February 27, 2007

The "Swingle Sound" at The Oscars

Not only did we get the wonderful a cappella "Elements and Motions" at the Oscars there was also broadcast during the event an a cappella JC Penny advertisement. A most obvious example of the "Swingle Sound" a la "Butch Cassidy" that the ad company really should pay Ward some sort of royalty. Check it out here:-

Posted by acapnews at 12:18 AM

February 26, 2007

Watch the a cappella at the Oscars

Pretty darn cool a cappella music at the Oscars last night with a piece called "Elements & Motion". Sung by a choir featuring several professional a cappella singers they perform vocal only sound effects to projected movie clips. Something akin to that fabulous Honda Civic ad from last summer this piece once again demonstrates the versatility of the human voice and the wide range of sounds it can create. Watch it here courtesy of ABC Television:-

Posted by acapnews at 10:23 PM

Spirituals hit high note at L.A. event

Los Angeles Times(CA)

The lucky ones learned spirituals as children, from grandmothers whose own grandparents may have been slaves. Not only did they memorize "Wade in the Water," but they heard how fleeing slaves trudged through rivers and creeks to escape search parties and their dogs.

"My grandmother taught me the spirituals as if my life depended on them," recalled University of Michigan law professor Sallyanne Payton, one of dozens of middle-aged African Americans who gathered in Los Angeles this weekend for a conference on Negro spirituals. Now, she and others at the conference fear that the tradition is ebbing away.

Young people whose iPods resonate with hip-hop lack emotional ties to the thousands of spirituals composed and sung by slaves in the 18th- and 19th-century American South. Some musicians and churches overlook the often-somber lyrics and simple tunes — with their intimations of a tragic past — in favor of the more exuberant gospel tradition that followed, often featuring large swaying choirs, percussion and a strong beat. That trend is evoking a sense of urgency nationally among some churches, musicians and teachers who are rushing to shore up interest in spiritual music before it fades away entirely. "For many of us, this is a preservation project," said Payton, who grew up in Los Angeles. "A lot of baby boomers looked around and said, 'Oh my God, we've got to do something. Now.' "

Payton is among those participating in the three-day Negro Spiritual Institute at Holman United Methodist Church, in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles, a large, 62-year-old church with a history of performing spirituals. Adults and children alike learned about the roots of spiritual music, how to sing it and even how to dance to it. They listened as a dozen musical groups performed spirituals and related music at a Friday night marathon.

The walls of the church activities building vibrated with sound as singers in crimson, gold and lime-green robes flowed through the halls, other choirs warmed up in side rooms and black-clad teenage dancers in yellow head scarves performed stretches in the sanctuary. Although Holman has held its spiritual concerts annually for 48 years, its pastor, the Rev. Henry L. Masters, decided several years ago to add the Negro Spiritual Institute. This year, the event was held in conjunction with a four-day conference on music as a ministry that drew clergy, choir directors and musicians from around the country.

Masters compared his sense of urgency in strengthening the spiritual tradition with concerns in many other American churches that interest is ebbing in the old classical anthems and hymns. He said he hoped the weekend's performances would show how much of modern music, including gospel and hip-hop, is grounded in the spiritual tradition. One reason Holman has such a strong tie to spirituals is that one of its past members was Jester Hairston, a celebrated composer and arranger who died in 2000. He is credited with keeping the tradition alive in the music world with his arrangements of songs such as "Poor Man Lazarus."

His cousin, Bay Area composer Jacqueline B. Hairston, who trained at the Juilliard School and Columbia University, also is keenly interested in spirituals and has arranged them for opera stars Kathleen Battle and Leontyne Price. She would travel to Los Angeles to learn from him and hear his stories. "I was so excited," she told musicians and educators at a workshop. "I would literally sit on the floor at his feet with a tape recorder and a camera."

In her seminar, she pinpointed features of spirituals that originated in Africa: improvisation, syncopation, the "call-and-response" tradition in which one singer leads and other singers or a congregation follows. Spirituals are usually sung a cappella — unaccompanied — because plantation owners forbade slaves to use drums, she said. Many were spontaneous compositions, created and molded by slaves working in cotton fields. One slave might say he or she was not feeling well that day, and then sing the phrase, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" — a phrase picked up by a nearby worker who might add, "Nobody knows … but Jesus."

Saturday's sessions were aimed at introducing school-age children to spirituals. Musician Aaron Nigel Smith taught the spiritual "I've Got Shoes" to seven girls and four boys, ages 5 to 11, interspersing pieces of history about slavery. One boy raised his hand to ask the meaning of the phrase, "Ev'rybody talkin' 'bout Heav'n ain't goin' there."

That sprang from the days when slaves listened outside plantation owners' church services and pondered, "Why do they deserve to go to heaven and I don't?" Smith explained as he searched for a simple definition of hypocrisy. Even though spirituals grew out of slavery, they conveyed optimism to those who sang them, some experts said. "It allowed these people to have some hope in a situation that was not that hopeful," Smith told his class.

In fact, Hairston believes spirituals may experience a resurgence because they can be soothing, both to the singer and those who listen. "It's one of those song types that really encourages the human spirit," she said.

Posted by acapnews at 10:07 PM

February 23, 2007

A cappella singers at the Oscars

Former member of the Bobs, Joe Finetti, Spiralmouth member Gabriel Mann (Rutman) along with several former members of Sixth Wave will be singing in the choir on the 79th Academy Awards ceremony this coming Sunday night.

Posted by acapnews at 10:00 PM

February 22, 2007

Blake gets the votes, Rudy sadly does not.

As we know from our many years of running the Harmony Sweepstakes it is always tough for the artist who has to perform first in a competition. Such was the case for M-Pact's Rudy Cardenas on this week's American Idol as he was the first of the male singers to perform. Unfortunately the voting audience had 11 other singers to remember after him and perhaps because of this Rudy did not get enough votes and is now out of the competition. He was very gracious about the loss and looks forward to singing again with M-Pact.

Congratulation to Blake Lewis as he was voted thru to the next round and so now we only have the one a cappella singer to root for. Here's Blake performing "Somewhere Only We Know" from this week's show.

Posted by acapnews at 10:47 PM

February 21, 2007

Amarcord to Tour the US

The former choristers of the famous St. Thomas Boys Choir in Leipzig, Germany, Amarcord has emerged in the past few years as continental Europe’s finest male a cappella group. The blend of humor, charm, elegance, flawless intonation, rarely heard homogeneity and unwavering vocal virtuosity have left audiences delighted since the ensemble’s debut in 1992.

Amarcord has won a number of top international prizes in the field, including the Grand Prix Choir Competition in Spain (1995), the International Mendelssohn Competition (1999), the German Music Competition (2000), the International Choir Competition in Finland (1999), and the first Choir Olympiad in Austria (2000). In 2002, the ensemble took top honors in the Deutscher Musikwettbewerb. They have performed coast-to-coast in the United States, making two tours here each season, as well as in Canada, Asia, and throughout Europe. At home in Leipzig, they performed their 10th anniversary concert in the famous Gewandhaus, and two months later performed there twice with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. They have also sung at a number of conferences and events of the American Choral Directors Association.

Amarcord’s programming versatility is suggested by the range of the ensemble's first three compact discs: Insalata a cappella featuring secular music through the ages; ballads, catches, madrigals, folk songs, opera parodies, spirituals, etc.; In adventu Domini featuring music for Advent and Christmas from Gregorian chant to Gospel, from Germany to Trinidad and Dufay to Mauersberger; and Hear the Voice featuring spiritual works from different centuries. Among other CD releases is their latest, And So It Goes… an album of popular and show tunes.

The Diapason, Chicago writes, "Excellent blend, intonation, and ensemble...simply gorgeous singing....
a polished ensemble singing some extraordinarily beautiful music with
true commitment and understanding."

Posted by acapnews at 12:17 AM

February 17, 2007

Blake Lewis - second a cappella singer makes American Idol finals

Well we always knew that some of the best singers are drawn to the many benefits of singing in an a cappella group! Not one but two American Idol finalists sang in an a cappella group as Blake Lewis sang for five years with the former pop group Kickshaw. Based in Seattle Kickshaw earned a reputation for explosive a cappella and could rock the house like few others could. When Blake left the group he began a career as a beatboxer and had great success becoming National Beatbox Champion using the moniker Bshorty. Kickshaw also featured Dan Schumacher who went on to become a member of the Bobs.

Blake began singing in a youth choir but says he was really inspired to sing professionally after going to an M-Pact concert. The Pacific Northwest has always been a hotbed of great a cappella and Blake, Rudy Cardenas and the members of M-Pact are all great friends.

Quite an accomplishment for a cappella singers and already some in the media are paying attention to that fact. We have been contacted by the TV show EXTRA and have sent them some video footage and photos of the finalists. We feel rather pleased as both Rudi and Blake have performed at the West Coast A Cappella Summit and we have boxes full of video we have shot of the performers over the many years.

Here is a music video of Blake at his beatboxing best.

Posted by acapnews at 12:37 AM

February 15, 2007

Me on the BBC

BBC Radio 2 is now airing the second in it's series on a cappella music called "Living in Harmony". The program that aired today featured Yours Truly from an interview I did with the show's host, the extremely affable and musically very knowledgeable Russell Davies. Over my half hour interview we talk about the Harmony Sweepstakes, the rising popularity of a cappella, vocal arranging and lots more while playing the music of Clockwork, Vox One, The Bobs, Naturally Seven and others.

Later in the show there is an interview with Joe Jennings of Chanticleer and the program finishes with a great interview with members of M-Pact. With millions of listeners the series is a great opportunity to help promote a cappella. Each program is archived for 7 days on the BBC radio website.

Listen to today's show here

Posted by acapnews at 11:29 PM

February 14, 2007

Rudy Cardenas makes the American Idol final 24

Lots of excitement here as Rudy Cardenas of M-Pact has made it to the final 24 of American Idol! After the tens of thousands of applicants the show has been narrowed down to just 12 guys and 12 gals who will now go on to the competition proper. From now on each participant gets to sing a full song and is voted on by the audience with one girl and one guy being eliminated each week for the next 3 months.

This is one-heck-of an accomplishment for a singer - yet we are not so surprised as we have noticed and admired Rudy's vocal prowess for several years. We are also pleased as we have M-Pact's latest CD release on our record label which features Rudy's only studio recordings currently available. We will be posting more information about Rudy and hope we can count on folks like yourselves, as fans of a cappella, to help support the cause by voting for him on the upcoming shows.

Watch Rudy as he sings some a cappella harmony performing "How Deep Is Your Love" with other finalists Blake Lewis, Thomas Lowe and Chris Sligh.

Posted by acapnews at 1:24 PM

February 13, 2007

Marines beat Yalies

San Francisco Chronicle (CA)

As many as three U.S. Marines were involved in the alleged New Year's attack on the Baker's Dozen singing group, an attorney for two singers is claiming in a letter that asks for the head of the Marine Corps' help in the investigation.

In a Feb. 9 letter to Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman Jr., the head of the Marine Corps, attorney James Hammer named only one of the Marines allegedly involved, saying that he "was one of the men at the center of the attacks and we believe (he) personally participated in the brutal attack on both students.''

Sgt. Neville Gittens, a spokesman for the San Francisco police, said the department's criminal investigation is ongoing. "We're aware of the letter. We are not commenting on the letter,'' he said. The Marine Corps headquarters in San Diego, where the serviceman named in the letter had been based, had no immediate comment.

Hammer, one of the lawyers for Gogel and Aziz, said the named Marine was among the four men detained by police that night in connection with the attack on Gogel but not arrested. The lawyers for the injured singers said their clients provided police ample information to make an arrest that night and charge the attackers with assault. Police have since said that the victims they were talking to vanished after pointing out their attackers, and their departure from the scene led to the release of the four men.

In the letter, Hammer said the Marine he identified was also involved in the attack on Aziz, who was "brutally punched in the face after he had turned to walk away'' from a group of men. One doctor observed that Aziz's jaw was broken "by a trained fighter or someone using a deadly weapon.''

The Marine, according to the letter, used a cell phone to photograph "the wounds to the knuckles of his fellow attackers and proceeded to attempt to destroy evidence in an effort to cover up his involvement and escape prosecution.''

In the letter, Hammer said that police have been "stymied in their efforts'' to contact the Marine because he was sent to Japan after the incident. "Because of the serious nature of these assaults, I am writing to ask your help in initiating a criminal investigation ... and provide whatever assistance you can to San Francisco authorities so that they can interview him in connection with their investigation,'' he wrote. The letter asserts that while there "is already more than enough evidence'' to charge the Marine with felony assault, the district attorney's office has not acted.

In a prepared statement, District Attorney Kamala Harris said: "I completely understand the frustration of the victims and the families. But a rush to judgment does not serve justice. I'm optimistic that the San Francisco Police Department will complete the investigation soon. Once they're done, my office will take action."

But in the letter, Hammer said: "At this point, the victims' families are concerned that (the Marine) may escape justice unless the United States Marine Corps takes an active part in investigating his involvement in these violent crimes.''

The evidence suggests, Hammer wrote, that "two other United States Marines may have been involved in this gang attack.'' He concluded that the "case has the potential of generating extremely negative publicity'' for the Marines. The letter states that police are making "diligent efforts'' to investigate the case. "Without your assistance, I am afraid their efforts may be thwarted," the letter says.

Well I wonder what Sean Hannity and the other conservatives are saying now? In following this story, and as a San Francisco area resident, I was most disturbed by some of the rhetoric directed toward this great city. Apparently, as home district of Nancy Pelosi, one can "get beat up for singing the Star Spangled Banner". What nonsense! Somehow I don't think we are going to hear much more San Francisco bashing now that it appears that marines, rather than "America-hating liberals", were involved.

Posted by acapnews at 10:10 PM

February 12, 2007

A cappella GRAMMY winners

Congratulations to Paul Hillier and The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir for their GRAMMY win for Best Choral Performance for their recording "Part: Da Pacem," to Soweto Gospel Choir, winners of Traditional World Music Album award for "Blessed," and to Peter Rutenberg, conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Singers' Cappella for "Padilla: Sun of Justice" in the Small Ensemble Performance category.

Here is more information "Part: Da Pacem":-

This collection of shorter sacred works by Arvo Pärt is the third harmonia mundi recording devoted to the music of the great contemporary Estonian composer. Da pacem includes some of his newest compositions as well as a sampling of works from earlier in his career. Led by Pärt's longtime collaborator and biographer Paul Hillier, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir illuminate the very essence of Part's "holy minimalism," with its roots in early-Medieval polyphony and deep engagement with text. A survey of the work of three decades, Da pacem illustrates the development of Pärt's triadic, bell-like "tintinabulation" style as the composer explores new colors and texture. The disc features the lovely Magnificat (1989), with its call and response form and the Salve Regina (2001/2002), with its unexpected underlying waltz rhythm. Also included are Pärt's Dopo la vittoria (1996/1998), a "piccola cantata" commissioned to celebrate the 1,600th anniversary of the death of Saint Ambrose and the title track, Da pacem Domine (2004) - a prayer for peace rendered with an astonishing stillness, in which, says Hillier, "each pitch is carefully placed in position like stones in a Zen garden." Of special note is the world premiere recording of Pärt's Two Slavonic Psalms (1997) - the first a cappella work the composer wrote using the "tintinnabuli" style.

Listen to Down By The Sally Gardens

Posted by acapnews at 10:27 PM

Hi-Fidelity on Carson Daly for 6th time

Congratulations also to current Harmony Sweepstakes National Champs Hi-Fidelity who are appearing for the 6th time on the late night NBC show "Last Call with Carson Daly", in what has become the show's longest running re-occurring bit! You can see them as the "Last Call Barbershop Monologue Joke Explainers" late night on Tuesday, Feb 13th on NBC Carson's show, right after Conan O'Brian.

Posted by acapnews at 9:45 PM

February 10, 2007

Doughnuts and God

Springfield Journal Register (IL):

A cappella group Chapter 6 takes its name - and mission - from a Bible passage. That hasn’t stopped it from paying tribute to the overwhelmingly joyful sensation of everyone’s first time. Eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut, that is. “It’s basically a love song to the doughnut,” says Chuck Bosworth of Chapter 6’s slow jam, “Ode to Krispy Kreme.” “We knew a couple of guys who hadn’t had an original glazed, and they loved them so much that we decided to write a song about it.”

Shared music, faith and humor has guided Chapter 6 from origins as a Millikin University pop choir to a touring group that’s performed around the nation and sold more than 30,000 albums. Its music blends several sacred selections with mostly secular cover songs and a handful of original material. “I guess I’d say that I attribute most of our success, honestly, to our faith,” says Bosworth, who has lived in Springfield with his wife for about three years. “We are seven Christian brothers who all love music, but we also figured out that we love Jesus.”

Their bond’s strongest test came as most of them prepared to graduate in 2001 from Millikin, where they’d pressed on with a defunct college-credit ensemble, Out Front, for their own performance purposes in and around Decatur. As a “half-joke,” the suggestion arose that they could make music professionally. Winning the Chicago Regional Harmony Sweepstakes’ Grand Champion honors in 2001 qualified the group to compete nationally in San Francisco. There, they didn’t even come in third. Returning from that performance, the group decided to meet in the summer to determine the group’s future.

“We were reading in Acts where it says to give the money you have to people who are in need,” Bosworth says of the meeting. “We actually took our name from verses 3 and 4 of Chapter 6 of Acts, which talk about seven men full of the spirit going out to help distribute food. Music’s our food, six of us perform onstage and one does arrangements.” As Chapter 6, the group sought help from Millikin to send out mailers; two gigs were booked from that promotion. More bookings came as word spread, until a producer with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra happened to hear one of the group’s CDs. “They thought it was great and said, ‘We have to get in contact with these guys,’ ” Bosworth says.

Chapter 6 went on to perform “The 1950s: The Golden Age of Black & White” - an orchestra-backed pops throwback to ’50s music, originally produced in Indianapolis - at major venues across the nation, including the Kennedy Center. But it’s a break from the group’s normal, unaccompanied music - a 70-song repertoire that includes everything from “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “God’s Love.”

Chapter 6 condenses the story of “The Wizard of Oz” into a five-minute medley, complete with a barking Toto. “It Don’t Mean A Thing” squeezes the swing standard through several styles such as folk, salsa, classical fugue, R&B and jazz. “Lost in Canada” gently satirizes our neighbor to the north. All of these songs appeared on “Swing Shift,” Chapter 6’s most recent CD. (The group has released three other CDs and a live DVD.)

“We spend most of our time on the road laughing in a van, and anything that makes us laugh, we turn into songs or moments in our show,” Bosworth says. Along with concerts, Chapter 6 frequently holds workshops with high-school choirs, tackling everything from microphone technique to the ins and outs of pursuing music in college. “It’s always a real treat for us to work with youth,” Bosworth says.

With so much going on, Chapter 6 has learned to not commit to a timetable unless the group can meet it. But two new albums are coming soon - one a pop-funk album and another along more traditional lines. “We have a version of (Gnarls Barkley’s) ‘Crazy’ crossed with Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’ for the first album,” Bosworth says. “And Mark’s doing an arrangement of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ that sort of breaks the rules of a cappella, but allows him to play on piano with us, for the second album. Also for that one, we’ve got a song called ‘Reverb’ that’s a takeoff of ‘Fever.’

“A cappella music is just unique because it’s a real niche market, and there’s not much of it going on. Onstage, we’re six guys, tight chords, comedy and stage patter. It’s not just about the songs. It’s about telling stories through songs. It’s more of an intimate art form because we perform in smaller venues, and it’s a chance to create some great harmony."

Posted by acapnews at 12:02 AM

February 7, 2007

Threshold Choir comforts the dying with gift of songs

The Beachcomber (WA)

On a recent afternoon at the Vashon Community Care Center, the long pink curtains in one room were pulled closed, filtering out the last of the day’s light. A woman, nearing the end of her life, lay resting on her bed with her eyes closed. Five women came into her room, seated themselves around her, talked quietly to her and began to sing.

“Down in the valley, valley so low,” they sang, a cappella, as they always do when gathered around someone they are singing for.

Roses love sunshine, violets love dew

Angels in heaven know I love you

Know I love you, dear,

Know I love you.

After the group finished with their closing song, the woman, in her early 80s with advanced dementia, opened her eyes. “That was lovely,” she said.

The singers are part of the Vashon Threshold Choir, an all-woman group that sings at the bedsides of people nearing the end of life. The choir, made up of a core group of about a dozen women, sing at a bedside at least once a week, easing someone’s passing from life. “For someone who is vulnerable or in pain or knows they are dying, to have people who are complete strangers come and sing, it gives them the feeling they are connected to the human community, ... that they are not isolated or forgotten,” said Melissa Frykman-Thieme, one of the group’s leaders.

Two of the women sang for David Keating three times in the last days of his life last summer. David had been part of the hospice program for a year when his health took a turn for the worse last summer. He, his wife Heron Keating and the people with hospice knew his time was drawing to a close. Two members of the choir came to the Keatings’ home and sang three times before he died. David was in bed, and Heron, his wife of 64 years, lay next to him while the women stood at the foot of the bed and sang quietly to them — the last time, just six hours before he died. “It was like his good-bye ceremony,” Heron said. “It was better than church. It was very peaceful. He was relaxed. That’s how I think of it.”

The choir also sang for Suzanne Gornall’s father Bill Lloyd last summer. He died on a Sunday, Suzanne said, and a group of women from the choir came to his home in the assisted living facility at VCCC Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before his death. The first two evenings he was quiet. The third night he was quiet until the women sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and then he transformed. “He started to tap his foot,” Suzanne said, “like he was tapping to the music.”

The women sang a few more songs, and Suzanne requested that they sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” again. This time he sang along. “He was a church member who always belted out a song and someone who always sang in the shower,” Suzanne said. Bill’s health problems included cardiac failure and dementia, but when the choir left, Suzanne said, “My dad was so with it and so aware.”

For the next half hour, Suzanne, her sister and Barbara Garrett, the social worker at Break Time, the adult day health program at the care center, sang together. They sang old songs, Suzanne said, like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Her dad remembered all the words. “It’s our best memory,” Suzanne said. “It was just this magical time.” Bill was quiet again Saturday, and on Sunday he died.

The music the women sing — hymns, rounds, lullabies, spirituals and choral music — is meant to soothe and has been found to ease pain, but this kind of unity at the bedside is also one of its benefits, said Frykman-Thieme, who also works as a hospice nurse and certified music therapist. “Music at the bedside creates a container where everything that needs to happen can happen,” she said. “People around the bedside may be at different stages of grief. It brings them together … Many times they start to sing with us.”

Just as Bill Lloyd did, many others with dementia respond to music in ways some people might not expect them to. “Sometimes we find that people who have dementia connect in a deep way with songs they learned in elementary school — ‘Home, Home on the Range,’ ‘Down in the Valley,’ campfire songs,” said Susan Commeree, one of the choir members and a recently retired nurse from VCCC. “One woman with severe dementia laughed out loud for the first time in years — to the delight of her family,” said Barb Adams, co-leader of the group and a therapeutic musician with hospice.

When the women gather at a bedside to sing, one of the ways they choose the songs is based on the body rhythms of the person they are singing for, according to Frykman-Thieme. They pay particular attention to the person’s breathing. If a person has end-stage pulmonary disease, for example, his or her breathing might be too fast, which is exhausting for the person and often scary. The women can offer relief by matching their singing to the rhythm of the breath and then bit by bit slowing down; the person’s breath will slow as well.

The Vashon Threshold Choir formed in the spring of 2005. Jan Thomas, who no longer lives on the Island, began the choir. She had lived in the San Francisco area, where the first Threshold Choir began in 2000. Choirs have formed in several California cities and 10 other states since then. On Vashon, each woman in the choir joined for different reasons. Some have a medical background, and some do not.

Some have been singing their whole lives; some used to sing but stepped away from it for awhile and thought the choir would be a good way to return to it and give something back to the community at the same time. At least two of the women have aging parents far away. “I have a mother in Illinois, and she will be 100 in April. I can’t do it for her, but I can do it here,” said Carol Ellis, a counselor at Chautauqua for many years and a Threshold singer.

The choir members practice twice a month, once at The Tea Shop after hours and once at the Care Center. They sing first in the dining room so that many residents can enjoy the music, and then they rehearse privately. During the private rehearsal, the women take turns resting in a recliner, with others around them singing. All the women agree that is an important part of their practice — and a treat for the woman being sung to. “Singing at the bedside is the ultimate thing to do for someone who is at the end of life,” Frykman-Thieme said. “It provides an oasis of peace.” Adams called it “beaming love.”

“When someone is dying, there is often nothing you can say,” Ellis added. “But there is always something you can sing.”

Posted by acapnews at 11:16 PM

February 6, 2007

BBC Singers Appoint David Hill Chief Conductor

David Hill has been appointed chief conductor of the BBC Singers, effective this summer. The ensemble, which regularly gives performances for broadcast on BBC Radio 3, is Great Britain's only full-time professional choir.

In addition, according to the BBC, Andrew Carwood will become one of the BBC Singers' two principal guest conductors, alongside Bob Chilcott. Carwood is co-founder and director of the Cardinall's Musick, a professional vocal ensemble specializing in Renaissance sacred music, particularly that of Tudor-era England; he also regularly sings tenor with the Tallis Scholars.

Outgoing BBC Singers chief conductor Stephen Cleobury becomes conductor laureate.

Hill currently holds the posts of director of the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge; musical director of the Bach Choir; chief conductor of the Southern Sinfonia; and music director of the Leeds Philharmonic Society.

Born in Carlisle and educated at Chetham's School of Music, Hill was made a fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the age of 17. His previous posts have included master of the music at Winchester Cathedral (1987–2002), music director of the Waynflete Singers (1987–2002), master of the music at Westminster Cathedral (1980-87, during which time he and the Cathedral Choir made some two dozen recordings for the Hyperion label), and associate conductor, then artistic director of the Philharmonia Chorus (1986–1997).

Hill's discography of over 50 recordings covers repertoire from Thomas Tallis to John Tavener, including the Fauré Requiem and Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. His recording of Victoria's Missa O Quam Gloriosum with the Westminster Cathedral Choir won a Gramophone Award.

Posted by acapnews at 10:51 PM

February 5, 2007

Senior champs

Friendly Advice—a quartet made up of a real estate agent, a candy factory owner, a landscape architect and an environmental engineer from Washington state—grabbed the gold in the 2007 Barbershop Harmony Society International Seniors Quartet Contest, beating out 25 other competitors from the Canada, U.S.A., and Australia.

The contest was held in conjunction with the Society’s annual midwinter convention this week in Albuquerque.

Friendly Advice members hail from Bellevue and Bellingham areas in Washington. They finished only seven points ahead of Vintage Gold from California who took silver for the second year. Third place went to Great Western Timbre Co. out of Florida; fourth to Silver Chords also of Bellevue, Wash., and fifth place was won by Catalyst out of Iowa.

Members of Friendly Advice are: tenor Dan Tangarone, lead Wes Sorstokke, baritone Bill Thurmon, and bass Forrest Lamotte. They scored a total of 889 points. The quartet represented the Society’s Evergreen District.

Posted by acapnews at 9:21 PM

February 3, 2007

King's Singers play it straight

Centre Daily Times (PA):

Founded at King's College in Cambridge in 1968, the King's Singers bring together six a-cappella singing Englishmen and an eclectic array of music from around the world, running the gamut from medieval chants to The Beatles. Trained in the English cathedral choir tradition and combining wit, comedy and technical proficiency.

The Weekender spoke to baritone Christopher Gabbitas about the group's aspirations, traditions and the longevity of the pop songs the singers transform into a cappella masterpieces.

Weekender: What can American audiences expect from a King's Singers' show?

Gabbitas: Recently, the recording industry has moved on from albums where artists would record piece after piece, with no discernible thread, to albums based on a single coherent concept. This can then be transplanted into a concert setting, and we have done this on two out of our last U.S. tours.

This program is more of a mood program than those we have performed before; instead of instant gratification, the audience is taken on a journey through many different sounds and musical colors. In the second half, we sing some of our trademark, pop arrangements.

Weekender: How did you get involved with the group or how does one become part of the King's Singers?

Gabbitas: A new member joins the group only when an existing member decides that it is time to leave. I came from an unconventional route as practicing lawyer ... but I always kept up my singing.

Others have come from the world of professional singing, whether opera, choral, oratorio or other, and some have been fresh out of college or conservatoire. The one thing we all have in common is our background in the great cathedrals of England, starting singing as boy choristers at age 7 or 8.

Weekender: The King's Singers perform plenty of contemporary pop and rock tunes. Are there any artists whose popular music makes an especially wonderful transition into the world of a cappella singing?

Gabbitas: The majority of today's pop music is transient. We use the great singer-songwriters -- people like the Beatles, Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Queen, The Beach Boys and Paul Simon. Their music has stood the test of time, and that's because it's so good that it crosses the generation gap. It's hard to see many of today's artists lasting so long in the charts, and so we don't arrange it for our forces.

Weekender: What is the goal of a group like the King's Singers? To educate, enlighten or to entertain? Or is it to become pop stars?

Gabbitas: All of the above, apart from the pop star statement. We would never want to be pop stars for the reasons given in my answer before: Pop stars are transient and for the moment only. The King's Singers have been going for nearly 40 years, using the same ideas throughout that history. People want to be entertained, educated, enlightened and inspired by musical performance. We like to think that we do all these things.

Weekender: In pop and rock bands, one member of the band is often the "funny" one, another is the "serious" member and yet another is the "bad boy" of the group. Does the same hold true for the King's Singers?

Gabbitas: Inevitably, we all have our own individual personalities, and yes, there are a couple of us who are hilarious on stage, and others who are funnier off stage. A group like the King's Singers needs some serious members, otherwise it descends into slapstick. I like being the "straight guy," but when the occasion demands I can pull out a joke or two. None of us is a "bad boy" -- we're British, don't forget.

Posted by acapnews at 12:08 AM

February 2, 2007

A chat with Bobby

The Scotsman (Scotland):

Singer Bobby McFerrin says he can no longer leap around on stage as he used to but his ability to amaze audiences by improvising across four octaves, using his background in jazz and classical music, has not changed. After an 18 month concert hiatus, the U.S. singer, best known for taking a cappella music mainstream with his 1988 hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy," has just kicked off a tour taking him across the United States and Europe.

In an interview with Reuters, McFerrin, 56, discussed his career and the art of improvisation while wearing a hot pad to nurse a sore back with an open Bible on a nearby coffee table:

Q: Your Bible is turned to page one of Genesis. Are you making a fresh start?

A: "You could say that. I read the Bible every day. I start my day with it and end my day with it."

Q: You don't seem to want to be the huge-in-the-news guy all the time, despite your successes.

A: "I'm more into working, longevity. I'm just grateful to have, you know, gigs, to be working constantly. The other stuff, it's not something that I actually feed into. If it happens it's not intentional. Like "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was not intentional. I didn't go out and write something that I thought would be a hit. My focus has never been about that. It's always been about the music."

Q: Could you have cashed in commercially.

A: "What's interesting is that I kept getting that at the beginning of my career. Record companies would say, and I heard this all the time: 'Do what we want first, get the income and then you can do what you want'. But that's a bunch of baloney, I don't believe that. I always thought do what you want, and not necessarily the money will come but I'll have some success and I'll have some musical integrity."

Q: When you improvise, do you have in your head collections of thousands of little things that you then assemble into a piece or do you think it is coming out of nowhere?

A: "Probably, it has to come from somewhere. I like to think it's coming out of nowhere, because I don't think about what I'm going to do offstage. I mean, I don't carry any ideas with me. (But) I probably draw from the things that I have heard."

Q: Does it get more difficult over time as you get older to have that same kind of energy you have when performing?

A: "Yeah, there are some things I don't do. I used to do these incredible leap jumps after a piece, kick my feet up in the air. I can't do that anymore. I don't have the same kind of energy. When I started doing solo concerts I was 30, 31. Now I'll be 57 in March. I just got off a sabbatical. I was off the road for 17 months. My very first gig was a conducting gig and I threw my back out."

Q: On the months off, were you relaxing or recording?

A: "I was sitting on my front porch, I was walking my dogs every day. We live out in the woods in Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Reading, studying, writing some, driving my daughter from school, picking her up from basketball practice. Learning how to work a computer."

Q: In 2002 you said you thought you had done everything you could as a solo singer. Do you still feel that?

A: "No. I did back then. I thought I can't take this any further. I don't believe that anymore. I feel that I could go deeper, try some different things. I think I have gone as far as I can as far as technique wise. I think my technique is pretty complete. But as far as sort of the sonic places that I go I'm sure there is more to explore."

Posted by acapnews at 12:01 AM