September 29, 2009
Yalie Is the Men in the Mirror
A Yale student just might have one of the most popular tributes to Michael Jackson circulating online right now. When you click the link to “Michael Jackson Medley” on YouTube, you see one guy on stage -- Sam Tsui.
Then, it looks like more people join him in a six-man a cappella group performing Michael Jackson’s greatest hits – Man in the Mirror, Beat It, all the regulars. But, it’s all Tsui. He sings in harmony with himself and makes himself look like a group by wearing three different shirts. Tsui created the video with his friend Kurt Schneider, another Yale student, and it now has more than 1 million hits.
The idea came about when Schneider wanted Tsui to film a duet with a girl, but she dropped out, the Yale students told Bonnie Hunt when they appeared recently on the show. So Schneider came up with an idea. Tsui could sing pretty high, they said on the show, so he could sing both parts. Schneider worked on the technology end and created a video making it look like there were two Tsuis. It went on from there until you have six Tsuis singing MJ.
In case you’re wondering what Sam and Kurt’s plans are, neither is studying music. Tsui said he is studying classical Greek and Schneider is studying math. They do, however, plan to put out a CD. Tsui, who is from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, is also a member of Yale’s a cappella group The Duke’s Men. Schneider is from the same town.
September 24, 2009
Straight No Chaser come clean at the BCPA
Bloomington Pantagraph (IL):
Toto ... I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." -- Dorothy Gale, "The Wizard of Oz." "Toto? Smack at the end of 'The 12 Days of Christmas'? Wha'?" -- Overheard at Straight No Chaser concert.
Fact: laboratory tests have shown that pop group Toto's '80s anthem, "Africa," is a perennial favorite of those who harmonize for a living. Why? Some chalk it up to the multiple refrains of "I bless the rains down in Africa, I bless the rains down in Africa" being simply irresistible. Others insist it's the potentially addictive "doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo-doo, dooooom" embellishments. Whatever.
Straight No Chaser, the 10-man a cappella group behind one of 2007's biggest YouTube sensations, learned about "Africa's" harmonic popularity the hard way: the song became their calling card.
Founding member Randy Stine, who'll be on the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts stage tonight with his nine fellow Chasers, affirms it "had become the song we were known for." A running joke among the group's members was trying to find the right time and pasture "to retire the song." No offense, Toto, but "we'd sung the song so many times, we'd say, 'for this concert, let's NOT sing 'Africa.'"
Then along came a famously witty a cappella arrangement of "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Richard Gregory, an alum of the famed Yale (University) Whiffenpoofs. Gregory's ploy was to send the well-structured song careening off-course into other holiday standards, with lyrics intersecting and, sometimes, trading spaces. It climaxed with a spectacular head-on collision involving "12 Days," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "The Christmas Song."
While working the arrangement, "someone (jokingly) suggested sticking 'Africa' at the end instead," recalls Stine. Much to the group's surprise, if not horror, it fit. Perfectly. The consequences of that decision are being felt to this day as the group kicks off its national tour tonight on the BCPA stage. Read more.
September 21, 2009
Singing Means Survival for Breast Cancer Victim
Breast cancer. These two words strike fear into the heart of every woman. Facing the challenge of breast cancer following a diagnosis is often overwhelming.
For Marguerite Paustenbach, her secret weapon in the fight against breast cancer turned out to be her strong faith and love for barbershop singing. Paustenbach is a member of Village Vocal Chords, a Chicago-based barbershop singing group that’s part of Harmony, Inc., an all women’s barbershop singing organization currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“The support from my chorus after my diagnosis was overwhelming,” said Paustenbach. “It just blew me away how they all rallied around me. They visited me at the hospital and sent cards galore. There wasn’t any email back then!”
Paustenbach recently reached an impressive milestone as a ten-year cancer survivor and credits the women of the Village Vocal Chords in Harmony, Inc. for getting her through the toughest of times. “No one in my family ever had cancer, let alone breast cancer,” commented Paustenbach. “So as it came as quite a shock to learn that I had breast cancer; however it quickly became a reality when I had to leave my job and go through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.”
Even though the chorus rehearses nearly an hour away from Paustenbach, she was thrilled to return after her treatment was completed. “We truly care about each other and we don’t even have to, it’s not like we’re family and expected to,” laughed Paustenbach. “We’re all here for our love of barbershop singing, but it’s the togetherness we have that keeps us coming back every week.”
Paustenbach said that barbershop music has played a significant role in her life for a long time, but was especially important during her cancer treatment. Many hospitals, including such renowned names as Massachusetts General and the Mayo Clinic are treating patients with music and medicine simultaneously. This therapy is being applied with cancer patients, ICU patients, and patients with brain disorders with astounding success. Even physicians admit there is more at work here than just a psychological high from the natural enjoyment of music and song. Read more.
September 19, 2009
The Real Group releases The Real Album
When you’re good, you’re good and the Real Group are as fantastic as ever. Not only do they have some of the best voices in the business along with some of the most fascinating and creative arrangements they also sure know how to write a song! Here we are treated to a collection of original songs which absolutely demonstrate as to why few people would disagree with the statement that The Real Group is the most talented a cappella group performing today. The compositions are all in English, are all new and offer an array of styles including their classic sound on “Pass Me The Jazz” and “Flying High”, a country song “A Minute on Your Lips”, the vocalese “Gee! Mine or Moe’s Art?” (G Minor Mozart) and the beautiful ballad “Anna’s Song”. The delightfully intelligent lyrics are refreshing with “Modern Man” and “Nostalgia World” being particular standouts. Our opinion of this group grows with every listen as every track is a gem that you will want to savor over and over again. Listen to "Pass Me The Jazz
September 18, 2009
Gelcaps has gig with children's movie
The word is still out on how The GelCaps did at an audition Monday for a new TV talent competition to air on NBC, but the Jackson vocal quartet did get some casting news over the weekend. Group members will be lending their voices to a children's live-action movie titled "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure."
The $10 million movie is the brainchild of Kenn Viselman, the marketing expert behind Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine. It is aimed at preschoolers and features interactive sequences in which the audience is encouraged to sing and dance in the aisles. It stars Cloris Leachman, Chazz Palminteri, Christopher Lloyd and Jaime Pressly.
From what members of The GelCaps have seen of the script, they will play a bunch of doo-wop-singing balloons wishing a happy birthday to a character. They had a 45-minute callback audition last week, during which they were instructed to "sing it like helium balloons," member Timm Richardson said, "which was interesting, but we did it."
The movie is being made in Michigan to take advantage of the state's tax credits for film productions. Richardson said he suspects the program's higher reimbursement rate for Michigan residents worked in favor of The GelCaps, who were up against a group from Los Angeles.
Richardson found out about the auditions via a Facebook group dedicated to Michigan's growing movie industry. All four members of the group — Richardson, Andrew Gorney, Mike Reed and Steve Tucker — will become members of the Screen Actors Guild, something Richardson worked toward for 17 years while living in Los Angeles without any success. "Now I'm sitting back here in Jackson, Michigan, and, 'Here's your card,'" he said.
As for the auditions for NBC's "The Sing-Off," Richardson said things looked hopeful, but competition was stiff. Auditions took place in four cities. The GelCaps were among about 40 a cappella groups in Chicago. "I felt very old," Richardson, 57, said. "Most of them were college age." The GelCaps were one of about five groups invited into a room after singing to talk with a producer about their personal histories, he said.
September 17, 2009
SoVoSo: The East Bay’s Winning A Cappella Group
Berkeley Daily Planet (CA):
SunshineBecker, a 14-year veteran of SoVoSo, talked about the group and its new lineup for Friday’s show.
“SoVoSo started as a spin-off of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra a cappella ensemble. In ’91 or ’92, Bobby wanted to go off in other directions. So members of Voicestra started up with a new name. A year later, a couple of members left, they called auditions, and I joined. In the time since, the group has grown, become an a cappella tour band. It’s been a Harmony Sweeps champion in the Bay Area; we’re the only yearly a cappella headliner at Yoshi’s. We have five albums now.”
The difference between SoVoSo and Voicestra? “Voicestra goes out onstage without a set list. When we go out, we do a lot of improv, but we have arrangements, tunes to attack, as it were, audience favorites. We have songs that have been written for the group. But the commonality lies within; both are not just about singing songs about the moon or about two people in love—beautiful things, but not about the description! We’re singing about the vibes, instead. What’s positive, lifegiving. Nothing preachy. We go out to do a show, aiming to enlighten, to show we all have a voice. The voices are a full band, with the sound of the instruments, but not just imitative. Anybody can do this; we made it a career.” Read more.
September 16, 2009
Baker’s Dozen punished for rush violations
Yale Daily News:
The singing group the Baker’s Dozen has violated regulations governing a cappella rush by allegedly serving alcohol to rushees. The Baker’s Dozen is the only a cappella group to be punished under new rush regulations so far this year, co-chairmen of the Singing Group Council confirmed Monday evening. The group will be forced to miss the Woolsey Hall jam next year and to wait an additional two minutes at the High Street gate before this year’s tap night because they allegedly served alcohol to rushees at a party following the group’s Friday singing dessert.
Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said his office is not currently involved in the situation. “We only get involved when there’s a dispute with the singing council,” Gentry said.
But Gentry acknowledged that serving alcohol to minors violated both undergraduate regulations and Connecticut state law, and that the Dean’s Office could shut down the Baker’s Dozen if “the group had done something in violation” of those regulations. Stephen Feigenbaum ’11, a member of the Baker’s Dozen, declined comment on behalf of the group. Read more.
Oh Say Can You See, It Ain't About Me
I got a call from the offices of the local minor league team, asking if I wanted to sing the national anthem at a ball game. Sure, I said, with barely a thought passing through my little brain — How cool is that? Singing in front of thousands of people at a baseball game. I might even get good seats. For free. That was as far as my thought process went.
As the day approached, a whole different set of thoughts and feelings announced themselves. What was I thinking? Singing a cappella is challenging enough. Singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" is something more. I have an octave-and-a-half range and a little extra, but there's not much room for error — it all depends on starting on the right note. And if you don't, you're halfway through the song before you realize you're going to have some trouble at the end. Big trouble. Without a guitar or piano to remind me of the key, who knows where I'll go. There could be a serious nightmare right at the end of the song. The use of a falsetto voice is something to be avoided in most cases, unless you're Marvin Gaye or Bobby McFerrin. Needless to say, I ain't. Read more.
September 15, 2009
Rocking Indie Cappella: Sonos, 'SonoSings'
Washington Express (DC):
Indi Rock and a cappella sound like they wouldn't go well together: you're not likely to find covers of Sonic Youth or Hüsker Dü performed by your local college vocal group. But more and more non-mainstream artists are creeping into the college a cappella world, many of whom lend themselves particularly well to the all-vocal style: songs by Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Regina Spektor and Imogen Heap, for example, all sound great without instruments, and some groups have even taken it farther — there's a college group performing an a cappella version of Animal Collective's "Leaf House" on YouTube.
The Los Angeles vocal sextet Sonos has picked compositions for "SonoSings" (Verve Forecast) that are mostly in the folk/indie genre, but their selections really adapt beautifully to their style. Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal," for instance, relies on harmonies, and Sonos capitalize on that with a version that sounds like even more of a hippie-fest than the original (in a really good way). Meanwhile, group's cover of Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place" is haunting, and its take on Imogen Heap's "Come Here Boy" is as entrancing as a lullaby.
One super-mainstream song choice that's worth mentioning is Sara Bareilles' "Gravity." Bareilles even sings on the track — which may make it seem like shameless major-label publicity, but she's actually an alum of UCLA's coed a cappella group Awaken (as are several members of Sonos), and "Gravity" was first released on its 2003 album, "Dysfunktional Family Album." It's a reunion of sorts, and the song still sounds miles better a cappella than with instruments.
What really shows off the group's creativity, though, is their take on a song often covered in the college a cappella scene, the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." Sonos's Christopher Given Harrison arranged a much more straightforward version for "Dysfunktional Family Album," but the version on SonoSings turns the song completely upside-down, taking the song's innocent take on young love and molding it into something far creepier. It's almost as though it's sung from the perspective of the person the media made Jackson out to be in his later years: desperate, isolated, and a little bit stalkerish. It's an outstanding re-working of an old classic, and it foreshadows additional compelling work to come from this group.
September 14, 2009
GLEE "Acafellas" Episode 3
Watch a sneak peek of GLEE "Acafellas" episode 3 airing Wednesday, Sept. 16 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Josh Groban Guest stars as himself.
Episode Synopsis: GLEE "Acafellas" Episode 3 - Will forms the Acafellas, an all-male a cappella vocal group, and spends more time building his own confidence than he does with the glee club. In Will’s absence, the glee club decides to hire a well-known choreographer to help coach them to Nationals. Meanwhile, Mercedes is bitten by the love bug, but her feelings aren’t reciprocated. When the Acafellas perform for the P.T.A., they get a surprise visit backstage from Josh Groban (guest-starring as himself) in the “Acafellas” episode of GLEE airing Wednesday, Sept. 16 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. More.
September 11, 2009
The Battle Over Bionic Vocals
Wall Street Journal:
A major battle is unfolding in the most divisive conflict the music world has seen in years: the Auto-Tune war.
A brand of software invented to make sure singers hit the right notes in the recording studio, Auto-Tune has been repurposed by many acts to transform their voices into a robotic warble. This trend, which began in rap and spread into rock, country and other genres, has won Auto-Tune more fans—and critics, who see it as a symbol of all things artificial in pop music. Everyone from top-selling pop artists to bedroom musicians and casual music fans are taking sides.
Last March at Stanford University, a vocal group called the Harmonics began incorporating Auto-Tune into its live act. Their performances fired a debate about authenticity in the a capella community. "For us, it's not 'how a capella are we,' it's 'how cool are we,'" says Charlie Forkish, the Harmonics' 22-year-old music director.
Though few popular singers will admit to correcting their notes in the studio, only a small minority request that Auto-Tune not be used, says Harvey Mason Jr., who has produced dozens of best-selling artists. Producers will use any tool at their disposal to get a hit record, Mr. Mason says, but he's wary of backlash, especially when it comes to the Auto-Tune croak. "It's dangerous and risky to use that mechanical sound on artists who are amazing singers," says Mr. Mason. Read more.
Cool gig for N7
Naturally 7 has been invited to perform with Quincy Jones and a star studded line up at the 14th Annual Bermuda Music Festival. They will be joining Kenny Rogers, Patti Austin, Erykah Badu, James Ingram, Wyclef Jean, John Legend, Michael McDonald and others at a special event called Quincy Jones and Friends. The event will be staged over three days from October 29-31, which the press release states is "in a spectacular setting on the tip of the island of Bermuda, surrounded by crystal blue waters and performed under the stars." Nice work if you can get it!
September 10, 2009
Michael Jackson a cappella medley
September 8, 2009
BBC Performing Arts Fund announces new scheme for choirs
The BBC Performing Arts Fund today announces a brand new scheme for choirs called Choral Ambition. The scheme provides funding for the support and development of choirs across the UK and Northern Ireland and opens for applications today, Monday 7 September, and closes on Friday 30 October 2009.
The scheme is open to adult choirs of any genre – children's choirs (although not school choirs primarily funded by the LEA), choirs that are private and independently constituted, and choirs that perform any genre of music.
A choir must be a group of eight or more individual singers who meet and rehearse towards a live performance. They must sing at least two parts. This should be taken to include vocal groups as well. Choirs can be accompanied or a cappella and performances must be open to the public and must be based in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
In total £200,000 in funding will be awarded. The maximum amount available to a single choir will be £4,000 and the minimum amount awarded will be £500. The grant can be used for commissioning new music, training and development, master-classes and workshops or projects to attract new members.
Miriam O'Keeffe, Project Manager of the Performing Arts Fund, said: "The BBC Performing Arts Fund is committed to helping individuals and groups to reach their musical potential by providing funding and support.
"Following the success of Last Choir Standing, and building on the BBC's long association with singing through programmes such as Choir Of The Year on BBC Radio 3, The Choir on BBC Two, Songs Of Praise and the BBC Proms, the fund in association with Making Music is delighted to launch this new scheme that will award funding to choirs.
"Funding for training and development as well as commissioning of new music will nurture and sustain choirs and singing groups of every shape and sound, in diverse communities across the UK, allowing them to stretch their creative wings and continue to thrive."
Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of Making Music, the largest umbrella organisation supporting choirs in the UK, said: "Making Music is delighted that the BBC Performing Arts Fund has made this substantial sum available to improve choirs and help them commission new works.
"We are also very pleased that our long-standing partnership with the BBC has enabled us to play a significant role in shaping and helping with the scheme to maximise its benefit to the choral sector. "It's a great scheme and we are confident that it will provide long-lasting benefits to choirs up and down the land."
O how I miss the funding for the arts available in England. So many non-profits here are suffering from lack of funds and I regularly hear of groups having to pack it in. Three cheers for the BBC!
Sing Off casting director is looking for..
From an p.r. e mail:-
What Sing Off casting directors want: Come in groups of four to ten, and be prepared to sing two songs a cappella, one of which must be a recognizable cover. “We’re looking for all singing styles,” says casting director Michelle McNulty. “Barbershop quartets, Sweet Adelines, boy bands, beat-boxers, collegiate groups. Dress in costume, do choreography and give us surprise elements like jumping from Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me a River’ in a medley.”
September 4, 2009
The Texas Tenors
Well no a cappella groups made it to the finals of this season's America's Got Talent but there are two singing groups in the 5 finalists. There is a family gospel group "Voices of Glory" and the quite talented "Texas Tenors" who should now have a very successful career.