January 31, 2008
Sing, cruise and get paid!
Company looking for an a cappella quartet to perform a 6 month contract on board a 5-Star Cruise Ship.
March 15 - September
South America, Panama Canal. Alaska
Pays $500/week per person
Two Shared Cabins
If interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you
Landau Music, Inc.
Oh to be 30 years younger..
January 30, 2008
Dr. Tim Sharp Appointed Executive Director of ACDA
The Executive Committee of ACDA is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Tim Sharp as Executive Director. Dr. Sharp will assume the new role full-time on May 1, 2008. During the interim Dr. Sharp will assist in an advisory capacity as well as represent the National ACDA Office at many of the Divisional Conventions and other official ACDA functions.
Dr. Sharp holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the School of Church Music of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He is a Clare Hall Life Fellow of Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK, has studied at the Aspen School of Music, the Harvard NEH Medieval Sacred Music Studies program, and received a Rotary Fellowship for study in Belgium. He will return to conduct in Europe (Sweden) in March, and Russia in May of 2008.
Since 2000 he has been on the faculty of Rhodes College, Memphis, TN, where he was Dean of Fine Arts, Chair of the Department of Music, Director of the Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts, and conductor of the Rhodes Singers and Rhodes MasterSingers Chorale. From 1997-2000 he was Director of Choral Activities at Belmont University, Nashville, TN, where he conducted the Belmont Chorale and Oratorio Chorus.
From 1990-97 he was associated with the Antara Music Group where he was responsible for coordination of publications, sales, marketing, and distribution for a variety of publishers including Gentry Music, HT FitzSimons, and the Fred Bock Music Company. He was President of Hänssler Classic US, and responsible for the sales and distribution of the Hänssler Classic recording label in the United States. He co-founded Integra Music Group and Goliard Press, and served on the Strategic Planning Committee for the Church Music Publisher’s Association.
He is author of numerous scholarly articles, books, and conducting pedagogy textbooks. In addition, two of his most recent publications are Memphis Music Before the Blues and Nashville Music Before Country. He was founder (1991) and editor of Sacred Music News & Review. He continues to be an active conductor and writer in the field of choral music, with a research specialty in Moravian choral music.
Dr. Sharp has served ACDA in many capacities, including membership on the Choral Journal Editorial Board (1989-present); standing column editor for “Hallelujah!” (1995-present); and as a member of the Research and Publications Committee (1993-present). He has presented Interest Sessions at Divisional and National Conventions on writing for the Choral Journal.
Dr. Sharp brings to the role of Executive Director of ACDA a wealth of experiences that uniquely qualify him for the position. It is with great confidence that the Executive Committee presents him to the membership of ACDA.
January 28, 2008
Knudsen Brothers find harmony in song
New York Daily News:
The calendar says January, but inside Bally's Palace Theater there's a breath of spring. A revue called "Six," starring an a cappella group composed of six of the 10 Knudsen brothers, brings warmth and charm to the cramped showroom during a 70-minute show of nonstop energy.
Short and sweet, it is just what the doctor ordered to chase away the winter blues. In many ways, we've seen this before - a company of bright and sassy people singing doo wop, blues, Motown and soft rock. What makes "Six" special is the way it accomplishes this.
Despite a preshow note that everything the audience hears is being produced by the brothers, you will swear that this is a fib, that there has to be a percussion group hidden somewhere. But moments after the six bounce onto the stage in black pants and spangled shirts, you slowly realize that those drums, cymbals and bass are being produced by one of the brothers with his mouth.
The effect is amazing. It sounds as if a three-piece combo is up there with them. Some of the brothers are balding, others chunky. Whatever their looks, you'll have a whale of a good time.
The flimsy thread that ties the show together is based on a trip around the United States, from - where else? - Atlantic City to the Pacific. "In the Still of the Night," an homage to the Philadelphia doo wop sounds, was just lovely. And the trumpet sounds produced by one of the brothers in a tribute to New Orleans - Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" - would've brought an "ohhhhhhh, yeahhhhh" from Ol' Satchmo.
A visit to Detroit evoked the spirit of Motown's great groups such as the Four Tops , the Supremes and the Temptations. What really heated up the stage, however, was the Knudsens' tribute to the California sounds of the Beach Boys.
How come 10 brothers? "My parents kept trying to have a girl," shrugs Barry Knudsen. "We were born all over the country because my father was always looking for work and ways to keep the family together. I was born in Davenport, Iowa."
His singing siblings are Kevin (born in Farmington, N.M.), Lynn (Mesa, Ariz.), Jak (El Paso, Tex.) and Owen and Curtis (Seattle.)
When they were still young, their father, Arnold Knudsen, noticed their potential for four- and five-part harmony and began working with them. They made their national TV debut on the "Donny and Marie" show in May 1978.
Curtis remains the heartthrob. Leaving the theater, the boys like to greet the departing members of the audience at the door. That's when Agnes and Ray Cohen of Pottstown, Pa., approached. "I want to take you home with me," says Agnes, pinching Curtis' cheek while ignoring her husband. "I think you're so adorable. I'm 93!" For Agnes, winter had suddenly turned to spring.
That's more like it!
Eureka! Quartet Wins Senior Singing Contest
Eureka! took the gold in the hotly contested International Senior Quartet competition at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Midwinter Convention. A total of 24 senior quartets from the U.S. and Canada squared off in the annual contest to become the 2008 Senior Quartet Champion. The top five quartets each received a medal.
Members of gold medalist quartet Eureka! are tenor Frank Friedemann, 64, from Tulsa; lead Art Swanson, 64, from New Orleans; baritone Rick Haines, 63, from Plano, Texas; and bass Brian Beck, 68, from Flower Mound, Texas. Though these four men have only been singing together as Eureka! since April of 2007, they have a rich history of barbershop quartet singing. Brian Beck is one of the most decorated quartet singers in the history of barbershop singing. He has placed in the top ten internationally in four different voice parts and has won two gold medals in two different voice parts. Art Swanson set a record having competed internationally twenty-two times consecutively.
January 26, 2008
Reviewer tough on the Knudsens
Daily Record (NJ):
A couple of years ago, the Knudsen Brothers made a huge impression as one of the acts in an edition of "V -- The Ultimate Variety Show" at the Tropicana.
During the 10 or so minutes allotted, the sextet wowed the audience (and this critic) with its unique act combining wonderful a cappella harmonies with the brothers' ability to accurately recreate the sounds of such instruments as drums, bass and trumpet.
And while the group's individual and collective talents are no less prodigious than they were then, there is a one significant problem with "SIX," the brothers' presentation that runs through March 20 at the Palace Theater inside Bally's Atlantic City: The unit simply doesn't have enough of a repertoire to sustain a 65-minute turn.
Put another way, by the end of the group's second number, "On Broadway," the audience has seen and heard virtually everything Barry, Owen, Kevin, Jak, Lynn and Curtis Knudsen have to offer. The bulk of the show simply regurgitates that which has already been offered. Which means the novelty of this most novel act tends to wear off in a hurry.
This is especially true in the case of Owen Knudsen. The first couple of times he does his "human beat-box" riff by approximating with astounding accuracy the sound of various percussion instruments, the effect is nothing short of astounding. But by the fourth or fifth song, the astonishment has turned to tedium, and you realize why most acts use actual musicians playing real instruments.
The same can be said for the brothers' vocalizing. There is no question the Knudsens are masters of intricate harmonies. And when they use their gifts on material that is especially suited to their talents -- like their Beach Boys tribute -- the result is especially satisfying. But if a cappella harmony isn't your cup of aural tea, you may ultimately be more bored than entertained.
To be fair, that certainly wasn't the case at a recent performance, during which the Knudsens were regularly rewarded with vociferous applause. And there's no debating there were several segments that were especially enjoyable, including medleys devoted to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and a number of Motown hits.
"SIX" also includes a fair amount of attempted comedy, like aping such performers as Wayne Newton and Tom Jones, as well as some sibling rivalry shtick. Let's just say that as comedians, the six Knudsen Brothers are great singers.
Ouch. As one of earliest winners of the Harmony Sweeps we have always been fans of the Knudsen Brothers (Now called SIX) and have followed their career as full time a cappella singers. They have been working the casinos for awhile now and beneath the now rather slick exterior are real decent and talented guys making a living singing a cappella. Back in the day I used to produce quite a bit of theater and almost lived and died by the word of the critics and have long since developed a thick skin toward their words. Casino shows are much less dependent on reviews and I'm sure the group is entertaining the audiences and will do just fine with this run.
January 25, 2008
Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Shabalala To Retire, Names Successor
Ladysmith Black Mambazo leader Joseph Shabalala issued a statement yesterday indicating that after over 45 years with the group he’s nearing retirement—but that the group will continue under the leadership of his son, Thamsanqa. “The mission and message will continue,” wrote Shabalala. The full text appears below.
FROM JOSEPH SHABALALA:
In the early 1960's I had a dream of a type of singing group that I wanted to create. Not just a dream, in the wishful way, but an actual dream while I was asleep. This beautiful dream led to the creation of my group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Now, some forty five plus years later this original dream has led to so many more dreams. We have been awarded Grammy Awards, represented our homeland of South Africa at many prestigious events, including accompanying Nelson Mandela to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, traveled the world so many times and most importantly, spread a message of Peace, Love and Harmony to millions of people.
This was never a dream a black South African could ever imagine.
As the years have passed, and the 20th century became the 21st, I started to get asked what will happen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo once I retired, if I ever retired. Well, I have spent much time thinking about this. Ladysmith Black Mambazo was never about one person. Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a mission. A mission to spread our message and to keep our culture alive and known. South Africa is a most wonderful place, filled with beautiful people. By touring, as we have, almost seven months every year for over twenty years, we have wanted to keep South Africa alive in people's hearts.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a family. Within the group I have had brothers and cousins singing together. Over the past fifteen years, because of retirements and death, I have been joined by four of my sons. They are the future of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, our next generation. The mission and message will continue. When the time comes for me to finish touring and to stay home they will carry on my dream. As well, my son Thamsanqa (Tommy) will become the new leader of the group. Thus, the dream I had over forty five years ago will continue well into the 21st century. Ladysmith Black Mambazo must continue as the message of Peace, Love and Harmony never must be silenced. We never will be silenced and we hope our fans and friends around the world will keep wanting to hear this message.
Ngiyabonga! Thank you! Joseph Shabalala
I wonder if any a cappella singer has ever traveled as much, sung in front of so many interesting people, and sold as many CDs as Joseph Shabalala. A true legend of a cappella his contribution to the genre should never be overlooked and his influence will be felt for many years.
January 23, 2008
The Human Instrument
When judged by its size, our vocal system fails to impress as a musical instrument. How then can singers produce all those remarkable sounds?
- Although the human vocal system is small, it manages to create sounds as varied and beautiful as those produced by a variety of musical instruments.
- All instruments have a sound source, a resonator that reinforces the basic sound and a radiator that transmits the sound to listeners.
- A human’s sound source is the vibrating vocal folds of the larynx; the resonator is the sound-boosting airway above the larynx; and the radiator is the opening at the mouth.
- The human voice can create such an impressive array of sounds because it relies on nonlinear effects, in which small inputs yield surprisingly large outputs.
The human vocal system would not receive much acclaim if instrument makers placed it in a lineup of traditional orchestral instruments. Arranged by size, for example, the voice box (larynx)—and the airway it sits in—would be grouped with the piccolo, among the smallest of mechanical music makers. And yet experienced singers compete well with all man-made instruments, one on one and even paired with full orchestras. Recent investigations of how our singing voice generates a remarkable range of sounds have revealed surprising complexity in the behavior of the vocal system’s elements and in the ways they interact.
For more than half a century, scientists explained the voice’s ability to create song by invoking a so-called linear theory of speech acoustics, whereby the source of sound and the resonator of sound (or amplifier) work independently. Researchers have now learned, however, that nonlinear interactions—those in which source and resonator feed off each other—play an unexpectedly crucial role in generating human sound. Such insights now make it possible to describe how great singers produce those amazing sounds.
This long and very interesting article by Ingo R. Titze continues here.
January 21, 2008
Who will be the next Maria von Trapp?
The search to find Canada's Maria von Trapp starts January 25, 2008 with a seven-city cross-country audition tour that will culminate in the eight-week CBC Television series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? produced by Temple Street Productions in association with CBC Television. On this television show the Canadian public will choose who will play the most famous role in musical theatre in a brand new production of the beloved musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC (produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and David Mirvish) that will open in October 2008 at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre.
Audition dates and further info at www.areyoumaria.com
I'm getting more and more of these singers audition notices and will post the more interesting ones. This is clever marketing and based on the successful BBC talent show "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?". This is one heck of an opportunity for some lucky (and talented) singer and do remember that the Von Trapp Singers were (and are till this day) primarily an a cappella singing group. Surely that must make the real Maria a cappella's biggest star ever!!
January 19, 2008
My Song, My Way Superbowl contest
Atlanta-based entertainment production company, Results, Inc. announces the start of the My Song, My Way online contest sponsored by Burger King. Launched in conjunction with the 2008 Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, the online contest allows contestants a chance to win a VIP trip to Super Bowl XLII, perform live onstage with the NFL Players Choir and to live the SuperStar lifestyle for the entire weekend. Scheduled for February 1, 2008 at 7:30 p.m., the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration (SBGC) will be held at Phoenix Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Arizona.
The complete prize package for the My Song, My Way online contest includes an opportunity to sing LIVE with the NFL Players Choir, two (2) tickets to Super Bowl XLII, first class hotel accommodations, roundtrip airfare with ground transportation and VIP access to some of the hottest events surrounding Super Bowl. To enter, contestants must upload their solo A CAPPELLA video singing any song, their way then promote themselves to their family and friends. Entry requirements and rules can be accessed by logging onto the web site. The deadline to enter the online contest is January 28, 2008 by 12 midnight EST. The winner will be announced on January 30, 2008 and will also be posted online at mysongmyway.com.
January 18, 2008
Give Me That Old-Time Singing
One Saturday in January, a well-dressed man strolling Manhattan's recently gentrified Lower East Side unexpectedly found his way blocked by 35 people singing on the sidewalk. The lyrics were somber--"Then shall the dust return ... to God who gave it"--but the delivery was joyful. Asked what he thought was going on, he ventured, "I dunno. A funeral?"
Actually, it was a resurrection. The singers--housewives, ex-punkers, Evangelicals, atheists, Jews and Buddhists waiting for their usual venue above a local bar to open--were devotees of a Christian four-part choral style called Sacred Harp (the name refers to the human voice and a songbook published in 1844). Once America's dominant religious music, it was eclipsed after the Civil War. By 1960, say scholars, as few as 1,000 people clustered in the Deep South knew the style.
Yet today there are some 20,000 devotees across the country singing songs like Pisgah and Weeping Sinners. The website fasola.org lists a "singing" near you on almost any weekend. A documentary, Awake My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp, is airing on more than 120 public TV stations, and an album is in the works featuring alt-folk god Sufjan Stevens, alt-country hero Jim Lauderdale and (!) Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones.
This kind of thing has precedent. In 1997 the album The Buena Vista Social Club hit big with a sound defunct even in its native Cuba. In 2000 the old-timey twang of the Coen Brothers' film O Brother, Where Art Thou? grabbed a handful of Grammys. How do you revive an art form? A few hints: Be weird--but worthy.
Nothing is weirder than Sacred Harp. Its favored subject matter--the pilgrim, the grave, Christ's blood--is stark; its style--severe fourths and otherworldly open fifths--has been obsolete for more than a century. Its notation, in which triangles, circles and squares indicate pitch, looks like cuneiform. Yet it exudes power and integrity. Five people sound like a choir; a dozen like a hundred. It is one of the most democratic choral forms: no audience, no permanent conductor--just people addressing one another and God.
Almost every revived American folk-music form was once recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist Alan Lomax. He taped Sacred Harp in 1942 and '59. Unlike other finds such as Leadbelly, it failed to spark during the 1960s folk revival, but musicologists were infected. Now the form had imitable LPs and an academic beachhead.
In the early 1990s, punk rockers, says singer Tim Eriksen, "were looking for that kind of intensity in other music." Eriksen's band, Cordelia's Dad, and other postpunks seized Sacred Harp and exported it to trendsetting places from Northampton, Mass., to Portland, Ore.
Bob Dylan made a pilgrimage to Woody Guthrie. Decades later, Southern Sacred Harp royalty generously embraced the wild-eyed newcomers--many of whom were nonbelievers--in what Awake My Soul co-director Matt Hinton calls "red-state, blue-state harmony."
T-Bone Burnett, who shaped the sound of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, did the same on Anthony Minghella's Civil War film Cold Mountain. Minghella hired Eriksen to sing a non-Harp song but was lured to Harp mecca Henagar, Ala. One result, Idumea, plays hauntingly over a battle scene--and won a new batch of fans. "I went in because of Jude Law but left with Sacred Harp," says New Yorker Anna Hendrick, 22.
After 45 minutes on the sidewalk, Hendrick and the other Manhattan harpers move inside and dig in. Singings can last two days. Today the group logs just three hours. "Join in a song in sweet accord," advised one of the afternoon's tunes. And so they did.
January 16, 2008
Joe Ames, of Ames Brothers, dies at 86
Joe Ames, the deep-voiced anchor and eldest member of the 1950s hit singing group the Ames Brothers, has died. He was 86. Ames, who lived in Eltville-am-Rhein, a town near Mainz in Germany, died on Dec. 22 at a hospital several days after suffering a heart attack, his daughter, Jo-Ellen Ames of Melbourne, Fla., said Tuesday.
Ames and brothers Ed, Gene and Vic were one of the most popular vocal quartets in the decades before the advent of rock 'n' roll. For nearly three decades, the Ames brothers built a career that included eight gold records and regular appearances on TV, in fancy nightclubs and Las Vegas. They had million-selling international hits such as "The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane" but sang a variety of styles, from folk songs to rhythm and blues.
At their peak, the brothers could command a then-stellar $20,000 a week on tour. They were named Billboard magazine's best vocal group of the year in 1958.
But Ames had humble beginnings. Born Joseph Urick on May 3, 1921, in Malden, Mass., he was one of nine surviving children of impoverished Jewish Ukrainian immigrants. Their mother taught the children to appreciate music they heard on Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts.
The four boys began singing at local events as the Urick Brothers, won several Boston-area amateur contests and while still in their 20s went on to professional gigs and recording contracts. Along the way, they changed their name to the Ames Brothers.
Pop music wasn't Joe Ames' first choice, though. A singer with more than a three-octave range, he loved opera and at one point was offered a spot with the Metropolitan Opera's touring company. "He had an incredible range and it was crystal," his daughter said.
However, Ames' mother wanted him to sing with his siblings. "Coming from a large family of no real means, his mom thought, 'please stay with your brothers,"' Ames' daughter said. "Because if they made it, that was four kids out of the ghetto." "He made a very difficult decision. Opera was his true love."
The group disbanded in the early 1960s. Ed Ames had a solo career and later went into acting. Joe and the others recorded some albums as a group and had a television show in Houston in the early 1960s.
In 1965, Ames moved to Germany, where he had intended to try an operatic career but instead became involved in producing and managing other talents, his daughter said. As a consultant, he conceived and developed musical programs for German public television channel ZDF. He continued consulting for the channel until retiring about 15 years ago, his daughter said.
In addition to his daughter, Ames is survived by his brother, Ed, of Los Angeles; his wife, Ingeborg Heittman-Ames of Germany and a grandson, Jordan Shein
January 15, 2008
Yale Glee Club Emerging Composers Competition
Once again the Yale Glee Club invites composers to submit a composition for their Fourth Annual Emerging Composers Competition.
Eligibility: Composers should be in the early stages of their musical careers. Yale alumni may participate, but current Yale students are not eligible. Employees of Yale University and previous Yale Glee Club Emerging Composers Competition are not eligible.
Guidelines for submitted compositions:
• Mixed choir (SATB)
• Unaccompanied, with piano accompaniment, or with instrumental accompaniment of not more than three individual instruments
• Three to five minutes’ duration
• Unpublished works which have not received a premiere performance, only
• Rights to text must be cleared and evidence of copyright holder’s permission must be shown
• Secular or sacred text
• Level of difficulty suitable for a college choir or community choir, or excellent high school choir
• $1500 plus travel expenses to New Haven for attendance at premiere performance by the Yale Glee Club
during its 2008-2009 concert season
• Possible future publication in Yale Glee Club Choral Series
• The winner will be announced in late April, 2008. All entrants will be notified by mail. The winner will
also be announced on the Yale Glee Club web site (www.yale.edu/ygc) at this time.
• Five (5) copies of the submitted score must be postmarked no later than February 1, 2008. Only one
composition per entrant may be submitted.
January 11, 2008
Los Zafiros, Timeless in Cuba
Fresh Air (NPR):
By Ed Ward
I'm not generally a fan of Cuban music. But when I read about Los Zafiros, a Cuban group that had incorporated elements of calypso, bossa nova, and doo-wop into their sound — and was offered a chance to see Lorenzo DeStefano's documentary about them, now out on DVD — curiosity got the best of me. I'm a sucker for great harmonies, and I was intrigued.
Havana's Trillo Park was –- and is, apparently –- a place where musicians hang out, and it was there in 1961 that Miguel Cancio, a professional musician since his teens, ran into guitarist Manuel Galban, and decided to put together a singing group. Soon, they were joined by three other young men: Ignacio Elejalde, Leoncio "Kike" Morua, and Eduardo "El Chino" Hernandez. After a few rehearsals, they discovered they had something going that nobody had ever done before in Cuba.
Their not-so-secret weapon was El Chino. Tall, skinny, handsome, and possessed of what Galban insists was a natural countertenor voice, he was able to mesmerize audiences with his emotional delivery. The other singers wove in and out and occasionally took the lead from him, and, along with amazing improvised choreography, the live show was a sight to behold.
The comparison the film makes to The Beatles isn't a coincidence. Los Zafiros arose during the Cuban Missile Crisis, at a point when ordinary Cubans had no idea if their young revolution would succeed or not, and were afraid of both the Russians and the Americans dragging them into war. Their rise to the top was simultaneous with the elation Cubans felt after the crisis was defused.
The Beatles also arrived during a period of great uncertainty, almost immediately following John F. Kennedy's assassination, and their success is often keyed to Americans needing something to feel good about. Both groups were swept away by cultural and political forces they hadn't created themselves, and both found themselves celebrated –- and running away from girls with scissors wanting locks of their hair.
Both groups, too, fell apart. For Los Zafiros, it was after a 1965 tour that took them to Berlin, Warsaw, Paris, and Moscow, playing to packed houses. They were even offered a tour of the U.S., but turned it down. Back in Cuba, they recorded some more, but even though they were tightly connected –- El Chino had married Cancio's sister, for instance -– they had come too far, too quickly. Several of them began to drink too much, and Cancio emigrated to Miami, something he was apparently able to do fairly easily, but wasn't an option for the others. Elejalde and Morua died in the early '80s, and El Chino, wracked by alcoholism, finally passed away in 1995.
This story would be emotionally wrenching enough, but the film frames it with another story: Miguel's visit to Cuba after 30 years to reunite with the other living Zafiro, Manuel Galban, and revisit the haunts of his youth. As it turns out, Los Zafiros are still remembered by everyone — one of the most amazing scenes shows a Zafiros tribute band, Los Nuevos Zafiros, playing in Trillo Park, with Miguel and Manuel singing along. Also singing along with them off to the side are three little girls of about 6 who seem to know all the lyrics.
Like I said, I'm no fan of Cuban music, but it's impossible not to be moved by Los Zafiros: Music from the Edge of Time. The lush colors of Cuba, the old entertainers remembering the lost comrades of their youth, and the unique sound of the group weave a spell that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
You've been waiting for it. I've been waiting for it. Here it is. A chorus that shows up unannounced, at a moment's notice, wherever the city urgently requires choral music. A street-renaming rally. A tram wedding. A tree sit-in.
"Portland loves big public displays, big surprises and big voices," claims founder Stephen Marc Beaudoin, who says he can't think of anything Portland needs more than a "crazed chorus ready to attack the city on a moment's notice."
I can't, either.
The Portland Pick-up Choir (He should come up with a better name, like Bill Crane did a few years ago with his Portland Musical Swat Team. That's not quite it, but it's close.) debuts later this month "at an event which may or may not be announced in advance to the public."
Beaudoin, a singer, writer (Willamette Week, CrossCut) and director who blogs at From Every Corner, hastily assembled his first raucous group for "Ten Tiny Dances" at PICA's TBA festival last September. JustOut called the choir's appearance a "tear-inducing moment."
That could be good or bad; we'll assume good.
Anyway, the chorus has no fixed membership and is open to anyone who wants to sing in public. It's very fluid, apparently, so if you want to twist and shout, email Beaudoin at email@example.com.
January 10, 2008
Baker's Dozen fracas update
San Francisco Chronicle:
New Year's Eve marks the first anniversary of the big San Francisco versus the Baker's Dozen attack that made headlines across the nation - but for all the shouting, the case remains pretty much in the slow lane.
It started with the Yale a cappella singing group and local Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory High School alumni exchanging words and shoves during a party in the Richmond District. It escalated into the criminal realm when one of the SI crew called for reinforcements, who drove up in a van and allegedly kicked the stuffing out of Yalie Sharyar Aziz Jr., breaking his jaw. Initially written off by police as a teenage dustup, the incident exploded when Aziz's parents went on national TV saying the cops were ignoring the assault and that the whole thing started after the Yalies sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The resulting furor was kind of garbled if you know the local landscape - somehow, the westside Catholic SI boys were supposed to be anti-American thugs - but it got City Hall's attention. The resulting investigation eventually involved more cops, more time and more travel than most of the city's murder cases.
In the end, only two alleged attackers were charged - Brian Dwyer and Richard Aicardi - and not for breaking Aziz's jaw (he couldn't identify his attackers), but for having allegedly punched another Yalie, Evan Gogel.
The case has been on hold since charges were filed in March, thanks largely to the decision by Aicardi's defense attorney, Jim Collins, to hold off going to trial until after the November elections so the case wouldn't become a political football.
The Aziz family's lawsuit against Dwyer, Aicardi and three other alleged attackers has been going slowly as well. Not much can happen until the criminal trial is held, and the preliminary hearing in the case isn't scheduled until mid-January. Aziz family attorney Whitney Leigh said that the Yalies are still hoping for "justice sooner rather than later," and that no matter how long it takes, the case is "the subject of significant attention for anyone interested in how the justice system works in San Francisco."
Collins wants the case resolved as well, but for a decidedly different reason. "This is much ado about nothing," he said. "Two groups of teens who had been drinking and got into a fight. That's it."
January 8, 2008
Harmony Sweepstakes 2008
The New Year brings us to the beginning of another season of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival, the 24th annual of this prestigious singing event. Last year was a rousing success and this year we will continue the tradition of presenting some of the finest vocal harmony groups performing today. Our regional shows offer groups the opportunity to perform in front of enthusiastic audiences along with celebrity judges who decide upon a regional champion. These winners are provided airfare and hotel rooms for two nights in the San Francisco Bay Area and the opportunity to perform at the prestigious National Finals.
We are actively seeking both new and established a cappella groups who would like to participate. Always fun, the Harmony Sweepstakes is a great opportunity to find new fans, meet other groups and to get greater exposure for your group.
Boston – April 5
Chicago - March 15
Los Angeles – April 20
Mid-Atlantic (DC) – April 5
New York – March 22
Pacific NW (Olympia) - March 8
Rocky Mountain (Denver) - March 15
San Francisco – March 8
National Finals May 3
A cappella groups of all genres and styles are welcome and originality is always encouraged so if you are in a group, or know of one that you think should participate, then please contact us soon.
HARMONY SWEEPSTAKES A CAPPELLA FESTIVAL
January 4, 2008
Naturally 7's vocal power needs no backup
When it comes to tour-mate Michael Bublé, the guys in Naturally 7 have only good words. If pressed, however, they'll reveal that the heartthrob crooner isn't exactly the greatest athlete.
Roger Thomas, Naturally 7's founder and leader, said Bublé is a "shockingly down to earth" fellow who often visits their dressing room to chat before concerts. Sometimes they even play basketball with him. So, asked a reporter, is Mr. Bublé adept at shooting the hoops? "Ah, no," Thomas admitted, laughing. "Well, he's not too bad."
Unless you live in Europe, where the group scored two hit singles, you've likely never heard of Naturally 7. Following just-completed tours with Bublé in Europe and the U.K., the New York singers are the opening act for Bublé's Canadian tour, kicking off in Victoria next week.
Naturally 7 specializes in a cappella renditions of gospel, R&B, soul and jazz. In North America, the group is probably best known for a YouTube clip (currently has 1.2 million views) that made the rounds a year ago. In the video, the septet sing Phil Collins's In the Air Tonight in a Paris subway car. Such is their enthusiasm and talent, Naturally 7 manage to coax a few smiles from jaded Parisian urbanites.
Although the vocal harmonies are complex and accomplished, what makes Naturally 7 stand out is the band's ability to mimic different instruments. A promo DVD reveals uncanny vocal recreations of the electric guitar (complete with feedback), violin, bass, harmonica, turntable and drum kit. In fact, 34-year-old Thomas says the only instrument they've failed to replicate is the piano. "It's just a unique sound," he said in a phone interview from Atlanta. "There's nothing we've been able to do that makes people go, 'Yeah, that's a piano.' "
Naturally 7's career was truly launched in 1999 after they won an a cappella competition in New York. They subsequently entered an even more prestigious contest in San Francisco: The National Harmony Sweepstakes. Naturally 7 won that pan-American event with two songs: Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water and the hymn Bless This House.
These successes made them consider music as a full-time career, said Thomas, a former school teacher. "That was our first time realizing there was a world outside the church ... That was the beginning of the flight of Naturally 7."
All seven members -- Thomas, his brother Warren, Garfield Buckley, Rod Eldridge, Jamal Reed, Dwight Stewart and Armand Hutton -- were raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York City. A cappella singing (that is, singing without instrumental accompaniment) was a big part of their religious upbringing, Thomas said.
"We all grew up listening to a cappella music, got our chops and learned to harmonize and that type of thing."
Naturally 7's biggest influence is Take 6, the Grammy-winning a cappella group. In order to stand out in the field, Naturally 7 decided to create the sounds of traditional backup instruments vocally, in addition to singing in the conventional manner.
This practice of mimicking instruments dates back to when Thomas's brother Warren was a schoolboy. When his mother told him he couldn't have a drum set, the resourceful youngster imitated the sounds of the cymbal, bass drum and snare with his mouth.
Naturally 7 performs both original material and cover songs. In deference to their Christian background, all the music contains some sort of inspirational or positive message, Thomas said. To further stand out in the competitive music world, Naturally 7 makes a point of venturing beyond gospel and soul to songs originally done by white groups such as the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel.
"They're pieces that people would not expect us to do as seven black guys. You know, you'd expect us to pull out maybe Stevie Wonder [or artists like that]. But that's not interesting enough for us."
Relying solely on their voices makes the members of Naturally 7 unusually protective of their vocal cords. They do things like drink herbal tea. And of course, none of them smokes.
"We realize this is our tool," Thomas said. "This is what our career is about, our voices. It's like you can't just put a violin on top of a heater. You've got to take care of that thing."
We have been big fans of the group ever since we saw them win the Harmony Sweepstakes in 1999 and appreciate that they credit winning the event helped launch their career. They are a great example of how winning the Harmony Sweeps can benefit a group as we right away signed them to Primarily A Cappella Records, put out their first CD and helped get some exposure for the group. When Sony offered them a contract we were happy to see them go to a major label and glad we were able to offer them a step up.
January 3, 2008
No sweat – sing yourself to better health
Western News (Canada):
A New Year’s resolution to sing may provide health benefits similar to those accredited to eating well and working out.
In addition to joining a health club, you might consider joining a choir – no fuss, no fees, no sweat. That’s the advice from Victoria Meredith, choral conductor and professor at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at The University of Western Ontario, whose research examines the benefits of singing, particularly as you age.
“Choral singing can keep you younger and healthier for longer,” says Meredith. “The benefits are boosted by singing in a choir because it involves both physical and social activity. Studies have shown that people who sing regularly have fewer trips to the doctor, fewer falls, less medication and are less depressed.”
Meredith says some of the benefits come from a sense of mastering an art, social engagement and the sustained effects of a long-lasting group effort. Creative and intellectually stimulating activities also improve brain function and compensate for the loss of brain cells with age.
Some researchers have also discovered that a disease-fighting protein (sIg A) increases 150 per cent during rehearsals and 240 per cent during performances. Meredith uses adult choirs at Western as her live lab for research.
“Increased respiratory function, improved overall health, a heightened immune system, improved brain function have all been documented as benefits from choral singing,” says Meredith. “Many people experience the contribution that choral singing makes to their lives simply as an increase of joy and overall well-being.”
Meredith is the author and editor of many articles about choral music and is an experienced conductor and professor at Western where her choirs have received numerous national awards. Her experience means she is often sought after as a clinician and guest conductor. Meredith is also the founder of the innovative choralconnections Adult Choir Program and author of Sing Better As You Age.