July 24, 2009
Conan's barbershop bit bumped
Not airing tonight apparently.
Fringe Festival: The A Cappella Party
There's just something endearing about watching two earnest college a cappella groups vie to win the big competition, squabbling and smooching their way through school in the process.
It's what lies behind the appeal of such works as Disney's High School Musical and Fox's "Glee" series, and helps to make The A Cappella Party a fun way to spend an hour during this year's Fringe festival. Sure, the plot's kind of thin (so was High School Musical's) and the characters easily fit into cliches. But just try not to smile as the two singing groups settle their score at a local bar with a "Drunkapella" faceoff (yes, dorky rapping is involved) or when the school playa and the uber-competitive, Tracy Flick type tumble around and confess their affection for each other in the buoyant "I Can't Resist You."
Not every singer has a solo-worthy voice, and some songs veer into wince-worthy territory (particularly, the closer "It Takes Two"). But "The A Capella Party" has its share of winning performers, most of them high school and college aged. Melanie Kurstin brings a welcome fiestiness to Natalie, one of the more brusque members of the troupe, and the sweet voiced Jonathan Lowey is a strong vocal presence as the ingenue character Tony.
But every a cappella geek out there in the audience is really just urging for a satisfying medley number, and the show delivers pretty well here, incorporating harmonic versions of everything from "Stacey's Mom" to "Bye Bye Bye" into the climactic routine. But couldn't they have thrown in a rendition of Toto's "Africa", too, just for me?
Conan's barbershop bit to air Friday
Word is that Conan O'Brien's segment that was filmed at the recent Barbershop Harmony convention is to air on Friday July 24th on the Tonight Show. It was real fun to watch them film it and although I doubt whether my booth will be included do look for the Alley Cats, OC Times and a group of random barbershoppers Conan rounded up and had fun with.
July 22, 2009
Bing Jingle Contest
As a promotion for the new Bing search site their blog has just announced the Bing Jingle Contest. The blog states - "Once everyone is having fun with the name, we thought it would be interesting to see what you can do with it, put to a little music! Got a fun jingle, or as we like to say in the halls around here “Bingle” you want to share? Warm up those vocal cords, bust out your flip, video mobile phone or camcorder and start getting creative because today we are launching the “Bing Jingle Contest” on the Bing YouTube site. .
Considering this is Micosoft promotion the prize of a $500 American Express gift cheque does seem a little cheap.
Rules and more info here.
July 21, 2009
Westminster choir wins at Llangollen
Congratulations to The Westminster Chorus who has won the coveted Pavarotti Award and the title of Best Choir in the World at the recent Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales. This is no small feat as Wales is the land of male chorus where they take their singing very seriously indeed. Originally formed by miners in the numerous coal mines in the region the Welsh choirs are acclaimed for their male singers. Tom Jones is a well known example of a the the Welsh singer as was one of my favorites the marvelous Harry Secombe.
July 17, 2009
Harmony Sweeps inspires NBC TV show
Some of you may remember when Sony Pictures Television taped the Harmony Sweepstakes National Finals last year with the idea of perhaps creating a reality TV show around the contest. A Sony staff producer first thought up the idea as he once competed in the Harmony Sweeps several years back and is a big fan of the music. Well the bad news (for me) is they won't be basing it around the Harmony Sweeps but the much more important good news is that they are creating a TV contest that is to be for a cappella groups only.
Called "The Great American Sing Off" the show has been green lit by NBC and the planning currently is for 8 shows to air around Thanksgiving with an elimination each week. The casting folks assure me they are interested in hearing from all styles, genders, ages etc. of a cappella groups. Group members must be over 18 and groups must have between 4 to 10 members.
The contest it seems will be a slick American Idol type of production and it should be interesting to see how major media will treat a cappella music this time. Please no more Mickey Rapkin type "Let's make fun of a cappella" publicity but rather a focus on the music itself which should truly shine given this national showcase.
The details for auditions are being worked out and more info will be posted here as soon as it becomes available.
July 16, 2009
Harmony Sweepstakes on "All Things Considered"
And yet another pleasant surprise I had this evening. I just finished work, started the van and immediately heard the words Harmony Sweepstakes on the radio. Turns out the piece that broadcast previously on the California Report was expanded and aired today as a featured segment on NPR's nationally syndicated show "All Things Considered".
It's a very well put together piece (except I was edited out this time), the music is strong and the groups sound great.
July 11, 2009
Naturally 7 on Craig Furgeson
What a pleasant surprise as I was just watching the Craig Ferguson show when Michael Buble brought Naturally 7 on stage to perform with him. They sung a fabulous arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust".
July 8, 2009
A cappella rain in Africa?
The latest a cappella YouTube sensation with 1.5 milion hits and counting is this wonderfully imaginative presentation of Toto's Africa by the Slovenian choral group Perpetuum Jazzile. The opening rain sequence is great!
July 7, 2009
Barbershop competition results
The term "International" has often been a term used as a reference to the Barbershop Harmony Competition but this year it really can be applied when not 1 but 2 non-American quartets finished in the top 10. Sweden's Ringmaster tied for 4th place while Musical Island Boys from New Zealand came 10th. But it was the seasoned veterans who won gold when "superquartet" Crossroads took top honors. All four members are previous gold medal winners - Jim Henry (bass) with The Gas House Gang, Brandon Gruyton (baritone) with Four Voices, Mike Slamka (lead) with Power Play and Fred Farrell (tenor) with 2nd Edition. Wow! Old School won silver and Storm Front took bronze.
The chorus competition was won with a record score by the St Charles, MO based Ambassadors of Harmony with The Vocal Majority winning silver and Great Northern Union taking bronze.
July 6, 2009
Conan guest on barbershop convention webcast
Conan appears live on barbershop convention webcast with hosts Mike Maino, Debbie Cleveland and Steve Stripling.
July 5, 2009
Conan O'Brien at the Barbershop Convention
There I was at the Primarily A Cappella booth on a very quiet afternoon right by the door at the Barbershop Harmony Convention exhibit hall when I looked up and did a classic double take as in walked Conan O'Brien who immediately came straight to my booth. Suddenly there were cameras and production folks surrounding the booth as Conan was doing a piece for the Tonight Show. I of course gave him some barbershop CDs and then followed him as he continued around the exhibits having fun with some of the exhibitors and the barbershop merchandise. He sang a number with the Alley Cats and it was hilarious to watch him interact with the group and the really only handful of us who were then in the Exhibit Hall. And then to add to the celebrity coolness in came Dick Van Dyke who was introduced to Conan and they talked for awhile. I later learnt from Mike Mendyke of The Vantastix that there has now been an official invite from the Tonight Show for Dick's a cappella quartet to perform on the show.
Conan then left for awhile to reappear wearing a fake mustache with a red-striped shirt, boater and spats. Further fun ensued as he talked with some barbershoppers, sung with OC Times, and then rode on a penny-farthing bicycle which promptly broke. It was a lot of fun watching the taping and the segment should be airing soon.