August 30, 2006
A cappella groups annoys tennis champ
Newark Star Ledger (NJ):
Perhaps it was the fact that she was frustrated by a left knee injury and a first-round defeat, but Australian Alicia Molik blasted the US Open tennis tournament for having live music on the grounds during the morning matches. Shortly after losing, 6-3, 6-2, to Vania King of the United States, Molik said playing on Court 11 yesterday morning was a "circus."
"You've got a live concert going on with speakers and the wind blowing in your direction," she said. "You feel like you're in the middle of a circus. It doesn't feel like a tennis tournament, or it didn't today. It felt like I was at a small fair or something ... I couldn't hear a thing. It went through my mind that it would be great to have noise-canceling headphones. It was really difficult to think."
Molik was annoyed by a live a cappella group in the South Plaza, which was part of the fan entertainment features at the U.S. Open. She was clearly frustrated on the court and complained to the chair umpire about it during the match.
"I actually told him to turn it up, that I was loving it and it was great,"' she said sarcastically. "I think he got my drift. Until the officials are down at court level on the grounds -- their offices are at center court -- they probably miss a lot of things going on out there. But I'm sure the other courts have a lot of issues also, and I'm not the only one complaining. But it's just fact. That's exactly what was happening out there."
The United States Tennis Association looked into the situation and determined that the band's volume was simply too high, and the volume of all musical acts would be carefully monitored throughout the rest of the event.
"You try to find those windows that might work in between play and you try to modulate the volume so that it does not affect competitive play," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said. "We will keep a very close eye on the volume levels so that we do not see a repeat."
Whoops! I guess not everybody is a fan.. Anybody know which group it was?
August 28, 2006
Do You Want To Be A Swingle?
International a cappella group the Swingle Singers are still looking for the perfect versatile singer, equally comfortable in classical, jazz and pop styles. The position will also involve a certain amount of vocal percussion, and any previous experience would be preferred. This is a rare opportunity to be part of this world-renowned ensemble.
The Swingle Singers' name has become synonymous with incredible vocal virtuosity, blend and agility, flawless excellence and high-level entertainment. The repertoire includes some tribute to the original French group with traditional 'swung' Bach and classical works, alongside more modern compositions, jazz and chill-out arrangements. The Swingle Singers also regularly perform with many of the world's leading orchestras, in works ranging from Berio's Sinfonia to Disney medleys. All of these performances are enhanced by dazzling choreography and lighting.
The Swingle Singers perform in some of the world's greatest concert halls, as well as jazz clubs, festivals and arenas. The group's tours in 2006 and 2007 include Japan, Korea, Singapore, America, Russia, Brazil, and extensive touring across Europe.
This is a full-time professional position. Each singer is unique and indispensable, and the group does not use deputies. All the repertoire is performed from memory and with microphones. We are looking for a baritone with a good bass range, solid tuning and rhythm, and the ability to perform to an exceptionally high standard both as part of the ensemble and as a soloist.
Start time is January 2007. Please visit here for more details. Applications should be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3rd September 2006.
August 26, 2006
Sing a song about cookies
Los Angeles Times (CA):
There's magic at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Anything can happen in that Bermuda Triangle of craziness, home to the Kodak Theatre, the giant bean bag store Love Sac and competing Chuckie impersonators. Anything. What happened Thursday morning was a weird little media event to announce the winner of Nabisco's contest to reinterpret the Oreo cookie jingle. The proud winners — a women's barbershop quartet from San Diego — performed their version while the contest's host, "American Idol's" Randy Jackson, watched from the sidelines. There were a handful of television cameras, two handfuls of security guards, a smattering of confused tourists scanning the scene for a real celebrity and one wildly whooping fan.
A Cappella Gold, the San Diego quartet — by day a nurse, a schoolteacher, a property manager and a voice teacher — has been singing together for nine years. The group has released three CDs and in 2001 it became the proud champions of an international a cappella contest. "We like to do offbeat, wacky stuff," said Kim Hulbert, the redheaded lead singer.
There were five finalists in the "Oreo & Milk Jingle" contest, which consisted of rearranging the jingle melody and lyrics. Among A Cappella Gold's competitors were a reggae version of the jingle, a hip-hop-influenced boy band version and a low-key indie rock version (all can be seen at nabiscoworld.com). A Cappella Gold had the most polished performance — complete with matching outfits and synchronized movements — and won the contest in a popular vote held on the website.
"Dude, they're a really great group," said Jackson, after emphasizing that he only hosts the contest and didn't select the winner. "They are like the Andrew Sisters meets the Manhattan Transfer."
The event was moving along smoothly — a guy with his eyes closed and pointer fingers keeping the beat was especially enjoying the vibe — but then a clean-cut young man in neon Crocs ambled along and began to whoop wildly. "Whooo! Whoo! Whoo!" he shouted when the quartet finished its first version of the jingle. "Whoo! Whoo! Whooooo!" he shouted after the second version. And when the group performed one of its original compositions, he whoo-ed through the whole thing. Eventually, a security guard asked him to keep it down. The overexcited fan told the guard he had taken the day off from work just to attend this event, and that he whoops to show the talent his appreciation.
"I enjoyed the performance," he said. "Do you know how much I enjoyed the performance? Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!" Then he asked Jackson to throw him two T-shirts, though there were no shirts in sight.
When the performance was over, a few onlookers were admitted behind the velvet ropes for free Oreos and milk, and the members of the press (all two of us) were invited to speak with the performers. It turns out A Cappella Gold did not win a lifetime supply of Oreo cookies, but it will get $10,000 and it has already received a big basket of Oreo cookie products. "It's just about the biggest basket you've ever seen," said Hulbert. But Bette Gordon, who sings tenor, was more excited about the free limo ride from San Diego to L.A. "That was really neat," she said.
August 25, 2006
Gay liberation is guided by voices
Bay Area Reporter (CA):
Why We Sing!, a new documentary about LGBT choral groups, celebrates queer life in all of its colorful and often painful glory, a testament to the power of music to uplift and to heal. It received a standing ovation at its Frameline film festival premiere this past June. Those who missed it or want to see it again will have another chance at a 7 p.m. screening and reception on Friday, August 25, at the Rainbow Room of the San Francisco LGBT Center. It bears repeat viewings.
The documentary is more than a tribute to music; it is a 30-year-plus history of queer liberation told in song, from the early days of the feminist movement through the height of the AIDS epidemic and beyond, embracing every style of music along the way: gospel, spirituals, classical, jazz, anthems of protest. It is an international cross-section of queer community, including every ethnic, racial, age and gender group imaginable.
"The overriding theme is that music can be used as a force of social change," says co-producer and writer Eric Jansen. Social change and joy. It's hard not to want to stand up and sing along when the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, swaying and clapping in time in their red choir robes and hand-decorated stoles, sings "Oh, Happy Day!" Or to sit in quiet reflection as a Cincinnati women's chorus delivers a powerful spiritual. "We don't have a message, but watch a performance and you get a message that speaks to you," says producer and director Lawrence "Bud" Dillon. "We're sharing ourselves, not telling you what to think. The big picture is love, tolerance and acceptance. We want to share this message with people who are ready for it."
So that's what they're doing. In 2004, Dillon and Jansen went to the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses [GALA] Festival VII, a choral event for LGBT groups, in Montreal. A total of 163 choruses attended; a dozen appear in the film, and four of those are featured prominently: the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, San Francisco's own transgender Transcendence Gospel Choir, Diverse Harmony youth chorus from Seattle, and Muse women's chorus from Cincinnati. The Golden Gate Men's Chorus also appears, with conductor Joseph Jennings.
Dillon and Jansen, both experienced broadcast journalists, came by their interest naturally; both have sung with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Dillon got the idea for the film in 2000 while attending the GALA festival in San Jose. The international event draws about 6,000 singers to a different city every four years. There are estimated to be 200 GLBT choruses worldwide, featuring some 10,000 singers. "It was such an amazing event," Dillon said. "I'd never experienced anything like that. I thought, music is such an ethereal thing. You hear a song and it's gone, and all you have is the memory. I thought we had to preserve these moments to share with a larger audience."
Friday's screening has another purpose: to raise money. Like many independent films, this one was financed on credit, says Dillon, who made the film with Jansen and at least 40 volunteers, and paid camera, sound and video professionals. The total budget will top $200,000, amazingly small in the world of filmmaking, but still a tidy sum to recoup. The San Francisco filmmakers seek corporate underwriting for its planned June 2007 broadcast on PBS. Smaller donations are welcome, too, they say.
Why We Sing! already bears the imprimatur of none other than Vance Y. George, conductor emeritus of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, who has been involved with various GALA choruses since 1983. He calls it "a deeply moving film." "Every time a gay choir walks on stage, I still weep with joy and pride for the freedom it shouts out at us," George said. "Choirs, like the quilts, speak quietly, but with such strength. You cannot deny art and the healing it does for each singer and listener. Beethoven said, 'From my heart to your heart.' That message is clear in this film."
Men In Black also competes
Well it turns out that Slapdash Graduate is not the only a cappella group to advance to the next round in the StarTomorrow as barbershop quartet Men In Black are also still in the competition. Watch an interview on the StarTomoorw web site.
August 24, 2006
Review - New York Fringe
What do you get when you cross Altar Boyz with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee? This is a question I wouldn't have thought to ask myself until I saw Perfect Harmony, and the cheerful answer was staring me in the face: a musical about two a cappella singing groups vying to win an annual high school championship.
Written by director Andrew Grosso and the cast (who call themselves The Essentials), the tuner trails the five-man Acafellas and the four-woman (plus student manager) Ladies in Red as they prepare for and eventually appear in the competition. As the participants gird for battle, the audience gets to know enough about each of them -- and four adults with whom they interact -- to realize they're all adorable, yet suffering one or another typical teenage growing pain. Lassiter (Vayu O'Donnell) and Philip (Noah Weinberg) are too repressed to admit their mutual attraction; Jasper (Blake Whyte) will sing but won't speak; JB Smooter (Scott Janes) is a jock with a voice; Simon Depardieu (David Barlow) is a friendly nerd. Melody McDaniels (Autumn Dornfeld) is an uptight leader; Michaela Dhiardeaubovic (Jeanine Serralles) is a sly minx; Valerie Smooter (Margie Stokley) doesn't like being looked at; Meghan Beans (Maria Elena Ramirez) is a dancing sexpot; Kerri Taylor (Marina Squerciati) manages because her Tourette's Syndrome is a performance risk.
When they harmonize -- the two groups together or separately -- it's well-nigh perfection, as the title promises. The songs chosen to showcase their expertise include a number of familiar and pertinent chart ditties -- including Bill Withers' "Lean On Me" and George Michael's "Freedom." Since there's no band required and no call for elaborate sets, the enterprise is a potential bargain for future producers, although. rights to the songs could run into real money.
August 23, 2006
A Cappella Gold wins jingle contest
Four San Diego County women have harmonized their way to fame by winning a national online competition. Of five finalist groups, the A Cappella Gold Sweet Adeline quartet attracted the most votes from the public throughout the summer. Thus it has won the national Oreo cookie jingle contest and its $10,000 prize.
The singers – Kimberly Hulbert of San Diego, Elizabeth Gorton of Julian, Tomi McEvoy of Escondido and Susan Lamb of Vista – have been performing together for nine years. Now they'll head to Hollywood to record an Oreo radio commercial that will begin airing nationally early next year.
Even though it wasn't “American Idol,” the singers will get to meet “Idol” judge and record producer Randy Jackson at the official winner's ceremony in Los Angeles next week.
Slapdash Graduate on Star Tomorrow
Let' try for another a cappella win in a national competition by voting for Slapdash Graduate in the current NBC online Star Tomorrow competition. The group has been to Los Angeles and recorded a video which can be viewed here (Group 2) on the StarTomorrow web site. I imagine that the win for A Cappella Gold was in part due to the votes they undoubtedly received from the Sweet Adeline community so let's show our support for Slapdash Graduate who are certainly most worthy.
August 22, 2006
The Westminster Chorus has silver medal, and groupies
Orange County Register (CA):
They're like a cross between pop heartthrob Justin Timberlake and Disneyland's Main Street-strolling Dapper Dans. And in this topsy-turvy world we live in, it should come as no surprise that a lot of girls are going for that combo.
Yes, the Westminster (barbershop) Chorus has groupies. Hundreds of groupies. Groupies who are under the age of 50. "Is there anyone in this chorus who ISN'T painfully hot?" one young lass recently wrote on the chorus' My Space page. Your typical barbershop crooner is in his 50s, 60s, 70s (and wearing a bow-tie, a mustache and perhaps a straw hat). Westminster Chorus members are in their teens and 20s. (and wearing jeans, flip-flops and, in one case, a safety pin through the ear).
Last month, Westminster became the youngest four-part harmony chorus ever to take the stage at the international barbershop championship in Indianapolis. They walked away with a silver medal, electrifying the crowd of 10,000. It's what barbershop has been waiting for since membership began declining in, like, 1975: young blood. "You guys ROCKED in Indy," a woman told the guys on their MySpace page. "I love cute chorus boys. I'm now an official groupie." Some of the old-school barbershop singers are groupies too, and it has nothing to do with anyone being cute. "What is so exciting is their vocal quality," says Orange Empire Chorus singer Al Bell.
Commentators on a recent barbershop podcast in the Bay Area spent a third of the show questioning Westminster's second-place finish. The host replayed the moment it was announced that they got silver. "Oh my goodness," one commentator said. "You're actually hearing booing." The barbershop crowd never boos.
With 56 singers (the chorus that beat them had 141), Westminster manages to create a big sound. At the same time, their personalities come through with the warmth of a quartet. "Getting to the heart of the message in the song is what it's really all about," says Royce Ferguson, chorus director and 1998 gold-medal quartet winner. Out of 3,000 possible points, there was only a 17-point difference between Westminster and gold-medal winner, The Vocal Majority from Texas.
Saturday was Westminster's first rehearsal since becoming "overnight" a cappella sensations – they've been around only four years compared with some choruses that date back to 1953. The guys took a few victory laps, reliving competition day: the hair-raising moment a barbershop legend approached to shake their hands, or when a little kid walked up to them in the hotel lobby to ask if he could sing with them. Ferguson told the guys that their chief rival for 2007 (The Ambassadors of Harmony from Missouri) had already called an emergency meeting to figure out how to deal with them in Denver next July. Then Ferguson showed them a video of their silver-medal performance; they sang the Frank Sinatra ballad "The Way You Look Tonight" and the uptune barbershop classic "South Rampart Street Parade." "I could watch myself all day," 19-year-old bass Kevin Brown said dreamily, getting laughs. More laughs came pretty much every time the camera zoomed in on one of their smiling faces stretching to hold a note.
After practice, the group always heads to the Taco Bell on 17th Street in Costa Mesa for what is known in barbershop parlance as an afterglow. On Saturday they took up two tables. Among the crowd was Dewayne Meats, a 22-year-old Marine who just got back from fighting in Iraq; Joey Buss, a tap-dancing student at Edison High School in Huntington Beach; Leo James, an 18-year-old world juggling champion; and Adrian Arteaga, who at 20 just made it through the first round of tryouts for "American Idol." First they inhaled large amounts of food. Then they trickled out to the patio, broke into groups and launched into old classic lyrics like "In a gingham gown, you stole my heart." People pretty much ignored them. "I don't think younger people know (barbershop singing) as a legitimate art form,'" said David Rakita, a USC student. "They think of vaudeville or Disneyland … a spoof."
Some of the Westminster Chorus singers have dads or uncles who are barbershop alums. Others got involved through music programs. But they pretty much all have the same story. Once they rang a chord with three other guys (the sound that rises from achieving perfect four-part harmony), they were hooked. "It's addictive," said Chris Burns, who at 31 is the old man of the chorus. "Barbershop is life," said Cal State Fullerton student Brian Jackson. The chorus recently had T-shirts made that say "Westminster – Barbershop for the 21st Century." They're hoping other youths follow their lead and strapping young barbershop choruses spread across the land. Even if they have to share their groupies.
August 18, 2006
The Tallis Scholars Dig for Mozart’s Roots
New York Times (NY):
A leitmotif of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center this summer has been contemporary composers’ views of Mozart, but on Wednesday evening at the Rose Theater the festival looked back instead at Mozart’s roots.
The Tallis Scholars - the finely polished 10-voice choir from Britain, led by Peter Phillips - performed works by a handful of Mozart’s predecessors. It sounds like a good idea until you realize how undefined it is: technically, Mozart’s predecessors include everyone from Hildegard of Bingen to Telemann and J. C. Bach, the entire universe of composers a pre-Classical ensemble might perform. When the Tallis Scholars offered a similar program in New York four months ago, called “Mozart’s Roots,” it seemed a stretch for exactly that reason.
This time at least Mr. Phillips included a work with a Mozart connection: Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere,” a score that Mozart, as a child, reconstructed from memory after a single hearing. It has become a mainstay of the early choral repertory, less for its Mozart link than for its gracefully soaring, irresistible soprano line. Using his own edition of the score, Mr. Phillips created an antiphonal effect by putting four singers in the balcony and five on stage. And he gave the soprano soloist, Deborah Roberts, the freedom to add increasingly ornate embellishments from her perch in the balcony.
The choir’s performances of a Hassler Mass; Schütz’s “German Magnificat,” with its interlocking rhythms; and Isaac’s “Virgo Prudentissima,” with fascinatingly intertwined sacred and topical texts (with a prayer that the Emperor Maximilian might “conquer his wicked enemies”) were striking for textural richness and seamless blend.
Given that so many of this ensemble’s recent New York performances have been either at Riverside Church or the Low Library at Columbia University, which both have reverberant acoustics, it seemed odd to hear the singers in the comparatively dry Rose Theater. No doubt brighter resonance is more historically appropriate for a repertory composed for churches and chapels. But there is something to be said for occasionally hearing this music in a setting that lets you hear more precisely how the strands of vocal polyphony are woven together.
August 17, 2006
Songs, sequins to dazzle in harmony
Columbus Dispatch (OH):
The quartet competition during the weekend Buckeye Invitational will have only three rounds, but Astound Sound is lugging five costume changes. The members of the female group from Lubbock, Texas, don’t want to clash with the curtains. "Not only do we have to sound good; we have to look good, too," Brenda Thomas, who sings the baritone part.
The Buckeye Invitational, hosted by the Singing Buckeyes Chorus of Columbus, is an a cappella competition for choruses and quartets of single and mixed sexes. Melodies and mischief promise to abound throughout the weekend, as choruses and quartets are known to burst into song just about anywhere.
Singers waiting in line at a restaurant or standing around in a lobby will frequently muster the necessary talent to pull off an impromptu performance, said Mike Renner, chairman of the 18 th invitational. The weekend warblers, however, will be careful not to disturb other guests at the Renaissance Columbus hotel, headquarters for the competition. "We try not to practice barbershop kamikaze, attacking people unmercifully," said Chuck Nelson, who sings baritone in PolyFonix, a quartet from Riverview, Fla., and as a member of the Academy chorus of Lakeland, Fla. His favorite part of vocal competition, he said, is interacting with the audience.
Though well-regarded among the barbershop community, the Buckeye Invitational actually sprang from a losing streak, Renner said. In the 1980s, the Singing Buckeyes were in a slump, repeatedly finishing second to a chorus from Cincinnati. After one such regional competition, they returned home and began talking over pizza about a contest for second-place choruses. The Buckeye Invitational was born. "Here it is, 18 years later, and people are still excited when the phone rings and they find out they’ve been invited to the Buckeye Invitational," said Renner, who has been with the Singing Buckeyes for 27 years.
Forget the candy-striped suits and straw hats of yesteryear: Today’s quartets don outfits as modern and snappy as their songs and consider showmanship a huge part of their performances. The collection of Astound Sound costumes includes gold ensembles with accompanying 4-inch heels, sparkly blue pantsuits and glittery red threepiece outfits. The women should look good no matter what the curtain color: black, blue or beige. "Mostly, you just want to go with something that’s flashy but still looks good on all four people," said Lisa Hilton, who sings bass in the quartet.
Hilton, Thomas, Heidi Wilson and Sara Yancey formed Astound Sound after singing together in the Prairie Winds Chorus. All four have families, and Thomas said they enjoy performing Christian songs for organizations around their hometown. Not to be outdone by the women, PolyFonix has a flair of its own, Nelson said. In a nod to Men at Work and Larry the Cable Guy, its most complicated ensemble capitalizes on Southern stereotypes.
At least one group’s wardrobe will be slightly understated. "Black and sparkly, with a tendency to molt" is how Mary Trotter, assistant treasurer of the Cheshire Chord Company, describes her chorus’s outfits. The 78 women were to arrive yesterday from Warrington, England. Cheshire Chord is unusually large by British standards, Trotter said, and fairly shy by American standards: The women aren’t nearly as likely to break into song spontaneously. "Being British, we are a little more reserved than that and may need to be pressed into it," she said by e-mail. "But once we start, there’s no stopping us."
August 16, 2006
Tallis Scholars Begin Three-Day US Festival Tour
Just as several US orchestras are departing (despite increased air security difficulties) for tours of the great European music festivals, one renowned, if smaller, British ensemble is making the equivalent journey in reverse.
The Tallis Scholars, probably the world's most renowned performers of Renaissance sacred music, are on a brief tour of three eminent US summer festivals. They sing tonight at the Ravinia Festival near Chicago, tomorrow at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City, and Thursday (August 17) at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony's summer home in western Massachusetts.
The program, "From Dresden to Innsbruck (and Back)," features sacred music from the German-speaking lands that constitute the musical/historical legacy on which Mozart would ultimately draw. There are three motets (plus one beloved madrigal to the Alpine town of Innsbruck) by Heinrich Isaac, a 15th-16th-century composer whom many contemporaries considered the near-equal of the great Josquin Desprez; a double-choir Mass setting and a motet by the 16th-century German composer Hans Leo Hassler; and Heinrich Schütz's German-language setting of the Magnificat.
Also on the program is one of the Tallis Scholars' signature pieces, and a work which we know for certain the child Mozart heard. Gregorio Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus, a setting of Psalm 51, was the exclusive property of the Sistine Chapel Choir, which used it as the finale of the very dramatic Tenebrae liturgy during Holy Week. (Candles were progressively extinguished throughout the service, and the Miserere was sung in darkness.) The Vatican had long threatened anathema for anyone who released a copy of Allegri's music to outsiders; young Wolfgang Amadé heard the work in the Sistine Chapel and wrote it out from memory afterwards, panicking his father. (Mozart's manuscript of the Miserere has not, to anyone's knowledge, survived.)
The Miserere the Tallis Scholars sing will certainly not be what Mozart (or Allegri, for that matter) heard. The music as originally notated was falsobordone — basically a harmonized reciting tone, a simple series of chords which the choir used on successive verses of the Psalm; the Sistine singers would improvise embellishments to those chords on the spot. The version commonly known today, with its famous series of high Cs for soprano, was created and published in the 1930s with an English text; an edition in Latin was published and made famous in the 1950s by the great English choral conductor George Guest. Peter Phillips, founder and director of the Tallis Scholars, has prepared the edition used for this tour; soprano soloist Deborah Roberts, quite a queen of the high Cs herself, has provided some of her own embellishments.
August 15, 2006
All-embracing Nylons headline all-Canadian lineup
Ottawa Citizen (Canada):
Quick now, pretend you're an a cappella singer. What's the most important part of your body? Nope, not your vocal chords. "You'll get further with good ears and a mediocre voice than you will with a great voice and mediocre ears," says Claude Morrison, tenor with Canada's a cappella pacesetters The Nylons. "A cappella is all about singing into a blend. You really have to be sensitive to the others."
Morrison, who once worked as a singing waiter ("whenever you had a minute between courses, you'd just step out on the floor and do a number a cappella"), would know. He's been with the showy quartet, one of the highlights of this year's 10-day Super Ex concert series, since it was conceived by four out-of-work actors in a Toronto deli almost 25 years ago.
Since then, the Nylons have weathered umpteen personnel changes, leaving Morrison as the sole remaining founding member. They've played 1,000-odd concerts around the world, enjoyed hits with Up The Ladder To The Roof and The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and won a Juno. The Nylons' music has even accompanied astronauts on a NASA space shuttle.
Sensible people think twice about singing in public, let alone performing with no instruments to mask the inevitable blunders. Not practitioners of a cappella. "We're attention whores, we love it," laughs baritone Gavin Hope.
He recently rejoined the Nylons after a couple of years off to perform in Rent, sing jingles and follow other musical pursuits. The group now also includes the group's other tenor Garth Mosbaugh and bass Tyrone Gabriel. Hope adds that the Nylons' 16th disc, a selection from the ensemble's quarter century of music, should be available this fall. That's to be followed early next year by an album of new material.
The Nylons, originally an all-gay group, have long enjoyed a special following in the gay community. They recently performed, for the second time, at Toronto Pride festivities, and their Ex show coincides with Ottawa's Pride Week. Hope points to the group's inclusiveness as a reason for their gay following, although he stresses that's only one part of their considerable constituency. "With the Nylons, it's a big brush. We welcome all walks of life and we represent a lot of different walks of life. Some of us are gay and some of us are straight. Some of us are brown, some of us are beige. We have a finger in every pot."
August 12, 2006
Announcing the A Cappella Video Channel
We know how much you enjoy listening to your favorite a cappella groups so we think you may well be as excited as we are now that you can also watch many of the top a cappella artists on your computer.
Primarily A Cappella (Singers.com) has launched a new feature on its web site called the "The A Cappella Video Channel" where we have assembled a large collection of streaming vocal harmony videos. We have music videos, performances clips, interviews, promotional material and some classics from years gone by.
We plan on adding new videos on a regular basis. Over the many years we have been sent scores of a cappella videos and have stacks of them in our office. We also have hours of material we have produced ourselves as we have filmed many of the Harmony Sweepstakes and A Cappella Summits. As we receive permissions and have the time we will be putting up this content plus if anybody has some video of their own which they would like us to include then please do let us know.
Watch and enjoy:-
Ain't technology grand.
August 9, 2006
Voices Of Lee Performs For TV Special
The Chattanoogan (TN):
Voices of Lee, an a cappella vocal ensemble from Lee University, will appear on national television Saturday as part of the Gaither Vocal Band’s homecoming television special. The program, a one-hour preview of the Gaither’s upcoming Give it Away DVD, was recorded on March 21 in the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis, Ind. More than a dozen television networks nationwide, including Great American Country, The Inspiration Network, and i Independent Television (formerly PAX), will air the special at various times on Aug. 12.
During the March performance, Voices thrilled the mostly Indiana-based audience with their rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana” and returned to sing “Give it Away” with the Gaither Vocal Band for the show’s grand finale, said officials. The 16-member student ensemble from Cleveland shared the stage with homecoming favorites Ernie Haase & Signature Sound and Broadway star Larry Wayne Morbitt.
Directed by Danny Murray, Voices is one of Lee’s premier vocal ensembles. Since their debut in September 1994, the group has entertained audiences worldwide with their unique variety of lush vocal harmonies, high-energy patriotic numbers, fun-filled audience participation, and heart-felt gospel favorites. The group also gave birth to internationally-acclaimed quartet Four Voices, who were named 2002 International Barbershop Quartet Champions and inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Voices of Lee has appeared on Good Morning America, Bill Gaither's Familyfest and Praise Gathering” and at many of America’s most well-known churches, including Christ Church in Nashville. Their convention appearances have taken them from Israel to Ontario and to numerous cities all over the nation. The group has performed for the White House’s Christmas celebration, the Atlanta Braves, the Orlando Magic, and several major Independence Day celebrations.
Voices latest recording project, “Encore,” is a collection of contemporary Christian worship music that was released earlier this year on the Brentwood-Benson label. The album and accompanying songbook feature arrangements by Derric Johnson, Bradley Knight, Jim Gray and David Maddox.
August 8, 2006
Greg Lyne helps energize barbershop chorus
Oakland Tribune (CA):
They wear bow ties and harmonize, but they don't take the barbershop moniker too seriously. "Barbershop in most people's minds is a bunch of old guys singing off-key in a quartet," said Herb Florance of the 180-member Voices in Harmony. The all-male chorus is scheduled to sing Sunday, at the Alameda County Fairgrounds as part of the "Summer Series Under the Stars" benefit for the Livermore Performing Arts Center.
The combined a cappella voices below the tenor range bring a rich, full sound to American standards like "Paper Moon," "Beyond the Sea," "The Way We Were" and the lesser-known "I Can Dream Can't I?" Voices in Harmony also plans to sing a medley of armed forces themes at the upcoming performance.
Credit newly hired director Dr. Greg Lyne for the draw. Florance said he considers it "the chance of a lifetime" to sing with a director who is considered one of the top two in the country by those in the know — some 34,000 members of the Barbershop Harmony Society, a national organization founded in 1938 that takes competitive singing seriously. The group's motto is "Keep the whole world singing."
A former director at the Barbershop Harmony Society, Lyne is a published composer and has directed university and professional choirs across the country. He has conducted more than 300 festival and all-state choirs and presented a master class at St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music.
While members of the 820-chapter national association — including some actual barbershop quartets — don't get as much airplay as Cold Play, there is enough of a steady following for the music that it has its own podcast. The men's a cappella group Hi-Fidelity sings regularly on "Last Call With Carson Daly" and another group from the organization is competing in NBC's "StarTomorrow."
Voices in Harmony has aspirations to become a standout in the sector; the goal is to consistently rank in the apex in national competitions within five years. "We're getting to be that good — we hope," Florance said. "I know it sounds like a lofty goal, but it's attainable." The Fremont-based group is actually a combination of two choirs that had been suffering lagging memberships of about 40. "Believe it or not, that's a small draw in our world," Florance said.
In January, just as Pleasanton's Pot of Gold and San Jose's chapter were merging, they discovered Lyne might be available. A full-court, a cappella press ensued, the result of which was the pick of one of the nation's most sought-after directors. These days, 180 members vie for one of 110 spots on the risers during concerts and competitions. The two choirs already have a bevy of regional awards between them and hope to increase that number exponentially with the help of Lyne.
The choruses sing in four-part harmony, with men singing tenor, baritone, bass and lead. The American association maintains a library of some 10,000 songs written for the lower ranges. It even includes the "Hallelujah Chorus." Local singers shouting "Hallelujah" over Lyne have found a leader who at one moment can be as tough as a college football coach and the next a softie who proclaims his love for the group. He's also quick to bring a sense of fun to the group. "He's all of those things," Florance says. "He can be as tough as nails if he needs to be."
August 7, 2006
Edinburgh Festival: Pop Art – Montezuma’s Revenge
The Herald (UK)
A cappella boy bands have been a growth area over recent Fringes. So new arrivals need something different to stand out. Dutch quintet Montezuma's Revenge do it with self-mockery, choreography and magic, which includes making a bottle of wine disappear, although not in the traditional Fringe sense.
They have the requisite precision harmonies, with a Beach Boys-rich sound in places, and the now-mandatory beat box impersonations, which they use sparingly. But what's most refreshing about them is that the audience isn't just invited to marvel at how clever they are. These guys entertain, and with a repertoire that manages to pitch Charles Aznavour in with Grace Jones, Santana and Frank Zappa at that.
There are weaknesses: Prince's Sign o' the Times doesn't really work and Sunshine on Leith, a nice local touch though it is, gets a bit cheesy. But unless you're the chosen one, their enactment of the Jackson Five's I Want You Back is a hoot and the sequence where the bumbling dancer gets kicked all over the shop – then turns into the star – is worth the ticket price itself. Until August 28.
Review - Manhattan Transfer
The Scotsman (UK):
Jazz fans can be sniffy about the commercial success enjoyed by bands like Manhattan Transfer, but members of the crowd at the Queen's Hall had no such reservations. They were there to celebrate the music of this long-running vocal quartet, and were rewarded with a scintillating show and the kind of close-quarters experience that is impossible to achieve in the bigger venues they are used to playing.
This line-up, featuring Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentene, have been together since 1978, but they launched into the songs with undimmed enthusiasm. They radiated a sense of enjoyment in their performance that was entirely infectious, whether performing recent additions to their repertoire or rolling out a selection of old favourites. All four are fine singers in their own right, but their trademark is their intricate but highly energised vocal interchanges (harmony singing doesn't quite cover it).
Their complex interplay of vocal lines, micro-second timing and buoyant rhythmic intensity never flagged even in the sapping heat of the venue, and they finished as strongly as they had begun. Backed by a strong four-piece band, they sang a selection of famous jazz instrumental tunes in "vocal-ese" versions, including Horace Silver's Doodlin', Clifford Brown's Joy Spring, Louis Armstrong's Stompin' at Mahogany Hall and a weird and arresting version of Miles Davis's Tutu that sounded like nothing else in the show.
Old favourites dusted down for the occasion included You Can Depend On Me from their debut album, a sparkling Route 66, their version of Basie guitarist Freddie Green's Corner Pocket, a nod to Ella Fitzgerald in A-Tisket, A-Tasket, with Siegal as lead voice, and their hugely popular vocal version of Joe Zawinul's Birdland. A couple of encores, featuring Tuxedo Junction and Choo Choo Ch'Boogie, closed a truly great show.
Secret singers to surprise passers-bys
LONDON - Experiential marketing agency CommentUK is launching a campaign for Walkers Crisps involving undercover performers breaking into song in front of surprised passers-by.
The campaign involves singers who appear to be members of the public performing Bobby McFerrin's a cappella hit 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' in busy areas, before removing their coats to reveal specially designed Walkers t-shirts. To create the impression for passers by that they are in a musical, the singers will be in groups of three with one starting off the song and the two others then joining in.
This latest campaign for Walkers is similar to the failed Phillip Schofield hosted show 'It's Now or Never' on ITV, where people surprised loved ones with heartfelt messages in the form of a musical.
Cities featured in the campaign, which has been launched to promote new flavours steak and onion and barbeque rib, are Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Newcastle, Brighton & Hove, Leicester, Leeds and London.
Justin Foxton, founding partner and chief executive of CommentUK, said: "This is a major initiative that will create a genuine Buzz in nine major cities across the UK. Research has proved that activity such as this has tremendous recall rates and as a way to launch two new crisp varieties it simply can't be beaten." The campaign, which lasts the rest of the week, is part of a wider push that includes national press advertising and radio promotional work on Emap Radio and GCap stations.
August 5, 2006
Finland's Rajaton needs only voices
Georgia Straight (Canada):
Rajaton’s Jussi Chydenius used to be on the Helsinki city council, but he didn’t like it very much. “The only reason why I wanted to get involved with politics is because I have lived my whole life here, and I really like this city,” he explains, in lightly accented English, from his home in the Finnish capital. “I had this really naive thought that I would like to try to help things around here, not knowing anything about politics. So I was, of course, quite shocked when I was elected, and then I had to start from zero and learn how things worked. It’s not like people ask you, ‘How would you like this to be done?’ and then it’s done.”
He laughs, and adds that once his term of office was over he was appointed to Helsinki’s cultural board, a position that’s much more in keeping with his artistic tendencies. “It’s a field that I know something about,” he says. “And there, I think it’s easier to make a difference.”
In or out of office, Chydenius needn’t worry: he’s already made a difference, simply by convening the first great a cappella band of the 21st century. Vocal ensembles, although common in the classical world, are an oddity in pop; most are cutesy novelty acts with little musical substance. But this Finnish sextet combines exquisite artistry with the ability to function equally well in both popular and serious music—which is all the more surprising when you consider that Chydenius, who writes a good part of Rajaton’s material, has no formal training in composition or arranging.
“I used to play drums in a rock band, but because I didn’t know how to play guitar, I couldn’t write for that group,” he notes. “I wanted to write music, but the only instrument I knew other than drums was choral music, and so I just started to write these pieces for voice. And it was really helpful for me that this group was formed, because I had the opportunity to make all the mistakes that I was going to make because I didn’t have any training. I could try something, and if it didn’t work, I could just do it again until it did.”
Chydenius allows that Rajaton enjoyed some early success because the aforementioned rock band, Don Huonot, was one of Finland’s most accomplished. “I was fairly well known here, and also Essi [Wuorela], our first soprano, she had a solo career in the mid-’90s, so she was also quite well known,” he explains. “So when we first started, people were curious what this was about. But it was also helpful that we were the first group doing what we did—and in the past three years there have been other vocal groups that have been really successful too, so you could say that we started something here in Finland.”
Whether the Baltic craze for unaccompanied singing will ever catch on in North America is another matter. But even if it doesn’t, listeners (at Christ Church Cathedral on Monday and Tuesday [August 7 and 8] at 5 p.m., plus a free 1 p.m. concert at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Tuesday [August 8]) will still find much to enjoy in Rajaton’s crystalline harmonies, inventive beat-boxing, and solid bass lines—so much that they’ll never notice the absence of “real” instruments. In fact, Chydenius notes that the members of Rajaton have pretty much given up playing drums, piano, guitar, and other such prosaic devices. “I’m not sure if it’s because our music is so fulfilling,” he concedes modestly, “but it sure takes up our time.”
August 4, 2006
Shut up and Sing in Providence
The Big Chill meets a cappella in the indie feature film SHUT UP AND SING, screening Weds. August 9th at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Winner of the Audience Award/Best Feature at this year's HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, the film stars Molly Shannon, Mark Feuerstein, David Harbour, Reg Rogers, David Alan Basche, Elizabeth Reaser as well as renown vocal percussionist Samrat Chakrabarti. Rockapella founder Sean Altman was the music and a cappella consultant for the film.
Written and directed by Bruce Leddy -- a former member of the Williams (College) Octet -- the ensemble comedy/drama is about a group of guys who sang a cappella together in college and are now reuniting 15 years later to sing at a friend's wedding. With their spouses, significant others, and one Swedish nanny in tow, the group takes a break from their less-than-perfect lives in Manhattan and spends a long weekend rehearsing at a rambling family beach house. The experience let's them take stock of how their lives have progressed -- and in some cases regressed -- since their college heyday.
The film is part of the RIFF's "Signature Series" and will be shown at 7pm at the Columbus Arts Theater Center in Providence.
August 3, 2006
San Francisco Chronicle (CA):
Polynesians plan to take over the Presidio for the 12th year in a row this weekend, but as usual it's a welcome invasion. The Aloha Festival is expected to draw thousands of visitors to the parade grounds on Saturday and Sunday with free performances of island music and dance, recruited from the Bay Area's rich community of artists, and vendors of local-style food, crafts and aloha wear.
Hitting a distinctive note in the happy hubbub will be Na Leo Nahenahe, an a cappella choir in San Francisco that sings almost exclusively in Hawaiian. Since the group's profile ran in Datebook 15 months ago, director John Lehrack has decided to spread around its sound a lot more. "(This) has been a really ambitious year for us. Traditionally we perform only once a year in a big concert and at the Aloha Festival, but this year we have four major concerts," Lehrack said.
Na Leo Nahenahe (sweet voices), has already given concerts in San Francisco and Redwood City. "A couple of years ago, we tried to do two shows, and it seemed like it was too much, but people said, 'No, we want to get out there,' " Lehrack recalled. "We've performed mostly in San Francisco, but there are so many people that have some kind of connection to Hawaii, especially in the East Bay and the Peninsula, that we just want to share the music and the aloha spirit with other folks."
Dale Hopkins of Berkeley is typical of the 30 or so members of Na Leo Nahenahe in that she's not Hawaiian but loves the culture. "I was raised in Hawaii -- I went out there when I was 6 -- because my dad was in the Navy. We just totally fell in love with Hawaii, and my parents ended up living there, retiring there and eventually dying there. My mother worked for years with the (environmental group) Life of the Land, and fought the H-3 highway," Hopkins said. "Most people (in the choir) have a spiritual connection and a love for Hawaii."
The group rarely sings in English, as reflected in its choice of songs for the Aloha Festival: "Maliu Mai," "Kamalani O Keaukaha," "E Nihi Ka Hele," "Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani," "Makalapua" and "E Mau Ana Ka Ha'aheo." The latter, by Haunani Apoliona of Olomana, is one of the group's favorites, Lehrack said. "It's a song of Hawaiian pride, calling for endurance of the Hawaiian people and the legacy moving forward into the future."
Hopkins said she's one of three or four members of Na Leo Nahenahe who have studied Hawaiian formally, having taken lessons from Mahea Uchiyama when she was part of her hula halau. Hopkins no longer dances with Uchiyama's group, but she and two other women in Na Leo Nahenahe will perform hula to "Kipahulu" and "Kamali'i O Ka Po" at the Mill Valley concert, which also features guest artists Pulama and Fran Guidry.
Lehrack started Na Leo Nahenahe in 1999 after moving from Honolulu, where he sang in the University of Hawaii chorus and became familiar with the Kamehameha Schools' annual choral contest. "People were great resources for me when I started this group. Kamehameha Schools is one of the few groups that has a song competition anywhere. There aren't many a cappella groups out there, and not many that sing in Hawaiian," Lehrack said.
August 2, 2006
Swingles seek bass-baritone
The Swingle Singers are looking for a bass-baritone (vocal percussion skills preferred). The group is a full-time professional 8-piece a cappella ensemble based in London, UK. They are performing mainly jazz and classical repertoire, but also contemporary classical music and pop. The group started over 40 years ago, but consists nowadays of young singers, refreshing the more traditional repertoire. If you are interested in auditioning, please contact musical director Tom Bullard at md @ swinglesingers.com
Please send a CV, picture, and demo to:-
Suite 111e, Business Design Centre,
52 Upper Street,
London N1 0QH