August 31, 2007
Buffoons dismiss member for 'mistake'
Daily Camera CO):
A University of Colorado a cappella group said Thursday it has dismissed the member who wrote an audition questionnaire that mocked a freshman stabbing victim. Announcing the singer's dismissal and calling the audition form an "inconceivable mistake," Colin Birkhead, the CU Buffoons business manager, and David Accomazzo, music director for the nine-member group, signed a formal letter of apology.
In the letter, the group apologized for acting in "such an unprofessional and childish way." "We Buffoons take pride in our ability to represent both the student body and the administration," the letter said. "Clearly, we have failed."
The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union — reacting to the university's public remarks Wednesday that the application was "insensitive" — said such a response, even though it wasn't an official sanction, could have a chilling effect on free speech.
"These students have First Amendment rights," said Judd Golden, chairman of Boulder County's ACLU chapter. "Where, now, does the rest of the student body draw the line?" Golden said students might worry that if they say something "humorous" about a controversy or tragedy, they will get a phone call from the administration.
But CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the university was only trying to appeal to students, asking that they be sensitive in the aftermath of a trauma on the campus. He said Wednesday that administrators had planned to get in touch with the group. "We're not trying to chill anybody's free speech," Hilliard said. "We're just asking that they take higher ground."
The Buffoons — who held the try-outs this week — have removed the controversial questions from their application. Birkhead and Accomazzo said their apology was intended for CU leaders, employees and students, as well as the victim and his family.
August 30, 2007
Group rebuked for freshman joke
Rocky Mountain News (CO):
A University of Colorado a cappella group has revised its audition form after acknowledging that a question ridiculing the victim of Monday's campus stabbing was inappropriate and a "big mistake."
Singers auditioning for the all-men's student group the Buffoons on Tuesday were asked a multiple-choice question about how they felt after the previous day's random attack, which sent a 17-year-old freshman to the hospital with a slashed neck.
Applicants were given these answers to choose from:
B. Dazed and confused
C. Mad someone got that guy before you did
The Buffoons, a CU student group and a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1962, making it one of the oldest and most established a cappella groups in the country. Last week, the group performed at a ceremony welcoming freshmen to the campus. During the convocation — which was mandatory for CU's 5,600 freshmen — members of the Buffoons led the new students in singing the school's alma mater.
The group's questionnaire irked at least one student who auditioned, prompting the musicians by Wednesday to clean up the form. Upon learning about the questionnaire's contents, campus officials called it "insensitive."
All of the "offensive" questions have been removed, said Colin Birkhead, business manager for the Buffoons. Auditions for the group are going on this week.
"We are a group with maybe a little more extreme sense of humor," said Birkhead, a senior at CU. "We weren't meaning to offend anyone. It was a big mistake." Birkhead said he did not author the questions on the form but didn't want to place blame on any group member.
CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the Buffoons have had an upstanding reputation on the campus over the years. He said the audition form was "insensitive" and "unnecessary." "Why would they want to sully that with something so stupid at a time when the campus is trying to recover from trauma?" Hilliard said.
August 28, 2007
The Real Tragedy Behind Craig's arrest: The Demise of The Singing Senators
The Huffington Post (Katie Halper):
Today is a terrible day for America, public bathrooms and a cappella music everywhere. The arrest of Senator Larry Craig by an undercover police officer for lewd conduct in a public men's bathroom is the final nail in the coffin in which rots the once vibrant barbershop quartet known as the Singing Senators. The Singing Senators consisted of John Ashcroft, baritone; Trent Lott, bass; Jim Jeffords, tenor; and Larry Craig, lead.
The quartet's beginning were as humble as the senators themselves. They started out harmonizing to "Happy Birthday" at the birthday party of fellow Republican senator Bob Packwood, a framee in his own right, who would be forced to resign over sexual harassment charges based on bogus evidence like his diary and accusations from 11 different people. The crooners had their formal debut at the Kennedy Center and then went on to record an album "Let Freedom Sing" in Nashville and perform on The Today Show. As their popularity skyrocketed the Singing Senators started performing more frequently, raising millions of dollars for Republican causes and charities.
They may have sounded in tune, but something was out of key. And that was Jim Jeffords, who became an Independent, betraying not only the GOP but the Singing Senators. Days before Jeffords defected, a hopeful Lott predicted Jefford would stay in the party "After all, I mean, what would we do in the future about the Singing Senators? We need Jim to be part of that harmony." But Jeffords abandoned the quartet, and in a flash the Singing Senators were over, a blast from the past. Lott never saw it coming.
Singing was just too much fun for this senator to give up. As Craig explained to Senator John Thune, whom he tried to recruit to the Singing Senators, "You've got to let your hair down and enjoy it."
Then finally, only two months ago, on June 12, after a six-year hiatus, the Singing Senators made a comeback! Purged of the defecting Jeffords, their sound was purer and the trio was tighter. Craig explained, "We're not a quartet any longer. We're a trio, and there are a lot of good reasons for that." Singing at a fundraiser for the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute, the three singing senators performed "God Bless America," country and gospel tunes, and the sexy Oak Ridge Boys hit "American Made". The quartet had performed with the Oak Ridge Boys in 1997, so singing "American Made" marked a 10 year anniversary of Christian jamming.
Here's where things get fishy. This reunion show took place on Tuesday, June 12. The arrest of Larry Craig took place on June 11th, one day before! And the arrest report was entered on June 12th, just hours before the reunion concert would kick off. A coincidence? Or a vast left-wing conspiracy?
The reunion concert had to have been widely publicized through the series of tubes that is the internets. And the arrest was surely an attempt to silence Craig and the Singing Senators. The former rancher, family values conservative Idaho senator is said to have solicited gay sex in an airport bathroom. And yet, Craig is so straight, he voted for a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, opposes including homosexuals in hate crime legislation. And he's so not gay that when he was accused of being involved in a sex scandal involving male pages he said that made him "Mad as hell."
It looks like someone wants to shut up the Singing Senators....only this time...for good.
The Barbershop ensemble, be it quartet or trio, is the most wholesome, most patriotic of all American all-male a cappella singing traditions. The values, the freedom-loving, and the irresistible melodies and rhythms of the Singing Senators, threaten the liberal, gay, Jewish, vegan establishment bent on bringing down America.
Well, they may be able to stop the Singing Senators. They may be able to frame Craig. They may be able to persecute Lott, destroy his porch and put racist words in his mouth. They may be able to recruit Jim Jeffords. But nothing, not even pancreatis or Gonzolezean hospital-room harassment can bring down John Ashcroft. He will sing for the Senators -- he will make the Singing Senators soar.
August 27, 2007
An interview with Peter Eldridge
In 1986, a group of kids from Ithaca College got to sing at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Although it was on the patio, rather than the main casino stage, it inspired the creation of the New York Voices, one of the most successful and long-running vocal groups in music history. The Voices seem to be on continuous tour, performing at the world’s most prestigious venues. After six of their own albums, and two Grammy-winners with Paquito D’Rivera and the Count Basie band, they are about to launch A Day Like This (MCG Jazz, 2007), their first studio release in eight years.
In the midst of all this, Voices co-founder Peter Eldridge has been carving out a strong solo path as a singer/songwriter/educator/arranger/producer [Note: All of the Voices have their own independent projects.] There are three Eldridge CDs so far: Stranger in Town, a dreamy mix of jazz standards with stellar backing from Michael Brecker, Donny McCaslin, Lewis Nash, Romero Lubambo and Claudio Roditi, and Fool No More, the first collection of Peter’s compositions [both out in 2000, from Rosebud Records].
More delightful originals are gathered up in Decorum (Reuben’s Tunes, 2005), and some of its tracks have been showing up in interesting places. For example, “Surrender” is the title track of Jane Monheit’s 2007 Telarc album, while D’Rivera has covered “Difficult.” Eldridge is also the English-language lyricist for Ivan Lins, the Brazilian composer that many consider the successor to Tom Jobim; one of their collaborations, “Minds of Their Own,” appears on Nancy Wilson’s Grammy-winning RSVP—Rare Songs, Very Personal (MCG Jazz, 2004).
Eldridge’s music is as multifaceted as he is: quirky and clever and romantic, both vulnerable and hip, it’s full of barbed social commentary as well as hope and joy. Never a moon/June/spoon kind of lyricist, he finds new aspects of love to write about, and all of it rides in on beautiful, catchy melodies that sound like no one else’s.
AAJ finally caught up with Eldridge between his many commitments, and spent a few happy hours discussing his life and career, the history of the Voices, the state of the world, and his Paris Hilton song. Read the interesting interview with Dr Judith Schlesinger here
Madrigal Singers win European Grand Prix for the second time
The Inquirer (The Philippines):
The Philippine Madrigal Singers won the prestigious European Grand Prix for Choral Singing Sunday night in Arezzo, Italy. The Madz, as the choir is popularly known, is the first and only choir to win twice in what is known as the choral Olympics of the world.
It won the European Choral Grand Prix (GPE) for the first time in June 1997 when the Madrigals represented the Tolosa Competition, the first and only Philippine choir to win this competition. When it won the Florilege Vocal de Tours in France in 2006, the Philippine choral group earned the right to represent the Tours in this year’s choral Olympics, held on Sunday at the Church of Sta. Maria della Pieve in Arezzo, Italy.
The Madrigals beat formidable choirs such as Russia’s Vesna Children’s Choir, Hungary’s Cantemus Mixed Choir, Cuba’s Schola Cantorum Coralina and the Taipei Chamber Singers.
“Its overwhelming. Up to now we are very happy and pleased. No words can describe it,” Mark Anthony Carpio, the Madrigal’s choirmaster told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone from Italy.
Carpio said the choral group performed a 20-minute program for the competition which included: John Pamintuan’s arrangement of “Pater Noster,” a French madrigal, a German art song, the American contemporary song “We Beheld Once Again the Stars” by Z. Randall Stroope and a children’s song from Maguindanao titled “Kaisa-isa Nyan” by Nilo Alcala.
The Philippine Madrigal Singers was founded in 1963 by National Artist for Music Andrea O. Veneracion, who led the choir in winning various choral competitions from all over the world. Veneracion passed on her choirmaster’s task to Madz member Carpio, who led the choir in winning the latest choral Olympics.
“I never had the ambition of becoming the choirmaster of a group I have admired for a long time,” said Carpio who took over in 2001. “But I trusted Prof. Veneracion’s decision. She had been praying intensely for this when the Madz won the 1997 GPE."
Carpio was overwhelmed when the Madz made history by winning its second GPE, this time, under his leadership. “Nothing is more enjoyable than to see our hard work pay off. Feeling good about ourselves inspires us to even work harder. As Prof. Veneracion always said in the past, competitions are not the end; they are just means for us to see how well we are on track," Carpio said.
"We worked hard to achieve what we believed is the composer’s desire for each of our pieces. We did a lot of studying and research. But most of all, we did a lot of rehearsals," he added.
According to Carpio, there is no such thing as an ideal sound in any choral competition. The sound that the choir always tries to maintain is a free and relaxed sound but at the same time versatile and flexible.
“I believe there is no ideal or perfect sound for a choir. I have made this conclusion after listening to so many choirs from different countries of different cultures and ages. Each one sounds good but different from each other," he said. "There are qualities that are common to choirs. They are homogenous and the different voice parts are well-balanced. This is what conductors find very challenging: How to make the different individual voices blend together. This is difficult but attainable," Carpio added.
The GPE is an annual choral competition for the winners of six European choral competitions. It was inaugurated in 1989.
The six competitions are the Concorso Polifónico Guido d'Arezzo (International Guido d'Arezzo Polyphonic Contest) in Arezzo, Italy; the Bela Bartok International Choir Competition in Debrecen, Hajdú-Bihar, Hungary; Concorso Cesare Augusto (C.A.) Seghizzi, (C.A. Seghizzi Competition) known more popularly as the Seghizzi contest in Gorizia, Italy; Concurso Coral de Tolosa (Tolosa Choral Competition) in Tolosa, Spain; the International May Choir Competition in Varna, Varna Province, Bulgaria; and the Florilège Vocal de Tour in Tours, France. By winning the Tours competition in June 2006, the Madrigals qualified to join the GPE.
Despite its name, the GPE is not strictly for European choir groups. Any group from around the world can join in the competition in any of the GPE’s six member-cities. The competition is also not limited to adult choirs. Two past winners are children’s choirs. Sweden has produced the most number of GPE winners with four choral groups. Lithuania has three winners, Hungary and the US have two each. Denmark, Japan, Latvia, the Philippines, Russia and Slovenia have one each.
I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at the Cultural Center in Manila several years back and they are a true treasure of the Philippines. My wife is from the R.P. so I have been there often and along with her many US Filipina friends and their ubiquitous "Magic Mic" karaoke I can personally attest to how much Filipinos love to sing!!!
August 24, 2007
Today was the last day for the Barbershop Society to have its headquarters in Kenosha, Wisconsin as, after almost 70 years, the Society closed its doors as it prepares to move to Nashville, Tennessee. Several years in the making the move was nevertheless a sad affair as many long-time employees will not be making the move and are retiring from the organization. The Society will be closed for business this next week as the moving trucks haul everything to Nashville and will partially reopen after Labor Day. There are several staff positions still open so if anybody has always wanted to both work in barbershop music and live in Nashville (and that does sound quite enticing) then now is the time to apply. We wish the Society every success in their new location.
Blake Lewis inks record deal with Arista
Blake Lewis, former singer with a cappella group Kickshaw, has reaped another "American Idol" reward — a record deal.
Lewis, who finished second to Jordin Sparks in the final "Idol" faceoff in May, has signed a contract with Arista Records in conjunction with 19Recordings, the label managed by "Idol" creator Simon Fuller, it was announced Friday.
His debut album is slated for release later this year.
"Blake is one of the most unique `Idol' contestants I've ever seen," Fuller said in a statement. "He brought something new to the competition and won fans all over America. I know they're going to love his first album ... ."
Lewis, 26, of Bothell, Wash., specialized in beatbox sound-effects during his run on the Fox talent show's sixth season. His big TV moment came when he added hip-hop beats to a performance of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name," irking guest mentor Jon Bon Jovi in the process.
August 22, 2007
Review - Orlando Consort
After hearing the glories of Monteverdi in the popular daily 6pm slot at Greyfriars Kirk last week, it was a step back in time for the first of two appearances this week by the Orlando Consort. Its contribution to the broad sweep of choral gems packaged as an unfolding series called Harmony and Humanity, and featuring other frontline ensembles, began with a look at the late 15th-century genius of Josquin Desprez and some of his contemporaries.
To witness these pre-Golden Age polyphonic motets by the likes of Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht, Pierre de la Rue, and the great Josquin himself in the immediate wake of Monteverdi's radical approach to word-setting and imagery, was a revelation in itself. While there's no doubting the technical wizardry of Josquin's sinuous artistry, the journey on which music was about to go in the space of a century was undeniably momentous.
That's not to undermine the literary sensitivities implicit in the motets sung by the various three, four and five-part combinations of the Orlando Consort, whose multicoloured waistcoats we should not allow to detract from their smooth-grained performances.
Whether in the penitential sighing motifs of Josquin's five-part Inviolata, itegra, et casta es Maria, or the unavoidably personal devotional qualities conjured up in the same composer's homage on the death of Ockeghem (Nymphes des boys), the humanistic qualities were richly served up in singing that carefully avoided overstatement, yet hinted strongly at its latent passion. This presentation also succeeded in illustrating pertinent comparisons in individual styles.
This review is from their performance at the ongoing Edinburgh Festival
August 21, 2007
The singing cabbie
Chicago Sun Times (IL):
If a kooky taxi driver wearing a boater and a polka-dot tie serenades you on your ride across town, don't freak out. It's probably just Ray St. Ray, the singing cabdriver of Lincoln Square. The guy's a bit strange, but harmless. "It's not just a ride, it's a trip," he likes to say.
Just ask Lauren Ponc, who recently was a captive audience in Ray's back seat. "He was singing a song about a sexual scientist and all the fun things they did in their lab," Ponc says. "Lots of innuendo. It really makes the ride go quickly. It was fun."
Ol' St. Ray has been signing his quirky original tunes for passengers ever since his third wife divorced him, he lost his job and decided he never wanted to work another 9-to-5 again. Besides, singing cabdriver was one of the few jobs that wasn't already on St. Ray's resume. "I've been a nurse's aide, bicycle repairman, meat-packer, Army paratrooper, railroad switchman, graphic designer, adult education instructor, retail sales clerk, heating contractor, sign painter, personal secretary to two guys who sell violins, art director for a magazine, door-to-door salesman," he says. "I've never been a cowboy, astronaut or movie star. But I'm working on it."
The vaudevillian cabdriver act has been his steadiest gig. St. Ray's been at it for 16 years, four months, 27 days and 55,000 passengers, by his count. "My goal was to live the life that I would want to read a book or see a movie about," St. Ray says. "And who wouldn't want to see a movie about a singing cabdriver?"
He thinks of himself as an urban Gene Autry "rescuing strangers from everyday street corners, transporting them through surreal Hollywood musical interludes, and riding off into the sunset."
Don't bother screaming for your favorite song from the back seat. Ray doesn't take requests. "If people say they want Sinatra, I tell them to go get in his cab," St. Ray says. But you just can't call St. Ray, whose real name is Ray Suges, and ask him to pick you up. He prefers to let the fates pick his passengers.
When you get in the back seat, Ray asks you to pick a genre covered in his catalogue -- sex, love, social significance or other. And by the next stop sign and sometimes sooner, he'll belt out an a cappella rendition of one of his 92 original tunes, while banging on the dashboard, shaking his finger and obeying most of the traffic laws. "This is guerrilla street theater. I'm a street performer," he says. "But unlike guys on the sidewalk, I have better acoustics."
This act typically scores a nice tip at the end of a ride, but Ray's not getting rich behind the wheel, -- not yet. "My life savings is always in my pocket. I live modestly, but enjoy the extravagances of thrift store shopping," he says. "I'm not in the cab-driving business. I'm in the business of creating the legend of the singing cabdriver, and waiting to cash in on it."
August 20, 2007
Critic couldn't wait for Finns to finish
The Vancouver Sun (Canada):
One's appreciation of Rajaton, the Finnish a cappella vocal sextet that played at the Chan on Wednesday, would lie in direct proportion to one's liking of the Swingle Singers, that eventually annoying group who bop and bap their way through Bach.
Rajaton are like the Swingle Singers on amphetamines. They're clearly virtuosic, but the thing about virtuosity is that it's much more impressive when it disguises itself, and when it chooses good material to do virtuosically.
There was no attempt to disguise anything, and there was no good material. Yes, they do microtones very well, but that wasn't very much to take away with you and there was little in what they sang that's in my head right now, I can tell you.
"But you liked that other Finnish group," a friend said. "You mean Philomela? Yes. But apparently all Finns are not fine."
Okay, I'll soften that. They're just fine. Okay? The Chan was pretty well packed and people ate them up with a big spoon.
Meanwhile, I sat there wondering why I wasn't vaguely moved by this amalgam of "pop, folk, classical and rock," as the program boasted of the members' origins.
Maybe they cancelled one another out? I don't know. They're a big hit on the Finnish pop charts and I can't figure that one out either, or why my mind wandered so much. Wander! It went from coast to coast. Was I channelling Steve Fonyo or something?
But they're polished all right. Too polished if you ask me. I'd say lose some of the choreography and the stage business. No, lose a lot of it. They seem like nice people but it gets a little cute. And frankly the "instrumental" effects with the bass booming "pizzicato" notes into the hand mike and the others doing "saxophone" effects got a mite tiresome. Okay we know you can do it. Now what else can you do?
Of their mixture of hits, ranging from Finnish folkloric songs to pop classics by the likes of Sting, Queen, David Bowie and Abba, I blushingly admit there was only one song that interested me -- Fernando by, of course, Abba. And they even had to wreck that one by cutesying it up.
Even my well-known ethnomusicological bent failed me here, or they failed it. They made the music of Finland sound boring.
Okay, not boring. But like something you'd find on a middle-of-the-road station on the radio at 2 a.m. I couldn't wait to get out of there.
Well you can't win 'em all. Personally I think Rajaton are fabulous and wish they would perform more in the US. I look forward to the opportunity to present them one day here in the Bay Area.
August 15, 2007
Review - Eric Whitacre's new musical "Paradise Lost"
Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings" employs not just original anime sequences, but the very structure and attitudes of classic Japanimation to spin out its post-apocalyptic allegory about angel children's struggle to build a new world. The result may resemble a musicalization of "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" but it's neither pretentious nor kitschy. Musically lush, committed and smart, tuner will appeal to a demographic far beyond comic book fans (who'll adore it), for in composer/librettist/co-lyricist Eric Whitacre it introduces an exciting new, and potentially important, figure in the musical theater.
A Grammy nominee for his a cappella choral compositions, Whitacre here adds overhead accompaniment of cello, synthesizer and percussion that literally lifts one out of one's seat. A raft of beautiful melodies is complemented by disparate musical influences, from the urban nitery's throbbing techno beat to the massive drums of martial arts cinema, all unified by the spirit of youth that both performs the piece and serves as its theme.
An anime prologue explains how the angels of light, preparing to engage with the forces of darkness, planted their children, wingless, behind an impenetrable rock wall until the titanic battle could be played out.
17 years later the promise of return remains unfulfilled, though Logos (Dan Callaway) and henchman Ignis (Kevin Odekirk) summon nightly combat challenges, superbly staged by Caleb Terray, to tool the tribe into a lean, mean fighting force primed to defend the sanctuary. (Evidently the kids were dumped near an Army-Navy store and tattoo parlor, permitting Soojin Lee to outfit them in boots, cut-up fatigues and body art to strike fear in any army of darkness.)
Yet restiveness has begun to crack the sense of homeland security. Logos's visionary sister Exstasis (Hila Plitmann) experiences pieces of memory - also dramatized through pitch-perfect "Astro-Boy" anime, wide-eyed urchins and all - that inspire a dissident quest for the missing wings, to test whether staying the course is the best response to whatever waits behind the rock barrier.
Whether one sees the wall as an international border or a metaphor for our response to terrorism, plot can be read on many levels in the manner of "Akira" and "Vampire Hunter D." What matters is not "the" meaning but whether story has been told with forthrightness and intelligence, and this one most certainly has, no campiness allowed. Company's belief in the stakes inspires our own.
Lyrics co-authored by David Norona demonstrate graceful true rhymes and a minimum of generic, freedom-is-everything blather. Logos is permitted to argue his position (be focused and ever-watchful) forcefully enough to get a decent dialectic going for a while. And the muscular score features not a single romantic power ballad; any romance would be a trivial intrusion on a yarn taking itself this seriously.
Callaway and Odekirk sturdily convey the weight and temptations of power, while a Timon-and-Pumbaa pair offers a welcome dollop of humor. Daniel Tatar's dissolute rogue Fervio delivers a touching ballad of self-exile, "All Alone" (though he'll make a Han Solo comeback when the going gets toughest), and Rodolfo Nieto is sweetly affecting as the giant petty thief Gravitas.
While Plitmann commands Exstasis' martial skills and spooky second sight (the opportunity to cast a lyric soprano with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do must have been irresistible), a slight lisp and insistence on vocal beauty over clarity render her lyrics almost completely unintelligible, leaving aud too long in the dark about the rebels' motivations.
There's other murky plotting, and show lacks a sense of the tribe's everyday dynamic when not smacking each other around the campfire. And given a score that dips so readily into the sounds of multiple cultures, one is surprised that multiculturalism doesn't seem to have been a casting goal. Predominantly staffing the forces of light with Caucasians creates unintended implications that may be tough for some to shake.
Design team achieves stunning effects irrespective of 99-seat budgetary or space restrictions. Steven Young's lighting envelops the characters in a mythical glow but is never so stylized or self-conscious as to undercut their human dimensions. Helmer Michael Michetti takes full advantage of Tom Buderwitz's imposing granite rear wall, incorporating platforms and a zigzagging pathway to the top.
At one point helmer evokes the Israelites under Pharaoh as Ignis drives the tribe by the lash - exactly the kind of quick visual association characteristic of the most artful anime.
All the talk about breaking through to confront unknown dangers serves to telegraph the final effect, though its impact sneaks up all the same. The swelling chorale singing thrillingly of "Bliss" creates a final frisson that many another ambitious musical would envy. Neither we nor the children know what awaits them or whether they'll triumph. But the sheer act of breaking through visually, musically and emotionally becomes a blissful victory in and of itself.
Buckeye Invitational this weekend
There will be plenty of great a cappella singing this weekend in Columbus, Ohio at the annual Buckeye Invitational. The singing starts on Saturday morning with the chorus sing-off followed by the finals of the quartet competition. This year for the first time there is to be a A Cappella Showcase for non-barbershop groups which begins at 3.30pm. After a two hour break the day will conclude with the Night of Stars Show which will feature one final appearance of Gas House Gang, one of the most popular barbershop quartets in history. Also performing on this show will be 2006 barbershop harmony champions Vocal Spectrum. More information here.
August 14, 2007
Church displays bigotry toward deceased singer
There should be great shame for the members of Arlington's High Point Church, a mega church based in the Dallas suburbs, who canceled the funeral for a singer of the Turtle Creek Chorale when they discovered he was gay. They had previously agreed to host the service but once they saw a photo of singer Cecil Sinclair with his partner they abruptly told his sister they would no longer allow the service to be in their church. Church leaders said they canceled the service because, as planned by friends and family, it would have promoted homosexuality. Church officials also said they were concerned they did not know who would officiate the service and would not have control over the content. The service was to be held by highly-regarded choral director Tim Seelig with a performance of “Amazing Grace” by the Turtle Creek Chorale. I am so sick and tired of these evangelical church’s bigotry toward our gay brethren and certainly do not consider them to be in any way Christian or true followers of the teachings of Jesus. Are we not ALL the children of God?
August 10, 2007
REVIEW: Philomela not your typical choral group
The Vancouver Sun (Canada):
Philomela is a Finnish women's choir, 24 of its 40 members visiting Vancouver for this summer's festival. Philomela is Greek for "nightingale" and there is something Grecian in their attic approach to singing. They're far from the typical stand-and-deliver choral group, posed in stiff distant ranks. They're mobile and the dynamic is urgent with expressivity. They're a reminder of the choral function of Greek drama in which the chorus was the voice of the public, commenting on the actions of the protagonists.
Hectic and charged with meaning, their eyes flashing as they connect with the eyes of the audience, they sometimes mill through the house.
Cynically you might think this would soon wear pretty thin but you might have changed your mind had you been at Christ Church on Thursday. They don't overuse what they do and they choose their moments.
This is nothing new, at least in theatre, where intermingling with the crowd is called promenade theatre. Sensitively done, it can be thrilling. I've forgotten the name of the agrarian-themed play that was done in this style and which I once saw at Studio 58 but I'll never forget the effect (or the name of the director, Catherine Caines) of being so close to those voices and faces as they broke through the traditional barriers, the fourth wall lying in pieces. Philomela's conductor, Marjukka Riihimki, has an evident genius for connecting with people in important ways and what she does is far from a gimmick.
The choir's hour-plus program was hypnotic with pure, radiant singing which involved much close harmony. You knew instantly that you were hearing a foreign choir from the material, which could only have been Northern European. It was all contemporary, which is the specialty of Philomela, and by female composers, who really conveyed the melos, or musical character, of the country. It had a folkish feel and suggested rarefied light and great distances. It also felt popular in the best sense. Bjrk is Icelandic but she would have understood this Finnish music and related to it.
Everything the women sang was appealing, fine and evocative of strange feelings . There were no translation sheets available and none were really needed beyond the English translations of the song titles: With and Against the Wind, Longing for Homeland, Who Is Sleeping in Your Cradle, The Wind Passing Through the Woods ...). Both opening numbers were by Sanna Kurki-Suonio (Tuulen nostatus and Sadelaulu - Raising of the Wind and Rain Song). They were lovely and each involved the altos holding a pedal point - a very low note in a constant, unvarying drone. Very demanding and seamlessly done.It was all what is called accessible and felt very true. No piece moreso than the rapturous Samsara by Anna-Mari Khr: a wordless vocalise representing the eternal flow of music.
August 7, 2007
Got the Pipes? Perform the National Anthem at a Cavs game!
CLEVELAND, OH - August 7, 2007 - As the 2007-2008 NBA season quickly approaches, new talent and fresh faces are invited to audition to be part of the game night experience at the Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers and Lake Erie Monsters home games at Quicken Loans Arena. Performers are offered a chance to take center stage and sing the national anthem in front of thousands of fans at home games. Interested candidates are invited to audition at The Q on Saturday, September 15th beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Candidates should enter at the Northeast corner of The Q (located next to the team shop off Huron). Candidates will audition in the order they are registered, and auditions will begin as soon as the first person registers. Registration will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Anthem performances are to be in the traditional a cappella style and should be no longer than 90 seconds. An a capella rendition of O’Canada is optional. For more information call 216.420.2000.
All performers will be considered for both Cavaliers and Monsters home games. Candidates will be contacted following the audition with any performance opportunities. Please contact 216-420-2154 with any questions.
August 6, 2007
Group finds its true voice
Pioneer Press (IL):
Skokie resident Steve Singer founded Listen Up! 15 years ago. The group has performed in various configurations over the years, but it's the current all-Jewish lineup that suits him best.
"After the group's first catastrophic gig at a nursing home years ago, we had a few different incarnations," he said. "We hosted a number of guest vocalists over the years -- even my wife, Rebecca. Essentially we begged, borrowed and stole people from the community until we found the right mix." Now they've teamed up with, Malibu Pizza and Pasta, a kosher pizza parlor, performing in the surfy-cool venue live weekly, an unconventional entertainment for the Skokie restaurant's patrons.
"Since I opened the restaurant in February, I've offered entertainment to the left of what's expected," said Ken Hechtman, Buffalo Grove resident and owner of Malibu Pizza and Pasta and adjacent, also kosher, Ken's Diner. "They fill the room with sound and that surprises people."
Versatile Singer is the group's musical director, arranger, vocal percussionist, stand-up comic and, occasionally, tenor or baritone. "I really don't have any formal music training," said Singer, who attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for psychobiology and received his doctorate in pharmacology from Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine. "I started playing the drums in high school and did musical theater in college."
His defining moment was when he first saw the video for Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time." "It was the bug that bit me," he consented.
Singer's fellow Skokie resident Kevin Kirshenbaum is Listen Up's lead tenor, Northbrook's A.Y. Karsh is lead baritone) and West Rogers Park resident Yaakov Weiner sings bass.
Known for its eclectic, energetic mix of Jewish and secular tunes performed sans musical accompaniment, the group sings everywhere from large concerts to intimate dinner parties, bat and bar mitzvahs. The group has a few recordings under its belt, including "Jewphoria," which can be found on the band's Web site.
Currently, the ensemble is in the studio with Skokie's Stuart Rosenberg, a musician and bandleader whose background ranges from Yiddish theater to public radio like WBEZ and WFMT in Chicago. That album to include favorite Jewish tunes like "Lo Alecha" and "Yachad." "But when we perform, you'll hear popular American music like Three Dog Night and The Beatles, too," Singer said.
Back to the real world
As it was my birthday this past week the family and I decided to treat ourselves to a quick summer break so there was no blogging last week. We went back to the high Sierra where we relaxed by swimming, golfing, horseback riding, hiking and general having ourselves a wonderful time. Back to work today and the posts will now continue.