October 31, 2006

The Fabulous Viagras

Without further comment here are The Fabulous Viagras the latest winners of the a cappella group with an interesting name contest.

Posted by acapnews at 12:08 AM

October 27, 2006

Welcome to the company choir

Baltic Times (Latvia):

Hansabank's Studium Vocale

At any given song festival, the list of participating choirs is a fairly predictable mix. There are always choirs representing cities or universities, men’s or women’s groups, children’s choirs and specialized ensembles. But further down the list, recognizable names begin to appear, the brand names of companies associated with chocolate bars, beer and banking rather than singing.

These are more than just sponsored choirs. These are company choirs, founded in the lunchrooms and factories of Estonia’s biggest corporations by employees seeking to join together in song. There’s the Kalev Chamber Choir, representing the nation’s favorite chocolate factory, and the Flora Chamber Choir, drawn from employees of the cleaning and chemical products manufacturer. Hansabank, the biggest banking group in the Baltics, has a Tallinn-based chamber choir, as does the A Le Coq brewery in Tartu. Several government departments, including the ministry of finance and ministry of agriculture, house ensembles, as well as the central treasury, the Bank of Estonia.

Right-wing political party Res Publica mixes its politics with song through its chamber choir. The state television and radio stations retain large choirs for special occasions. The continued existence of these company choirs tells much about Estonia, its connection to singing and its clutch on culture in the face of commercial development.

“It’s more than just advertising,” says Kaie Tanner of the branded choirs. Tanner is the general secretary of the Estonian Choral Association, the peak organization body of singing groups. “It’s well known that Estonians love to sing. Quite a big percentage of Estonians sing in choirs. We have one million people here, and 33,000 are in choirs. Every four years at the song festival, we have 150,000 people there for the celebration.” The Baltic nations are marked by song. They demonstrated their desire for independence by gathering to sing the prohibited national songs, their own special form of non-violent resistance.

In the decades prior to the Singing Revolution, Estonians undertook similar protests each week in the offices and factories in which they worked. By coming together as a choir, they circumvented the laws which banned public demonstrations and political gatherings, and hid their message of discontent within the songsheets they passed around. “The company choir is something from the Soviet times, because in those days almost all factories and offices had a choir or at least an ensemble,” explains Tanner, “It was almost compulsory to join. But it was also popular. After work, people had nothing to do. There was no shopping, you couldn’t go abroad, but after work you had to do something. So it became very popular to gather in choirs.

“It was one of the few possibilities for people to meet each other, because other organized meetings were suspicious. But the choir was a legal form of gathering, and it was also a kind of protest. After the required communist songs, we could sing our own songs. Of course, just to meet was some kind of self expression.” After Estonia regained independence, the idea carried over to the newly-formed corporations and private enterprises. In fact, many of the company choirs in existence today formed less than 10 years ago, proving that the tradition has transcended the modern corporate world.

Other company choirs, however, are no longer strictly drawn from employees. Opening membership to outsiders became necessary as the limitations of today’s professional working life led to waning participation. Only one closed employee choir remains in existence, the Estonian Railway Chamber Choir.

Hansabank even proudly proclaims that its chamber choir improves the quality of life for employees. In today’s fast-paced open Europe employment market, corporations must offer more than a decent salary to attract and retain workers. The Hansabank Chamber Choir, also known as Studium Vocale, meets every Monday night after work in the cafeteria of its Tallinn headquarters. “We are dealing with a lot of numbers every day, so this is an enjoyable hobby that doesn’t involve numbers,” says Piret Naber, a Hansabank loan officer and one of the twenty members of the choir.

When it formed seven years ago, Studium Vocale was strictly employees only. Today it includes other workers, but is still dominated by bank staff. The bank continues to support the choir by providing the rehearsal space and national costumes when it performs abroad. They have sung at corporate functions and the bank’s recreational summer days.

It seems finance workers have a penchant for harmonizing tunes, and not just balance sheets. Nearby at the nation’s central bank, the Bank of Estonia, employees meet each Wednesday at lunchtime to rehearse their songs. Thanks to support from the bank, the choir can afford to hire a professional conductor.

Choir chairwoman Anna Randvali said the 30 members all benefited from learning under a professional leader. “Sometimes it is very difficult to find time to rehearse, especially when there are trips away. It’s difficult to find free time and our families are usually our priority. But we practice as often as we can,” Randvali says. “I don’t think it’s unusual at all for a bank to have a choir. Every two years we participate in a festival of central bank choirs. The central banks of France and Germany and other countries also encourage their employees to sing together.”

One of the most popular groups in the city is the Kalev Chamber Choir, and its association with the chocolate manufacturer is no doubt a factor when members choose to join. The company sometimes sends boxes of chocolate to members, who are also occasionally asked to help work at the factory filling charity bags.

But Kalev is one company choir with a connection that’s almost name only. “Nowadays, there is only one person left who still works at Kalev,” says conductor Erki Meister. “There are fewer companies that have their employees in the choir. Now it’s like sponsorship.” Despite this, the company continues to support the group financially, paying a small stipend to cover the costs of organizing the forty members.

Posted by acapnews at 12:16 AM

October 24, 2006

Conspirare very nearly flawless

San Antonio Express:

Few experiences in this world can equal the exquisite pleasure of hearing an impeccable chorus performing first-rate music in an ideal acoustical setting, under gifted leadership. In other words, Conspirare. The Austin-based professional chorus, founded and conducted by Craig Hella Johnson, visited San Antonio's St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Saturday to open a three-concert road season.

The program held three works, stylistically unlike one another but unified by a sense of the unification of love and divinity. Almost unbearably beautiful was Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur's "The Song of Songs," a 1953 setting in French of texts from that biblical text interwoven with a few New Testament passages in Latin.

Daniel-Lesur chose a more conservative path than did his close contemporary and colleague, Olivier Messiaen, but the harmonies in this work are no less astonishing and bracing for remaining within the tonal system. Rich, dense, vividly colored chords succeed each other in surprising ways, culminating in a glorious 12-part Alleluia that heaven itself might envy.

Alexander Gretchaninov's Vespers dated from 1912, three years before Rachmaninoff's more-famous setting of a slightly different selection of texts from the Russian Orthodox liturgy for the Easter Vigil. Musically, Gretchaninov's is more sensual, though fairly conservative harmonically, not far from the aesthetic of his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov.

The program opened with Charles Stanford's brief but celestial Beati quorum via. Throughout, balances, intonation and ensemble precision were nearly flawless. In the Vespers, the 36 choristers included enough individual talent to enable Johnson to match each solo passage with a fully capable singer of appropriate vocal coloration — a luxury that few other choral directors enjoy.

Johnson conducted everything with supple shaping of tempos and lines, and with a disciplined energy that always was related organically to the music. The venue was of particular interest because the year-old San Antonio Chamber Choir, also a professional ensemble, sang in the same space last month.

Heard in the same acoustical environment, albeit in different material, the new kid on the I-35 corridor fell almost imperceptibly below Conspirare's level in ensemble and intonation. Conspirare has more solo depth and a richer sound, as one might expect from 10 more singers. The local troupe's director, Scott MacPherson, differs more in character and in repertoire choices than in ability from his Austin colleague. With two such fine professional troupes in our midst, this area may be the best place in the nation for admirers of great choral singing.

Posted by acapnews at 12:27 AM

October 22, 2006

A very close call for us

We are all very grateful at Primarily A Cappella to the San Rafael fire department for saving us from possible catastrophe as our neighbor's business was completely destroyed on Friday night by a 3-alarm fire. Both the Mexican market and adjacent Taqueria were engulfed in flames by a fire that appears to of started in the kitchen area of the restaurant and soon spread to the whole building. A San Rafael firefighter hurt his back during the blaze, but no other injuries were reported. Our sympathies to Josephine the owner and to the many employees who we know very well from our almost daily visits to either the store or the restaurant. Local newspaper story here
Posted by acapnews at 6:29 PM

October 19, 2006

Chantey Singers keep alive a maritime tradition

Daliy Press (VA):

His handshake grips like a workshop vise, his biceps bulge beneath his shirt. At 75, James U. Carter's still got it. Forty years of hauling fishing nets will do that to a man. "You know how John Henry was a steel-driving man?" said Carter. "We were net-pulling men."

In days gone by, Carter and his mates, the stout men of the menhaden fishing boats, stood shoulder to shoulder, pulling in nets heaving with thousands of pounds of fish. It was brutal, backbreaking, finger-cracking work that lasted from sunrise to sunset. They survived with their toughness. And their singing.

The fishermen sang work songs called chanteys that helped coordinate the pulling and also helped ease the burden. "They would sing to raise the heavy loads, and they would sing just for the camaraderie of singing," said Lloyd Hill, 66, who comes from a family of singing watermen. "The shared hardship would not seem as hard." Simply put, said Elton Smith Jr., another fisherman who went on to become a school principal and superintendent, the songs represented "many hands pulling together."

The introduction in the mid-20th century of hydraulic power blocks to pull up the nets began sending the large fishing crews and their work songs into the shadows of history. But the African-American tradition of chantey-singing is being kept alive by groups such as the Northern Neck Chantey Singers, former watermen who perform around the country. Seven men deep into retirement gather weekly in Elton Smith's living room in Kilmarnock to recapture the past by singing the chanteys. They gather in a circle, hold hands and say a prayer. Then they sing in heavenly harmony.

These are the Northern Neck Chantey Singers, now a group of men _ mostly in their 70s and 80s--who first gathered in the early 1990s to sing at a Fourth of July program. They've been performing ever since. "You heard that song 'We're Together, Right or Wrong'?" asked Carter, with a smile. "That's us."

The men laugh easily and speak matter-of-factly about their lives on the water, chasing schools of menhaden up and down the Atlantic coast and even into the Gulf of Mexico. From spring to fall, they were gone from home weeks at a time. Menhaden are bony, oily fish not fit for human consumption, but they have had plenty of practical uses in products such as fertilizer and animal feed, paint, cat food and fingernail polish. Reedville, on the Northern Neck, has long been the center of the menhaden processing industry, although the industry has declined in recent years.

Menhaden travel in large schools, meaning it's most efficient to catch them in nets. Efficient, but not easy, particularly in the days before machines pulled the nets onto boats. That's where the net-pulling men came in. "Those fish were heavy," said Christopher Harvey, 71. "I mean heavy." A large net brimming with fish could take a group of brawny men an hour or more to drag into the boat with the steady rhythm of chantey-singing playing an important role in the success of the catch.

African-American work songs are an ancient tradition, having a history in mining, logging and the construction of railroads and highways. The songs are largely traditional tunes, highly personalized for the specific task at hand. Many of the chanteys sung on the open water were bawdy in nature; those lyrics have been cleaned up for festival audiences.

"They sang about their shared interests," said Hill. 'They sang about pay, they sang about the boss, they sang about ladies." Going home was another shared interest. "See you when the sun goes down" is a common refrain. The songs are "narrative histories in themselves," said Harold Anderson, a folklorist and ethnomusicologist who has researched chantey-singing and will introduce the Northern Neck group at the festival.

"They represent an African-American tradition that people don't tend to think about anymore because there aren't too many situations where you can hear people singing that music," Anderson said. "They also represent something special: guys who worked really, really hard to send kids to college and provide for their families. They're pretty amazing. They may be rough in some ways, but they represent an ideal of people who valued education and worked hard."

Rehearsed in a living room or performed onstage, the a cappella chanteys convey an almost soothing tone, belying the labor that accompanied them in the boats of yesteryear. Does the singing make the singers feel nostalgic for that part of their lives? Not exactly, said James Carter. "I sing them now to forget the hard work," he said with a laugh.

Posted by acapnews at 12:26 AM

Schools should bring back the singing of traditional songs

Yorkshire Post (UK):

Singing should be put back at the heart of primary school music activities through a nationwide campaign leading up to the 2012 Olympics.

Composer Howard Goodall said: "At one time we all sang, in pubs, places of worship and homes as well as schools. "We have lost that collective experience, which I think helped to knit our communities together.

"It is time to try and bring that back and the best place to start is in primary schools. We would love to see the development of a 21st century songbook for schools, containing songs that every child knew and sang."

Mr Goodall is a chairman of the singing group of the Music Manifesto, a coalition of more than 600 organisations and individuals in music education, which published a report yesterday. Ministers welcomed the report and said they would respond to its recommendations in due course.

Culture Minister David Lammy added: "I grew up in a house full of music, from Bob Marley to John Wesley. My choral scholarship to Peterborough was the launchpad for my life's trajectory." Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said music services and schools were to get £83m in 2007-2008.

Posted by acapnews at 12:09 AM

October 18, 2006

The international Realtime

Thanks to barbershop guru Phil Debar I stand corrected as there has indeed been a non all-US quartet win the mens' Barbershop Society's competition. The 2004 Quartet champions Realtime comprise of two Canadians, an Australian and just the one American. Rather suprisingly there is not even one Swede in the group..

Posted by acapnews at 12:32 AM

Mini review New York Voices

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA):

The New York Voices blended material with the ease of a master chef Friday night at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, North Side. Opening with their classic treatment of "Sing, Sing, Sing," the vocal quartet quickly established its sound and style. It wasn't long, however, before the group was doing new songs such as "A Day Like This" and new arrangements of older material.

Unlike groups such as Manhattan Transfer, which is locked in an image created decades ago, the members of the Voices seem interested in musical growth and exploration.

The Voices' version of "Stoned Soul Picnic," for instance, took the Fifth Dimension classic and gave in a twist with modern jazz phrasing and rhythm. The vocal skills of Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Peter Eldridge and Darmon Meader were precise on all tunes. They were even able to give freshness to older material such as Duke Ellington's "Love You Madly."

Posted by acapnews at 12:09 AM

October 16, 2006

The new Queens are crowned

Those Swedes sure know how to sing! In a country famous for it's great choral tradition, and with producing the world-class Real Group, it should perhaps come as no surprise that a Swedish a cappella group has once again won the Sweet Adelines quartet competition. SALT, from Stockholm, took top honors at this past weekend's competition in Las Vegas winning by over 100 points over second place The Four Betty with Razzcals coming in third. Unlike the men's competition who have never had a non-US quartet finish in the top 10 (maybe even top 20) this is the third time an international group has won with the Swedish Growing Girls winning back in 1998 and the half-Swedish Swinglish Mix winning in 2003. Congratulations to Anna Ohman (tenor), Annika Andersson (lead), Anna-Stina Gerdin (baritone) and Susanna Berndts (bass). Winning their 5th crown the Richtone Chorus, directed by Dale Syverson, won the chorus competition followed by The Melodeers and North Metro Chorus.

Posted by acapnews at 10:52 PM

A little vacation

There was no blogging this past week as the family and I took a brief vacation spending some time in Yosemite and the high Sierra. What a beautiful part of the world I am fortunate to live in...

Posted by acapnews at 10:12 PM

October 6, 2006

"America's Got Talent" seeks a cappella groups

I received a call today from NBC asking me to get the word out and to encourage a cappella groups to audition for season 2 of the "America's Got Talent" TV show. Auditions are upcoming across the country and the grand prize is a cool $1,000,000.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained..

October 7th and 8th
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Bill Graham Civic Center
99 Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

October 11th and 12th
NEW YORK, NY
Javits Center
655 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001

October 16th and 17th
ATLANTA, GA
AmericasMart
Building #1
240 Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30303

October 20th and 21st
BOSTON, MA
Boston Convention Center
415 Summer Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02210

October 24th and 25th
LOS ANGELES, CA
Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015

October 29th and 30th
CHICAGO, IL
Navy Pier
600 East Grand Ave.
Chicago, Il 60611

More info

Posted by acapnews at 12:13 AM

October 5, 2006

Two new releases on same day from Manhattan Transfer

After a couple of decades and over 20 albums perhaps the most well-known of all vocal harmony groups has released their very first all a cappella recording – and it was well worth the wait! Of course we might well be somewhat biased due to our love of unaccompanied vocals but this album is truly a joy and will become, we are sure, a vocal harmony Christmas classic. First released in Japan the recording was produced by Tim Hauser and co-produced by the highly regarded Roger Treece who also arranged some of the songs. The vocals are always solid with the Transfer and their voices are highlighted even further when sung unaccompanied with each voice showing their years of experience as vocal jazz singers. The arrangements are stellar and this album will be bringing you holiday cheer for years to come.

Listen to Merry Christmas Baby

Recorded in 2006, The Symphony Sessions features the Transfer reinterpreting 12 of their classic songs they recorded for past albums. Rather than the usual jazz ensemble accompaniment this time the quartet goes into the studio with The City of Prague Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Corey Allen to produce these enjoyable new takes on some of the old favorites. This is a very relaxed and smooth-flowing recording and a pleasant change to hear these old chestnuts performed in a fresh style.

Listen to Embracable You

In stock and on sale here

Posted by acapnews at 12:13 AM

October 4, 2006

A cow for Manzini Choir

The Swazi Observer (Swaziland):

Chairman of the Swaziland National Arts and Culture Council Prince Lonkhokhela last Friday donated a cow to Manzini Choir choristers. The donation was made during the choir's 30th anniversary last Friday night at the Royal Swazi Sun Convention Centre.

Speaking on behalf of the Prince was member of parliament Mphiwa Dlamini. Dlamini stated that this was a gift directed to the choir so to show that he was with them as they celebrate their 30 years of singing. "The Prince has stated that he would have loved to attend the event but because of reasons beyond control he could not make it. He has asked me to tell you that he is proud of you," he said.

Prince Lonkokhela went on to ask the choral music choirs to use their mother tongue in most of their songs. "One important aspect is for us to use our language when singing. It is true tin which we have to use other languages but I must say we should make sure that our mother tongue comes first," he said.

He also thanked all choirs who went to sing before His Majesty King Mswati III and Her Majesty the Indlovukazi at Lozitha Royal Palace early this year. "His Majesty was very happy to see the choirs. They were all at their best and he also mentioned that he would support choral music," he said.

The Prince then urged local choirs to be united and work towards lifting the country's flag high. "It is time we choirs start improving choral music in the country. There are a lot of people who are followers of such music. It is for us as choirs to win them. There are a lot of people who are willing to support us thus we should stand together and have one goal. Indeed we will be successful," he said.

I think this is a great idea and will now be paying the staff with chickens!

Posted by acapnews at 12:09 AM

Blokes sing up storm

Brisbane Courier Mail (Australia):

A group of Brisbane blokes have kicked another national goal but they didn't need Shane Webcke's strength or a fleet-footed Darren Lockyer. Instead, the 40-strong Birralee Blokes used their voices to be named the best youth choir in Australia as well as ABC Classic FM's Choir of the Year.

The weekend win in the hotly contested competition, which involved more than 7000 singers from 250 adult and youth choirs around Australia, was a landmark moment for The Birralee Blokes. With singers aged 12 to 20, the group formed only three years ago and rehearse each Saturday. They had not previously entered a competition.

"This is great for us and our goal," said Paul Holly, musical director of The Birralee Blokes.

"The goal was to encourage young men to sing and if the group was successful it would be a good advertisement for this. We just want to get more guys singing."

Mr Holly said the choir, which is part of Brisbane's Birralee Voices, was originally formed to stop boys giving up singing as they enter their teens and become self-conscious about their changing voices.

"We wanted to provide an environment where there were no girls around and where they wouldn't be embarrassed if there might be some squeaking and squawking," he said.

The Birralee Blokes beat choirs from South Australia and Western Australia to win the youth category and were also named Choir of the Year as well as winners of the ABC Classic FM Listeners Choice Award. They will receive a cash prize of $5000 and will be recorded by ABC Classics for a CD release and perform a new choral work commissioned for broadcast on ABC Classic FM.

Posted by acapnews at 12:01 AM

October 3, 2006

Moonglows' Prentiss Barnes dies in traffic accident in Mississippi

Prentiss Barnes, who sang with the Moonglows and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has died in a weekend traffic accident in southwest Mississippi. Funeral arrangements are incomplete. A list of survivors was not available.

Barnes, 81, a bass singer for the Moonglows, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2000. He's also a member of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer.

The Moonglows' R&B and doo-wop recordings include "Blue Velvet," "Most of All," "We Go Together" and "Ten Commandments of Love." The McGuire Sisters recorded a pop version of their '50s hit "Sincerely."

The Moonglows disbanded in the mid-1960s, and Barnes went solo.

Barnes, of Magnolia, was killed Saturday when his car wrecked on Mississippi 48, east of Magnolia.

Pike County Coroner Percy Pittman said Barnes was thrown from the car and died of massive trauma.

In 1969, Barnes struck out on a solo career and headed for California. On the westward trip, Barnes was injured when a train struck his car in Texas. After the wreck, doctors amputated Barnes' left arm. A shattered hip caused his right leg to shorten. It took two years and 10 operations before Barnes was well enough to return to Mississippi.

Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame founder Jim Brewer of Hazlehurst said Barnes' death is another loss of the state's musical legacy.

"He was a real Mississippi music treasure, and like so many Mississippi musicians, throughout his career he had to sustain himself with performances, which were not always there," Brewer said. "But he was a great Mississippi musician."

Posted by acapnews at 12:10 AM

So You Think You Can Sing!

Seattle Times (WA):

Everyone owns one musical instrument, and it travels around with you. It's your voice.

It comes free of charge, and you're born knowing how to use it (just ask the parents of any newborn). It is so distinctively yours that a recording of it can be used as legal evidence, just like your fingerprint.

No wonder singing is the No. 1 form of arts participation according to a 2003 Chorus America survey, which also found that an estimated 28.5 million Americans regularly performed in one of America's approximately 250,000 choruses. Empirical evidence suggests those numbers continue to rise.

Why do people love to sing? According to the veteran choral conductor Weston Noble, it's because this is the only art form that unites two important avenues of artistic communication: music and words.

"Choral music is literally life-changing," Noble said in an interview last year. "When you add a text to use as a medium for the interpretation of music, you go beyond the realm of language and into the spirit."

Here, in the greater Seattle area, the wealth of choruses of all kinds points to the fact that "this is a big choral town," according to the Seattle Pro Musica's Karen P. Thomas. Thomas, whose highly successful chorus recently became one of only seven nationwide to receive an American masterpieces grant to host a major choral festival next June (plus several outreach concerts and educational events). The festival will bring in choirs from around the Northwest, plus such major figures as Dale Warland and Morten Lauridsen.

"It's human nature to communicate verbally," says Thomas, who also points to the egalitarian nature of singing: "It embraces everyone."

And choral singing fulfills a number of other roles. Choruses advance social goals, such as the quest for peace and tolerance. Church and other religious choirs express and further a religious mission. Ethnic choirs are an important avenue of cultural transmission and celebration. And all choirs expose their singers to other languages, eras and cultures through their choice of music.

And you're never too old. The esteemed Seattle voice teacher Roberta Manion, now living in a retirement community, leads an informal chorus whose oldest member is 105: "The love of singing lasts a lifetime," Manion says.
advertising

Some choruses are full of highly skilled professional singers and music teachers who must pass rigorous auditions; others accept anyone who shows up and wants to sing, and many others fall somewhere in between

Posted by acapnews at 12:03 AM

October 2, 2006

Review - Sweet Honey inspires crowd with song

Kalamazoo Gazette (MI):

Sweet Honey in the Rock filled Chenery Auditorium with great joy on Friday night, which, for a lot of other singing groups, would have been enough, a job well done. But the group's a capella tones were also colored with anger, pain and frustration as members delved into a kaleidoscope of issues not normally addressed by musical groups. Even the group's most commercial song, an uptempo version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song'' that was gilded with fluttering harmonies, was a protest number, perhaps the definitive piece among freedom songs.

The women singers let it be known that they cared about their planet, cared about their souls, cared about the tears of the world and wanted to embrace anyone who, for whatever tragic reasons in their lives, didn't care about themselves. The Links, a local, 31-member organization of black women, have a right to be proud for bringing this Grammy Award-winning group with the big voices and even bigger words to Kalamazoo.

If the group could be faulted at all, it would have nothing to do with its music, which had precise rhythm, harmony, tempo and dynamics, and more to do with the amount of talk offered to the audience in the form of song introductions. Each of the group's six members (one member, Arnae, was not present) functioned as an ambassador for the group and was comfortable in talking to the audience at length about the history of the songs that were sung.

Subjects included taking care of the environment, looking back on one's family foundation and using that to move forward, viewing all children as one's own, and helping children understand the commonality of people -- that we are one. Sweet Honey appeared to be preaching to the choir here in Kalamazoo, a throng of about 1,300 people who seemed eager to hear the group's liberal lyrics and talk. When the group sang their original, "We Who Believe In Freedom,'' member Carol Maillard urged the audience to sing along. "We want you to rock this song out because those people who DON'T believe in freedom for all are working 24/7!'' she said.

Sweet Honey sang two one-hour sets and offered a 30-minute intermission. Group members dressed in black for the first half of the show, then returned in a variety of colorful, tie-dye fashions in the second half. Their vocal material ranged from African songs and gospel to jazz and rap.

The group was at its best singing gospel like "Precious Memories.'' One song, "Greed,'' a highlight of the show, bordered on being a humorous sermonette. Yet the group also offered stunning moments with "I Like It That Way,'' a jazz tune made for kids, and "Prayer at the Crossroads,'' a rap number about drug addiction. Group member Aisha Kahlil, who wrote the song about someone she loved who succumbed to addiction, contorted her body, turned her face into a mask of anguish, shook and shuddered as she sang this song of sorrow.

If the best musicians are those who can tell a story through their music, she must be one of them. Yet, in the spirit of Sweet Honey, such a performance was merely a link in the chain of the potential talent in all of us that, given the opportunity to bloom, can carry all of us forward.

Posted by acapnews at 10:24 PM

Review: A cappella group's precision blends parts into solo voice

Des Moines Register (IA):

For the second time in just more than six months, the 12 a cappella male voices of Chanticleer - "America's favorite choral ensemble" - thrilled a sold-out crowd in Drake's Sheslow Auditorium Friday night with their new tour program "Love's Messengers." The demand-return engagement, sponsored by donors to Des Moines' Civic Music Association, presented a lavish variety of love music from Europe and around the world in faultless performances ranging from medieval plainchant to 21st-century vocal jazz.

Though Chanticleer was nothing less than extravagant in all aspects of its showmanship - musicianship, precision, clarity, versatility - the concert was still intimate and friendly. Helpful program notes were attractively delivered orally by tenor Matthew Oltman, who grew up in Des Moines, joined the group in 2000 and is its assistant music director. Pieces from Palestrina to Poulenc were also thoughtfully introduced in the program, which included texts.

Chanticleer's talent and taste were in full swing from the group's first moment - an "ecstatic declaration of the joy wrought by love" set by Gerald Finzi to words of Robert Bridges - to the closing flourish - Cole Porter's "It's All Right With Me." The singers' extravagant precision made the plainsong "Veni sposa Christ" sound like a solo voice, and the organum-like sections of Eric Whitacre's recent "This Wedding" sound like a solo voice singing four parts.

Chanticleer's extravagant daring was exhibited in virtuoso showpieces by Messiaen and Stockhausen, whose vocal tritones and other dissonances the singers negotiated with complete comfort and finesse. The group's members' extravagant versatility of language (including bits of Sanskrit and Quechua) was exceeded only by extravagance of vocal production: When they sang "Jindo Arirang" (arranged for them by composer Jeeyoung Kim when he was in residence with the group), they made a sound like a dozen natives of a dozen Korean villages. And Chanticleer negotiated the breathtaking chiaroscuro (cries and whispers!) of Gesualdo's late Renaissance harmonies as if it were do-re-mi.

A particularly stunning high point came when Chanticleer processed ritualistically around the stage in John Tavener's Greek-Orthodox-influenced "Village Wedding." The other high point was the entry on stage of Chanticleer's irresistible music director, Joseph Jennings, for the final section of jazz arrangements - most of them his. Nobody in the audience wanted the evening to end.

Posted by acapnews at 10:12 PM