December 24, 2009
America's Tallest Singing Christmas Tree
As regular readers of this blog may remember I have a fascination with singing Christmas trees. Here's this year's tree at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in Muskegon, Michigan. Watch the time-lapse video of the tree being built. Cool!
December 23, 2009
Jay Sean Throws Nota Off-Key – Almost
For a split second, while singing their rendition of the Jay Sean hit “Down,” the a cappella sextet Nota went speechless for the first time since appearing on The Sing-Off. That's because Jay Sean himself snuck up behind them and joined them onstage Monday after they won the musical competition.
“When they called me up and said if Nota win, we would love for you to come out, surprise them and sing your song with them, I said, ‘Oh my God, of course I will,” Jay Sean tells PEOPLE. “But one thing I knew, and I told them, was, ‘Guys, you do realize there’s actually no backing music. They are the music.' So if they get surprised, which they will be, they’ll stop singing! There will just be silence! Luckily, they’re all such pros and they just kicked back in and we had fun.”
A stunned and elated Nota, who traveled from Puerto Rico to compete, also received a congratulatory text message from Ricky Martin upon their win over Tufts University singers the Beelzebubs.
"We're just grateful we were able to bring our music and that people enjoyed it," says Nota member David Pinto, 25. "The competition was so tight," adds Edgar Rios, 34. "All the groups were so amazing in their own style, and we're really thankful for the fans and the people who voted for us. It's amazing."
Jose Rodriguez, 37, says, "We've been waiting for this for so many years. We are very passionate. This is the opportunity we've been dreaming of and are honored to be a part of this great show. We are so grateful."
In the finale audience were stars Jack Black, Masi Oka and Peter Gallagher. Read more.
Personally I thought that was a rather tacky thing to do. Here's Nota singing their champion's encore after a tough competition and somebody comes along unexpectedly and starts stealing their spotlight. No big deal but that was one of the very few missteps in the show.
Interview with Nota
What will the $100,000 dollars do for you?
David: Wow. That's a lot of money. We'll split it up evenly among the group members. Basically, this is a new life that we're starting now. We finally get to live off of what we love, which is music. I don't know about the rest of the guys, but me personally, the first thing I'm going to do is take a nice vacation with my wife.
Ludwig: Wow! (sings) Money, Money, Money! First of all, pay some stuff. Be debt-free. To have that peace of mind, I'm grateful. Money for me is like a tool to be able to do things that are important in life. That's how I see it.
Do you already have a vision for what your album is going to be like?
Ludwig: We want to do music for the people. If we want to do music for the people, we should do songs that the people know already, popular songs that really lift their souls up. Obviously, we'll infuse known songs with our style of Latin grooves, so they have a different twist. That's what people can expect from Nota.
David: I think our first album will be mainly English music with some Spanish infused and probably a second album in Spanish. There are a lot of choices, a lot of options. We're going to let Sony decide. Whatever they think is best for the group, that's what we're going to be doing.
When will your first post-'Sing-Off' concert be?
David: Honestly, we don't have any shows on our agenda. We do have a lot of TV shows and radio. Today, we're on "The Jay Leno Show." As far as concerts, we don't have anything yet. As soon as we know, we'll let you guys know. You can check out our website, NotaVocal.com, and whatever shows we have, we'll make sure to keep you guys posted.
Oh, and the Puerto Rican fans are wondering: When are you all coming home?
David: We're planning to come home this Tuesday, the 29th. We're going to be received by all our family, friends and fans. We're going to be at a place called Plaza Las Americas. We're just going to have a big party with everyone in Puerto Rico. Read more.
December 22, 2009
McFerrin's Sing Off performance
For those of you who missed the show last night a certain highlight was Bobby McFerrin performing "Drive" with the cast. He is without doubt an American treasure.
A Big Finish for ‘the Sing-Off’
New York Times:
The final installment of “The Sing-Off” finished on a high note on Monday. The show earned its largest audience, an average of 7.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen’s estimates, as NBC finished second in the night’s ratings. CBS ranked No. 1 as usual with a lineup of all repeats, including “Two and a Half Men” (10.7 million) and “The Big Bang Theory” (10 million). ABC was third with “I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown!” (5.8 million), followed by “Find My Family” (4.8 million). Fox finished fourth with repeats.
December 21, 2009
Nota wins the Sing Off
What a wonderfully entertaining show the finale turned out to be. The three remaining groups did a cappella proud and the guest spots worked well. Boys 11 Men were stunning. And congratulations to Nota who of all the competitors are probably the best suited to make the most of the Sony recording contract and if they can get good management have a shot of having some show biz success.
Four of the six members of Nota competed as Alpha in the Los Angeles Harmony Sweeps and won the regional competition. They competed in the National Finals in 2004 which was the year Chapter 6 took top honors.
What a lot of work it must of been for the groups to not only learn a bunch of new songs but also all that choreography, blocking and staging. There were several full on production numbers that can be very rehearsal intensive let alone sound checks, costume fittings, hair & makup, promotional activities and so on. I didn't notice one misstep, overt nervousness and only a few missed notes. That's hard enough for professionals let alone students. There should, however, be no crying in a cappella..
I was a little nervous watching the first broadcast of the Sing Off as I of course wanted this opportunity to showcase a cappella in the best possible light. Each show became better as everybody seemed to settle in and become more comfortable. Congratulations to the producers who I feel did a great job of presenting this art form we love so much in a creative and entertaining format (goofy sweaters excepted).
If this show inspires more folks to join or form an a cappella group then it should be judged a success and it certainly has helped give a cappella a boost in mainstream credibility. I am very happy with the way everything worked out and let's hope for a season two!
Voices of Lee – Stand by Me – Ben E. King
Voices of Lee (Swan Song) – So Long, Farewell – Sound of Music
NOTA – Lean on Me – Club Nouveau
NOTA (Swan Song, if needed) – It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday – Boys II Men
NOTA – Down – Jay Sean
Beelzebubs – Where Is The Love – Black Eyed Peas
Beelzebubs (Swan Song) – We Gotta Get Out of This Place – Animals
Nicole Scherzinger – You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore/Dusty Springfield/Joan Jett
Natasha Bedingfield – Pocketful of Sunshine
Ben Folds – Why Can’t We Be Friends – War
December 18, 2009
Teacher on leave after taking choral students to Hooters
A choral music teacher whose students performed at one of President Obama's inauguration events has been put on administrative leave after taking 40 students to eat at a Hooters in downtown Phoenix.
Mary Segall, a choir director at Paradise Valley High School in northeast Phoenix, accompanied choral students at a performance at Arizona Center last week. While there, the students ate lunch at the Hooters restaurant, said Judi Willis, spokeswoman for the district.
Segall told her principal that the restaurant, known for its busty waitresses in tight shirts and orange shorts, was the only place that could accommodate a group of that size. She could not be reached for comment.
"We believe that there are many venues for lunch for a large group of people in the downtown Phoenix area," Willis said. "There could have been a choice that might have been more appropriate, given that it was a school-day event with a school employee in charge."
Although parents knew students would be performing at Arizona Center, it is unclear whether they knew that their children would eat lunch at the restaurant. "I know that it was a complete surprise to the principal," Willis said. Several adults who aren't employees of the district accompanied Segall and the students on the trip. Willis said she does not know whether the adults challenged Segall's decision.
Segall, who has taught in the district for more than 23 years, was planning to retire at the end of January before the incident. She took the school choir to Washington, D.C., in January to perform at the "History in the Making: A Dream and a Change Inaugural Ball."
Willis said she does not know whether Segall will return to the district before she retires. "I am sure that someone is covering her classes," she said.
After teaching for 23 years this is how they thank her! These are high school kids for goodness sake - not kindergarten kids. I've never actually been to a Hooters (honest) but surely they are pretty tame. Not exactly a strip club. Why are some people so afraid of breasts?
Ben Folds interview
From a Ben Folds interview:-
Folds admits that he didn't know who Scherzinger was before the show. "I didn't know what a Pussycat Doll was. I just met Nicole," he said. "We get along great ... She's singing the whole time and she sings her ass off. Had I previously seen the Pussycat Dolls, she and her girlfriends on YouTube gyrating on top of cars, I'm not sure what I would have thought."
Seeing himself on the show, which may or may not be picked up for a full run, has been a nerve-wracking experience for Folds. "I have to dress up a little bit and I don't really feel that comfortable," he said. "I think I look really weird, but everyone thinks that when they see themselves on TV. Then the camera moves over to Nicole and she looks perfect. I'm glad I'm not a girl. At least my excuse can be that I'm a weird old dude."
New York Times:
Where are these groups getting their wardrobes, and who’s paying for them? The color-coordinated outfits seem to change with each new camera angle. The Beelzebubs may have singlehandedly reversed the declining fortunes of the goofy-sweater-manufacturing industry. What kind of closet space do they give students up there at Tufts, where these singers are from? No wonder tuition at the place is pushing $40,000.
Those clothes were obviously provided to the groups but I hear they did not get to keep them afterwards. I'm pretty sure they were provided by a sponsor and they sure looked a lot like those Gap ads that have been running including during the show. Maybe I'm old fashioned but again please tuck in those shirts. Is this a new trend I'm missing?
December 17, 2009
Meet the new Rockapella
Here's Rockapella performing "White Christmas" as they introduce Steve Dorian who will join them in 2010 as December 22nd will be Kevin Wright's final show.
December 16, 2009
And then there were three
After another entertaining evening the judges narrowed the field by sending home MAXX Factor and The SoCals. I thought that MAXX Factor did a great job especially that as a quartet they had half of the number of voices of the next most populous group and only a third of the all male Beelezebubs. Well done ladies and we look forward to seeing you as hosts of the next season's Harmony Sweepstakes National Finals.
Ben Folds, as should really come as no surprise, is doing a wonderful job as a judge and his comments are spot on.
The voting is open at the Sing Off web site which is now full of photos and video clips. (I like how they are now labeling the clips Season 1...) The voting is only open until 9am EST Sunday Dec 20 so start voting now. That means the show will have the results long before the live final show. Does that therefore make the groups' performances redundant on the last show? Not so sure about that although I do understand the logistics of trying to do a live tally over different time zones. But still..
Looks like the Monday night show will have guests such as Bobby McFerrin and Smokey Robinson with a reunion performance from Boyz II Men.
Superstar Medley Song List
Voices of Lee – The Beatles – Paperback Writer/Oh! Darling/All You Need Is Love
Nota – Jackson 5 – I Want You Back/I’ll Be There/ABC
Beezlebubs – The Who – Behind Blue Eyes/Who Are You/Baba O’Reilly
Maxx Factor – Beach Boys – God Only Know/Wouldn’t It Be Nice/Good Vibrations
The Socals – Journey – Anyway You Want It/Open Arms/Don’t Stop Believin’
Judge’s Request Song List
Voices of Lee – Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror
Nota – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Beezlebubs – Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
The Socals – The Bangles and Simon Garfunkel – Hazy Shade of Winter
RATINGS: 'Sing-Off' Sounds Like a Winner
NBC's "The Sing-Off" is climbing up the Nielsen charts and could be turning into a modest holiday hit for the network. Tuesday's second episode of the Sony-produced reality competition averaged a 2.6/7 among adults 18-49, according to preliminary fast national data. That's up 13 percent from the show's Monday premiere.
With "Monday Night Football" not in the mix, "Sing" also improved sharply among men 18-34 (up 29 percent). And unlike Monday, when "Sing" lost audience over its two-hour run, Tuesday's episode upticked from a 2.2 rating in the 8-8:30 half hour to a 2.8 at 9:30.
Overall, the a cappella competition ranked second for the night, behind only CBS's powerhouse hits "NCIS" and "NCIS: Cool J." One factor that might have helped: NBC's strongest night of the week is usually Tuesdays, typically home to "The Biggest Loser."
"Sing" is also showing signs of a pop culture breakthrough, with comments on Twitter turning positive (at least based on one reporter's unscientific analysis of the Twitter stream) and mainstream blogs (such as Time's Tuned In) serving up post-show recaps and discussions.
December 15, 2009
Sing Off night two
Even more fun tonight as every group stepped it up a notch (or two) and the overall level of singing was much improved. The first show seemed to emphasize the choreography but now the singing and arranging are in the forefront and the groups seem more comfortable. BYU’s Noteworthy were eliminated tonight and probably deservedly so although they certainly did a good job with the voices they have. Much was made of the limitations of all-female groups which is true to point but then there are groups such as Sweet Honey in The Rock, Anonymous 4, VOCO, Zap Mama, Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares who can sing a wide range of material.
Kudos to all of the groups who are having to arrange and learn all new material over the course of only a week let alone they are being assigned songs that are deliberately out of their comfort zone. MAXX Factor had by far the greatest challenge in that regard with "Rehab" and they did an admirable job on a song that no Sweet Adeline group, I’m confident to say, has ever performed before! The SoCal Vocals singing "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us" or the Beelzebubs "Come Sail Away" had to stretch nowhere near as much.
Nice to see the costumes and a small complaint I have had with some of the Harmony Sweepstakes groups in the past has been the lack of thought some of them put into their stage outfits. (barbershop quartets excepted who always dress to the nines). Lots of color coordination but not so sure about all those scarves (I wonder if The Gap is a sponsor?). And do please tuck in the shirts.
I look forward to Wednesday and make no predictions. One thing the Harmony Sweeps has shown me is that on any given night some groups can rise to the occasion while others may stumble. Everybody is doing a great job and good luck to them all.
Good ratings for the Sing Off
NBC's "The Sing-Off" got off to a fine enough start last night, posting the network's best ratings in its timeslot since September, albeit on a night where NBC has struggled with "Heroes" and "Trauma."
The show averaged a 2.3 adults 18-49 rating from 8 to 10 p.m., according to Nielsen overnights, second in the timeslot to CBS's all-original comedy block, which nearly doubled that rating with a 4.5.
"Sing-Off" peaked with a 2.4 rating at 8:30 p.m., and its ratings were very consistent throughout the two-hour block, which is a good sign. It means viewers did not flee the show in its second hour.
The a cappella reality show, hosted by former 98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey, was up 53 percent over NBC's 1.5 average in the timeslot last week, when it aired repeats of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
"Sing-Off" will air for three more weeknights. If the program can maintain that rating, it will be a solid filler for NBC, on a week when it would have otherwise aired mostly reruns.
Sing-Off song list so far
Here are the songs sung in the first two shows:-
From premiere night’s Group Choice selections:
Voices of Lee – Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
Nota – I’m Yours by Jason Mraz
Solo – Watcha Say by Jason Derulo
Beelzebubs – Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles
Maxx Factor – Dancin’ Queen by ABBA
The SoCals – Somebody to Love by Queen
Face – Livin’ On a Prayer by Bon Jovi
Noteworthy – Think by Aretha Franklin
Cast Song – Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie
From tonight’s Big Hit and Guilty Pleasure selections:
Voices of Lee – No One by Alicia Keys and Freedom 90 by George Michael
Nota – Down by Jay Sean and Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees
Beelzebubs – Right Round by Flo Rida and Come Sail Away by Styx
Maxx Factor – Love Story by Taylor Swift and Rehab by Amy Winehouse
The SoCals – Already Gone by Kelly Clarkson and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Jefferson Starship
Noteworthy – Viva La Vida by Coldplay and Hold On by Wilson Phillips
December 14, 2009
Results from the Sing-Off premiere
Here's the opening number of tonight's premiere episode of the Sing Off. It was a fun show to watch and I enjoyed it more, frankly, than I expected being the somewhat jaded producer who, now I think about it, has probably seen more a cappella groups perform than anybody else anywhere! (Wow I had never thought of that before but with 20 plus years of both regional and national Harmony Sweepstakes contests, over a decade of the A Cappella Summit and too-many-to-remember other shows I have either produced or watched, I can't think of anybody else who would of seen so many groups.)
I thought the judges' comments were very good and I agreed with much of what was said although I did not think that Face deserved elimination. The other group voted out were newcomers Solo who did an admirable job but were clearly out of their league. All told I thought the show was very entertaining and I look forward to tomorrow night.
December 11, 2009
Q&A with judge Ben Folds
Q. What are you looking for in a great a cappella group?
A. Ben: I’m looking for it to move or entertain me. If that’s not happening, then I go into my producer space and say, “Well there’s a reason for this.” That’s my job. Each of us judges seem to have gone to what we’re useful for. Nicole usually says something that everyone can relate to like, “It had energy.” Usually, for me, I’m looking for something that’s making it not work… something in the arrangement, something distracting. Each group has their own challenges. An all female group has a challenge of not having a bass but an all male group has challenges as well. At the end of the day, I’d like to feel like some of them innovated a bit in the genre.
Q. Will the a cappella music translate well over television?
A. Ben: I’ve been concerned about that and written many long, rambling emails about that to the producers. That’s true, though, of any kind of music on television. Music on television is just not a full experience. You have to get the mix as representative and exciting as possible. I have every reason to feel it’s been well shot and well edited because they’ve been such sticklers about this. As a judge, my challenge was that the front of house was so loud and so exciting, that I had to concentrate. I think they’re gonna the land the plane on that really well. I hope!
Q. For people who aren’t really familiar with a cappella music, what do you think they’re going to get out of this?
A. Ben: I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t like it. Every group is different. There’s no formula. I think when people see it, they’re just going to keep watching it. I know I would. It’s almost like a circus when you see people doing this. You don’t think that they can pull this off. These groups are pretty full, it’ll translate over television. I think it’s going to be exciting. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t keep watching it. I don’t watch much tv but I would flip right through a normal singing show. I think the reason this music has a future in pop music is because the economy is crap. People can’t afford to buy instruments… a guitar or a piano. What’s cooler than doing music this way? Read more.
December 10, 2009
The Glee Factor: A Rise in Amateur Singing Groups
News that Fox's breakout hit Glee would go on hiatus after Dec. 9 hit viewers hard. "For the love of God, don't put the magic on hold!" writes Shannon Smith, a fan in North Dakota.
If the reaction seems a tad overwrought, it may be because the magic isn't just about what up to 8 million viewers watch every Wednesday. It's also in the copycatting that Glee inspires off screen. With an assist from other corners of pop culture — including a karaoke contest on Oprah and NBC's first-ever a cappella–oriented reality show, premiering this month — Glee is inspiring its most hard-core fans to do some singing of their own. Once the butt of jokes everywhere except on a handful of college campuses, a cappella is making inroads all over the map.
Amateur adult singing groups are reporting a crescendo of interest. Since June — following Glee's May premiere — the number of neighborhood songster gatherings listed on Meetup.com has nearly doubled, and participation has jumped 45% from 27,475 on June 1 to nearly 40,000 today. "[Glee] kind of inspired me," says recent Meetup convert Jessica Lin, 28, of Santa Clara, Calif., who enjoyed listening to a cappella groups as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, and now gets together with half a dozen or so Silicon Valley buddies every week to sing. Meanwhile, over in Michigan, it took just one episode to prompt Cynthia D'Amour, 43, to embrace her high school–choir history by joining the Ann Arbor Civic Chorus. "Seeing Glee was like, 'Oh my God, I really need to reactivate that piece of me,' " she says.
Even veterans of the post-college singing subculture — which includes Microsoft's Baudboys, named after a modem speed, and NASA's Chromatics — say they notice a Glee factor. The show, they claim, is helping quash a cappella's rap as the province of dorks. For instance, when Vinyl Street, an a cappella group in Somerville, Mass., went out for karaoke on a recent weekend, members told a woman at the next table that they were there as a group — and found themselves a fangirl. "She was all excited," says co-founder Phil Dardeno, 29, a Boston University financial-aid planner, "and was asking, 'Is it like Glee?' " Read more.
December 8, 2009
Groups compete on NBC's 'The Sing-Off'
Chicago Daily Herald (IL):
Those who couldn't hit a note, even if it were painted on the side of a building and were using a battering ram, are lip-syncers. Those who can sing as long as the music accompanies them are chorus members. But those whose voices alone are instruments are true singers. An idea of how painful seemingly decent singers can sound without music is demonstrated in the audition episodes of "American Idol."
Now NBC presents those pure of voice in "The Sing-Off," a four-night special beginning 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14. Nick Lachey hosts the two-hour shows featuring the eight best a cappella groups NBC found from more than 1,000 submissions, according to executive producer Joel Gallen. Judges, including Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and Ben Folds, will advise the groups.
On the first night, the judges will eliminate one group, and on the second and third nights, they'll reject two each. Once the competition is down to three groups, viewers have the chance to vote, and the winning group receives an Epic Records/Sony Music recording contract and $100,000. The finale will air Monday, Dec. 21.
"None of them do this as a full-time gig," Gallen says. "All have jobs. They are going into the competition with this as more than a hobby but not a profession."
One needs an amazing voice to make it a profession, as Stockman well knows. "You have to be on key; you have to sound good," he says. "The trick is there is no instrument help, no backdrop. It's just you and your voice. You have to paint a picture or draw a story that normally music could help you. A cappella is a very hard art form. It's normally more than one person, and you have to stay on key. And you have to make whatever picture you are trying to draw, do all of that with your voice and still be entertaining. "It's not as popular as it should be," he continues. "It takes actual skill, no lip-syncing. It's the real deal. Either you can do it or you can't."
People, especially the judges trained to listen, will know instantly if the group can or can't sing. Stockman says he will know within "the first couple of notes. This is not rocket science here. This is music." Stockman and Folds, in separate interviews, say they want to help aspiring singers but have no intention of encouraging those who can't sing.
The genres for the groups of four to 12 adults will vary. Opening songs will be whatever they like best, but then each episode will have a challenge. Some a cappella groups, say barbershop quartets, often skew toward older tunes, but one of the challenges will have them singing hits from the last couple of years, Gallen says. "We'll also give them a guilty pleasure," he says. The groups could do a song from their iPods, and Gallen says that could include anything. There will also be a superstar medley.
Gallen hopes this four-night special will grow into a series. A producer for MTV's "Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew," Gallen says that show "is very much an inspiration for this show. They are a group of dancers who have to move as a unit and move our audience to inspire them and make them want to come back for more. It's an entertainment show unlike any other show they have seen. The world of singing has been dominated by one show ('American Idol'). I am not saying we will make a dent in that show. We are only doing four episodes. If we do well, then eight. If the show got picked up, hundreds and hundreds of a cappella groups will be knocking our door down."
Though much of the world has an opinion on the acerbically honest Simon Cowell, Folds says, "I have never seen this Simon guy everyone talks about. I am just interested in helping." As a judge, Stockman says, he is "going to bring sincerity and honesty, but I am not the type of person in the habit of ripping people (apart). I will tell you what it is because I am going to be honest. A cappella and music is my life. I dedicated my life to this business, and I want people to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are."
The groups have been rehearsing all week and apparently are being kept apart and haven't seen each others performances. Petra Haden has been working with the groups and Sonos was spotted on the set.
December 7, 2009
Why basses can’t remember their part
From the front of the choir (blog)
The bass part often follows the root notes of the chords as they progress through the piece. If it’s a relatively straightforward song, then there will sometimes only be three chords. This means that the basses only get to sing three notes! Even worse, if the basses are singing a constant drone to a song, which often happens in Georgian singing for example, they may only get two notes!
With just two or three notes, it’s very hard to create any kind of interesting, memorable memory. Most of the time the basses are wondering how long they have to stay on this note and when they have to move onto the next one. There are often no clues for when to change, and no easy way of remembering.
The tops and the altos usually have an interesting melody to remember (with lots of notes!). The tenors can too, but in any case usually have some sexy blues notes in there to signal where they are. But the poor basses have no road map of where to go. No wonder they find it hard to remember a featureless landscape. Read more.
I think many of you out there might want to comment on Chris's blog posting. All I can say is I have noticed that bass singers always seem to be the last to arrive for sound checks. And for everything else for that matter..
December 5, 2009
Lucky number: Take 6 in harmony
The Birmingham News (AL):
Part of the credit, Claude V. McKnight III says, has to go to Oakwood College. If not for the atmosphere and traditions at the Huntsville school (now called Oakwood University), he might never have formed the six-man vocal troupe that came to fame as Take 6.
"I’d definitely say it had a lot to do with the college," says McKnight, 47. "I started the group as a freshman at Oakwood, and it always had a rich history of a cappella groups, choirs and trios and such. Because that particular institution seemed to frown on instrumentation, people went to extremes in the other direction. You had to have more and better and more intricate harmonies."
McKnight, who holds the first tenor position, says he has the highest voice in the group and is the go-to guy for falsetto. Natural ability is a given — his mother’s side of the family, the Willis clan, is filled with talented singers — but McKnight says he never takes those good genetics for granted.
"You train your voice just like you train your body," he says. "You keep it in shape, treat it with respect, go work it out. Actually, I have a very low natural voice, so I have to be careful with it. During concerts, I have to pace myself."
McKnight says he and his colleagues have learned to lean on each other when illness strikes on tour. For Take 6, the show must go on. "You sing through a cold; you make do," McKnight says. "With six guys, you figure it out. For about three weeks, I had no falsetto in my voice, and we have numerous arrangements that rely on it. I had to learn some of the other guys’ parts, so they could cover for me."
Take 6’s team spirit made the transition easier, McKnight says, along with the easy familiarity of two decades. The group’s lineup has seen just one change since Take 6 (originally called Alliance) was signed by Warner Bros. in 1987. Huntsville native Mervyn Warren left in 1991 to focus on producing and composing, and was replaced by Joey Kibble, the brother of founding member Mark Kibble.
"Over 20 years, we’ve seen marriage and divorces and births, financial valleys and financial mountains," McKnight says. "It’s brought us much closer, and honed and refined what our purpose has become. Keeping a group together is one of the absolute hardest things in music. You have six distinctly different wants and personalities. We’re here by the grace of God, and that’s a wonderful thing. Read more.
Singing out of tune can be good
The Guardian (UK): (Hat tip The Choral Blog)
One of the weirder side effects of watching The X Factor is that I've started to think singing in tune is hugely overrated. It's a central tenet of the show that singers should be note-perfect, the ideal being the melisma-heavy, high-octane style practised by R&B vocalists, who are all talent and no taste. I suspect at least 250,000 people agree with me: that's how many people bought the debut album by La Roux, whose trademark falsetto tends to flail around only in the approximate vicinity of the tune.
Her wobbliness lends a fragility to songs like Bulletproof, undermining its lyrical feistiness. It's proof that singing out of tune can convey emotions that being in tune can't: frailty, insouciance, sarcasm, anger. All the melismas in the world can't pack the emotional punch of Billie Holiday's ravaged voice on her 1958 album Lady in Satin. Read more.
Quartet offers the right Tonic for the holidays
It may be a cappella, but a Tonic Sol-fa Christmas concert is anything but stripped down. "We never just stand up there and sing," said Shaun Johnson, a member of the popular Minnesota vocal quartet.
Although, having the ability to create a full band sound with their voices alone, they could. But that could give the competition a leg up. "We compete with everybody out there, not just in the a cappella world. We're competing with punk and gospel, blues, country and rock," Johnson said.
To do so, they make sure the show is entertaining. Over the years, the group has made it snow, brought in video screens, special guests and high school choirs, Johnson said. He's even repelled from the ceiling. "People who come to see us expect surprises," he said. "We give you your money's worth." Read more.
December 4, 2009
December 3, 2009
Third judge named
Nicole Scherzinger, a member of the singing group Pussycat Dolls, has been added as the third judge on "The Sing-Off," NBC said today.
December 2, 2009
The Sing Off: Conference Call with Nick Lachey
Nick and executive producer Joel Gallen spoke to reporters in a conference call about The Sing Off and what viewers can expect.
Q. How did you select the groups for The Sing Off?
A. Joel: We went through an intensive casting process. We searched across the country, by going on location, looking at clips on YouTube, and asking people to submit videos. We definitely got 2500-3000 groups that we looked at. We went through a very meticulous process to weed it down and find the 8 that we have. You have to go through background checks and scheduling. There were groups that couldn’t work it. If you’re a college group, you might have final exams. If you have jobs and families… that’s the thing about this show that’s interesting. None of these groups do this for a living. This is just a labor or love, a passion. No one really makes a living singing a capella, at least on our show. I think that’s what makes our show even more compelling.
Q. What will your duties be as host?
A. Nick: Obviously, it’s all about a capella music, which is exciting to me because it hasn’t really been explored on tv before. It’s a passion for me and 98 Degrees always took a lot of pride in being able to sing a capella. My responsibility is to move the show along and secondly, to be kind of a support system to these groups. I’m excited to be a part of it and hear what these guys have to offer.
Q. Who are you hoping tunes in for The Sing Off? What kind of audience are you trying to reach?
A. Joel: That’s a very good question. We’re trying to reach as many people as possible. We’re not zeroing in on a specific age group or demographic. We’re trying to get as wide a range as possible. Based on the type of music we’re going to showcase, I think we have a very wide range of representation which I hope will translate into a wide representation of the audience. To answer that question, we want to reach as many people as possible.
Q. How did you first get involved with a capella singing? Did you sing around the house, perhaps with your family around the holidays?
A. Nick: I wish I had a great family holiday a capella story for you but I actually went to performing arts school. I was in a 6 part male group that I used to meet with before school. It was really intricate and challenging stuff. I was also in a barbershop quartet. That was my summer gig in high school. I sang my share of “Lida Rose” back in the day and had a lot of fun. Read more.
December 1, 2009
Announcing Primarily A Cappella Radio
After several years of wishful thinking and a couple of false starts we are finally ready to launch Primarily A Cappella Radio. This is a 24/7 live streaming audio feed that can be listened to for free using all of the popular media players such as iTunes, Win Amp, Windows Media Player, Real Player and more.
We are in the fortunate position of having in our possession almost certainly the largest collection of a cappella music anywhere including not only the latest and greatest but also some classics that are currently out of print. We have been busy encoding this vast library and will be “netcasting” a variety of different programs focusing exclusively on vocal harmony singing.
Bandwidth is always an issue with these kind of endeavors and in previous attempts we were overwhelmed almost immediately however this time we have secured a large amount of bandwidth and can accommodate a decent amount of simultaneous listeners.
We will be building the station over the next weeks and are starting with a beta test for our dear readers of this blog. For the month of December we will be playing a continuous mix of our vocal harmony Christmas music which currently features well over 3,000 songs.
So we invite you to add us to your media player and to give us a listen. To add us to your player click here.
You can also copy and paste this link into the “open url” feature of your player.