January 31, 2009
Baker's Dozen settle fight lawsuit
San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
A civil lawsuit over a New Year's 2007 fight between a group of San Francisco men and members of a Yale University singing group has been resolved with an undisclosed financial settlement and statements of apology, attorneys said today. The settlement in a lawsuit filed by Sharyar Aziz Jr., a member of the a cappella group the Baker's Dozen, was filed in San Francisco Superior Court Thursday. The terms of the financial settlement were confidential, attorneys said.
The attacks happened during an early morning fight, reportedly involving dozens of young men, outside a Richmond District house party, where the singing group had been invited, on Jan. 1, 2007. Aziz had his jaw broken after being kicked repeatedly outside the home.
There had reportedly been drinking at the party and a confrontation between members of the Yale group and locals, who later arrived at the party, soon spilled out onto the street.
The case drew national media attention after police did not make any arrests that night and reports that locals at the party mocked the singing group after they sang the national anthem at midnight. Aziz filed the civil lawsuit against brothers Richard, Michael and James Aicardi and Brian Dwyer.
"We're glad that the case has come to a resolution as to these defendants, and it's an opportunity to move forward," Whitney Leigh, Aziz's attorney, said today. "We're glad that there's been an acknowledgement of responsibility," Leigh said, referring to written statements of apology signed by lawyers for Dwyer and the Aicardis. "There's an express apology that reflects the seriousness of the case and what happened," he said.
"It has been a difficult and an emotional dispute for all parties," said the Aicardis' attorney Steven McDonald. "I understand why the Aziz family was upset, and it has taken a toll on everyone." McDonald said his clients were "relieved" to put the matter behind them.
A judge threw out the most serious charges in a separate criminal case against Dwyer and Richard Aicardi in April 2008, ruling there was not sufficient evidence they were responsible. One assault charge on Aicardi was reduced to a misdemeanor. "The criminal justice system failed," said Leigh, "but we've been able to attain some justice through civil litigation."
What a bunch of nonsense this whole matter was. A case of too much booze, too much money, too many lawyers and an over-reacting media. Sing don't fight.
January 30, 2009
Yale group celebrates 100th anniversary
The Yale students who met that winter night 100 years ago in Mory's bar were just looking for a warm place to sing, but they wound up popularizing a new genre of American music on college campuses. The Wiffenpoofs, as they called themselves after a musical comedy, became famous for a song that made military officers serving in World War II long for home. The group would go on to perform for presidents and royalty, the Dali Lama and Mother Teresa, at the World Series in 1989 and for TV shows such as "Gilmore Girls" and "The West Wing."
They were the first collegiate a cappella group in the United States, a genre that involved singing popular songs in smaller, student-directed groups rather than choral groups that usually sang classical or religious music and are directed by a professor or conductor. Now there are more than 1,500 such groups who sing without instruments at colleges around the country.
"It's one of the biggest extracurricular activities to do in college today all over the country. And it started 100 years ago this month at Yale," said Barry McMurtrey, a Whiffenpoof in 1988 who is helping to organize a centennial celebration. "The Whiffs started out as a lark, a hobby for Yalies."
The Whiffenpoofs are as famous as ever as they celebrate their 100th anniversary, starting with a concert Jan. 31 hosted by John Hodgman of "The Daily Show" and culminating with a giant alumni reunion in October. Alumni include actor Ron Livingston, who starred in "Sex in the City" and the movie "Office Space," James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Prescott Bush Jr., the uncle of former President's George W. Bush, and Prescott Bush Sr., a senator and grandfather of the former president. "He just absolutely loved it," said Elizabeth Bush, wife of Prescott Bush Jr., who spoke for her ill husband. "It was such a wonderful group. They couldn't resist singing wherever they were." Read more.
January 29, 2009
Swingle Singers upload decades-old legacy
Birmingham News (AL):
Since the Swingle Singers' first heyday in the 1960s, when their jazzy, wordless arrangements of Johann Sebastian Bach topped the charts, they have evolved to a slick, fully-developed pop ensemble. The a cappella octet's show Tuesday at Samford University Wright Center was nicely choreographed, heavily miked, and driven by arrangements of songs that everyone knows.
From its covers of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell to the Beatles and Count Basie, these were taut, harmonically vibrant arrangements that were immaculately sung.Yet they paid homage to their Alabama-born founder, Ward Swingle, in Bach's "Badinerie" and and an American folk song medley.
Noticably different from the early days were the lyrics. They no longer sing exclusively in scat syllables, although the dah-bah-dah-bah-dahs, oohs and aahs surface profusely in accompaniments. The "rhythm section" consists of bass Tobias Hug, who would like to claim the Guinness record for the world's lowest note (yes, it was very low), and Kevin Fox, whose vocal percussion created the illusion of live drums.
But when words were called for, which was most of the concert, they were sung stylishly -- Lucy Bailey in Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," a schmaltzy, Broadway-inspired "Fascinatin' Rhythm," a Beatles medley and the four female singers in a a lusciously harmonized "Amazing Grace."
The trademark Swingle sound, so indelibly etched in pop culture four decades ago, has faded as pop trends have come and gone. But the current Swingles, clearly devoted to their founder, have kept the legacy alive. A dreamy, wordless version of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie," a jazzy Beethoven's Fifth that morphed into the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and Michael Jackson's "Bad," a Chopin waltz turned into Sting's "Until," were creative and fun.Further proof of their wordless classical roots came with an encore, Mozart's Overture to "The Magic Flute," which turned out to be one of the concert's most exhilarating numbers.
The concert was a benefit for Birmingham Boys Choir, who are raising money for their upcoming Japan tour. Before the Swingle Singers took the stage, director Ken Berg led the boys in several numbers, including a sweetly harmonized rendition of a Japanese song.
January 26, 2009
Warner Music takes down Moosebutter
It seems Warner Music has forced YouTube to remove the highly popular Stars Wars parody video with Corey Videl and Moosebutter. Techdirt blog comments:-
"It's extremely difficult to see how Warner Music has the slightest claim here. The song is written and performed by Moosebutter, while the video was done by Corey, and while the song does use some melodies from John Williams songs, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone familiar with copyright law (other than, of course, entertainment industry IP lawyers) who doesn't think the song is pretty clear fair use. It's transformative, not derivative. It's a parody. It doesn't harm the commercial value of the original works. Moosebutter is also confused as to why it was just Corey's video taken down, when many others use the song as well" Read more.
January 22, 2009
Vocalessence - Review
Oxford Times (UK):
Bringing choral music to Oxford is rather like crashing a convention of diabetics with a box of doughnuts – superfluous at best, outright dangerous at worst. Our city boasts more choirs per square metre than almost any other, and with choral alumni including the Tallis Scholar and The Sixteen, the bar is set high indeed.
Friday’s concert was, however, a timely reminder of the potentially superb quality of the choral singing from across the Atlantic. The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers are fully paid-up members of America’s choral Ivy League; now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the choir boasts a cabinet of awards and past collaborations with everyone from Aaron Copland to John Rutter.
In a programmme celebrating the US’s choral heritage, roaming through almost three centuries of national repertoire from both the folk and art traditions, the choir proved themselves sophisticated tour guides.
VocalEssence have a blend that could – and should – be the envy of every choir in the business. With more than 30 singers, the choir’s vocal capacity is potentially overpowering, yet under the meticulous direction of Philip Brunelle their sound is full but never strident, while at the same time maintaining a striking clarity of texture and articulation.
These skills came into their own in the contemporary art music of Stephen Paulus and Eric Whitacre, whose delicately shifting textures and dense vertical harmonies depend so critically upon a choir’s inner balance and tone quality, and made for a particularly polished performance of the latter’s miniature choral epic, Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, with its filigree gestures and textural drama. Read more.
January 20, 2009
The Times (London):
Ten years old this month, but still flush with the sheer cheek of what they do, Orlando Gough's ragbag choir have been blowing out the candles with gusto. They took on a whole week of programming at Kings Place, capping it with this winningly indulgent night of personal celebration. The greatest hits tour, you might have called it, were it not impossible for this group to perform anything with a sense of reverence: they're far too in the moment.
Perhaps ragbag choir isn't the best way of describing the Shout, but it does sum up two things they represent: choral singing without the stuffiness. In place of most choirs' obsession with tweezering the blend, their members come from multiple places in the musical map, ranging from pop to soul, music theatre to opera. What they all share is a brilliant sense of musicianship, combining staggering discipline (everything is a cappella, everything is memorised, everything is in tune) with an exhilarating willingness to dart off in unexpected directions.
This showcase gave us the best of their versatility. One moment the group were absorbed in the febrile heat of Mike Henry's percussive Song for a Dark Girl, the next they gathered in a Gaelic threnody, Grioghal Cridhe, with Rebecca Askew the pure-voiced soloist. Theatre infuses but never smothers their vocalism: in Galeas, a Greek-Ladino lament for the enslaved, the group spread out disconsolately, breathing out the strains of a slave's labour before two singers gave full cry to the melody. But, just when you think it's all gone a bit worthy, the Shout gamely bring on a duet sung with the text entirely back to front: loopy, but oddly compelling.
It's touches such as this that remind you that the Shout isn't just about sound: when they sing, they do it with an immediacy that almost lets you touch a song as well hear it. Here's to ten more years.
January 16, 2009
Chorus members get stuck in elevator
The Eagle Tribune (NH):
Firefighters rescued two women from an elevator in the Marion Gerrish Community Center last night after the elevator motor apparently malfunctioned. Several women briefly evacuated the building when they spotted smoke and a smell of burning rubber wafted through the halls.
Marie Grazulis of Pelham and her next door neighbor, Jeannette Caynon, got stuck inside the elevator for about 10 minutes as it struggled to reach the second floor. They were headed to a second-floor room to practice in their all ladies a cappella group, Rhythm of New Hampshire Show Chorus.
Grazulis said she and Caynon could tell almost right away there was something wrong. "The elevator went up very, very slow," Grazulis said. "The doors won't open up unless you get all the way to the top."
Once the elevator froze up, Grazulis said she pressed the emergency button. A building maintenance worker called out to the women and they told him they were stuck. Grazulis said it smelled like something was burning. Firefighters were eventually able to use a key to get the elevator door unlocked so the two women could step out.
No one was injured during the brief emergency. Grazulis said the singing group practices at the building weekly.
January 13, 2009
Marvin Gaye, I Heard It Through The Grapevine
This is not your typical a cappella — that Ivy League, let's-all-wear-blazers-and-sing-2Pac's-"California Love"-in-eight-part-harmony stuff. No, this is just a man doing his job better than you'll ever do anything in your life.
Or is it? This is a tricky video. It takes a viewing or two to realize that Gaye's not actually singing live. It appears that the song's vocal track (complete with echo, but free of all the snaps and claps that Gaye is clearly producing on stage) has been paired with a live performance. Not completely kosher, but entrancing nonetheless. Because, clearly, the man sang this vocal track at some point. And it's undeniably fierce.
January 9, 2009
TV reporter quitting to pursue career in a cappella
Chicago Tribune (IL):
WLS-Ch. 7 reporter Dan Ponce is leaving the city's top-rated TV news operation to pursue a music career with his a cappella group, Straight No Chaser, the station said Tuesday.
A Channel 7 spokeswoman confirmed Ponce will sign off Jan. 16, encouraged by the success of Straight No Chaser’s holiday CD. "We wish him well as Dan pursues his dream and his passion," the station said in a statement.
Ponce, leaving WLS after nearly three years, is the son of WTTW-Ch. 11 "Chicago Tonight" host Phil Ponce and the brother of WMAQ-Ch. 5 reporter Anthony Ponce.
Dan seems to of forgotten new to show biz rule number one - Don't Give Up Your Day Job!
January 6, 2009
Harmony Sweepstakes seeks vocal harmony groups
The New Year brings us to a new season of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival and a very special season it is as we celebrate our 25th anniversary. We are seeking vocal groups who would like to participate in what we hope to be our biggest and best season yet and with who knows what kind of special surprises!!
Groups of up to 8 members of any style are welcome to apply. Entries are already coming in and we recommend submitting your material soon. A photo, a sample of your music and a brief description of the group is all we initially require. Please contact the director of the Regional where you would like to perform.
This will be a great year to join the fun!
Pacific NW - March 7
New York - March 7
SF Bay Area - March 14
Boston - March 21
Chicago - March 21
Los Angeles - April 4
Mid-Atlantic - April 4
Denver - March 21
National Finals – May 16
Marin Center, San Rafael, California
Harmony Sweepstakes National A Cappella Festival
Tickets for most events are now on sale. Order now to ensure great seats!