September 29, 2007
Minimum Wage opens in new Off-Broadway show
Forget actors who only play musical instruments, the cast of Off-Broadway's Minimum Wage create their own musical backdrop vocally.
Performances begin Sept. 28 for the new a cappella musical, directed by Guy Stroman and featuring the songs of Sean Altman and the LaGreca Brothers. Musical direction is by Will Bryan, and movement is by Scott Rinc.
The cast for Minimum Wage — who offer "dynamic harmonies, beatboxing and clockwork comic timing" — includes Jeff LaGreca, Charlie LaGreca, Tony Daussat, Elena M. Schloss and Bill Caleo. Previously, the award-winning group has performed on Nickelodeon, the Food Network, the Fox Network and Comedy Central.
Minimum Wage is described as "an a cappella musical in which five hapless staffers of a Big Brother-type fast food chain attempt to initiate new trainees (the audience) into the wonders of Hamburgerology. Working their way from the bottom all the way to the middle, these underachieving fast-food employees spend their days experiencing psychopathic French fry hallucinations and the occasional sci-fi spatula battle. [Song titles include] 'Kooky The Happy Burger Klown' (an upbeat hypochondriac circus tune), 'G-R-I Double-L' (a boy-meets-GRILL pop, serenade) and 'Balls' (a melodic motto about taking life by the…oh you know)."
The open-ended run at Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street (The Green Room) will officially open Oct. 20. Tickets are available by calling (212) 239-6200 or by visiting www.telecharge.com
September 28, 2007
New York Voices releases new CD
The great vocal jazz group New York Voices have just released their latest CD, "A Day Like This", their first in several years. Listen to some of the songs on this radio program about them that aired today on Voice of America radio. The CD is available and on sale at Primarily A Cappella.
September 27, 2007
Barbershop quartet sings on movie soundtrack
The 2006 International Seniors Quartet Champions, Antique Gold, appear in the movie "Good Luck Chuck" starring Jessica Alba which is currently playing in theaters. Filmed on location in Vancouver, Canada, home of the quartet who also have one of their songs on the soundtrack album.
Choir in a box
Imagine typing words into your computer, in any language, and hearing a world class Symphonic Choir sing those words in any key(s) you play "live" on your keyboard controller! Well imagine no more, that's exactly what this revolutionary "award-winning" virtual instrument does. In addition, this is the first 24-bit Choir virtual instrument to include three simultaneous stereo mic setups (close, stage and hall), so users can mix any combination of mic positions to control ambience. The Choirs were recorded in the same concert hall, by the same team as the EastWest/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra and blend perfectly with EWQLSO.
September 24, 2007
Toxic Audio's sound will surprise you
Their name suggests an ear-shattering heavy metal or grunge band. Their performance suggests anything but. Toxic Audio, an a cappella quintet that opens a five-day run Sunday at the Atlantic City Hilton, isn't your garden variety street-corner doo-wop group harmonizing on hits from the 1950s.
Instead, they take the human voice where few groups have gone before, managing to sound like musical instruments and accompanying themselves on familiar songs like the Beatles' "Paperback Writer," Ben E. King's "Stand by Me," Vicki Sue Robinson's "Turn the Beat Around" and the Johnny Mercer standard "Autumn Leaves." Then they wrap many of the songs around scripted and ad-libbed comedy.
If the harmonizing group Manhattan Transfer merged with the off-Broadway musical "Stomp," the result would be closest to Toxic Audio. "We're a theater piece without a story," says Rene Ruiz, who created the group in Orlando, Fla., nearly a decade ago to participate in a fringe festival. It paid off; the group won a 2004 Drama Desk Award for best unique theater experience.
Ruiz says it's difficult for people to describe the show to their friends, but that actually works in Toxic Audio's favor when it comes to attracting an audience. "Word of Mouth" is more than just the title of their latest album; it's turned out to be their best marketing tool. "When people go home after [the show], it's hard for them to describe what we do, so all they can say is that they saw a show where we were singing and making all kinds of noises, but they can't make the noises themselves," Ruiz says. "So the only way for them to get someone to understand the show is to bring them to the show. We see many of the same faces at the end of a run that we did at the beginning, because people are coming back with their friends."
Although there's not a single musical instrument in the show, and no recorded tracks or samples are used, Toxic Audio relies on a variety of complex amplifiers, mixers and processors to bring its sounds from the stage to the audience. The group's non-performing sixth member, technical director John Valines, joined the group six years ago. In command of sound and lighting, he needs to be quick at the switch when the singers move between music and comedy. "We had already been working for about four years when we picked up [Valines]," Ruiz says during a phone call from his home in Orlando. "He was the first person who got what we did, probably because his background is theater and comedy."
That artistic diversity is typical. Some members have strong theater backgrounds, while others lean more to the musical side. "That's why the collaboration works so well," says Ruiz, who was directing shows in Orlando when he created Toxic Audio. "When one of us comes up with an idea, we bring it to the table, and then we all start working on it."
Ruiz, who often uses two microphones to create the bass and beat-box sounds in the show, admits the name might scare away some people. "I picked the name because we needed to be called something when we began working the fringe festivals," he explains. "But we're not heavy metal or scary or anything like that. We're a show for all ages."
Toxic Audio performs at the Atlantic City Hilton at 7 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Monday and 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Tickets are $25, available through Ticketmaster.
Attention Texas groups and choirs
Want to win $10,000 of musical equipment? ThinkStreet, an Austin advertising agency, is jumping on the consumer-generated bandwagon. The agency announced Monday a jingle contest for the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Put Texas in Your Corner” campaign for vehicle registration.
They are looking for anything — hip-hop, Spanish, country, rock ‘n’ roll, or a cappella — that could remind someone to get their vehicle registered. Applications are due by December 1. Winners will be chosen in four genres and could win a rare Gibson guitar. Also, Gibson is will give away $10,000 worth of music equipment to a high-school that submits a winning campaign jingle for the campaign. “Put Texas in Your Corner” was launched last year. ThinkStreet said it has decreased the rate of drivers not applying for vehicle registration by 3 percent, or $29 million in additional revenue.
Seems to me that that's some relatively easy pickings for a skilled high school a cappella ensemble..
September 23, 2007
Choir changes lyrics to a great patriotic song
Although I have somewhat strong political beliefs I have in the past, and will continue to keep this blog apolitical but every once in a while I come across something that I feel compelled to bring to the readers’ attention. A case in point is the Church of God Choir of Springfield, Ohio a cappella performance at the “Value Voter” convention this past week. They opened the convention of far-right religious conservatives with a rendition of “God Bless America” but changed the lyrics so instead of a song about "the land that I love," and "home sweet home," this version condemns the country, saying we've all turned against God, and that He won't bless us. It was a big hit among the conservative Republicans in the room. As a big believer in the separation of Church and State I find it appalling that such a great and patriotic song (written by Irving Berlin) is twisted to imply that America has turned its back to God because the majority does not agree with their political agenda. Imagine the outrage from right wing pundits if a liberal group had changed the lyrics to suit their political agenda. Read the changed lyrics here.
September 22, 2007
"Clash of the Choirs" - New NBC reality show.
NBC is putting a new twist on the reality singing-competition genre with "Clash of the Choirs," in which five celebrity singers go back to their hometowns to assemble an amateur choir of everyday people.
NBC has ordered a holiday-themed four-episode installment of "Choirs" to air in the week leading up to Christmas. The show could be picked up for additional cycles.
The show will follow the choirs as they compete in live performance shows in music genres ranging from pop hits to holiday classics. Groups will be eliminated by viewers, who will vote via phone, text message or at NBC.com until a winner is selected. It hasn't been decided yet if there will be a judging panel critiquing the performances.
In the holiday spirit, the winning choir, along with the celebrity who selected them, will pick a prize that will help their hometown and give back to their community -- anything from renovating a school gym to creating a neighborhood park.
"Choirs" will kick off with a two-hour premiere episode at 9 p.m. December 17, followed by a one-hour at 9 p.m. December 18 , a two-hour show at 9 p.m. December 19 and a one-hour finale at 8 p.m. December 20. Airing the show on four consecutive nights follows the launch pattern of other NBC reality series, including the hit game show "Deal or No Deal."
"Clash of the Choirs" is based on a Scandinavian format. It will be produced for ABC by "Dancing With the Stars" producer BBC Worldwide Prods.
Paul Telegdy, exec vp content and production at BBC Worldwide Americas, said he initially got the same bewildered reaction to his pitch for "Choirs" as the one he got for "Dancing," which was turned down by ABC three times before the network committed to it.
"But I think that a primetime show about choirs will work in primetime for the same reason a show about ballroom dancing does: We think it will be compelling and bold," said Telegdy.
September 21, 2007
A cappella groups sounding off at fest
Pioneer Press (IL):
The name Vocal Chaos may evoke cacophony, but the 11-year-old Chicago-area group sings in perfect harmony -- without benefit of music. The guys will host three other like-minded groups at the first annual Midwest AcappellaFest, Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts. In addition to Vocal Chaos, the festival will feature elmoTHUMM, Home Free and Almost Recess. Scott Leonard, of the famed Rockapella group will be the special guest performer.
Jeff Swearingen of Schaumburg, a technology consultant who has been singing contemporary music since high school, has been a member of Vocal Chaos for six years. As the hosting group, Vocal Chaos will welcome everybody and serve as the emcee."Whenever we're onstage we'll be singing," Swearingen said. "We'll probably open with 20 minutes or so of music, and then hand it off to the other groups. As we introduce the other groups, we'll sing our songs.
"Vocal Chaos primarily does a cappella arrangements of well known songs," Swearingen said, jokingly adding, "Sometimes they're not well known." Selections will include "R.O.C.K. In the USA" originally sung by John Mellencamp, Counting Crows' "Accidentally in Love" (featured in "Shrek"), Toto's "Africa" and the old standard "The Nearness of You." Another likely number will be the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back."
Algonquin resident Tim Gallagher auditioned for Vocal Chaos the same day that Swearingen did. Another "techie," Gallagher works as a Web site designer and developer. "Geeks is one of the key words we use to describe most of the guys in our group," he revealed.
Gallagher is a long-time fan of a cappella singing. "I started listening when I was in high school to the Nylons," he said. "My brother introduced them to me because he knew I enjoyed vocal performance. I'd been singing all through school." Gallagher performed in Northern Lights and Concert Choir at Northern Illinois University, and with Chamber Singers and Concert Choir at the College of DuPage. Swearingen performed with the DePaul Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Navu Bans, also at DePaul University. Both men sang with groups in high school.
Vocal Chaos, whose members all hold demanding day jobs, practices every Thursday night without fail, often adding a rehearsal prior to a performance. They have sung at a number of festivals, and they also perform at weddings, parties, schools and corporate events.
Swearingen said he enjoys a cappella singing because it's "raw music." He quickly added, "I'm not bashing instrumental music because I myself play piano and I've played guitar and stringed instruments in the past. But you fully appreciate music for what it is -- the notes, the harmony, the camaraderie amongst the people who are singing it and having all the individual parts come together into one song."
It's an especially creative art form, Swearingen asserted. "You can mimic instruments, you can mimic drums. You can do so much with the human voice." A cappella singing has "become more and more popular over the years," Gallagher noted. "Being part of it is so cool. For me, it's a hobby and a passion."
Midwest Acappellafest - 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23 at Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court. $15 at the door; $13 in advance; $10 students. or More info.
September 20, 2007
Amateur Singers, Singing Teachers Less Likely to Identify Serious Vocal Problems
American Idol contestants, beware – singers who don’t get paid to perform are also less likely to recognize subtle changes in their voices that can indicate serious vocal problems. The results are reported in a new study that attempts to identify specific factors that influence how singers perceive the impact of voice problems on their lives.
The findings, presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation’s Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO in Washington, DC, indicate that how a patient experiences a voice problem is a subjective experience. Researchers administered the Singing Voice Handicap Index (SVHI) to 171 singers whose singing style ran the spectrum of musical tastes, including country, rock, pop, and gospel.
The SVHI is a tool for assessing voice handicaps that result from singing voice problems, and is used for identifying predictors of patient-perceived singing voice handicaps. The type of diagnosis and length of time patients had voice symptoms also influenced the level of the singing voice handicap.
The authors discovered that singers older than 50 scored higher (worse) on the SVHI than their younger peers; amateurs scored worse than professionals, while singing teachers also scored worse than professionals. Finally, those identifying themselves as gospel singers had worse scores than non-gospel singers.
The authors believe knowing the factors associated with greater voice handicap allows specific singing groups to be targeted for intervention (through vocal health and prevention programs). Furthermore, a comparison of different treatments (both surgical and non-surgical) is needed to maximize the management and outcomes of singing patients.
September 19, 2007
UK a cappella newsgroup launches this week
Like to sing a cappella? Looking for a new singer for your group or chorus?
We have just launched a newsgroup for a cappella fans and performers in the United Kingdom. Based on the successful regional a cappella newsgroups in the US these free Yahoo Music Groups have proven themselves to be a valuable resources for fans and performers alike.
Many groups have found new members and audition notices are common. Performing groups should be sure to post announcements about upcoming gigs and help keep a cappella lovers informed but please keep your posts specific to the region. Groups can also add a link to their web site in the links section of the newsgroup.
You can subscribe to the newsgroups and receive individual e-mails, daily digests or can read messages by RSS feed. You do not need to subscribe to read the groups, only to make posts. These newsgroups are moderated and no spam is allowed.
Keep up with the harmony singing news and be in touch with what’s happening in the a cappella scene in your area.
Please visit the UK group here.
September 17, 2007
Spirit of Wings Over Jordan choir to be celebrated
Cleveland Plain Dealer (IN):
America heard a "Cleveland sound" long before Eric Carmen rocked with the Raspberries, even before Frankie Yankovic struck polka gold. The distinct voices emerged in the days before television, when families sat around the radio together on Sundays, and CBS aired the "Negro Hour" from the Cleveland studios of WGAR.
For nearly a decade, America listened to the Wings Over Jordan Choir, the first black singing group with a national radio audience. A Baptist minister launched the choir in 1935 from Cleveland's Gethsemane Baptist Church, hoping to spread Christianity through Negro spirituals. The Rev. Glenn Settle spread a sound still considered a marvel.
The choir sang a cappella, arranging traditional spirituals and original works without instrumentation. "It was a very beautiful sound, in the era of the Great Depression, and then the war. People wanted something they could feel good about, and the Wings came on every Sunday," said Regennia Williams, a historian at Cleveland State University.
Before CBS ended the national broadcasts in 1947, the choir performed before mixed-race audiences in more than 40 states, as well as in Canada, Mexico and Europe. A pair of upcoming events will celebrate the choir and recall a sound that lent Cleveland renown as a center of sacred music.
The Ecumenical Disciples Choir, which honors the artistry of Wings and sings several of its original works, will present its ninth anniversary concert at 5 p.m. next Sunday at the Church of the Savior United Methodist Church, 2537 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights. For more information, call choir director Gerald Harris at 440-232-9015.
Review - Chanticleer opens 30th season in new S.F. venue
San Jose Mercury News (CA):
Thirty years ago, a young tenor named Louis Botto decided that San Francisco's classical music scene was in need of a small professional men's chorus. He founded the 12-man ensemble Chanticleer and began programming concerts. The group quickly earned a sterling reputation as one of the Bay Area's most reliable musical treasures.
Flash forward to 2007. Chanticleer's still going strong, although it's weathered some changes since then. Botto died in 1997; countertenor Joseph Jennings, who joined the group in 1983, succeeded him as music director. Repertoire has greatly expanded beyond the Renaissance sacred music that made up the early concerts, and Chanticleer is now a serious advocate -- through commissions, recordings and performances -- of new music.
These days, the group also spends more time touring the world than it does performing in the Bay Area. But it always starts its season with a home stand, and Saturday night at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Chanticleer launched its 30th anniversary in style. Despite the addition of several new members to the lineup, the values that have earned the group international acclaim -- pure-toned singing, precise dynamics and a keen sense of ensemble -- were, as always, very much in evidence.
The program, titled "My Spirit Sang All Day," offered a winning assortment of old and new music, including two pieces recently commissioned for Chanticleer. The larger of these was "Jalapeno Blues" by Gabriela Lena Frank.
Commissioned by the National Public Radio show "St. Paul Sunday" and written for Chanticleer, the four-movement song cycle incorporates texts by the late Chicano poet Trinidad Sanchez, Jr., a Jesuit priest who devoted his life to prison ministry and human rights issues.
The poems are serious, lyrical, whimsical and filled with colorful imagery, and Frank's lean, sinewy settings -- jazzy here, elegiac there -- showed them to best advantage. For their West Coast premiere, Chanticleer delivered each one with tremendous vivacity.
The group also sang the world premiere of Janika Vandervelde's "All Things Resounding," a short setting of excerpts from Goethe's "Faust." The work, which was commissioned by Susanna Schroll through the Jerome Foundation in memory of her mother, Maud Hill Schroll, elicited a luminous performance.
There was more fine singing in 20th-century works including Poulenc's radiant "Four Little Prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi," the quietly affecting "I Have Had Singing" by Steven Sametz and Samuel Barber's voluptuous "Heaven-Haven" (featuring text by Gerald Manley Hopkins.) The group blended well in Mahler's "Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen" (I have become lost to the world), although, for this listener, the choral arrangement lessened the impact of the song's sense of lonely resignation.
The program started with a selection of songs and motets by Palestrina, Josquin des Pres and William Byrd. The encore included folk songs and several of Jennings' arrangements of gospel standards. Here, as in the earlier works, Chanticleer seemed at ease, always able to expand the sonic possibilities for a chorus of 12.
The Conservatory's 400-seat Concert Hall, which opened last year in the school's new Oak Street digs, proved an ideal acoustical fit for the group; the sound was clear and crisp throughout, and sight lines are excellent. "My Spirit Sang All Day" repeats through Sept. 20 at various locations, but the Conservatory performances on Sept. 22-23 are highly recommended.
September 14, 2007
Swingle Singers interview on the BBC
The wonderful BBC radio programme The Choir featured a lengthy interview with the Swingle Singers this Sunday. As founder Ward Swingle marks his 80th birthday, Aled Jones talks to the Swingle Singers about Bach, Berio and beatboxing, and more than four decades at the top of their profession. See songlist and hear interview here.
September 13, 2007
A cappella groups in Oreo Jingles finals
Idaho Press-Tribune (ID):
The votes have been tallied and the results are in – an a cappella group from Rexburg will travel to New York City for a chance at the grand prize of Nabisco’s Oreo & Milk Jingle Contest.
The Kreamy Krunchies are a group of four current and former students of Brigham Young University-Idaho who got together to enter the contest last year. The group advanced last month to the top 10 of the competition and were recently voted by the public as one of the top five finalists for the national competition. The video the group recorded of their jingle has received more than 3,800 views on youtube.com
Nabisco’s Oreo and Milk Jingle Contest gives fans of the sandwich cookie the opportunity to create the next commercial jingle for the Nabisco brand and win cash prizes. The grand prize is $10,000.
“It’s amazing this has happened to us,” said Shaun Heier, who provides the bass and percussion for the ensemble. “It feels great. It’s amazing.”
The group created the jingle after group member Ryan Carroll’s mother learned about the competition and encouraged him to enter. Sitting at work between phone calls, Carroll and group member Hyrum Denney would work out melodies to pass the time, but it was on his commute home that the melody for the current jingle was formed.
Members had previously performed in a cappella groups, but for the first time, the four current members came together as one to perform for the competition. The group will head to New York and perform in front of an audience and judges for their opportunity at the grand prize. Each of the five finalists will be awarded a $1,000 prize, a chance to meet TV personality Carson Daly and be on a billboard in Times Square.
“It’s kind of scary that we will be performing, probably in front of a lot of people and be on the billboard in Times Square,” Denney said. “It’s intimidating, but it should be good.” The group will leave Sept. 25 for New York and will perform its jingle Sept. 27.
There appears to be several a cappella singers in the final 10. Watch the videos here.
September 12, 2007
Check out this contestant on the French Idol (Nouvelle Star) TV show.
September 11, 2007
Review - New York Voices
The Times (UK):
Thanks to Birdland and ten million juke-box renditions of Chanson d’amour, everyone has heard of Manhattan Transfer. New York Voices are much less well-known, despite having been around for a couple of decades. The jazz world is hardly awash with vocal groups so Darmon Meader and his three colleagues ought to enjoy a higher profile.
True, their material can be anodyne at times. The new album, A Day Like This, opens with an audacious setting of the standard Darn that Dream, but then loses momentum amid a bland version of In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning and a sprinkling of workaday originals. Happily, things pick up before the end, with a thumping, ultra-tight big band treatment of No Moon at All and a sprightly detour into early-Seventies Stevie Wonder on the Latin pulse of Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing.
There was no big band on display at Frith Street (Ronnie Scott's), but the group had augmented their backing trio with a compact horn section from the BBC Big Band. With Meader doubling up on tenor sax occasionally, the singers had a weighty palette at their disposal.
They put it to good use on Noticing the Moment, an ingenious scat reworking of the John Coltrane tune Moment’s Notice. The new lyrics by Kim Nazarian and Peter Eldridge made a comfortable fit with the vintage melody, while the solo passages soared with authentic hard bop energy.
There was less to get excited about in the smoother beat of another original number, As We Live and Breathe. But elsewhere the subtle contrast between the voices of Nazarian and Lauren Kinhan repaid attention. And the quartet deserve praise for attempting so many unexpected changes of direction. One of the most stimulating came on a cover of a rarely heard Antonio Carlos Jobim chamber piece, Meu Amigo Radames, a composition which travels a long way from conventional bossa nova. Later, at the end of the set, the singers plunged headlong into the bebop squalls of Jackie – a favourite with that groundbreaking vocal trio, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross – and lived to tell the tale.
September 10, 2007
Ball In The House makes Final Round
Congratulations to Boston's vocal band Ball in the House as they move on to the next round of CBS's “Living Room ... LIVE! -- Battle of the Bands”. They were the latest "viewers' choice” with 52% of the votes in the the contest that has been ongoing for the past few months on "The Early Show". Now in the Finalists' Round the BITH video will air this week on the show and can also be seen online where one can also vote. The ballot is open until noon on Wednesday. Watch the video and vote here
Australia's barbershop convention
The Australian Association of Mens Barbershop Singers is holding their 9th National Convention at Darling Harbour, Sydney, and runs from September 27 -30th. Musical Director Vicki Dwyer and several other performers and organizers were interviewed today on the Australian Broadcasting Company. Listen here.
September 8, 2007
Senator sings with choral group
Westborough News (MA):
State Sen. Pam Resor recently took a break from delivering speeches, arguing on the House floor and casting votes to sing songs with a choral group in South Africa this summer. The Acton resident is a member of the 200-member Yale Alumni Chorus comprised of singers from all over the United States. Every few years, the group travels to another country and shares its music.
This June Resor, D-Acton, and her group flew to South Africa and sang in different cities and towns in the three-week-long “Power of Song” tour. “Music is such a part of the South African heritage,” said Resor, “and their choral groups of course sing amazing compositions.”
Resor’s husband, Griff, is an alumnus of Yale, which is how the two became involved with the choral group. Resor has been singing in choirs and choral groups her entire life. She sang while attending Smith College and is a member of the church choir in Acton with her husband.
While in South Africa, Resor and her group sang at fundraisers and concerts in Grahamstown, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The groups also sang at several townships and health centers that treat AIDS patients. “It is a beautiful country,” said Resor, “and of course the beauty of the surroundings and the extreme poverty in the townships is quite a contrast.”
Although the trip forced her to miss 17 Beacon Hill roll calls, she said normally her attendance is stellar and she anticipates it won’t drop for a while. During the trip, she said she went on a safari, describing it as “exciting and interesting.”
Resor has been a member of the choral group for seven years. Previous tours have taken her to South America and Russia. To prepare for the concerts and fundraisers, Resor said the choral group practices for about a year at home and then gathers in New York City for full rehearsals.
“It takes a long time to organize all the opportunities,” said Resor. “It’s always a big challenge and a lot of organization.”
The Yale Alumni Chorus sang a variety of tunes during the trip to South Africa, Resor said. She described most of the music as “spiritual.” She added that the group even learned some of the traditional South African songs. “This time we sang a number of spirituals and learned a few African songs,” said Resor. “We got quite good at one piece we sang, the audiences always appreciated it.”
September 7, 2007
Singing is great for the sex life, says director
Wigan Observer (UK):
Join one of Wigan's top choirs today and it could improve your love life! That was the message from Standish Parish Church's musical director who has taken recruitment in a slightly saucier new direction. St Wilfrid's choir is beginning the new term and is looking for additional adult and teenage singers.
The 800-year-old church has a long tradition of music-making going back centuries. Prospective choristers should have a reasonable voice and be willing to commit themselves to a Thursday evening choir practice and at least one of two Sunday services. But as an extra incentive Neil Shepherd is also referring hopefuls to scientific research which suggests that choral singing can not only improve your health but also your love life.
He quotes the findings from the University of Ontario: "Singing increases blood levels of the 'love hormone' oxytocin, which is released during intimacy. "Singing also increases immunity, reduces depression, improves cognitive function and mood, and increases feelings of wellbeing.
"It can also stop the voice from aging. Work at Sydney University shows singing helps people cope with chronic pain better, while a University of Frankfurt team found choral singing lowers stress levels and boosts the immune system.
"A survey of singers by Canterbury Christ Church University shows they had improved lung function and breathing, and a better mood." Singing certainly helped to make former choirgirl Charlotte Church one of Britain's sexiest stars.
And Neil said: "I would like to hear from singers of all ages, from teenagers upwards. Members of the choir come from all walks of life and there is a certain room for flexibility – we don't turn away singers who may not be able to make a 100% commitment due to professional or family commitments."
"The choir is a warm, friendly bunch of people who enjoy singing some wonderful music in a wonderful building – there's no need to be a budding Domingo or Te Kanawa, but it does help if you have basic music reading skills, have a good sense of humour and are willing to work as part of a team."
Going by his photo I'm sure My Shepherd has lots of experience in this regard..
Andy Griffith Show barbershop episode
This weekend the cable channel TVLand will be showing the episode of the Andy Griffith Show (1966) when "Howard becomes unavailable to sing in a Barbershop Quartet contest, Andy reluctantly drafts a prisoner to fill in." More here.
September 6, 2007
Pavarotti's choral beginings
Opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti who has died from cancer at the age of 71 first launched his singing career at Wales' Llangollen eisteddfod.
It was while performing at the international festival in 1955 with a male choir that the Italian tenor first tasted musical stardom. The tenor returned to sing at Llangollen 40 years later in 1995.
Reacting to news of his death on Thursday, Llangollen eisteddfod chief executive Gwyn L Williams said Pavarotti's experience in Llangollen half a century ago had actually inspired him to turn professional.
Pavarotti was training as a school teacher when he travelled to Llangollen aged 19 as a member of the Choral Rossini, a male chorus from Modena in northern Italy.
The choir also included his father, an opera lover and gifted amateur tenor, and when they won first prize, it fired Pavarotti's musical ambitions.
"He came to Llangollen for the first time as a young lad in 1955 with his father Fernando with a choir from Modena," said Mr Williams.
"The choir had the first prize and Luciano Pavarotti was always referring back to the experience as the most important experience in his life and what inspired him to turn professional."
"He once said if he could win the first prize with a small choir from Modena then he could do anything. And that what was his attitude to singing all his life."
September 5, 2007
Voices of Russian History, From Churches and Battlefields
New York Times (NY):
Despite the best efforts of oppressive regimes, art endures. The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir, which made its American debut at Avery Fisher Hall on Tuesday night, offers potent proof. The monastery, founded in 1395 to commemorate a victory over Tartar invaders, was taken over in 1917 by the Bolsheviks, who exiled the monks. In 1994 the monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, which established the choir to revive long-suppressed sacred music traditions.
The Sretensky Choir, led by its artistic director, Nikon Zhila, is touring to commemorate a more recent milestone: the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church , which took place on May 17. Among the large, lively audience were many Russian speakers, including a sizable contingent of men in clerical robes.
The 41 singers, however young they appeared, had clearly mastered the dense, nasal tone and luminous blend characteristic of Russian choral tradition. “God Is With Us,” ascribed to a Father Vasiliev, established a bold, assertive tone in lines of surprising rhythmic bounce. “Stichera on the Dormition of Theotokos,” an anonymous chant, demonstrated the severe 17th-century Znamenny style that predated an incursion of Western musical values.
An enchanted hush fell over the hall during “Now the Powers of Heaven,” an achingly lovely hymn that swelled to a brief but powerful climax. Piotr Dinev’s “It Is Truly Meet” returned to the bright, vigorous sounds that opened the program. More of this rare, beautiful music would have been welcome, but the rest of the concert was devoted to another tradition the Sretensky Choir seeks to preserve: Russian, Cossack and Ukrainian songs and romances.
Love — whether for nature, the homeland or a girl — and the price of military duty ran high throughout these 19 selections. Most featured simple, memorable melodies in a cappella arrangements that were sophisticated but not unduly complex. Sounds familiar from operetta and early cinema were seldom far away in the love songs; tales of battle were punctuated with lusty whoops and whistles.
Several of the choir’s members proved memorable soloists. Dmitry Beloselskiy, a robust bass, sang so powerfully in “The Steppe Is All Around” that anticipatory applause greeted his three later appearances. The tenor Anton Sergeev sang “Moscow Nights” with the dreamy ardor of a pop idol right down to the physical affectations, and elicited the appropriate response.
The choir’s encores included an earnest “Go Down, Moses” sung in idiosyncratic English and “Oi, Dub Duba,” a Ukrainian folk song performed at an audience member’s request. A dizzying rendition of “Katyusha,” a popular, yes, Soviet-era song, ended the concert on a high note. But the crowd appeared to be ready to listen all night long, and the choir seemed eager to comply.
Randy Jackson produces a cappella tracks.
The upcoming new release by Boyz 11 Men features two a cappella tracks - Stevie Wonder’s "Ribbon In The Sky" and their own "End Of The Road". The four-time Grammy Award-winning threesome will release their Decca debut “Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA” on November 13th, helmed by mega-producer/music veteran Randy Jackson.
September 4, 2007
One last show for Hawaii's Ewa Plantation Singers
The Ewa Plantation Singers will perform for the last time this month. The troupe - consisting mostly of second- and third-generation Filipino-American offspring of Ewa Plantation workers - have used song to keep alive the memories of their parents and their childhood.
Known for vibrant Filipino costumes and snappy dance steps, the singers have performed everywhere from funerals to holiday parades and the governor's mansion. But the elderly members are finding it more difficult to get together for practice. The group's 27 members have dwindled to 12.
"A lot of them are ailing, their feet hurt, or they cannot spin anymore," said Myrna-Lyn Abang, president of the singing group. At 52, Abang is its youngest member. Everyone else is in their 60s, 70s and 80s. "And we've lost a few recently. So it's about time," she said.
They will perform for the last time Sept. 22 at the 26th Annual Ewa Community Church Mission Fair. The Ewa Plantation Singers started off in 1981 as a loose-knit gang of performers. They would meet through the 1980s to sing at the funerals of Ewa Villages residents and former residents and other community gatherings. Pagdilao, both of whom have since died, formalized the group in 1990 to sing at the centennial celebration of the Ewa Sugar Plantation.
"Their popularity grew from that point forward," said Abang, Pagdilao's cousin who joined the group in the mid-1990s. They traveled from Waianae to Hawaii Kai, appealing to a broad spectrum of Hawaii residents longing to hear both Filipino classics and American standards, typically songs their parents played on their Victorphones or danced to at the plantation social hall.
Among the most popular numbers: "Smile," written by Charlie Chaplin and made famous by Nat "King" Cole, and the Angels' and Roger Williams' "Till," as well as Filipino favorites such as "Ang Papit," an upbeat Tagalog song about a sparrow.
"We would sing all the dialects of the Filipino language from Visayan, Tagalog, Ilocano, even Pagasinan," Abang said. "I mean, stuff we could hardly pronounce let alone know the meaning of, but the melody was there and our group was known to pick up the harmony fairly well and we presented it in a way that people loved to hear."
Lucy Bonifacio, 68, who was raised in Fernandez Village and now lives in Kapolei, recalled the joy on her mother's face when she heard the group singing songs of her youth. "It brought back a lot of memories," Bonifacio said. "My mom liked to sing, too, at parties like that. Those songs really touched your heart. You don't have that now. I miss that old, laid-back plantation life." Operations at the Ewa sugar mill ceased in the early 1990s, marking the end of more than a century of plantation life.
Fernandez Village, Tenney Village, Renton Village and Varona Village all still remain in some form or another. Some homes, like many of the ones in Fernandez, have been rebuilt from scratch, while others like many of those in Renton and Tenney, have largely been renovated and are now occupied by people with no ties to the plantation.
J.P. Orias, a Filipino community leader, said it was "dreadful" that the group was disbanding. "Most of them are local," Orias said. "Their parents came here as sakadas (Filipino plantation workers)." The group will end its last set with a long list of standards including "Till," "Apple Blossom Time," and an Ilocano version of the Tagalog love song "Dahil Sa Iyo."
A style of group harmony singing fades away. I should check with David Fanshawe and see if he ever got any field recordings of this style of singing.
September 1, 2007
Barbershop Society's new offices impress
It might not be the beloved Harmony Hall but the new Barbershop Society headquarters are pretty darn impressive as the workers put the finishing touches on the building. One small hitch is the contractors inadvertently welded the hinges on the new gate backwards so the Society's logo is currently reversed. It will of course be fixed.