November 30, 2009

BYU heads to NBC

Salt Lake Tribune (UT):

Although Utahns have had much success in televised reality shows, it is still noteworthy when people from the relatively small Beehive State land on a prominent network reality series. Especially if you're Noteworthy.

Noteworthy, an award-winning a cappella group of nine Brigham Young University students, will compete in a four-night NBC reality show next month that will reward the winner with a record contract and $100,000.

"There was a long, intense process of auditions,process of auditions," said Courtney Jensen, 22, co-director of Noteworthy who also specializes as the group's beat-boxer. The nine women heard about the competition in a cappella blogs last summer, she said, and decided to audition in Los Angeles in September. "One of our top priorities is to share a positive side of not only BYU but the Church," said Jensen, a native of Sacramento, Calif.

Noteworthy, which is a member of the university's a cappella club but not directly affiliated with BYU, has been around for nine years, with different lineups each year as seniors graduate and freshmen join.

The members of Noteworthy are Jensen; Amber Catherall, 23; Amy Whitcomb, 21; Cassie Crabb, 20; Katie Jensen, 19; Kelsey Raps, 19; Laina Walker, 18, Lizzy Early, 19; and Siri Alemany, 22.

Jensen said the group has an advantage in that it is an all-female group with outstanding soloists as well as the unique beat-boxing element, which adds percussion sounds to the mix. "Some people think that because we don't have the low range [like men], we can't compete," Jensen said. "We just have to be more creative."

Whitcomb, originally from Orlando, said the group might have an edge because they are not only "young and hip" but wholesome; the group's signature song is "How Great Thou Art." "Teenage girls see us as role models and teenage boys want to date us," she said.

Besides the chance to win a recording contract and cash prize, there is another benefit to being in the competition, Jensen added. "Every girl my age knows who Nick Lachey is," she said with a laugh.

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November 27, 2009

Sing Off promo clip

The Sing-Off web site is now up and above is the first promo clip for the contest.

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November 24, 2009

Voices of Lee reaching for the ‘Big Time’

Cleveland Daily Banner (TN):

The Voices of Lee will be among eight a cappella singing groups competing for a prize of $100,000 and an Epic Records/Sony recording contract on “The Sing-Off” beginning Dec. 14 on NBC. The singers will be asked to sing popular songs of various genre. “Normally we sing with 16 and I conduct them,” he said. “This will just be 10 members of the Voices of Lee and they will not be conducted. We won’t be singing our repertoire. We’ll be singing songs they assign us.”

The music will all be contemporary popular songs and everything has to be done with the voice. Many groups create the the sounds of popular musical instruments like guitars and drums. “We are a little bit in contrast with that because our sound is what is known as vocal orchestra. Our sound imitates bowed orchestra instruments like violins, double basses, and of course, trumpets and trombones,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see how that translates.”

But, Murray is counting on his young adults being disciplined enough not to be distracted by Hollywood. “We feel like their discipline and work ethic is going to be a plus for them and we have some really fine singers in the group,” Murray said. “This is a chance to see if what we’ve been teaching has taken affect or not. I will not be directing them and they’ll be in some situations where they will have to polish the arrangement themselves or even make the arrangement themselves.

“But all these kids have just about three years experience with me so I feel real good that the philosophy we govern ourselves by is going to be the mode of operation.”
But still, Murray says he is a control freak, but the singers aren’t worried — they are elated to be a part of something to giving this much exposure to the Voices of Lee, Lee University and Cleveland. “When you get that kind of exposure for all of us,” he said. “The kids are excited. I’m probably a little more uptight than they are.” Read more.

Most of the competitors will probably be featured by their local newspapers so we start with the Voices of Lee. Groups will not be performing their material but rather the songs they are assigned once they arrive in LA. This is because of music licensing issues. It should be quite a challenge for the groups to learn several new songs over just a few days. I talked with several of the groups today and they are all very excited of course and look forward to the experience.

Posted by acapnews at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2009

Sing Off groups announced!


NBC has announced the list of groups who will be competing in the upcoming Sing Off contest. The contestants are The Beelzebubs from Boston; Noteworthy from Provo, Utah; Face from Boulder; Maxx Factor from Baltimore; Nota from San Juan, Puerto Rico; SoCals Vocals from Los Angeles; Solo from Omaha; and Voices of Lee from Cleveland, Tenn.

Recording artist Nick Lachey is to serve as host of the series, which is to premiere Dec. 14 and continue Dec. 15-16. The live finale is scheduled for Dec. 21. Musicians Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman have signed up to be judges NBC said Monday.

During the four-night televised competition, these eight a cappella groups will vie for $100,000 and an Epic Records/Sony recording contract. A third judge will be announced for each night the show airs, NBC said.

The Harmony Sweepstakes are well represented with several Sweeps previous participants including our current National Champs Maxx Factor.

Well we don't know who to root for as we love 'em all so best of luck to everybody. These groups are all very talented and should be great ambassadors for a cappella music. Now get all your friends to watch and let's help make these shows a huge hit!

Posted by acapnews at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

Review: The King's Singers

The Times (UK):

A delicate fragrance of rose petals seemed to be drifting around Sloane Square. This was The King’s Singers in their most aromatic mode: clad in midnight-blue velvet, with pink silk ties, they were hymning the Virgin Mary in Canti della rosa — a continuous and contemplative sequence of Marian settings from the Middle Ages to the present day. Continuous, that is, apart from the disruptive applause between every single item. Surely a plea could have been made for silence until the very end?

Threaded through the sequence were five movements from a piece newly commissioned by the Singers from Ivan Moody, a multisection work that could be sung either complete, or interspersed with other music. Canti della rosa, which gave the evening its name, worked well interwoven, not least because almost everything else that was sung sounded as though it was emanating from the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.

Moody’s settings certainly did not. Here was a flinty, gently dissonant setting of Dante and a dark, droning arrangement of a Piedmontese Christmas carol; then a resinous devotional chant from Sardinia, led by the robustly raw tenor of Paul Phoenix, vowels pressed hard against the melodic line until they yielded their juice of tears. These settings were compellingly unified by the polarised nature of their part writing. David Hurley’s countertenor rang with the agony and the ecstasy of a peasant woman’s soprano while the basso profundo of Orthodoxy ballasted the bass. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at 9:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2009

Ball In The House

Ball in the House is an array of vocal sounds that must be heard and seen to be believed. The band consists of five men, performing pop and R&B music. The band is dedicated to bringing their distinctive style of pop/Rhythm and Blues to as many people as they can reach, from Boston to L.A., Singapore to New York, and everywhere in between, opening for and performing with acts such as Cher, 98°, Jessica Simpson, Blondie, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, and numerous others. They can even be heard on national TV and radio as the voice behind the commercials for Cool Whip dessert topping.

Ball in the House, which was named for a classic line from a famous Brady Bunch episode, was originally formed as a quartet. The band has gone through numerous phases and changes on its way to becoming one of the best-known and most-loved acts in the a cappella community today. The final outcome of the band has proved to be quite a success. Dave Guisti (tenor) remembers the early years when music first became an important part of his life. “For as long as I remember I always loved to sing. I remember growing up and entertaining my family. I used to get up and sing "The Way We Were" in front of anyone whom would listen to me”.

Jon J. Ryan ( vocal percussionist) founded Ball in the House to fulfill his dream of making music a full-time job. Growing up in Boston, he sang with Dave in an elementary school choir but didn't get back to vocal music until joining an a cappella group in college. He caught the bug and, after graduating, learned to make drum sounds with his mouth while recruiting other singers, including his old schoolmate, Dave. He doesn't mind at all that he makes funny noises for the whole show and never sings a note. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at 9:05 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2009

Copyright Law Gone Mad: Series Of Lawsuits Over Telephone Jingle

This one's from a few months back, but still quite interesting. It is a story of a series of lawsuits between a musician and a town tourism board over a song the singer apparently wrote. The backstory is that the musician, Cheryl Janky, was a member of a doo wop a cappella group called Stormy Weather (perhaps that should have been a warning), who had, as a founder and singer, a guy named Henry Farag. Janky wrote a song called "Wonders of Indiana." With Farag's help, the song was modified to become "Lake County, Indiana," "a doo-wop ode to the border county that rhymes 'ethnic diversity' with 'Hoosier hospitality.'" Farag then did a deal with the tourism board of Lake County, who bought 1,500 copies of the band's CD to sell in its gift shop, and used the song as hold music for callers. The tourism board also had the band (with Janky in it) perform at the opening of of the tourism board's new center. That all happened in 1999.

In 2003, however, Janky left the band, and suddenly was pissed off about how "her" song was being used. She filed a lawsuit in 2003, and since then:

The case has spawned at least three lawsuits, thousands of dollars in judge-ordered sanctions against the woman's attorneys, a three-day trial, estimated legal fees of more than $500,000, reams of paperwork and a subpoena issued to a federal judge.

And for what? Farag notes that the band sold less than 2,000 CDs total (most of which seem to be from the tourism board's purchase). And yet, Janky continues to pursue the case, with her lawyer insisting she needs to do this to "stand up for her creative rights." Meanwhile, this is the same lawyer who apparently "has been sanctioned twice by separate judges in the case for filing frivolous claims and last month was ordered to put down a $5,000 deposit before filing more lawsuits on Janky's behalf 'to cover the high probability of additional sanctions.'"

Ah, the crazy things that a misunderstanding of copyright makes people do.

Read the Chicago Tribune article.

I know Henry and this whole thing has been an absurd nightmare. Get your paperwork in order folks but keep it reasonable. A handshake still counts in my world.

Posted by acapnews at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2009

Sing-Off dates

"The Sing-Off," in which a cappella groups compete for a Sony Recording Contract, will premiere Monday, December 14 on NBC at 8:00/7:00c. Additional episodes (all at 8:00/7:00c) will also air Tuesday, December 15 and Wednesday, December 16 with the season finale on Monday, December 21. Each installment will run two hours.

Two years ago, the NBC launched "Clash of the Choirs" in a similar December rollout strategy. Deb Newmyer, Joel Gallen and Sam Weisman are behind "Sing-Off," a co-production of Outlaw Entertainment, Sony Pictures Television and Tenth Planet Productions.

Posted by acapnews at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2009

Latest Nylons

Oakville Beaver (Canada):

Singing a cappella is almost akin to standing naked on a stage, says Garth Mosbaugh. As a 15-year veteran of the vocal group, The Nylons, Mosbaugh could almost be considered a bit of an exhibitionist. The same could be said of his longtime co-workers Tyrone Gabriel, bass, Gavin Hope, baritone and tenor Claude Morrison.

“There’s little forgiveness singing a cappella and that can be intimidating,” said Mosbaugh who was in Toronto rehearsing for a cross-Canada tour that lands at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts this Sunday (Nov. 15), for two shows.

Nonetheless, a note that doesn’t hit the pitch properly or a song not started in unison merely garners a side-glance from the others in the group. Instead, the quartet uses those moments as an opportunity to change up things on stage.

“We like to fly by the seat of our pants,” said Mosbaugh. “It’s worthwhile to take a risk and fall flat on your face for the sake of spontaneity.” It works because mutual respect prevails in the group. That’s not to say there isn’t head butting at times, like any relationship endures, “but no one wants to crash and burn,” said Mosbaugh.

It’s worked for the many incarnations of The Nylons, who have been singing 30 years in various quartets with 12 members in all and Claude Morrison as the only remaining original member. The international and coast-to-coast touring has been ongoing since then, as has the studio output that has garnered the group seven gold and platinum recordings.

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November 10, 2009

Harmony Singing Larynxes

Thread tiny cameras through the singer's noses and focus on the larynx. Then have them sing harmony and see what it looks like deep inside. Yes, that's really what this is.

Posted by acapnews at 3:24 PM | Comments (2)

November 9, 2009

Harmonix employees harmonize


Since only a fraction of Joystiq is headquartered out of Boston, MA they unfortunately aren't eligible to be honored with "Top Places to Work" awards like Beatles: Rock Band developers Harmonix, nonetheless host a company-wide singing contest. If they could though, they'd like to think our singing chops would at least match the five gentlemen (four from audio and one engineer) found singing Paramore's "That's What You Get" after the break.

Winning first "among mid-size companies" and third overall in The Boston Globe's "Top Places to Work" survey, the 320 employee-strong music/rhythm-game studio was praised for its studio-wide a cappella singing competition. "I would do a lot to stay here," says senior writer Helen McWilliams. "It's really hard to imagine going from this company to any other company." That whole "making successful games" thing probably doesn't hurt either.

Posted by acapnews at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

Chanticleer has never sounded better

Deseret News (UT):

Chanticleer, a 12-member vocal ensemble from San Francisco, hasn't been to Utah very often over the years, but Weber State University managed to snag them Saturday and bring them to Ogden during their current tour.

Boasting a large number of newer singers, Chanticleer has never sounded better. And what has made them one of the foremost vocal groups today is still intact: flawless articulation and execution; crisp, cleanly phrased singing; rich sonority; and well blended yet distinct vocal timbres. They bring nuanced expression to their interpretations, and their take on early music is vibrant and dynamic and never dull.
Hearing them is an experience that's not soon forgotten.

For their concert, Chanticleer brought a delightfully varied program that had a little bit of everything: plainchant, renaissance, contemporary, Latin, folk and popular. There certainly was something for everyone, and everyone left the hall after the two-hour show happy and satisfied.

Chanticleer opened the concert with a lengthy set of early music. It included the plainchant "Veni sponsa Christus" along with settings by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and an evocative setting by the 20th century Frenchman Jean Yves Daniel-Lesur. There were also captivating pieces by the Elizabethan composer Orlando Gibbons and 15th century composers Guillaume Dufay and Clement Janequin.
To their credit, Chanticleer has the ability to make music that is 400-500 years old sound fresh and alive. They make it interesting and bring a vibrancy to it that not many groups can, with the notable exeption of Lionheart.

The rest of the first half was devoted to compelling pieces by Gyorgy Ligeti, Chen Yi and Steven Sametz. Yi's piece, "Spring Dreams," in particular was fascinating in the way she captures the sounds of nature vocally through effects and superimposed tempos and rhythms.

The second half focused on new works and commissions, including an atmospheric setting of "Agnus Dei" by the Irish composer Michael McGlynn, and selections from "Sirens," by the young San Francisco composer and DJ Mason Bates. The final set featured countertenor Michael McNeil on "Shenandoah" and countertenor Cortez Mitchell on George Gershwin's "Summertime."

Posted by acapnews at 9:21 PM | Comments (0)

November 5, 2009

Sonos sextet brings a new twist

Press Democrat (CA):

They aren’t your average barbershop quartet. Neither are they your nostalgic doo-woppers, your familiar church madrigal choir or your typical fresh-faced collegiate chorus. The six-voice Sonos elevates a cappella to a new level of musical sophistication, reinterpreting contemporary artists from Bjork to Radiohead with a sound that is bold, fresh, richly textured and subtly sensual.

And they do it all without instruments or synthesized backup, although they make judicious use of electronic effects pedals that can split their vocal notes into two tones an octave apart. Their own agile voices provide a tapestry of sounds so finespun they blur the lines between vocals and instrumental/percussive back-up. They are their own band.

The sextet, which plays the Spreckels Performing Arts Center on Sunday, has been touring the country in rented minivans. They recently collaborated with renowned writer Margaret Atwood, providing choral back-up to a dramatic reading in New York of her post-apocalyptic new novel “The Year of the Flood.”

Live onstage, they’re comfortable performing acoustically. In the studio, they make electronic vocal music, with their collection of pedals and loops serving as the seventh member of the ensemble, according to Hoye, who also attended UCLA.

McLain, in addition to singing leads and harmonies, is the resident beatboxer, a form of vocal percussion. “I’m literally not singing or phonating through my chords. I’m flapping around my tongue and lips and clicking,” he says.

He honed his skill as a kid growing up in Kenwood. He recorded his first tracks on his dad’s little mini tape recorder. “My first cassette was Salt-N-Pepa and my first album was Dr. Dre. I was in fourth or fifth grade,” he says with a laugh. He emphasized that while the group does try to evoke sounds, they aren’t overtly trying to imitate guitars and other musical instruments, as some collegiate a capella groups do.

Sonos fuses a classic choral sensibility with a modern repertoire of music, performing covers of Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal,” Rufus Wainwright’s “Oh What a World” and Imogen Heap’s “Come Here Boy.” Read more.

Posted by acapnews at 9:28 PM | Comments (2)