sings and arranges its music. The repertoire (both Finnish and English) is mainly self-arranged and/or self-composed pop music containing influences from a variety of musical genres. Club for Five performs mainly in Finland, but has also held concerts elsewhere in Europe, as well as Asia. During its career so far, the band has also performed with distinguished ensembles, such as the legendary American vocal group "The Manhattan Transfer" and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Their new CD in called "Uni" which is available of course from Primarily A Cappella. Listen to Kun Kaikki Muut Viela Nukkuu

Posted by acapnews at 1:08 AM

July 17, 2006

Slapdash Graduate in Star Tomorrow

We know that at least one a cappella group has been accepted in NBC's new music talent competition, Star Tomorrow as Boston based Slapdash Graduate is heading to Los Angeles on July 25 to tape four performances for the competition. If you'd like to see their first audition tape go to the Star Tomorrow web site and click on Video #4 at the bottom of the page.

Posted by acapnews at 10:15 PM

July 13, 2006

World Cup a cappella

New Musical Express (UK):

Viva Italia, viva the White Stripes ! Italian soccer fans have adopted the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" as the country's national anthem in the wake of their rousing World Cup victory, with a reported 500,000 fans flooding the streets and singing the song's imitable guitar riff following the win. For the record, lead Stripe Jack White couldn't be prouder. "I am honored that the Italians have adopted this song as their own. Nothing is more beautiful in music than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music," White tells NME. Meanwhile, Marco Materazzi and Alessandro Del Piero , two members of Italy's winning soccer squad, jumped on stage with the Rolling Stones in Milan on Tuesday, and led the crowd of 70,000 through an a capella rendition of "Seven Nation Army." Materazzi and Del Piero substituted the song's original lyrics for "we are the champions," in Italian, even further disorienting a just-back-from-brain-surgery Keith Richards.

Posted by acapnews at 9:44 PM

July 12, 2006

M-Pact in L.A

A quick plug for a special record release concert by one of our favourite groups M-Pact upcoming in Los Angeles. Southland a cappella fans be sure to be there!! Get your tickets here.

Posted by acapnews at 12:20 AM

July 10, 2006

Choir to compete in world games

Deseret Morning News (UT):

Of all the choirs — of all ages and types — selected to compete in the World Choir Games (formerly known as the World Choir Olympics), only one was chosen to represent the American continent in the opening ceremony, the International Children's Choir. "They gather all the nations of the world, and they compete, like in an Olympic setting," said Sheri Stettler, choir manager. "So it is a big deal."

The International Children's Choir (and accompanying family members) are leaving today for Xiamen, China, to participate in the largest choir competition in the world — several hundred choirs competing from 45 countries. The Choir will compete in two divisions: "Music of the Religions" and "Children's Choir." For the "Music of the Religions," director Dr. Kathy Sorensen has selected music from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Arrangements of "The Spirit of God" and "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise," by Mack Wilberg; a companion arrangement of two LDS hymns by Sue Neimoyer, and Janice Kapp Perry's "A Child's Prayer" (sung in several different languages) will be presented.

"That's my favorite (category) because nobody else will even be touching that at all," said Sorensen. "My favorite is 'Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise,' period. We are doing it at the opening ceremony." When asked why the LDS focus, Sorensen said, "It would be like if we were from Rome, we would have chosen the Catholic music. Since we're in Utah and it's the headquarters of the LDS church, it kind of seems obvious that we would do that." Besides, she added, the instructions specify that music must be distinctive of the religion in the competitor's area. "Otherwise we would get into what we normally do, which is all the music of everybody of the world."

For the children's choir division, she said, selections are more typical of what the choir normally sings, which means music from different cultures, languages and religions — including a Mexican dance to represent the Hispanic population in Utah and a gospel song to represent Utah's African-American population.One thing that's not typical, however, is that the choir is incomplete. Only 60 of the 110-voice choir will be traveling to China for the competition, as the costs are borne by the individual families of choir members. That makes it a more challenging task — from a musical standpoint, it's tricky to achieve a proper balance between the various choral parts with an imbalanced self-selection process, and they'll be competing against other groups from places like China, where having a full choir represented is much easier.

One of the pieces, "Ave Maria" by Holst, is for double choir, which means the choir will be split in half, with each half singing four different parts. "There are only 60 kids, and they're split eight ways," said Sorensen, "and some of them are really little." What's more, for the "Music of the Religions" category there is no age qualification, so the children will be competing against older and more mature choirs.

Nonetheless, Sorensen feels optimistic. After all, the choir has already been honored in representing the American continent, and in being chosen as a select choir to perform in a gala event. "The main thing is that we get to go to China and do something worthwhile. I don't care if we come back with any awards or anything. I think it's fabulous that we get to sing for the opening ceremonies."

Posted by acapnews at 11:02 PM

July 9, 2006

New Barbershop Champs Vocal Spectrum

It was a very close call between 1st and 2nd place at the International Barbershop Competition on Saturday night but Missouri-based Vocal Spectrum took top honors and are the latest International Barbershop Champions. The quartet members are Tim Waurick (Tenor), Chris Hallam (Bass), Eric Dalbey (Lead) and Jonny Moroni (Baritone) and are part of the Ambassadors of Harmony chorus. The rest of the top ten winners are 2 -Max Q, 3 - OC Times, 4 - Metropolis, 5 - Flipside, 6 - Wheelhouse, 7 - Saturday Evening Post, 8 - State Line, 9 -MatriX, 10 - Storm Front.

International chorus champs for the 11th time is of course The Vocal Majority from Dallas Texas. Their dominance of the competition is a wonderful achievement I'm sure but one does hear grousing from other choruses that their involvement in the event becomes an effort in futility when up against a chorus that wins every time they are eligible to compete.

Posted by acapnews at 4:20 PM

July 7, 2006

A friendly competition

Indianapolis Star (IN):

For fans of "For Me and My Gal," things may never get better for the barbershop standard than they are this week in Conseco Fieldhouse. That's because the nation's top barbershop quartets are in town for the 68th annual national Barbershop Harmony Society's convention and championships. Nearly 50 groups from across the country began their head-to-head harmonizing battle Wednesday, with a winner to be named Saturday. The event also includes an international chorus contest starting today, as well as a collegiate version that starts Saturday.

And with so many mellifluous visitors in town, you shouldn't be surprised to hear a spontaneous eruption of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" at a Downtown restaurant or club. As fierce as the four-part competition is for the gold medals and trophy, organizers say the event is much more about friendship. "Nowhere will you find the bond of camaraderie as strong as I've experienced in the organization," said Randy Loos, chairman of the board for the Harmony Foundation in Clearwater, Fla. The organization is a charitable subsidiary of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

Not that anybody is downplaying the competitive atmosphere. A local group, Keep 'em Guessing, is hoping home court advantage will make a difference. "I got to sleep in my own bed last night," said Bryan Hughes, Indianapolis, the group's lead singer. When the quartet competes overseas, Hughes rarely gets much sleep. "I got a good eight or nine hours of sleep last night. I'm ready to go."

Simply reaching the championships is an achievement. "We've come a long way, and the practice helped," said Chris Hallam, a bass singer from St. Peters, Mo., with the group Vocal Spectrum. The quartet got as much practice as it could, including appearing in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the International Fine Arts Festival. That involved 10 days of performing at old concert halls without microphones. "The audiences didn't understand what we were saying, but it was great to perform beyond the words," said lead singer Eric Dalbey, St. Charles, Mo. And strong performance is key, said society spokeswoman Julie Siepler. Trained judges will rate each quartet based on singing, presentation and music.

The weeklong event concludes Saturday with the finals and the World Harmony Jamboree at the Murat Theatre, Siepler said. Groups from England, Canada, Japan and Sweden will join national quartets Saturday afternoon. As rich as the harmony is in song, participants say it runs deep among the groups, too. "You're patting them on the back and wishing them well," said Keep 'em Guessing's Terry Wence, "and at the same time you're kicking them in the rear end on the stage. That's what it's all about."

Posted by acapnews at 10:33 PM

July 5, 2006

Choral work takes wrong turn into kitsch

San Jose Mercury News (CA):

Over the past decade, conductor Daniel Hughes has built a remarkable chorus. The Choral Project, as it is called, has won international notice for its rich and finely balanced blend of voices. Its 44 members, all unpaid, seem willing to do anything for Hughes; every week they drive from as far as Santa Rosa and Stockton to rehearse with their artistic director in San Jose.

In "One is the All,'' Hughes' new multi-media musical production, which had two performances at the California Theatre over the weekend, the Choral Project has even become a dance troupe. Hughes' singers spent much of their time moving -- beautifully -- as an undulating mass, performing a war dance, a circle dance and other choreographed set pieces, almost always while singing. Back-lit in deep red on a darkened stage, they made a sight worthy of Broadway.Unfortunately, "One is the All'' is not ready to move onward and upward in the theater world.

Part of the problem is fiscal. This mythic tale about a man, a woman and their child, told through music and movement, needs more dancers, more visuals (and how about some sets?) to really fill the stage and make a consistent impact. Attending Sunday's performance, I suspected that what Hughes was seeing in his head was a lot bigger than what was happening on stage. After all, his chorus' $180,000 operating budget for the entire 2005-06 season doesn't afford much legroom for an ambitious production such as this.

But the problem goes deeper than money. "One is the All'' is a labor of love, but a misguided one. Its music is its script: The story -- about life and its inevitable cycles -- unfolds via a sequence of choral pieces by composers ranging from Broadway's Stephen Schwartz and Claude Debussy, in the first half, to generic Disney-esque songs in the second. As the chorus sings (and dances), a handful of solo dancers also take the stage; they are our ``actors,'' an archetypal family through which the simple tale of love and courtship, marriage and children, war and famine and, finally, death and the afterlife, is illustrated.

The first half manages to evoke melancholy and joy; the second half goes off the rails with its Hallmark evocations of family, death, and, yes, even the circle of life. It's as if Thomas Kinkade has been brought on as consultant, to up the quotient of kitsch. The finale, composer Paul Halley's amalgam of Gregorian chant and Nigerian tribal song, is almost ludicrous "Lion King'' mimicry.

It's too bad, because Hughes -- responsible for the selection and sequencing of music, the storyboard, and overall conception -- wants to accomplish so much. (No more performances are scheduled, by the way.) He has long felt that audiences raised in the age of glitzy popular entertainment need a bridge to the classical and choral music world, where performances can be highly static.

"One is the All'' is his intended bridge. It has many strengths: excellent singing; precise, uncluttered conducting by Hughes; tender and elegiac works by Norman Dello Joio, Charles Villier Stanford and Hughes himself; the sculptural beauty of several choreographed set pieces. Yet overall, it remains too static and veers too close to the glitzy-pop side of things.

This isn't the "visionary epic'' alluded to in the production's program. On the other hand, it's Hughes' first effort at building that bridge. He can do better.

Posted by acapnews at 10:49 PM

Walter Latzko to be inducted into Barbershop Harmony Hall of Fame

Times Herald-Record (NY):

Marjorie and Walter Latzko of Blooming Grove are two terrific people who live a quiet life, but they've had spotlight living as most of us will never have. Walter who will be inducted into the Barbershop Harmony Hall of Fame in Indianapolis on Friday, is still climbing a ladder of success, although a stroke in 1991 curtailed many things in his life.

Younger generations probably never heard of Arthur Godfrey, but the freckled-faced redhead was one of the hottest celebrities on radio and early-day television. Godfrey developed popular talk and variety shows attracting incredibly talented people. Some worked behind the scenes. Walter was one. He was an arranger and coach for the musical groups, even wrote comedy and did a myriad of other things for Godfrey and the celebrities who appeared on the airwaves.

It was during one of the shows he met Marjorie, who had replaced one of the members of the popular quartette the Chordettes. They were regulars on Godfrey's show. It was Marjorie's good fortune to be part of the group's gold record recording of "Mr. Sandman" from which she still receives residuals. Walter was their arranger and coach while they worked for Godfrey. The group appeared on every big-time show of that time, including Ed Sullivan, "American Bandstand" and Perry Como. They toured the country and went overseas to eight countries with Andy Williams and the Everly Brothers. In 2001, the Chordettes were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. More than 600 people were there to applaud their success.

After Walter and Marjorie married and moved to Orange County, they gave up the celebrity life to participate in a greater spotlight, community service. Walter became director of the Orange County Classic Choral Society, worked at the Hall of Fame of the Trotter, was choir director and organist at the Goshen United Methodist Church, and publicist for Arden Hill Hospital. Walter continues to arrange on the computer purchased for him by the barbershop singers. He has arranged more than 900 songs for groups all over the world.

See a list of Walter's arrangements here.

Posted by acapnews at 10:43 PM

Top 20 Indy quartets

The Internatonal Barbershop Convention is going on this week in Indianapolis and these are the quartets who today made the final 20:- 12th Street Rag, 3 Men and A Melody, The Allies, Storm Front, Flipside, Metropolis, Wheelhouse, Late Show, Sterling, Vocal Spectrum, MatriX, Saturday Evening Post, Rhythmyx, OC Times, State Line Grocery, Hot Air Buffoons, Max Q, Men In Black, Quest, Four Aces,

Posted by acapnews at 10:41 PM

Visa snags disrupting choral festival

The Missoulian (MT):

The U.S. government has denied two vocal choirs from Africa entrance into this country to participate in next month's International Choral Festival in Missoula, and the status of choirs from two other nations remains uncertain.

“The paranoia level has definitely gone up,” Peter Park, the festival's executive director, said Wednesday. Visa applications for choirs in Zambia and Nigeria invited to perform at the festival were rejected by U.S. consulates in those countries. Another choir, one from Algeria that was scheduled to perform at a festival in Idaho, also had its visa applications denied. The Missoula festival had been considering adding the Algerian choir to its roster.

Meantime, the Anson City Choir of South Korea is questionable after a dozen of its members had their tourist visa applications rejected by the United States and were told they must apply for a “P” visa, which covers foreign athletes and entertainers who enter the U.S. to compete or perform for money. The choral festival, which runs July 12-16, is a nonprofit entity, and does not pay choirs to perform.

“It's all very arbitrary and capricious,” said Bill Martinez, a San Francisco attorney who has helped the choral festival navigate the rocky road of visa applications created after the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. “We're not putting our best foot forward in the diplomatic world. We're talking about bringing in a choir from South Korea - come on, they're our neighbors and friends. It's the whole point of the festival.”

Two-thirds of the Korean choir has 10-year visas still in effect, but one-third - including the choir's accompanist - do not. “B-1 visas - tourist visas - are what all the other choirs get in on, but the embassy in Korea is evidently on a different page,” Park said. A call to the U.S. State Department seeking comment was not returned Wednesday.

Missoula's festival is also unsure of the status of the Ukraine's Boyan choir. Park hasn't heard whether the choir's visa applications were approved, and has a Russian interpreter coming in Thursday to place a call to the director. “We're hoping no news is not bad news,” Park said. It creates a logistical nightmare for the festival, which will soon get its programs back from the printer knowing the schedule may be wrong. “We do contingency scheduling for many situations,” Park said. “It's like a big math problem. It's a matrix that shifts all the time.”

Park said the thousands of people who attend the festival will be encouraged to check the Missoulian or the choral festival's Web site for the latest information on what choirs are here, and when and where they will be performing. More than a dozen choirs from Australia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, India, Slovenia, Taiwan, Wales and America are expected. Park said his “gut instinct” is that it is even tougher to get choirs into the United States now than it was during the last festival in 2003, which was the first held since the terrorist attacks. The Navrachana School Choir of Vadodara, India, had to go to the embassy in Bombay and perform to prove to U.S. officials it actually was a choir before its visas were issued for this year's festival. “That's show biz,” said Martinez, who has specialized in helping musicians and artists obtain visas since a Cuban group was refused entrance to participate in a Latin American music festival in San Francisco Martinez co-founded more than 20 years ago.

The mechanics of getting performers into the country are easier now than they were in 2003, Martinez said. There's an avenue, called premium processing, instituted by U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services that expedites visa applications. But it costs $1,000. “If you're an entertainer coming here and you're going to make $100,000 or something on tour, that's nothing,” Martinez said. “But if you're a nonprofit, that extra $1,000 really hurts.”

It's what the South Korean choir will have to do if it is to perform in Missoula - and the cost is $1,000 per person. “Here we go,” Martinez said. “They've already paid for their regular visa application that was turned down. Now it's an extra $1,000, plus the $190 registration fee. It will probably be another $100 to use Fed Ex to get the paperwork back and forth. Even then, there's no guarantee the applications will be approved. “It's a very discouraging system and it's cloaked in this veil of national security.”

The bigger question, Martinez said, is why a choir in the Czech Republic can get visas through normal channels, and why one in South Korea - one that filled out the exact same paperwork - is forced to jump through so many hoops. “Even with premium processing, it takes 10 days to find out whether you've been approved,” Martinez said. “It takes another couple days to get all the paperwork where it needs to be. What's today? June 28? The festival starts July 12? It'd be a real nail-biter.” It's unfortunate, Park said, because the Anson City Choir would be one of the 2006 festival's highlights. “They're really top-notch,” he said. “They've released several recordings and they've been to the World Choral Symposium, which is considered the Olympics of choral music.”

Posted by acapnews at 10:38 PM

July 1, 2006

A cappella in new Cirque du Soleil show

The new Cirque du Soleil show "Love", based on the music of The Beatles, has been getting rave reviews this week across the globe (looks like they flew in every major critic imaginably). And once again a cappella is present with a version of "Because" sung unaccompanied and apparantly they play one a cappella piece, "Sun King," backward. I would so just love to see this show.

Posted by acapnews at 12:48 AM