November 29, 2007
Christmas with The Nylons
The Nylon’s Claude Morrison spoke about the importance the holiday season holds to many people as the group prepares for their annual ‘Christmas with The Nylons" series of concerts.
"Christmas represents a singular opportunity, naturally, to perform the seasonal material of which we have a great deal to choose from," he said. "And, because it's such a narrow window of opportunity, one never gets tired of performing it. Christmas is nothing without the music that goes with it. It's everywhere (and) it's the sound of the season. It brings people together, which adds to its timeless appeal. Personal milestones are observed through the years at Christmas and the music is an integral part of that."
With the band approaching its 30-year anniversary, Morrison was reflective about the milestone.
"Having started as a group in 1979, we are (quickly) approaching our 30th year as a performing entity," he said. "Not many current bands can make that statement. It has all and everything to do with the staying power of the human voice, and of vocal harmonies ... I think we've surprised the nay-sayers (and ourselves) with our longevity. And, yet there are worlds left to conquer. So, stay tuned."
Get your choir on National TV
I was contacted today by NBC to inform me of a special promotion they are doing for the upcoming "Clash of the Choirs" four-night special TV show that begins Dec 17th.
They are seeking choirs who would like the chance to be featured in a special NBC "Holiday Moment" promo that airs each night of the broadcast. They are asking interested choirs to perform one of several selected songs and to upload the taped performance (no longer than 5 minutes) onto their web site. Deadline for submissions is December 10th.
Sounds like a great opportunity to get some national exposure for your choir.
More info here
November 28, 2007
A new look for Singers.com (finally!)
It took us awhile but we finally got ourselves a spiffy looking new web site at Primarily A Cappella. It has always been so time consuming for us in keeping up with all the necessary work to continue growing the company and we were less concerned about the cosmetic aspects of the site. But finally we were able to focus on the look and we now like it very much and hope you will also. The featured items will change regularly as will many of the images.
We have improved many features of the site including an expanded search function that allows you to search by arranger and composer as well as song title and artist. Always a work in progress we are constantly working on the website and will continue to make improvements. Check us out at Singers.com
November 26, 2007
'I've always wanted a choir like this'
San Diego Union (CA):
Growing up on a farm in Iowa, Gary McKercher helped his family cultivate such crops as soybeans, corn and oats. A native of Manly, Iowa, Gary McKercher is looking forward to enjoying San Diego's climate and cultural activities. Now, as the San Diego Master Chorale's new music director, he's busy sowing musical seeds at the city's most prominent chorus, currently in its 48th year.
“I've always wanted a choir like this,” says the 58-year-old successor to Martin Wright, who became artistic director of the Netherlands Opera Chorus. “To do it right, you have to devote an enormous amount of time to it.”
McKercher leads the weekly rehearsals (“We pack a lot into 21/2 hours”), conducts the chorale's two self-produced concerts and coaches the chorus for its other ventures. Working with the chorale's board and general manager, Robert Holst, he participates in fundraising for the organization, which has an annual budget of approximately $150,000.
“The singers are very enthusiastic – a lot of fun to work with,” he says of the chorale's approximately 120 members. “This is a group with a real passion for what they do.”
While McKercher is a paid staff member, the singers are volunteers. Ranging in age from the early 20s to nearly 80, they include teachers, lawyers, doctors, accountants and, yes, a rocket scientist. “I have standards which I'm pretty keen on enforcing,” explains the veteran choral conductor who's expanding the ensemble's repertoire and honing its style. “But people have to have a sense that they're being treated respectfully. They may come to rehearsals after a lot of daytime pressures. Some of them drive 30 minutes just to get to rehearsal.”
McKercher discovered music during his childhood near the small town of Manly, Iowa (population 1,493). His mother was a soprano who once dreamed of a Broadway career (“I still have stacks of show tunes that she collected and sang,” he says).
Yet young Gary wasn't one of those children who belt out hit songs they memorized from recordings. “We didn't have a record player until I was a senior in high school,” he recalls. “That's when I went out and bought a stereo.” By then he was a leading member of his high school chorus, a tenor who had also taken trumpet lessons and sung in church. His teacher encouraged him to pursue music and McKercher did just that, earning a bachelor's degree in vocal music education at Iowa's Luther College.
During a year at England's Cambridge University, he learned about the country's rich choral tradition – “It was inspiring,” he recalls. He came back to the States and earned his master's degree in choral conducting at California State University Fullerton and his doctorate in choral music at the University of Southern California. In 1998, after teaching and conducting at various colleges and universities, he became the founder/music director of the Wisconsin Chamber Choir, a primarily a cappella ensemble based in Madison, Wisc.
Rewarding as the work was, he grew weary of the Midwest's harsh winters. That made a job in San Diego all the more enticing. Beating out 23 other candidates for the post of music director, he began work at the Master Chorale in August with a three-year contract that's renewable for two-year periods. “San Diego has a warm climate and wonderful cultural activity,” says McKercher, who even wants to try surfing. “It's a good move for me.” And, most likely, for the Master Chorale.
Become Toxic! Great audition opportunity for singers
Toxic Audio, Inc. seeking male and female vocalists for future companies of their award-winning a cappella concept shows. Versatile performers with wide ranges, comedic acting experience, and strong solo skills required. Prepare a short selection in any style to be sung a cappella. Singers are encouraged to show special skills, such as ability to mimic instruments, create sound effects, or beat box. Experience in a cappella, tight harmony singing or improv a plus. Attendance strongly encouraged but video submissions can be sent to Toxic Audio, Inc. 4630 S. Kirkman Road #773 Orlando, , FL 32811
Orlando Dec. 3 and 4 10am -7pm
Sak Comedy Lab
380 W. Amelia St
New York City Dec. 5 12pm -6pm
Chelsea Studios - Theatreworks/USA
151 West 26th Street
New York NY 10001 (Manhattan)
Las Vegas Dec. 11 12pm -5pm and Dec. 12 9am -5pm
Miracle Mile Shopping Plaza
Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino
3663 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas
November 23, 2007
'Plaid Tidings' adds holiday harmony to fun musical
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA):
Looking for a way to ease yourself into the holiday spirit? A Christmas show that's seasonal without being syrupy? Something clean and wholesome enough for the whole family that won't put the grown-ups to sleep? Fear not. I bring you "Plaid Tidings" of great fun.
If you saw "Forever Plaid," you won't be disappointed in the holiday-themed sequel. If, like me, you didn't see "Forever Plaid" because you thought it would be painfully corny and Lawrence Welk-y (and I should know better, because I used to sing in a cappella groups), don't let the doo-wop dorkiness factor put you off.
Yeah, the four characters have names you might consider too cutesy for your pet, and they're earnest and clean-cut to the point of virginal fluster. But holy cannoli, can these guys sing.
The tone for the evening (two hours, with intermission) is set by one of the most beguiling turn-off-your-phones-and-be-quiet announcements ever.
The story of the Plaids, as you may recall, is that four guys who met in their high school audiovisual club and practiced their harmonies in the basement of a plumbing supply store were, in the early '60s, on the verge of maybe hitting it big with their first major show. But on the way, their bus crashed and they were all killed instantly. Fortunately, if there's one thing more powerful than death itself, it's a snappy major seventh chord -- and back they come to do the show they were deprived of in life.
That was "Forever Plaid." In "Plaid Tidings," they are sent to Earth again, and even they aren't sure why. Their efforts to puzzle out why they're back on a stage making "the biggest comeback since capri pants" provide the hint of a plotline and plenty of comedy fodder.
The original cast of "Forever Plaid" is back at the CLO Cabaret for the holiday show (and I do mean "holiday" -- references to Hanukkah, Ramadan and Kwanzaa may be culturally anachronistic, but so's the Christmas rapping), and their harmonies, choreography and timing couldn't be tighter. This isn't some static serenade in a barbershop. There's a lot going on, from the dance of the long-stemmed plumber's helpers in "Sha-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)" to the manic, hilariously comprehensive tribute to everything on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in 3 minutes and 11 seconds.
You don't need to be able to see their names appliqued inside their trademark jackets to come to know and appreciate each member of the group. Joseph Domencic as Smudge, the bespectacled bass, worries and frets but croons silkily ("What a voice!" whispered a woman at the next table) even as he marches myopically offstage without his glasses. Marcus Stevens as Sparky is a ball of energy and ideas, keeping things moving along. J.D. Daw is handsome Jinx, overcoming his nervous nosebleed to deliver a medley of "Besame Mucho" and "Kiss of Fire" that flirts with sexiness until it's undermined by comic backup vocals and overzealous microphone flourishes. And Adam Halpin's Frankie, deadpanning a psychological analysis of the story of Rudolph while wearing a festive rack of antlers, is the first person I've ever heard use the word "Orwellian" to describe Santa Claus.
The only snags in the whole evening are so minor as to be hardly worth mentioning: Smudge's monologue about dysfunctional family Christmases comes too early to be that long and that realistic, and falling snow should, ideally, be silent.
But here's a show that you, the (mature) kids and Grandma will all enjoy, though probably in different ways, without needing to brush your teeth afterward. Never have dead men worn plaid more brilliantly.
November 20, 2007
Go Fish YouTube clip viewed more than 1.5 Million times
Press Release: A YouTube.com fan-produced video of Go Fish’s “Christmas With A Capital ‘C’” has now been viewed more than 1.4 million times to date, with over 1 million hits in the past week alone. The song, which also features comedian Brad Stine, is strongly resonating with Americans opposed to recent attempts to eliminate public usage of the word Christmas.
"What makes this song stand out in the annual ‘Merry Christmas’ vs. ‘Happy Holidays’ debate is the fact that we get to the core of why it's an issue,” said Go Fish founding member Jamie Statema. “Jesus came to save us from our sin, and Christmas is a holiday we should be free to celebrate openly. Regardless of which side you are on, surely we can all agree that at Christmastime it's okay to say the word Christmas!"
“Christmas With A Capital ‘C’” is featured on Go Fish’s 2006 Christmas recording, Snow. Showcasing the group’s signature a cappella harmonies, Snow was produced by Darren Rust and Statema and features 10 selections, including the Statema-penned “Christmas With A Capital ‘C.’”
An emerging force in family entertainment, Go Fish’s latest recording, Snazzy, released in October. The Minneapolis-based trio has been covered by such national media as the “Today” Show, American Profile and Focus on the Family magazine, among other outlets. Go Fish live performances have attracted sell-out crowds across the country, including an audience of 14,000 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
November 19, 2007
City Choir Launches With Grand 'Solomon'
Washington Post (DC)
There's rarely been a more surprising move than the firing last year of Robert Shafer as music director of the Washington Chorus. Despite having led the group to glory -- and a Grammy Award -- over a 35-year career, Shafer was dumped so abruptly that it led to a near-mutiny, and some 90 choristers followed him out the door. Shafer has now shaped those singers (and about 15 newcomers) into a feisty rival group called the City Choir of Washington - which, to judge by its triumphant debut Friday night at the Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, is about to give the Washington Chorus some serious competition.
Shafer picked Handel's great oratorio "Solomon" for the launch, and it was an inspired move. It's not much as a story, but the music is astoundingly rich, full of complex choral polyphony (most of it in eight parts), fugues and double fugues, delicate arias, love duets, intricate motets -- with a chorus divided into two sections. Shafer drew a virtuosic performance from the ensemble -- detailed and powerful, with superb balance and control over his forces.
In fact, the chorus was really the star of the evening. Among the soloists, soprano Amanda Gosier was the standout, propelling the drama with a lovely voice and a subtle, eloquent sense of theater.
Battling a cold, Darryl Taylor started out beautifully, but his fine countertenor was fading badly by the end of the evening. The promising young soprano Angeli Ferrette, meanwhile, brought a nice electric edge to the baby-chopping role of Second Harlot, while tenor Ole Hass soldiered through what must have been an off night; it happens.
On the whole, though, it was an impressive debut. The City Choir's next performance is Dec. 21 in the same venue, and -- coincidentally or not -- the Washington Chorus will be performing the same night at Strathmore. Let it begin
November 16, 2007
Blake Lewis to Release Debut Album 'Audio Day Dream'
Blake Lewis, the popular finalist on the sixth season of "American Idol," will release his debut album Audio Day Dream on 19 Recordings / Arista Records on December 4th, 2007. The album will feature the single "Break Anotha" co-written by OneRepublic's Ryan "Alias" Tedder, Sam Watters and Lewis and produced by Tedder (Timbaland, Leona Lewis) which will go to radio this week.
"Blake knows music, is deeply involved and connected with the process and we all had a ball making this album. The results are so gratifying. Blake comes to the fore as a totally fresh, creative, edgy and bold new artist, poised to break through right out of the gate," comments Clive Davis, Chairman and CEO BMG Label Group.
Tedder and Lewis co-wrote and Tedder produced numerous other tracks on the debut including "Gots To Get Her" (Inspired by "Puttin' On The Ritz"), "Hate 2 Love Her," "Know My Name" featuring Lupe Fiasco (co-written by Tedder, Josh Hoge and Lewis), "Surrender" (co-written by Tedder and E. Kidd Bogart), and "I Got U." In addition, Jonathan "JR" Rotem, (who worked with Rihanna on her No. 1 single "SOS") produced and co-wrote the track "What'cha Got 2 Lose?" along with Lewis and his Idol co-finalist Chris Richardson.
"This album is exactly how I wanted it to come out. It's like an '80s mix tape, with some hip-hop and electronic influences. I wanted to make a record where every song sounds like it could be on the radio, but my radio. 2000-'80s Blake radio is what I call it," Lewis says.
Lewis broke the mold by premiering his first single directly to the fans at the same time it was released to radio via Say Now. Fans that called Blake on 206-973-3082 and left him a message received a return call from Blake with a stream of "Break Anotha," so they were among the first to hear it.
Simon Fuller, creator of the popular TV series and chief executive and founder of 19 Entertainment Label Group says, "Blake is an extraordinary artist; talented, distinctive and unique. He has made a fantastic debut album, and I am so looking forward to all his fans hearing it -- they will love it."
The 26-year-old singer was born in Redmond, Washington. He started singing at age five and competed in statewide talent contests while in high school. He became a beat-boxer at 17, inspired by the then Seattle-based a cappella group M-Pact. Lewis was a member of the Pacific Northwest a cappella group Kickshaw for four years.
November 14, 2007
The Blenders win an Emmy Award.
On the eve of their 10th anniversary Christmas Holiday Soul Tour, The Blenders have added another prestigious award to their trophy case, an Emmy Award for their creative and vocal work on a catchy “Wake Up with Fox 9” television spot that has been running most of the year over Channel 9. The Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Television Academy (NTA) awarded the pioneering “vocal band” the Emmy in the category of Musical Composition/Arrangement at the regional Emmy Awards held in the Twin Cities. Of the submissions, they were the only ones deemed worthy of a nomination in the category. The group, Tim Kasper, Darren Rust, Ryan Lance and Allan Rust, will each receive an Emmy statue.
“This is a truly great, early Christmas present,” remarked Kasper, the spokesman for The Blenders. ”It demonstrates that our creative strength and enduring harmonies still have an impact after 17 years together. The guys are thrilled with the award and are looking forward to this year’s Christmas concert tour throughout the region with multiple shows in Des Moines, Fargo, Bismarck and the Twin Cities. This is a distinguished award and a real boost for a bunch of guys that only work together now during the holidays, with the occasional corporate gig. We’re deeply grateful to Fox 9 for the opportunity and to the NTA for the recognition.”
November 13, 2007
Review: Von Trapp Children's sound creates beautiful music
The Oklahoman (OK):
Seventy years after Georg von Trapp and his family fled Nazi-occupied Austria in the late 1930s, their story still fascinates, thanks in large part to "The Sound of Music,” Rodgers and Hammerstein's poignant 1959 musical about the family von Trapp. Not surprisingly, music continues to be an integral part of that family's history.
Today, the fourth generation of von Trapps — Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and Justin — are touring as the von Trapp Children. They are the grandchildren of Werner von Trapp, portrayed in the movie as Kurt, the young man who described himself as incorrigible.
The von Trapp Children recently joined the Oklahoma City Philharmonic for an evening of song and storytelling. These young entertainers, ages 13 to 19, were not only musically accomplished but also proved to be surprisingly adept at audience patter.
The von Trapp Children opened their portion of the program with the ever-charming "Do Re Mi.” They followed this with "J'entends le Moulin,” a sort of French patter song that was a real tongue-twister. The girls' trio then tackled the wistful and melancholic "Something Told the Wild Geese.”
With the girls dressed in dirndls and Justin wearing traditional lederhosen, the quartet created an authentic Austrian look. The performers offered a rather breathy version of "Amazing Grace,” followed by Mozart's "Overture to the Magic Flute” in the style of the Swingle Singers.
Irving Berlin's "Anything You Can Do,” the one-upmanship duet from "Annie Get Your Gun,” caught Justin in an awkward place vocally, forcing him to go in and out of falsetto. Melanie was impressive, though, in "Walking in the Air,” a haunting number from Howard Blake's "The Snowman.”
No musical style seemed off limits for these young singers. They performed the gospel-inspired "Sinner Man” and "Down to the River” with deftness and understanding. In keeping with the concert's Austrian theme, the orchestra offered high-spirited versions of von Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture” and Johann Strauss' "Radetzky March.”
Of course, the von Trapp Children were at their finest in music from "The Sound of Music.” Their rendition of the title number was lovely, as was the giddy "My Favorite Things.” More impressive still were their close harmony versions of "Edelweiss” and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain.”
Who knows what the future holds for these teenage singers. Justin has already had to deal with a changing voice, and the two older girls are approaching college age. One thing seems certain, though: As subsequent generations are introduced to "The Sound of Music,” there will always be an audience for the von Trapps.
Same as the original Trapp Family Singers, who often performed a cappella, the current von Trapp Children also sing a great deal of unaccompanied material.
November 12, 2007
BBC announces "Choir Wars"
The Times (UK):
Expect to know your a cappellas from your cantabiles when BBC One tries to do for harmony singing what Strictly Come Dancing did for sequins.
The broadcaster has hit on the normally sedate world of choir singing in its search for the next Saturday night ratings hit, running a talent contest for choirs on the same lines as The X Factor and Any Dream Will Do.
Contestants of Choir Wars will be able to choose any style, from gospel and barbershop to classical, folk and rock, and will be marked on their “personality, passion, power and performance” by a panel of experts. They can also expect to hear harsh words when out of tune, with producers looking for a Simon Cowell of the choir world to deliver withering judgements.
A choir will be evicted each week until viewers choose the nation’s favourite. There are more than 25,000 registered choirs in Britain and the BBC is promising “the biggest talent search ever seen on British television”. And for those who think choir singing lacks drama, harmony does not always reign. A video of Chantage, last year’s Radio 3 Choir of the Year winners, provoked a furious reaction after it was placed on YouTube.
“The diction during the tenor portion was terrible, the sopranos were extremely off pitch near the end, and vowel shapes were non-existent,” complained Tenor207.
Traditional choral ensembles may need a stylist, with producers looking for electrifying groups and lively personalities to entertain viewers.
Choir Wars will run in parallel with the radio Choir of the Year contest. The television winner will be invited to compete in the Radio 3 final, although Saturday night viewers may demonstrate markedly different tastes.
The Radio 3 rules state that choirs can have any number of members from eight to a hundred but the television producers are considering allowing choirs of unlimited size.
Fame beckons for the winners, who could win a deal to record a possible chart-topping single for Christmas next year.
Chantage, who formed in London in 1999, are much in demand, appearing on several television shows and prestigious carol concerts since their win. Another prestigious choir, the Exmoor Singers, performed with the Indie rock band Bloc Party at the BBC Electric Proms last month. Elaine Bedell, BBC controller of entertainment commissioning, said: “This will be the biggest singing talent show, with the greatest number of contestants, ever mounted on television. BBC Entertainment has a proven track record on Saturday nights as the home of pure family entertainment but the scale and ambition of Choir Wars is a whole new, exciting ball game.”
November 9, 2007
Young People's Chorus of NYC Raises $900,000 in One Evening
The Young People's Chorus of New York City raised nearly $1 million in a single evening last month. Francisco J. Núñez, the ensemble's founder and artistic director, announced today that the group's 10th annual benefit gala, held on October 22 in Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall and at the nearby New York Athletic Club, raised $900,000.
The bulk of that money is designated to support the choral literacy and performance programs of the Young People's Chorus. However, $100,000 is earmarked to meet a two-for-one challenge grant from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust; the $300,000 total will go towards establishing an endowment for the YPC. (Income from the fund will go primarily toward scholarships for underprivileged children and commissioning new music for the choir.)
The sold-out Carnegie Hall concert, for which the YPC was joined by the New York Pops, was hosted by CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien and WNYC radio host John Schaefer. Among the many guest performers were country music luminary Rosanne Cash (singing a song by her father, Johnny), reggae star Maxi Priest, indie rock band Elizabeth & the Catapult (whose lead singer, Elizabeth Ziman, is a YPC alumna), Broadway stars Christian Hoff and Bobby Spencer (both of Jersey Boys), Hugh Panaro (Phantom of the Opera) and Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins), and the Stephen Petronio Dance Company. The concert closed with all 1,000 choir members performing "The Song I Sing", a new song written for the occasion by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the creators of the Broadway hits Ragtime and Seussical.
A well-traveled ensemble that has won gold medals in several international choral competitions, the YPC maintains a core after-school program at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and programs at seven satellite schools throughout New York City. The group is now particularly known for its commissioning program and concert series called "Transient Glory," which has premiered dozens of new works, most of them published and made available to other youth choruses throughout the U.S. and beyond.
November 8, 2007
Auditions for Clash of the Choirs
Cincinnati Post (OH):
NBC has confirmed that Cincinnati's Nick Lachey will be returning to his hometown to select and direct a 20-member choir that will compete in the network's "Clash of the Choirs" airing as a holiday special Dec. 17-20.
An open casting call for "Nick's Choir" will be held 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at Walnut Hills High School, 3250 Victory Parkway. (Note: The location has changed from last week's initial announcement that tryouts would be held at the School for Creative and Performing Arts.)
The reality show will follow five musical celebrities who return to their hometowns to form choirs and help "discover, nurture and direct a dynamic group of musically gifted, yet amateur singers."
The other celebrities in the "choir-off" and their hometowns: R&B singer Patti LaBelle (Philadelphia), pop star Michael Bolton (New Haven, Conn.), country singer Blake Shelton (Oklahoma City) and Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland (Houston).
Lachey, the former 98 Degrees member, who grew up in College Hill and graduated from SCPA, will have just a few weeks to mold a choir that will sing traditional gospel and pop songs along with seasonal favorites to compete with the choirs from the other celebrities' and cities.
Each night of the four-week series, viewers will vote to eliminate a choir from the competition. The winning choir gets a charitable prize package donated to the celebrity's hometown cause.
Casting directors say at least the first 300 people will be auditioned at Saturday's tryout and, perhaps, more. Line numbers will be handed out. Participants should bring an application (available at www.nbc.com) and be prepared to sing one song a cappella. For more information on the open casting call, the public is invited to contact Marc Levine at (818) 235-8407.
An NBC spokeswoman said Lachey will not attend this week's open casting, but he will be in for a follow-up audition expected to be held here in another week to 10 days. It's expected that about 40 choir wannabes will be selected from Saturday's tryout, with 20 members to make the final choir. More info here.
November 6, 2007
Checking in with Alvin Chea
Kalamzaoo Gazette (MI):
Bass singer Alvin Chea of the vocal group Take 6 was calling during a break in a Nashville, Tenn.
“We're recording a track for a new movie coming out next year,'' Chea, 39, said of a song for the film “Sweetwater,'' starring Robert DeNiro and Richard Dreyfuss. The male sextet was also rehearsing for a Christmas show scheduled for the Armed Forces Network.
Those are just two of numerous musical avenues of Take 6 -- a jazz/R&B/gospel/a cappella group with more than a dozen of its own award-winning CDs. The singers have a resume stuffed with work on film and TV scores, commercials and other artists' recordings. On Friday, the group performs at Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo.
“We're all family men and work individually on a lot of other projects, but we make Take 6 our first job priority,'' Chea said.
Take 6's most recent CD is last year's “Feels Good.'' But their next project will be a jazz standards collection, for which they are currently selecting songs. The singers met during the 1980s at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., forming a group that specialized in a cappella gospel. Their 1988 debut release featured what remain two of their signature songs: “Mary, Don't You Weep'' and “If We Ever.'' A cappella groups provide their instrumental sounds with their voices. And as the bass voice of Take 6, Chea often finds himself mimicking a bass guitar.
“I wear a number of different hats, including rooting out the chords of the songs and supplying the rhythm section,'' said the California native who grew up studying piano. “I try to be the sergeant-at-arms and keep the guys from rushing the tempo, and keep them on pitch.''
Some of their arrangements (most of them done by group member Mark Kibble) are stunningly complex, stretching the limits of what six individual voices can accomplish. They learn their parts not from scores, but directly from the keyboard by rote, as in the gospel music tradition. Singer Claude McKnight just might have the highest voice of the six, but the range of each of the artists is impressive.
Living in Los Angeles, Chea is a regular “vocal supplier'' for the film industry. His vocals have been in dozens of movies, including “Spider-Man 3,'' “License to Wed'' and “The Simpsons Movie.'' The ensemble also includes Michigan native Cedric Dent, who spent two of his high school years studying at Interlochen Arts Academy and went on to receive a choral music degree at the University of Michigan.
The vocalists have gained footholds in jazz, R&B and pop, and have recorded cover songs in at least as many genres. The group has won 10 Grammy Awards (in gospel, R&B and jazz) and received 18 Grammy nominations -- more than any other group embracing those categories.
Chea is currently working his way through an online law school program. “I'm on a four-year track, which gives you a little more leeway to have an actual life,'' he said.
Take 6 performed in Kalamazoo as early as 1989, and knows well the tradition of Western Michigan University's Gold Company jazz vocal group. “We know (WMU jazz studies professor) Steve Zegree and he runs a wonderful program there,'' said Chea. “It's so great to hear those harmonies so big and so tight. You're always ready to sit and learn something new.''
November 5, 2007
Sweet Honey visits NPR's Studio 4A
I notice that NPR is now putting up video clips as well as the usual audio clips on their web site when they have artists on some of their shows. Hear, and see, Sweet Honey in the Rock" on today's Studio 4A Show..
Warren "Buzz" Haeger 1925-2007
Noted barbershop arranger and 1965 Gold Medal winner singing tenor with The Four Renegades, Warren "Buzz" Haeger passed away on Saturday at the age of 82 in Downers Grove, Illinois. He was both highly-respected and much-loved in the barbershop community in which he was actively involved with to the end.
Jailhouse rocks as prisoners sing out
Shanghai Daily (China):
About 800 inmates from local 11 prisons launched their own version of "Jailhouse Rock" yesterday in a singing contest held at Qingpu Prison.
Dozens of foreign convicts also found no bars to their talent in the event, "Sound of Hope," held every three years. Artistic activities such as singing and dancing have become a major part of prison reforms, according to officials of the Shanghai Prison Administration.
Each team of 60 inmates and a conductor performed two songs, either famous Chinese songs or those written by the convicts. Professional musicians made up the judging panel - and Shanghai Women's Prison took the first prize.
While some contestants performed in stage costumes or prison uniforms, some 20 foreign convicts wore ethnic clothes from their home countries and waved their national flags. They greeted the audience by introducing their nationality and name in Chinese, and then everyone joined the chorus of Chinese favorite "The Same Song."
Art plays an irreplaceable role in convict reform, said Huang Xiaoshui of Xinshoufan Prison, where classes such as Go chess, musical bands and flower arrangement have opened. "Encouraging and inspiring songs can enlighten inmates and help them return to the right way of life," he said.
Huang mentioned an inmate surnamed Li who received a reduced sentence after joining a singing group. "The former senior office worker was jailed for six years for taking bribes in 2004. Due to his changed circumstances and contrast to his former life, he was very pessimistic and depressed at first."
In 2005 Li was transferred to Xinshoufan Prison and became an active member of the choir. "Since then he has been cited many times for his good behavior," Huang said. "In April his sentence was reduced by one year."
November 2, 2007
SoundStage wins jingle contest
Congratulations to LA's SoundStage who just won the KIIS FM "Go Toyota" jingle contest. They win a cash prize and will perform the jingle throughout the Southlands.
November 1, 2007
St Olaf Choirs set to simulcast to 200 movie theaters
The St. Olaf Christmas Festival - one of America's longest running celebrations of Christmas - will be simulcast live for the first time ever in high-definition and cinema surround sound to nearly 200 movie theatres on Sunday, Dec. 2 from St. Olaf's Skoglund Center Auditorium. The simulcast will include a 30-minute introduction featuring the history of the college and the event.
The St. Olaf Christmas Festival is a two-hour service of hymns, carols and choral selections that celebrate the birth of Christ, performed by more than 500 student musicians under the leadership of conductor Anton Armstrong '78. More than 12,000 students, alumni and friends of the college attend the four sold-out performances presented on the St. Olaf College campus every December.
Now, for the first time ever, patrons across the country can experience the event in movie theatres nationally, live via satellite in high-definition and cinema surround sound, presented exclusively by NCM Fathom and live event specialists BY Experience -- in conjunction with Twin Cities Public Television -- at 196 participating Regal, United Artists, Edwards, Cinemark and AMC movie theatres across the United States.
"We are delighted that technology makes it possible for St. Olaf College to share the Christmas Festival with audiences all across America this year," says St. Olaf College President David R. Anderson '74. " The first radio broadcast of the Festival occurred locally in 1949, and NBC broadcast it nationwide in 1954. It was first televised in 1975.
The participating choirs include the St. Olaf Choir, conducted by Anton Armstrong; the Viking Chorus and Chapel Choir, conducted by Christopher Aspaas '95; the Cantorei conducted by John Ferguson; the Manitou Singers conducted by Sigrid Johnson; and the St. Olaf Orchestra, conducted by Steven Amundson. Each group will perform individually and as part of a mass ensemble. The St. Olaf Christmas Festival has been listed as one of five significant global holiday events in The New York Times International Datebook, and has been featured in such publications as TV Guide, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times
Acappella Company seeks lead singer
The Christian group ACAPPELLA is conducting a world-wide search to fill their lead singer position. The successful candidate will be musically-gifted with a heart for ministry.
Applicants will need to send a video containing (2) two songs featuring just their voice singing a cappella. Applicants should also feel at ease singing harmony parts and blending with the other voices in ACAPPELLA, as versatility of range will also be required for this position. Include your resume, listing singing, ministry and other work experience; educational background; character and singing references. Send to:
The Acappella Company
ATTN: Rhonda Coleson
P.O. Box 1982
Goodlettsville, TN 37072
They request that if you apply via e-mail, do not attach digital music/video files, rather post these files to a server and then send the URL to them.