April 30, 2007
Not just a nostalgia act
Montreal Gazette (Canada):
Tim Hauser was warned about stereotyping at the outset of his career when his music teacher, Bob Bianco, warned the Manhattan Transfer singer not to let the quartet label itself.
Hauser and his fellow singers - Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne and Janis Siegel - have always tried to leave it at "vocal group." A sensible move, given that doo-wop, rock, jazz, gospel and swing are scattered throughout their catalogue, and one of their biggest hits is a cover of the Ad Libs' 1964 soul snapper The Boy From New York City. Yet the need to find them a slot is simply too strong for some to resist.
Because they launched their act performing big-band and swing music in tuxes and gowns, the Manhattan Transfer - who are celebrating their 35th anniversary this year - have often been categorized as a nostalgia act, Hauser said in a recent interview with The Gazette. "A lot of that music came out when I wasn't even alive," he said. "How can I be nostalgic for something that happened when I didn't even exist? I liked it because it sounds good. It's good music."
Hauser is a man of stories - and during a lengthy phone conversation, he told plenty. A classic Hauser transition phrase would seem to be "Let me tell you something, that's another thing ..." Many of his stories were about Ahmet Ertegun, the co-founder of Atlantic Records, who died in December. Ertegun brought the group to his label.
You can see where the chemistry between the two came in. Hauser is one of those avid vinyl record collectors who prides himself on having a couple of original Charlie Parker 78s on Dial Records. Ertegun was one of those record-label moguls who truly loved music. According to Hauser, the two would often sit and talk about music in Ertegun's office at the end of the day.
"Without Ahmet, there would be no Manhattan Transfer," Hauser said. "Every label passed on us in the beginning. They said 'You sound great, but we don't think you can sell records.' Ahmet wanted to sign us, sight unseen, when he heard our demo."
Their debut album was released in 1975. That same year, they found themselves hosting a CBS series for four weeks. One of their guests was a buzz artist beginning to make a pretty big name for himself - one Robert Nesta Marley.
The U.S. television debut of Marley and the Wailers on The Manhattan Transfer show is a historical performance. Unfortunately, a drunk sound engineer forgot to record the bass and the group had no time to overdub.
"Marley got in my face," Hauser remembered. "It was union. It wasn't my engineer. But I didn't blame Bob for being pissed. I told him how sorry I was, but there was nothing we could do about it."
Shortly after Bentyne joined in 1979, they had released one of their biggest hits, Birdland, a Weather Report number with added lyrics by jazz legend Jon Hendricks. Hendricks was also drafted to come up with words for the group's 1985 album Vocalese, so named after the concept of setting lyrics to instrumental jazz performances. Hendricks pioneered the jazz subgenre.
This time, Ertegun was hard to convince. "He was screaming at me, 'You can't do this! It won't sell! We're going to spend a fortune on this thing and it's going to be a flop. You're crazy!' But this is the great thing about Ahmet. He respected my tenacity. He let us do it," Hauser said.
Vocalese, considered by many to be the group's masterpiece, has been outsold in the Manhattan Transfer catalogue only by their first best-of collection. It received 12 Grammy nominations and won two awards.
Christmas albums, explorations of Brazilian music, originals, a children's record and a collection of hits rearranged for symphonic accompaniment have all been part of the Manhattan Transfer oeuvre over the years, making nonsense of that nostalgia tag. So appropriately, when the group hits the stage at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts on Thursday, it will bring highlights from its entire body of work.
Each member gets a solo spot in the show, Hauser said, because they have recorded individual albums over the years. His own coming project is a disc of intimate love songs for women over 40. He managed to play some for Ertegun before he died.
"Ahmet said 'Who are you making the album for?'," Hauser remembered. "I said 'Women.' He said 'How old?' I said '35, 40 and over.' He goes 'They don't buy records. They only buy, like, Rod Stewart and that's it.'
"I said 'That's it? That's all they buy?' He said 'That's right.' I said 'Well, what should I do?' He said 'I'll tell you what you should do: you should take yourself down to the river, jump in and drown.' And he looked at me and laughed. I just laughed with him."
April 25, 2007
House lawmakers join chorus
Miami Herald (FL):
TALLAHASSEE - Promoting a bill that would make fraudulently impersonating established musical acts a crime, a troupe of state lawmakers on Tuesday committed melodious mischief.
Or perhaps it was a mischievous melody. Either way, it was bad. ''I hope there were no children watching,'' said House Speaker Marco Rubio, a West Miami Republican.
The rock 'n' rolling reps took to the stage -- actually the House floor -- to sing their support for a proposal that would crack down on other musical impostors popping up around Florida.
The bipartisan singing group, led by bill sponsor Rep. Mike Davis, donned sunglasses and opened with Poison Ivy by The Coasters to promote the ''Doo-Wop Bill,'' which passed the House 113-0. ''We had to show you what pretenders sound like, so that the real thing, you'll appreciate,'' said Davis, a Naples Republican who also represents part of Broward County.
In addition to making impersonating an existing band a misdemeanor, the bill also would allow courts to impose a $5,000 fine for each violation. The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Republican Burt Saunders of Naples, was approved unanimously last week.
The harmonious House members -- named The Pretenders -- had several other South Florida legislators singing backup, including Democratic Reps. Luis Garcia of Miami Beach, Matt Meadows of Fort Lauderdale and Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall of Miami. But the real musical talent was up in the House gallery, where Carl Gardner of The Coasters and Jon ''Bowzer'' Bauman of Sha Na Na looked on.
The Truth in Music Committee at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame has been pushing for similar laws around the country, said Bauman, the committee's chairman. The law has been particularly important in Florida, where impostor 1950s bands from the doo-wop era have been especially popular, he said. In recent years, '80s impostors have started popping up as well. In December, Miami club Pawn Shop advertised a New Year's Eve performance by a band performing as Frankie Goes to Hollywood. But the impostor band did not end up performing.
Although the ''Doo-Wop Bill'' has led to a few lighthearted moments during its trip through the Legislature, impostors create serious consequences, supporters say. ''We're not talking about healthcare, and we're not talking about the war in Iraq,'' Bauman said. ``But it has been one of those really unfortunate nagging kinds of problems. It dupes consumers who are spending their hard-earned money, and it leaves the real pioneers at home watching someone else steal their legacy.''
After the bill sailed through with a few more jokes and little debate, lawmakers invited the real deals down to the House floor for a visit before launching into a finale: Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay. ''And by your vote, rock and roll is here to stay,'' Davis said.
A gathering of singers
Evansville Courier & Press (IN):
With so few hills in Evansville, leave it to the hotels and stadium to be alive with the sound of music Friday and Saturday night. More than 1,500 singers from 65 German singing clubs across the country are bringing their national festival the 59th Saengerfest town, culminating four years of planning by Evansville's 107-year-old Germania Maennerchor. Suddenly, "Germania Maennerchor" (German men's chorus) won't sound so strange to non-Rheinlander ears. Hotels will be filled with the likes of Dallas Frohinin Sing Society, Saengerchor of Omaha and Schubert Lyra Chor of Chicago.
Evansville hasn't been this German since 1911, when business and industry declared a holiday so 90,000 people (nearly 40 percent of the city's 69,000 residents were of German ancestry) could attend a German Day parade led by Indiana's governor. As for Roberts Stadium, it's seen a lot in 50 years, too, from "Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars" to "American Idol" stars, from Elvis Presley to Garth Brooks.
Now comes a cross between a giant beer hall (minus the beer and lederhosen) and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. "It will be awe-inspiring," promises Glenn Boberg, who is co-chairing the Saengerfest with fellow Germania member Paul Bockstege. "It'll send chills down your spine." "It's like listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," says Bockstege. "Multiplied!" adds Bockstege.
While it's not exactly a competition, Friday's concert will feature clubs from various districts coming together as 75- to 300-member choirs. But on Saturday all 1,500 singers will sing as one. The conductor and orchestra, composed of area musicians, will be on stage, the huge choir above them in chairback seats at the closed-end of the stadium. Incidentally, don't expect folk costumes. Singers will wear their club uniform (jacket, slacks or dress) Friday and black and white attire Saturday, including bow ties for the guys.
Ninety percent of the singing from traditional folk songs to classical music such as Beethoven's An die Freude from Symphony No. 9 will be in German, but program booklets will contain an English guide.
Germania members persuaded the North American Singing Society to "relax" its songlist for Saturday, which is why you'll hear "Die Rose" (The Rose, popularized by Bette Midler), sung in German. Also, there's the first major presentation of an original piece, "Der Fischer" (The Fisherman). Germania singer John Michael O'Leary set Goethe's whimsical poem to music; it's the tale of a fisherman who falls under the spell of a mermaid, wades into the sea and is never seen again. The women from the mass chorus will do "Falling in Love Again." And for the finale, the 1,500 voices will rise up in "Let There Be Peace on Earth," a 1955 song that has become a worldwide anthem for peace.
Some choirs want to lodge together because their club members hail from the same region of Germany. "They like to party and have fun together." While Germania's 60-member chorus of men and women is down to one member (Anna Marie Bruner) born in Germany, Bockstege says some clubs have numerous native-born Germans. One Chicago group is predominantly Austrian.
Aside from hotel hospitality rooms, many of the 1,733 attending Saengerfest from at least 11 states are expected to visit Germania Maennerchor, 916 N. Fulton Ave., where the dark wood, folk murals and stained glass windows are largely unchanged since the building's 1913 completion. Overseas guests will include the German and Austrian consulates to the United States and a dozen visitors from Mainz, Germany, making a sidetrip here during their visit to Louisville, Ky., which is Mainz' sister city.
April 23, 2007
Congratulations to the nine-voice all-female ensemble Noteworthy, from Brigham Young University, who took top place at the 2006 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella held this past weekend at the Lincoln Center in New York. Second place went to Rocktavo from the University of Nebraska, and third place went to The Zumbyes from Amherst College.
April 20, 2007
Concerts by (and for) Singers
New York Times
In the folk tradition of Sacred Harp music, the “harp” refers to the voice — many, many voices, usually, of people who have come together to sing, a capella, in glorious four-part harmony. Together, they are carrying on a style of singing that has survived in American communities for hundreds of years, long enough to enjoy renewed popularity in the 21st century.
Also known as shape-note singing — because its text is a songbook published in 1844 that uses a system of printed shapes to aid people without musical training — the singing that came to be known as Sacred Harp can actually be traced further back, to Colonial New England and to England before that. Its unique sound, dense and almost eerily spiritual, contains unusually melodic harmonies, and can be described as Gregorian chant meets bluegrass.
In early America, this style of singing moved south and took hold in a number of states including Georgia, where it took the name Sacred Harp, and was preserved in rural churches long after fading away elsewhere. Musical scholars who rediscovered it in the 20th century were fascinated that such an artifact had survived. Charmed, new adherents soon took up the tradition.
Today’s fans are not necessarily religious — just passionate about singing. Opportunities to take part abound through local “practice sings,” or “singings,” held monthly or even weekly in towns and cities in more than 30 states, as well as Canada and Britain. Local sings also have annual singing conventions, as they are called, generally lasting two days and attracting participants of all types and ages.
“You’ll see 70- and 80-year-olds from the South, plain folk from the Midwest and young hip guys from New England,” said Buell Cobb, 62, author of “The Sacred Harp: A Tradition and Its Music” (1978). “The fact that it just cuts across demographic lines is so amazing.” Mr. Cobb, a retired BellSouth public relations director, is also an organizer of the three-day National Sacred Harp Convention in Birmingham, Ala., in June, which is open to anyone and typically draws 400 to 700 people from 25 states, he said.
Most of the songs are unfamiliar to singers outside the tradition, though at least one hymn sung in Sacred Harp groups, “Amazing Grace,” is well known. For newcomers, Mr. Cobb explained, a first encounter with the “powerful and elemental” sound can inspire many different reactions. “Some will say, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ while others will say, ‘Wow, that’s beautiful,’ ” he said. “And then there is a certain, small percentage of people who say, ‘I must do this.’ ”
Aldo Ceresa of Brooklyn, 36, an online book and music reseller, first heard a recording of Sacred Harp five years ago and is now a regular at local sings in Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey and at annual sings around the country. “A good annual sing has 90 to 100 songs a day,” he said. He is now organizing the third annual New York City All-Day Singing for September.
Sacred Harp singers sit in what’s called a hollow square, with one voice part (treble, alto, tenor, bass) on each side, all facing center and toward one another, and singing out loudly. Individuals take turns standing in the center to lead. Anyone is welcome to listen or take part; copies of the traditional songbooks are usually on hand.
A schedule of singings across the country is maintained by the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association on the Web site fasola.org (from the Sacred Harp learning tones fa, so and la). In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Singing Convention takes place tomorrow. A flier lures in newcomers by saying: “The harmonies achieved by these untrained early American composers were so rich and delightful as to border on the sinful.” Coming in May are conventions at the University of Chicago and in Montclair, N.J.
Summer brings Birmingham’s convention, as well as the fourth year of Camp Fasola. Created by the Alabama-based Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, a nonprofit collective, the camp is a five-day singing getaway for adults and children, with time for swimming, fishing and hiking.
“It’s all about fellowship — and the music, of course,” said Jeff Sheppard, 76, president of the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association and a third-generation shape-note singer. “I could not tell you how many singings I’ve been to in my life.” Each is equally compelling, he said, though he discerns one main regional difference: “They sing awfully fast up north.”
Chanticleer's not perfect
Cincinnati Enquirer (OH):
Almost everything written about Grammy Award-winning choral ensemble Chanticleer uses one of two words to describe it: “perfect” or “perfection.”
But when the 12-man, San Francisco-based group performed at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral as part of its Great Music in a Great Space series Wednesday evening, they most decidedly were not perfect.
And that’s a good thing.
If perfection is really what you’re after, buy a CD. Because, along with the occasional pitch problem and a soprano who tended toward the screechy, Wednesday’s performance also had oodles of spontaneity. And unpredictability. And downright charm.
Chanticleer – the name is borrowed from the rooster in “The Canterbury Tales” – makes exquisite music. Indeed, it’s hard to listen to an afternoon of classical music radio programming anywhere in the U.S. or Canada and not hear one of this 29-year-old group’s recordings. It seems there is no musical style beyond its reach, from medieval plainsong to late-20th-Century dissonance, from Romantic idyll to Impressionistic tone poem.
In truth, watching Chanticleer is nearly as engaging as listening to it. Nearly all musicians move when they perform. But watching the 12 members of Chanticleer is like watching the movement of a single, complex organism. They bob and sway and even dip their heads like impatient thoroughbreds, as if tugging ever so briefly on the reins of the music before it hurtles forward. It’s breathtaking.
Love was the theme of the Wednesday’s program. Accordingly, the program opened with Gerald Finzi’s sweet and joyful ode to new love, “My Spirit Sang All Day.”
It’s a lovely piece, straightforward and unabashedly sentimental. But love is far more multifaceted than the cheery emotion that Finzi’s eyes-wide-open piece explores. And so, too, is music about love. In the course of the evening, the music was, by turns, jubilant, pensive, flighty, pained and – of course – seductive.
But it was never more moving than in John Tavener’s “Village Wedding.” Recalling a wedding in a tiny Greek village, the piece brings together a remarkable agglomeration of musical influences. At times it is reminiscent of the plaintive chants at the beginning of the program. But Tavener, one of modern music’s most astute choral composers, blends it with the modal intricacies of Balkan music and sorrowful sounds of Ukrainian bandura choirs.
Much to the delight of the near-capacity audience, cathedral music director Anthony DiCello announced that next year’s series would not only include Chanticleer – it will be the group’s seventh appearance – but also the legendary King’s College Choir from Cambridge, England.
April 19, 2007
Alley Cats open for Jay Leno
The Alley Cats are about to celebrate their 1 year anniversary of being the opening act for Jay Leno at the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas. For the past year they have been performing for 2 weekends a month with Jay and report that he is very friendly with them and is always willing to chat or have a photo taken. The group thinks they should continue the gig for the foreseeable future.
April 16, 2007
Elektra Choir's sold-out concert daring . . . and lovely
Vancouver Sun (Canada)
The Elektra Women's Choir is now 20 years old and marked the occasion with a sold-out concert on Saturday at Christ Church Cathedral. Deceptively, they still seem like a new addition to the scene, despite two active decades, and the rumours that the choir probably wouldn't last because it has two artistic directors -- Diane Loomer and Morna Edmundson, who share in conducting -- have been proven wrong in a big way. They seem to get along just fine and if there have been any schisms in the choir, you wouldn't know.
The concentration has always been new works, commissioned by the choir -- some 40 in its history. It would have been an easy thing to trot out standards for this concert but they bravely had two new ones: one by Ramona Luengen, who is a former member of Elektra but branched out about a decade ago with her own fine group, the Phoenix Chamber Choir, and Jeffrey Ryan, who until recently was composer-in-residence with the Vancouver Symphony.
Out of a varied, festive and longish program, I thought Luengen's piece, Assumpta est Maria, was the best, a setting of Rainer Maria Rilke's poem from Das Marienleben (The Life of Mary). It is the death of Mary, who ascends to heaven and is forlorn at the sight of the long-vacant seat next to Jesus. In just a few lines, Rilke compresses the inexpressible sadness and mystery of mortality, and its beauty.
A serious and expressive composer, Luengen scales the poem's arc powerfully, placing Forst's deep mezzo tones beautifully in a nimbus-like choral part. It felt true to the magic of Rilke. I also liked Gyorgy Orban's Mass No. 9 with its bracing Poulenc-like odour of secularity, and the spirit that the choir, and Smith on the piano, brought to it was a good argument for the piece. Arch seems about the only word for Ryan's Elegy for Miss Covington, a jokey piece that wasn't very funny but full of modernist choral technicalities. I didn't get the point of it.
The 40 singers of Elektra were joined by another approximate 60 from the audience, all alumnae of the choir who were asked to join the present members on stage for the last three numbers, which tended to be light. From the sound of their singing, and the increased amplitude, these women have kept their voices in shape. It was lovely.
Time, space slip away in Lionheart's warm sound
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI):
Perhaps the Lionheart concert at the St. Joseph Center Chapel should have been billed as "60 minutes of serenity." Presented by Early Music Now, the New York-based male sextet brought the warm, homogeneous sound and the impeccable musicianship and scholarship for which they are well known to an a cappella program of Gregorian chant and Renaissance sacred music by Francisco Guerrero and Cristóbal de Morales. Uninterrupted by intermission or, at the performers' request, by applause, the concert Saturday night made the realities of time and place slip away.
Titled "El Siglo de Oro" ("The Century of Gold"), the program was filled with exquisite music and built of subtle contrasts in style, timbre, tempo and texture, which combined to create a surprising amount of variety. Near the midpoint of the program, the sextet sang the simple, profoundly important, two-line chant, "Ecce virgo concipiet" (English text: "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel"). It was followed by a quartet of members singing Guerrero's "Pan divino, gracioso," an effervescent, dance-like celebration of the ordinary. Dividing again, a trio then presented Guerrero's "Pastor, quien madre virgen," with a final contradiction that received a chuckle from those in the audience who were following the translation.
Although the singers create an incredibly seamless blend when singing in full ensemble, hearing the various voices in exposed passages points out how different their voices are from one another. Careful mixing, matching and balancing of those voices into the smaller quartets and trios heard throughout the evening created a remarkable variety of sounds.
Variety of sounds and a homogeneous blend are only the tip of Lionheart's musical iceberg. These men sing together with impeccable skill and nuance. They attack and release notes and phrases in perfect unison, pausing long enough to let the acoustics of the room do their work.
They shape phrases together as smoothly as a single hand works clay on a potter's wheel, and they place musical accents and consonants within the text with absolute precision. The men created such an otherworldly sound Saturday evening that their simple black suits presented a delightfully curious anachronism. One almost expected monk's robes.
April 11, 2007
Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
Releasing on April 27 is the movie "Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace", an ensemble comedy about of group of men who sang together in an a cappella group in college. Fifteen years later, they reunite to perform at a friend`s wedding. During a long weekend rehearsing together, the men reflect on how their lives have progressed, and in some cases regressed, since their college heyday. One bar room brawl, nostalgic skinny dip, near death experience, surprising sex fantasy, and a miraculously salvaged wedding later, these lifelong friends have readjusted their perspective. In the end, they raise their voices in song to what`s good and true in their lives. Stars Molly Shannon, Mark Feuerstein, David Harbour, Elizabeth Reaser, Reg Rogers, Rosemarie DeWitt. Winner of 7 film festival awards including Audience Award/Best Feature at the HBO Aspin Comedy Festival. Watch the guys sing "The More I See You":-
April 10, 2007
2007 Harmony Sweeps National Finals line up
Another successful season of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival regional competitions is complete and the eight finalists have won their events and move on to the National Finals.
These regional champs are proof that the current a cappella scene remains vibrant and diverse with plenty of wonderful talent nationwide.
The winners are:-
Hosted by 2006 National Champions Hi Fidelity (Los Angeles)
Note that first place winners from the Pacific NW, Realtime had to withdraw after a scheduling conflict.
It certainly looks like another great show and we hope you can join us for a night of tremendous vocal harmony singing.
Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival National Finals
Saturday May 5
Marin Veterans Auditorium
Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael, California
More info here.
Vocal ensemble Chanticleer takes a Mass-ive step
Contemporary composers are often recruited to write new music for celebrated San Francisco-based vocal ensemble Chanticleer. Since its founding in 1978, it has commissioned works from such notables as Mark Adamo, Chen Yi, Jake Heggie, Steven Stucky, John Tavener and Augusta Read Thomas.
In addition, the Grammy Award-winning group is well-known for venturing far outside the confines of the Western classical canon. Through the years, it has performed and recorded everything from jazz standards to Chinese folk tunes. The act's newest commission, "And on Earth, Peace: A Chanticleer Mass," melds those diverse interests together in an innovative way.
The piece is grounded in a fascinating premise. Led by director Joseph Jennings, Chanticleer invited five composers to write a Mass; each composer was assigned a different section of the piece. Working independently of one another, the composers were challenged to reimagine all assumptions about what a Mass should or could be, even as they wrote within the traditional five-movement contour.
American composer Douglas J. Cuomo (whose best-known work is probably the theme music for the HBO series "Sex and the City") has penned the Kyrie. Turkish-American Kamran Ince contributed the Gloria, while Israel's Shulamit Ran wrote the Credo. Ivan Moody from England composed the Sanctus, while Ireland's Michael McGlynn wrote the Agnus Dei. Warner Classics is releasing a recording of "And on Earth, Peace" on May 8, following the Mass' world premiere April 26 in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur. "What we hoped," Jennings says, "was to create a Mass that embraces many musical -- and spiritual -- impulses. As I envisioned it, it wouldn't even just be limited to the Christian faith."
Indeed, two composers set texts from their own cultural and belief backgrounds. Ince drew upon words written by 13th-century poet Jalaluddin Rumi, whose ecstatic and mystical form of Islam called Sufism has inspired and influenced many Muslims around the world for generations.
In preparing her portion of "And on Earth, Peace," Ran says, "I agreed to participate in this project if, and only if, I could bring my own religious perspective to the piece." Her Credo begins with the same words as the traditional Christian prayer: "I believe in one God . . . maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible" -- a belief shared by Jews and Christians.
"From there," she continues, "I chose a few selections from a text written by the philosopher Maimonides, as well as the Sh'ma, perhaps the most central of all Jewish prayers, which says, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.' I also weaved in a number of spoken testaments, mostly from Holocaust survivors, but also one about September 11 (2001)."
The composers who worked on this piece were as inspired by Chanticleer itself -- a group known for tonal loveliness -- as much as for the interesting challenge the Mass' nature and intention provided. "The combination of all these elements with the beautiful sound of Chanticleer is surely a project that every composer would wish to participate in," McGlynn says. Moody adds, "Collaborative Masses have been written before in musical history, but when the idea comes from Chanticleer, it is impossible to resist."
April 6, 2007
Conn-Men's Disney Dreams Destroyed
The Daily Campus (CT):
The UConn Conn-Men won't be going to Disney World after all. The Conn-Men, who won first place the in northeast regional National Championship of High School A Capella (NCHSA) College Tournament on Feb. 10, recently found out that their dreams of capturing the national title in Florida will no longer come true.
Dan Carroll, an 8th-semester communication major and vocal percussionist for the group, said that about two weeks ago the Conn-Men were notified by e-mail that the NCHSA competition was canceled due to financial restraints and a lack of participants.
"For the last several weeks, we have tried to find replacements; trim down the event to minimize costs, but at the end of the day, there is a $90,000 gap that simply cannot be bridged," said Mark Surprenant, Executive Director of the NCHSA, in an e-mail to the Conn-Men.
In the e-mail, Suprenant said that effective immediately, all programming and events for NCHSA are suspended permanently.
"The day after we applied for funding to USG was the day we found out, so we never actually raised the money necessary since we had to withdraw our funding application," Carroll said.
However, the group did receive several private donations that Carroll said will go towards their spring semester concert.
NCHSA is "America's oldest and largest high school a cappella competition," according to the NCHSA Web site. According to Surprenant's e-mail, the organization was formed four years ago at the high-school level. This would have been the first year that the NCHSA sponsored a collegiate tournament. The event was supposed to take place in Orlando, Fla. from May 6 through May 10.
For the past four years, Suprenant said it was his goal to expand NCHSA, investing his time and $140,000 of his own money.
"Financially, personally, emotionally and physically; NCHSA has destroyed me," he wrote.
Carroll said that the Conn-Men are disappointed but "have all made a joke out of it," and are narrowing it down between two competitions to enter next year.
"Right now we have narrowed it down to 'America's Next Top Model' or the Nathan's Hot Dog eating competition, but nothing involving singing," Carroll said.
For now, the group remains focused on their spring semester show. The concert will be held in the Student Union Theatre on Friday, April 13 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
"We are graduating three seniors, including myself, and I can assure you that we want nothing less than to put on the best show ever. That includes anything that Disney sells tickets to," Carroll said.
April 4, 2007
Such a great look I had to post this publicity shot from a cappella group The Newyorkettes.
Fans of other 'Idol' sing his praises
Seattle Post Intelligencer (WA):
Beatboxing -- not big hair -- may be the reason Seattle stays in the "American Idol" spotlight. While Fanjaya fever has made millions go Sanjaya Malakar-azy, another hometown boy -- Blake Lewis, the other Seattle guy -- has quietly and consistently continued to make the cut.
This is a guy local fans are pulling for just as fervently as for the loved -- and hated -- Malakar. The locally based Blaker Girls are staging viewing parties to root for their hero's victory in May. His hometown of Bothell will declare April 11 "Blake Lewis Day."
So far, Lewis has survived into the final nine on the strength of new versions of "Time of the Season" and "All Mixed Up" (from his favorite band, 311). With almost every song, he has been able to update the sound and add his own brand of distinction -- beatboxing and scat singing. For the most part, judges have heaped praise on him, leaving Malakar to bear the weight of criticism. Last week, "Idol" judge Paula Abdul commented after his performance of The Cure's "Love Song" that Lewis was "hip, contemporary and cool." Simon Cowell said he was "definitely the strongest guy in the competition."
Lewis, 25, has been grooming himself nearly all his life for the big show. "He has a different sound to his voice we haven't heard before on 'American Idol,' " said Kristi Redman, a member of the Blaker Girls who has been a friend of Lewis' since they met 15 years ago as Lockwood Elementary School classmates at a roller-skating party. "Bringing in the beatboxing is really different," she said. "His style is influenced by jazz and electronic. He's pretty much true to himself on the show, a sweetheart, a total goofball. He's friends with everybody."
Using the chance to help others, the Blaker Girls and Lewis have decided to channel 50 percent of merchandise sales from the Blaker Girls' Web site to cancer research at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center. One of Lewis' best friends and his friend's girlfriend were recently diagnosed with lymphoma. Items on the site range from T-shirts and hoodies to tote bags and mouse pads.
"Now that he has the opportunity, he wants to give back," Redman said. "It's a big part of the reason we're doing the viewing parties."
Every week, the Blaker Girls get together at an auditorium or gymnasium to cheer on their favorite. Tuesday night's party was at Kenmore Junior High School, where supporters watched Lewis, the first finalist to perform this week, sing "Mack the Knife." Judge Randy Jackson was impressed, Simon rated it 7 out of 10, and Abdul said he "personified pizzazz." Whether he continues on in the competition will be determined on tonight's "American Idol" installment, at 9 on KCPQ/13.
"Idol" handlers don't allow contestants or their immediate families to talk to the media, but Lewis' online answers to his fans help us get to know him. Ladies, he's single and he likes independent, down-to-earth women who also love music. He writes his own songs and is working on a solo album, but he also loves to perform "816" by 311. His favorite decade of music is the '80s. He's a devoted son who looks to his parents as role models. His favorite TV shows include "Lost," "Project Runway" and "Nip/Tuck." He loves Cuban food and dark blue.
Lewis has been singing since he was 5, but it wasn't until he joined the Columbia Choirs of Metropolitan Seattle in junior high school that he realized his public persona as a performer. With that group, the young tenor toured Europe. By the time he got to Inglemoor High in Kenmore, Lewis was well established as a singer, landing in the school's elite-level Encore singing group and other choirs. He acted in school musicals, such as "Anything Goes" and "Crazy for You," and appeared in various comedy one-acts. "Blake was always that guy making noises and doing impressions," said Redman, who attended the same junior high school and high school as Lewis. "What you see on the show is what he's like in person."
In his senior year he discovered beatboxing, the vocal percussion of hip-hop culture, through a guest performance by Matt Selby of m-pact. From then on, he was the human beatbox. Also that year, he picked up several awards that probably proved prescient: best dancer and runner-up for both class clown and funniest.
After graduating from Inglemoor in 1999, Lewis took music classes at Edmonds Community College, but his main interest was being on stage. He started going out as B-Shorty, acquiring a rep as a beatboxer who came up with his own sound. "He's an interesting cat. Outside of music I don't know him that well but I consider him a homie," said DJ Able of local turntable spin doctors the Elefaders. They've performed with B-Shorty at least four times, in such venues as The Jet Deck, the Lo_Fi and Des Amis. "His method of music making -- pre-'Idol' anyway -- is very similar to ours. He just uses his mouth instead of wax, but he is all improvisational and uses looping pedals and guitar effects to build his beatboxes into songs just like us."
Lewis auditioned for "Idol" on a whim -- one of his friends told him to go for it the day before the Sept. 19 auditions at KeyArena -- and had to learn Seal's "Crazy" because he wanted a song judges could identify with and he wasn't exactly the Top 40 type. Bev Edmon, counseling office manager at Inglemoor High School, whose daughter, Andrea, is webmaster for the Blaker Girls site, likes his chances. "He's fun to watch," she said, "(he's) entertaining and has the best overall package."
April 3, 2007
A resounding amen to Trio Mediaeval
Boston Globe (MA)
In their concert on Friday night, the Scandinavian women of Trio Mediaeval were their own a cappella amen corner. At the close of the chordal "Gloria" from the 14th-century compilation "Messe de Tournai, " the final "Amen" suddenly took playful flight, the "ah" vowel bouncing back and forth among the three singers. The "Credo" from the same Mass proclaimed its final "Amen" with stately fanfares; a 13th-century French "Veni Creator Spiritus" set the word with swinging rhythms that gave way to ambiguous, shadowed harmonies, a cloud passing across the sun.
The all-sacred vocal program interspersed the multiauthored Mass with similarly anonymous Italian devotional songs and two more formal works by the early French master Perotin; in moments like those "Amens," one could feel the composers playing with nascent Western polyphony like kids with a new toy.
The contrast between the Perotin pieces was most telling. "Beata Viscera, " a haunting meditation on the Virgin Mary, stood out from the surrounding music on the strength of its austere, elegantly assembled monophonic line. "Dum sigillum" is far more exuberant, a two-part contrapuntal discourse on the immaculate conception of Jesus, the Divine planting its kiss on human nature. "Marvelous kisses indeed," the text slyly remarks, "that have the power to bear fruit without the coupling of flesh." Perotin turns almost every word into its own fantasia, gleefully extending each "oo" vowel into dancing cadenzas, leaving the singers' lips almost permanently puckered in osculation.
The trio -- Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth, and Torunn Ostrem Ossum -- have breathtaking purity of intonation along with their all-but-vibratoless tone. Harmonies course with flowing exactness; unisons are flat-out uncanny.
Viscerally exciting sounds were few: The group opted more for shades of delicacy, rounding off phrases with a jeweler's precision, letting their timbre gently ride the church's reverberation rather than cutting through it. There were moments that could have used more bite, but the overall beauty was exceptional in its consistency. A contemporary encore, Ivan Moody's 1998 "Words of the Angel," made an appropriate connection with the rest of the evening's composers, who reveled in their own shock of the new.
April 2, 2007
Blake Lewis in final 10
Congratulations to a cappella singer Blake Lewis who has made it to the final 10 of American Idol. This means he will be going on the big American Idol live tour and has had several pundits who say he could win the whole thing. We of course are rooting for Blake and hope you will vote for him!!
He now has his own Wikipedia entry:-
Blake Colin Lewis, born July 21, 1981 is an American singer of Welsh, German, and Irish descent. Lewis is currently a finalist on the sixth season of American Idol. He is from Bothell, Washington, and attended Kenmore Junior High and later Inglemoor High School. He auditioned for American Idol in Seattle. Lewis was a former member of the a capella group KickShaw and has been beatboxing for seven years since he was a senior in high school. In high school, Lewis was in many high school state competitions. He also took part in numerous musicals and comedies. Aside from singing and beatboxing, Lewis also plays the guitar, piano and drums. Among his favorite artists and bands are Michael Jackson, Björk, Fiona Apple, Robin Thicke, and 311.
cantus goes with The Pops
Nine-member a cappella group Cantus has landed a plum year-end gig for December. The group will hit the road for a 14-stop tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Pops program.
"We are thrilled to work with such an august ensemble as the Boston Pops," said Cantus artistic director Erick Lichte. "The Boston Pops have woven themselves into the fabric of America and we are excited to share our singing with their audience."
The shows will feature new and traditional carols arranged specifically for Cantus and the Boston Pops. Tour dates will be announced later this year.
Jean Ashworth Bartle to retire
The Board of Directors of the Toronto Children's Chorus announces the appointment of Elise Bradley as its new Artistic Director. Ms. Bradley will succeed Jean Ashworth Bartle, founder and Artistic Director of the Toronto Children's Chorus (TCC) for the past 29 years, who will be retiring from the choir at the end of the 2006/07 season. The new Artistic Director was selected from among a distinguished group of Canadian and international candidates. She will officially assume her new role on August 16, 2007.