September 30, 2010

Happy First Amendment Day

The UNC Loreleis, along with other campus a cappella groups will be singing banned and controversial songs in concert today as part of First Amendment Day being held at the University of Northern Carolina.

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September 28, 2010

Racing a cappella's poor start

Our kids always choose a couple of teams to cheer for at the beginning of each Amazing Race season so I of course felt I must support intrepid a cappella singers Conner Diemand-Yauman & Jonathan Schwartz of the Princeton Nassons. Dubbed Team Glee by the other contestants they do plan on singing as much as possible during the race beginning in this episode to their cab driver in London. Well they were off to a rocky start as they got lost on the very first leg trying to find Boston airport and were last to arrive. Not too encouraging either is when they explain here that they are "not very good at navigating". You guys do know that this is a race around the world right?..

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September 27, 2010

Sound of Music reunion

Raindrops on roses and big stars on Oprah ...

For the first time in 45 years, the entire cast of The Sound of Music will gather for a reunion on the Oprah show stage on Oct. 29.

Stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, along with fellow cast members Charmian Carr ("Liesl"), Nicholas Hammond ("Friedrich"), Heather Menzies-Urich ("Louisa"), Duane Chase ("Kurt"), Angela Cartwright ("Brigitta"), Debbie Turner ("Marta") and Kym Karath ("Gretl"), will gather to dish about what life was like on set and how the movie changed their lives.

The von Trapp Children – a singing group featuring members of the real von Trapp family – will perform.

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September 24, 2010

Join the Virtual Choir

Here's something fun to do! Eric Whitacre is working on his next virtual choir project and this time wants to get into the the Guinness Book of World Records. He is asking singers who would like to participate to please submit an audio-visual recording for his work Sleep before the end of the year. More information here and also on the YouTube Virtual Choir Channel.

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Hope Through Harmony

San Clemente Times (CA):

Bob Barry, a Project Manager at Volt Engineering, reeled into depression when he was diagnosed with Parkinson Disease nine years ago. Although he has a successful career and a loving family, he became angry at God and full of self-pity. He lost his ability to run and even walking became difficult. Eventually his right arm began to shake, and his voice became softer.

After four years of asking, “Why me?” Barry discovered that the choice before him was to either sit and wallow in his grief and discomfort, or throw himself against it. He decided the latter, with gusto.

Barry joined the Tremble Clefs, one of only a few such singing programs in the nation, and while experts agree singing is physically and cognitively beneficial to those with Parkinson’s, Barry also found a great hobby, made lasting friendships and developed a new attitude toward life.

Barry first heard the Tremble Clefs while attending a Parkinson’s support group at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. He thought it looked like fun.

Whether a confident or closet singer, breaking into song has more benefits than meets the ear. Aside from boosting your mood and confidence, music is clinically proven to reduce your brain’s perception of pain, reduce blood pressure, is extremely effective in memory recall and can regulate heart and respiratory rates, according to the Center for Music Therapy in Texas.

The Tremble Clefs, sponsored by the National Parkinson Foundation, employ music as therapy.

Music therapy is a “tool of great power...because of its unique capacity to organize or reorganize cerebral function when it has been damaged,” said Professor of Neurology Oliver Sacks. Music therapy helps patients cognitively, and physically by using their voices and moving their bodies. New research shows that exercise, social stimulation and singing can help postpone Parkinson symptoms even more effectively than early diagnosis and medication.

Less than a dozen Tremble Clefs groups exist in the nation. Read more.

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September 23, 2010

Still on the hook for $24M to the Drifters

A concert promoter in Chapter 7 bankruptcy is still responsible for $24 million in claims for infringing on the trademark of the Drifters, a federal judge in New Jersey has ruled. Barry Singer knew he was hurting the trademark's owner, Faye Treadwell, when he promoted a group that billed itself as the legendary doo-wop pioneers, said U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia last year gave Treadwell, who once managed the influential 1950s group, the go-ahead to seek damages from New York City promoter Larry Marshak and his associates, including Singer. Marshak promoted concerts by bands that called themselves The Drifters, The Platters and The Coasters, even though none of them had an original member involved in recording or first performing any of their respective hits.

Treadwell became The Drifters' manager in 1959 after her husband, George -- who led the group for several years -- died. In 1970, long after the group had disbanded, Marshak recruited some former members and began marketing them as the Drifters. A federal judge in Newark put a stop to that in 1999, finding Marshak guilty of fraud and declaring Treadwell the sole trademark owner.

Singer, an associate of Marshak’s for years, then made a deal with the widow of a band member to license the name "The Elsbeary Hobbs Drifters." Four years after the group began performing, Treadwell went back to court. U.S. District Court Judge Dickinson Debevoise, in turn, said his injunction against Marshak applied to Singer, too. That led to Marshak and Singer’s unsuccessful appeal to the 3rd Circuit.

Soon after, Singer filed for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7. Treadwell quickly obtained a court order that wouldn’t remove (or "discharge") his debt to her -- nearly $9 million in profits by the drifting wannabes, in addition to damages. Singer appealed, claiming he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. But Wolfson found his infringement on the Drifters’ trademark damaging to Treadwell, as well as "wrongful and without just cause or excuse."

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September 22, 2010

Music review: Chanticleer's 'Out of This World'

San Francisco Chronicle:

Thematic programming is always a fine thing, even if it's often little more than a pretext for a musical group to do more or less what it was going to do anyway. That was certainly the impression left by "Out of This World," the season-opening program by the men's chorus Chanticleer, which had a beautiful performance Sunday at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The program covered a broad swath of musical ground, from Renaissance polyphony and Romantic offerings to more recent works in both a classical and popular vein, and all of it was sung with the group's characteristic blend of suavity and transparency. When you can sing all this music so well, it's a shame to leave any of it out.

What ostensibly tied the lineup together was a focus on celestial bodies - planets, galaxies, stars, what have you. And that theme was in fact key to two contemporary works: Mason Bates' "Observer in the Magellanic Cloud," which had its world premiere, and "Island in Space," Kirke Mechem's settings of two texts about Earth seen from an interplanetary perspective.

The rest was merely an excuse, opening the gates for any sacred polyphonic works mentioning heaven (are there many of those, do you reckon?), any Renaissance madrigals mentioning stars, any pop songs whose lyrics include the word "world," and Britten's gorgeous "Hymn to St. Cecilia" just because.

But what of that? The fine blend of these 12 voices, together with a noticeable improvement in rhythmic control, made nearly all of the program rewarding on its own terms. Read more.

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September 20, 2010

A cappella musical opens in New York

Playbill (NY):

In Transit, the new show currently offered by Off-Broadway's Primary Stages, will not have to try too hard to stand out among the dozens of stage offerings this fall in New York. It is the only a cappella musical in town. In fact, it's the only a cappella musical in long memory.

"The only one I know of is Avenue X," says director Joe Calarco, referring to the John Jiler and Ray Leslee musical about race relations in 1963 Gravesend, Brooklyn that played Off-Broadway in 1994. But, Calarco points out, "Avenue X is strictly a doo-wop a cappella musical. This show is every musical style."

How do you end up with an a cappella musical? Well, it helps to start with an a cappella group. In Transit was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russell M. Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. All four were members of a singing group in college (along with two other people who have since moved on).

Along the way, to provide themselves with fresh material, they started to write new songs. Eventually, they added stories to them. This was a slow process. Thus, In Transit had been around in one form or another for some years before the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center called Calarco in 2008 and asked if he'd like to direct a reading.

As the title somewhat indicates, the show takes place on a New York subway. But the people on the train don't stay there. "There are moments when we go to where people work, and this one character goes home," explains Calarco, who is best known as the adapter and director of the unorthodox Bard adaptation Shakespeare's R&J. "We go a lot of places with them, literally and in their head." Among the riders are an aspiring actress, a fledgling financier, a street-savvy beatboxer and a cab driver. In keeping with the nature of the show, the characters are identified in the program not just by their names, but also their vocal ranges, i.e., "Alto/Regina."

Read more.

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September 18, 2010

Essentials top Canadian pop charts

Congratulations to Ontario-based a cappella group The Essentials whose latest release Nothing But Blue is currently number one on the Canadian pop charts (Nielsen SoundScan) topping Eminem, Justin Beiber and Kate Perry. They garnered a lot of media attention after their recent performances at The Canadian National Exhibition with several national radio and TV appearances.

Posted by acapnews at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

Sweet Honey in the Rock Sues Labels

Courthouse News Service:

The five members of Sweet Honey in the Rock claim their record label tricked them out of rights to their music after shorting them of royalties for years. The famed a cappella group demands $5 million from Lieb Ostrow and three of his record labels: Musical Kidz, For Future Generations and Music for Little People.

In their federal complaint, the band also sued Trudy Corp., successor in interest to the three other businesses. The singers say they signed several agreements with Ostrow and his labels, from 1989 to 2002. But over the years, they say, Ostrow fell behind on royalties and advances.

In October 2007, the band says, For Future Generations dba Music for Little People assigned to creditors all of its assets, including its contractual rights to seven Sweet Honey albums, to settle its debts. The assignee, Equitable Transitions Inc., then sold to the band all the rights to its own master recordings, the complaint states. But the group says Ostrow had transferred ownership of their music to another of his imprints, Musical Kidz, in March 2007.

In December that year, the band says, it demanded that Ostrow hand over the rights that Sweet Honey had bought from Music for Little People. The band says that Ostrow refused, and instead sold Musical Kidz and Music for Little People to the music and book publisher Trudy Corp., in March 2008.

Sweet Honey in the Rock says it registered its copyrights to the songs in April 2008. The singers demand a declaration the band members are sole owners of all Sweet Honey in the Rock assets. They also demand $5 million for copyright infringement and punitive damages.

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September 17, 2010

Queens and Stars!

2010 International Quartet Champions, Zing! and Rising Star Quartet Champions, Vogue will be performing at the upcoming Sweet Adeline Convention to be held October 19-23 at the Key Arena in Seattle. Close to 7,000 are expected to attend with more than 70 quartets and 43 choruses competing with the convention expected to generate an estimated $20 million economic impact citywide.

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September 16, 2010

The Glee Effect

Jazz Times:

It was precisely a century ago that the Yale Whiffenpoofs first banded together to sing of poor little lambs who had lost their way. Since that fateful night at Mory’s Temple Bar, choral groups, a cappella or otherwise, have grown to become nationwide high school and college staples, their allure ebbing and flowing, as dictated by the cultural zeitgeist. Popularity reached a peak during the Eisenhower era, when the appeal of the Hi-Lo’s alongside that foursome of Fours—Lads, Preps, Freshmen, Aces—caused clean-cut, brush-cut vocal groups to pop up on campuses coast-to-coast. The phenomenon slumped in the 1960s, when such sweet harmonies fell out of favor, trumped by folk songs, garage rock and flower power.

The latest eruption, as unexpected as it is powerful, began with little fanfare in May 2009, when Fox aired the pilot for Glee, a teen-focused series about an assortment of strays and losers at William McKinley High in Lima, Ohio, who find solace in the school’s resurrected vocal choir.

But what is Glee’s effect at the grassroots level, among high school and college students and within campus music programs? Again, the statistics are impressive. The National Association for Music Education polled choral directors about the show’s impact. Forty-three percent noted a sharp rise in student interest and enrollment, plus a huge number of requests from choir members that songs from the show be added to their repertoire. At the University of North Texas in Denton, Joe Coira announced the creation of a new vocal group the day after Glee’s first season finale, and was shocked when more than 100 students showed up to audition. In the U.K., the Choir of the Year competition has seen a 30-percent rise in entrants.

Tim Davis, Glee’s real-life Will Schuester, who handles vocal arranging for the show and works with the singers in studio and on set, is only partially surprised by the series’ enormous popularity and extended influence. “I wasn’t sure about this kind of show being taken seriously and being compared to High School Musical, which was the last thing [the creators] wanted,” says Davis. Read lots more.

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September 14, 2010

Songsters sustain ‘Perfect Harmony’

Boston Globe (MA):

In their different ways, “Glee,’’ “Dreamgirls,’’ and “American Idol’’ have all traded on our interest in the singer behind the song.

So we are dished up back stories galore. We might learn about the hardscrabble path the character (or contestant) has traveled, the private insecurities behind the smiling public face, the romances that ended with a broken heart but that, by golly, enable him or her to sing the lyrics of torch songs with passionate conviction.

Now comes “Perfect Harmony,’’ an erratic, sometimes cheesy, but generally likable comedy at Stoneham Theatre about the backstage machinations and personal turmoil among a group of highly competitive high-schoolers at a national a cappella competition.

Originally conceived by Andrew Grosso, who directs this production, “Perfect Harmony’’ was developed in workshops involving a group of actors called “The Essentials.’’ It premiered four years ago at the New York International Fringe Festival, had a solid run on Theatre Row in 2008, and moves to off-Broadway next month.

“Perfect Harmony’’ presents a clash between the all-male Acafellas, who are 17-time national champions (“They inspired that TV show,’’ one character says early on, in an apparent reference to “Glee’’), and an underdog ensemble of female classmates called Ladies in Red (later changed to Lady Treble).

Both teams are even more revved up because this year MTV plans to broadcast the competition. But behind the scenes, inevitably, there is discord and, just as inevitably, across-enemy-lines romance. Read more.

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September 13, 2010

Corsican a cappella makes NYC debut

The outstanding male vocal quartet Barbara Furtuna will perform Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 8:00 PM at Saint Peter’s Church in New York. Barbara Furtuna carries on the centuries-old tradition of polyphonic singing from Corsica, the mountainous Mediterranean island off the coast of France.

With its exquisite and haunting a cappella harmonies of spiritual and secular songs, the group has become a leading exponent of this music that nearly became extinct until its revival in the 1970s. The vocal tradition is now a central part of Corsican national identity, and is sometimes linked to calls for autonomy or independence.

Corsican polyphonic song – one of Europe’s most beautiful vocal traditions – is performed for all celebrations, rites of passage and seasonal festivals on the island and includes both secular and sacred songs. Songs are traditionally performed a cappella. The method of a cappella singing is based on three parts while a fourth part – the voice of the angels – is produced by harmonics caused by the interaction of the other voices and seems to appear magically.

The lead singer is the middle voice and is known as the secunda; ornamentation is provided by the terza, the highest voice; and the lowest voice is provided by the bassu, often in the form of a drone. Traditionally polyphony was sung by men, though there was the cuntrastu, which included male and female voices. Read more.

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September 10, 2010

Walter Latzko dies

Legendary arranger Walter Latzko passed away this morning at 7.45am after a long illness. He was 86 years old. A member of the Barbershop Hall of Fame he left a legacy of 1,226 arrangements for barbershop quartets and choruses of which 94 are medleys and is considered to be one of the greatest barbershop arrangers ever.

Walter was a joke-writer and musician having written for Arthur Godfrey’s radio and TV shows, Jack Sterling’s CBS morning radio show, Garry Moore, and Durward Kirby. He was the arranger and coach for the Chordettes who were regular performers on the Godfrey shows. He married one of the Chordettes, Marjorie, in 1953 who sang on the famous recording “Mr. Sandman.”

Read "From Lederhosen To Barbershop" where he reflects on a life in music, the great quartets he's known, and his wonderful wife of 56 years Margie.

Read his obituary here.

Posted by acapnews at 9:50 PM | Comments (1)

September 8, 2010

Eric Whitacre introduces 'Light & Gold'

Thanks to the choral blog who brought our attention to the new promo video from Decca Records for Eric Whitacre's upcoming new release "Light & Gold". Eric talks about his music, his new ensemble and as always is an absolute star.

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September 7, 2010

From Zero To Hero: Seraphic Fire's Viral Monteverdi

NPR All Things Considered

Last week, a recording of Claudio Monteverdi's 1610 masterpiece, Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, was released on iTunes. It promptly landed in the Top 10 classical recordings on iTunes, sandwiched between the London Symphony Orchestra's Beethoven and Yo-Yo Ma's Bach. What makes this surprising is that the recording is by a little-known Miami-based professional choir called Seraphic Fire - and the musicians released it themselves.

Seraphic Fire made its debut a little more than seven years ago. Classical music critic Greg Stepanich says it's become an essential part of South Florida's music scene — performing works from the Renaissance to the 21st century.

"Every concert that they do is all thought out, intellectually," he says. "And when you go hear it, it's vocally brilliant."

The group's founder and conductor is Patrick Dupre Quigley. Under his leadership, Seraphic Fire has sung with the New World Symphony and recorded with Shakira on her album Oral Fixation 2.

A couple years ago, when Seraphic Fire received a $25,000 grant, the group decided to tackle a big project: recording Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, one of the greatest choral works of all time. It teamed up with the Western Michigan University Chorale and recorded it in a little stone chapel in Kalamazoo. Read and listen to more.

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September 1, 2010

A cappella on the Amazing Race

The one reality show my family enjoys is the Amazing Race and the show has just announced the competitors for the upcoming season. One of the teams is Connor and Jonathan who proudly sing with the Princeton Nassoons. See them talk about singing with the group here.

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