November 30, 2010
Christmas Caroling Tradition Pioneered by Drunks
Christmas caroling has long been a favorite tradition of church groups, elderly choirs and children, but did you know that the first groups of carolers were nothing but a bunch of rowdy drunks? That's the tune from David McKillop, senior vice president of programming for the History Channel, who recently talked to AOL News about the network's upcoming holiday special, "The Real Story of Christmas," premiering Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET.
The TV special examines the surprising historical origins of our most bizarre Christmas customs, including why some of us go door to door singing holiday songs to any strangers who will listen.
McKillop said the origin of caroling dates back to the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, when Christmas was regarded as a festival of pure joy and drunken revelry. Oh, and prayer was involved somewhere in there too.
According to McKillop, groups of poor medieval carolers would go around to houses singing and begging for food and drinks, threatening to throw rocks through the windows of anyone who refused to give them a handout. They literally "went medieval" on people.
"They would get very, very rowdy. Eventually, the drunken revelry got too out of hand, and Christmas was banned for years in America in the 16th and 17th centuries," explained McKillop.
Sheesh. Sounds like an episode of "Carolers Gone Wild." If you don't open your door to singing strangers this year, no one will blame you.
November 23, 2010
Chanticleer offers paid singers positions
San Francisco based male a cappella ensemble Chanticleer are accepting applications for full-time singers of these parts - Countertenor, Tenor, Baritone, Bass. They offer salaried positions (starting high $30s) with benefits.
To get an idea what life on the road touring with the group is like be sure to check out the above video. Earlier this fall members of the group whipped out their camcorders and cell phone cameras and created the video over a couple day period while on tour. The piece is "Cells Planets". Written by Erika Lloyd of Little Grey Girlfriend and arranged by Vince Peterson, the song is Chanticleer's first foray into the world of indi-pop.
November 22, 2010
Mimi Perrin, singer in Les Double Six, dies at 84
Washington Post (DC):
Mimi Perrin, 84, a singer and pianist who formed Les Double Six, a vocal group that specialized in powerful and inventive French-language re-creations of jazz instrumental arrangements, died Nov. 16 in Paris. The newspaper Ouest-France reported the death but did not provide a cause of death.
Les Double Six performed in the vocalese style popularized in the United States by King Pleasure and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in the 1950s and later Manhattan Transfer. Those groups sang or scatted note-for-note to a highly intricate jazz repertoire first popularized by such artists as Count Basie, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan and Woody Herman.
The French-born Perrin, whose voice a Time magazine critic described as "extraordinarily agile," spent her early career playing bebop jazz piano and working as a backup singer for Blossom Dearie and other cabaret acts in Paris. She formed Les Double Six in 1959. Although a sextet, the group took its name from the fact that studio overdubbing gave the impression of having twice that many singers.
For lyrics, Ms. Perrin often wrote piquant story lines involving gangsters and lovers to accompany the melody of a given song. Quincy Jones, one of Ms. Perrin's chief arrangers, once praised her "fearless imagination and biting wit."
Ms. Perrin said that it was hard to create lyrics from the rapid-fire and precise solos initially played by such virtuosos as Parker. The French language, she told National Public Radio in 1999, "doesn't swing." She had to emphasize syllables and words that normally are not stressed in everyday French.
Her native tongue, she added, is a "glorious language . . . but I had to, you know, twist it a little so that the words would bounce like in English."
The classical music publication Gramophone weighed in on the French group in 1963. While sniffing a bit at the whole vocalese concept, the magazine compared the sextet to vocal athletes who "can still be wondered at . . . just as a trapeze artist excites our awe." Les Double Six, continued the review, displays "quite enthralling examples of this particular kind of expertise."
As the lead vocalist, Ms. Perrin combined a remarkably pure sound and an exquisite sense of swing. Her range was featured on Coltrane's haunting ballad "Naima," Lester Young's rollicking "Tickle Toe" and Mulligan's up-tempo "Westwood Walk."
Onstage, Ms. Perrin said that she and her colleagues "thought like musicians" - trying to channel the sound of a trombone or saxophone depending on the part that they were copying from the original recording.
"I remember when I went onstage and my solo was coming, I had to put my hands like I was holding a saxophone," she told NPR. "It helped to feel like I was inside the instrument and I was Charlie Parker, you know."
Other members of the group included, at various times, Ward Swingle - who later formed the popular Swingle Singers and applied vocalese to Bach - and Christiane Legrand, the sister of celebrated composer Michel Legrand. Read more.
November 19, 2010
Sing-Off group bios
Well it looks like NBC is really getting behind the upcoming second season as there seems to be much more advance marketing for the series than for the first season.
Here are the official group bios for the participating groups plus there is now a page on the web site with a bunch of promo clips. Definitely "Glee-ish" the opening number does show some very strong solo voices and the choreography is certainly exuberant...
The Backbeats – Los Angeles, CA
Composed of the best a cappella singers from University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles, the group of twenty-something's incorporates their disparate styles and tastes into one synthesized sound fused together by their love of Pop,R&B and Soul. Backbeat has a fresh, original approach to popular music with that old school spirit.
Eleventh Hour – Kettering, Ohio
Recognized as one of the nation's top high school a cappella groups, their studio recordings have been featured on Best of High School A Cappella and have won two Contemporary A Cappella Recording Academy awards. Eleventh Hour has opened for LeAnn Rimes, The Beach Boys and sang backup for Kenny Loggins. Their youth and energy combine with musicianship that is beyond their years.
Pitch Slapped – Boston, Massachusetts
Founded in 2006, the group of students from Berklee College of Music has won numerous International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella awards, including their recent triumph of 2nd place overall. Pitch Slapped offers a distinctive sound and infectious energy, with a unique grasp on a cappella and have a sense of musicality that is apparent in their arrangements, solos, and overall sound.
Groove For Thought – Seattle, Washington
Since the group's inception in 1998, Groove For Thought brings their unique brand of jazz and R&B infused tunes to festival, concert, school, and nightclub audiences throughout the United States and abroad. The group won the National Harmony Sweepstakes Championship in 2005 and the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award for Best Jazz Song in 2006.
Men of Note – Cherry Hill, New Jersey
This all-male group of eight is comprised of Cherry Hill High School West alumni,where the group was first founded. The three-time winners of the Best Of High School A Cappella competition, the group has the perfect mix of originality and diversity.
Street Corner Symphony – Nashville, Tennessee
Formed in May of 2010, the group of six contains two sets of siblings. All from the Southeast U.S., the members bring a unique laid back southern soul to the group. Street Corner Symphony offers a diverse repertoire, while maintaining their rich heritage in gospel music.
On The Rocks – Eugene, Oregon
Students at University of Oregon founded the all-male group in 1999. The group has had great viral success with videos featured on various websites, with more than 6.5 million views of their popular rendition of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." On The Rocks is a group that strives to entertain audiences of all ages while maintaining a strong emphasis on musicality.
Committed – Huntsville, Alabama
This all-male group was founded in 2003 by four high school students at Forest Lake Academy. The group stayed together as they progressed to Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama where they continued to perform together. Committed is dedicated to creating unique harmonies with powerful lead vocals, soaring harmonies, and a booming bass line.
Jerry Lawson & Talk of The Town – Oakland, California
Jerry Lawson, a member of The Persuasions for 40 years was joined together with Talk of The Town when they were both hired to perform at a wedding in 2001. The group has since performed with Rod Stewart on the Katrina Benefit, Nickelodeon's Noggin Network on "Jack's Big Music Show" and they continue performing at private parties in-between all of their other musical projects.
The Whiffenpoofs of Yale – New Haven, Connecticut
Comprised of 14 senior Yale men, the "Whiffs" were founded in 1909 and are the world's oldest collegiate a cappella group. What began as a quartet has grown into a group of international acclaim with a world tour that spans three months and features dozens of foreign destinations. Their repertoire incorporates modern hits as well as classics as old as the group itself.
November 18, 2010
Singing together for Aboriginal mental health
Indigenous Australians are five times more likely to experience mental illness than the rest of the population - a problem often exacerbated by their reluctance to seek help. Now a new program's been developed to tackle mental health issues through song.
Queensland's Aboriginal and Islander Health Council has set up five community choirs to attack the symptoms of mental illness and bring sufferers into contact with health professionals. The scheme has been given a helping hand by Indigenous country and western star Roger Knox, who himself overcame crippling depression and an addiction to painkillers.
The singing groups are all part of Voices United for Harmony, an innovative program aimed at improving the mental and physical health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in SE Queensland.
The Voices United project will be evaluated by Griffith University Senior Lecturer, Dr Jing Sun, to determine the benefits of choral singing on the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the five communities participating.
Dr Jing Sun said evaluating the project was critical in developing effective programs dealing with mental health. “Our aim is to investigate whether Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation in the singing groups will improve their quality of life and mental health through promotion of sense of resilience and social participation,” she said.
“Singing can release stress and increase social interaction and this in turn is very beneficial in preventing mental illness or reducing the severity of symptoms of those already suffering from a mental illness” said Dr Jing Sun.
November 17, 2010
Sirius plays Bobby
Pleasant surprise tonight as I'm working away while listening to SiriusXM satellite radio when the station began broadcasting the entire Bobby McFerrin Jazz at Lincoln Center concert. What a treat especially as several of my old SoVoSo friends are performing with him. Sounding great Joey Blake! Dave Worm is one of the best! When does Bobby breath during Flight of the Bumble Bee? I imagine it will be repeated - Channel 20 (Real Jazz).
November 16, 2010
Here's an advance clip from the upcoming Sing Off TV series featuring On the Rocks from the University of Oregon singing Lady Gaga. Boy is it great to have professional production values to collegiate a cappella video clips.
November 15, 2010
With the viral success (2.5 million hits) of Tiao Cruz's a cappella cover of Dynamite (above) the crew at Today Show made their own video take of the clip. See Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Merideth Viera and Ann Curry sing a cappella and beatbox here.
November 12, 2010
Girls certainly having fun
The Sweet Adeline ladies sure enjoy their singing and the fun is clearly contagious in this flash mob group sing held recently in Seatle's Key Arena Plaza during their annual convention. You go girls!
November 11, 2010
McFerrin Toots, Tweets, Beeps
Vocalist Bobby McFerrin, known for his uncanny ability to emulate bumble bees and bassoons, was originally hooked on the piano. It wasn’t until he hit his late 20s that he discovered the instrument within and found himself singing jazz, blues and Mozart. The 10-time Grammy Award-winning McFerrin will showcase his musical roots tonight and Saturday in his Jazz at Lincoln Center debut, when he takes the stage at the Rose Theater.
“I never felt that I was just a jazz singer,” McFerrin, 60, said in a phone interview. “My parents, who were singers, exposed me to classical music, rock, jazz, basically everything. This is the kind of home I grew up in.”
The switch from keyboard to voice unleashed a singing voyeur who gets a kick out of abandoning convention. At Lincoln Center, he’ll perform solo hits and music from his genre- blending April release, “VOCAbuLarieS,” his first recording in 8 years, a collection of choral songs with strokes of world and a cappella music.
A 43-member choir will share the spotlight with him, which includes 30 members of the Denmark-based a cappella group Vocal Line; rhythm and blues singer Lisa Fischer; and Joey Blake, Dave Worm and LaTanya Hall, plucked from McFerrin’s Voicestra ensemble. Roger Treece, a Voicestra member and co-producer of VOCAbuLarieS, will lead the chorus.
McFerrin said he’ll nudge those in the audience to join in with him and the choir on some of the tunes from his latest CD. “The best part is when I’m surprised by the incredible talent out there, when people get up there with their hearts open and vulnerable,” he said. “That’s a beautiful thing.” Read more.
November 9, 2010
Perfect Harmony to close
Unfortunately it appears the a cappella musical Perfect Harmony was unable to overcome the luke warm review from the New York Times and has announced it will be closing. The final performance will be November 13th at the Acorn Theater, New York.
November 5, 2010
Huffington Post rates a cappella groups
There's a feature currently on The Huffington Post where they rate the top 10 collegiate a cappella groups. Read and watch here.
Getting vocal in the workplace
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia):
There is nothing quite like standing side by side with the boss, as you both open your mouth wide to give full voice to a song, to defuse office tensions. At least that is the theory behind the profusion of workplace choirs in Melbourne over the past decade. As Annemarie Sharry, a musical director of workplace and community choirs, puts it: ''A choir is a fantastic leveler.''
About 25 Department of Human Services employees gather before her at 5pm once a week to sing off the day's highs and lows. Richard Deyell, director of public housing and community building, finds the experience ''fantastic''. ''It is a good, healthy activity for staff to be involved in the workplace,'' he says. World Vision chief Tim Costello concurs. He asked Sharry to take a weekly choir at the charity's headquarters.
Singing at work has taken off ''predominantly because employees are sitting around all day in front of computers and they're hiding a lot of stress, and [they] usually work in the one particular work area, dealing with the same colleagues,'' Sharry says.
Stand them in a choir, ''and you have people from the different structures and hierarchies of the corporation or business, or government department, that they are dealing with in a completely different way.'' Sharry has even had staff at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine swapping testing crime scene evidence for testing their vocal prowess.
Workplace choirs are part of an explosion in community choir singing that has made it the No. 1 community arts activity in Victoria, says Community Music Victoria, which is holding its 15th annual gathering this weekend. Volunteer co-ordinator Jane Coker says Victoria has about 1000 choirs, nurtured by CMV's Victoria Sings program, which was launched in 2002 to train choir leaders.
Choirs include the Trade Union Choir, the Keytones (the former Nurses of Victoria Choir), the indigenous Madjitil Moorna Choir, the Giao Chi Vietnamese Choir and Kankelay, a Sierra Leonean women's choir. Their names are as inventive as their singing: the Gettin' Higher Choir blends 350 voices, Wednesday's Tea Ladies sing a capella, Singlish teaches English through singing, and Euroa's Vocal Nosh takes singing to country areas. Read more.
November 4, 2010
Quincy loves Naturally 7
Here's a quote from Quincy Jones in this week's Billboard.
"Naturally Seven is one of my favorite groups," says Jones. "We've worked together all over the world. They've got a Take 6 influence but they're hip-hop and they do drama and mime and all kinds of things. I think they could be a big influence for the next step for hip-hop." Read more.
November 3, 2010
Mixed reviews for Perfect Harmony
“Perfect Harmony,” with, from left, Jarid Faubel, David Barlow, Robbie Collier Sublett, Clayton Apgar and Kobi Libii at the Acorn Theater.
New York Times
Tensions Run High, and Quirks Run Wild
“Perfect Harmony,” a stage comedy about high school singers, first turned up at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2006, in the midst of the “High School Musical” mania that Disney had set off that January.
The show was presumably poking fun at the phenomenon, but parody, of course, takes as its jumping-off point someone else’s good idea. And that’s indicative of the creative strategy at work throughout this scattershot affair, now being remounted at the Acorn Theater: “Hey, here’s a setting/character/gimmick/accent that was successful somewhere else once; let’s put it in our play, and maybe it’ll be successful again.”
That’s too bad, because the show has enough flashes of originality to make you wish that the creators had gone with more instinct, less imitation. (The writing is credited to Andrew Grosso and the Essentials, his theater company; Mr. Grosso directs.) The story follows a boys’ a cappella group with a case full of trophies, the Acafellas (yes, the same name used in a 2009 “Glee” episode, which gets a winking acknowledgment in the play), and some female rivals. As the two groups gear up for an annual national competition, tensions run high, and personality quirks run wild.
Some of those quirks, unfortunately, are wearyingly familiar. Melody (Dana Acheson), the girls’ leader, has a habit of using the not-quite-right word (“It’s a self-refilling prophecy”), a bit that was funny when Archie Bunker did it but that now just irritates.
New York Post:
See silly musical with glee
If you can't get enough of high school glee clubs, "Perfect Harmony" is the show for you. This silly musical about dueling a cappella groups at a New England prep school makes "Glee" look like heavy drama.
The show depicts the heated competition between the male, 17-time national champions the Acafellas and their less-celebrated female counterparts, the Ladies in Red. Both groups are vying for the honor of being showcased on MTV. Well, MTV 3.
The groups frantically rehearse their unique versions of "Eye of the Tiger" and Rihanna's "Umbrella" amid endless snafus, including defections, disputes over choreography and costuming, romantic entanglements and a failed urine test.
"How much pee did you have to make?" one student asks.
Chock-full of quirky characters, absurd plot developments and a cameo by Jesus, in tighty whities, "Perfect Harmony" -- conceived and directed by Andrew Grosso and written by him with the acting troupe the Essentials -- is best for those who appreciate a heavy dose of camp.
While some of the lines are amusing -- "Parents love a cappella," one girl says, "It's like a guarantee you won't get knocked up" -- it's the energetic vocals that soar.
It's hard to resist a show in which a boy exhorts his partners, "All right, dudes, sing it from your nuts!" before launching into a spirited rendition of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
November 1, 2010
Well done Giants!
We live in the long-suffering-in-sports Bay Area so everybody is over the moon with the Giants success. I'm not a die hard fan but watched many of the playoff games and enjoyed them immensely.
One comment however. I do find the constant chewing and spitting rather unsavory and I definitely found it unpleasant to watch the singing group performing America the Beautiful during last night's 7th inning stretch. Surely if one is singing a patriotic song during the World Series in front of tens of millions of people you can take the chewing gum out of your mouth before singing!! I'm no choir director but that would be a punishable event in my choir. In fact there should be a law - Chewing while singing is strictly prohibited especially when singing in front of millions and millions of people! Jeez.
A cappella flash mob video goes viral
Current and former members of the Swingle Singers along with members of The Magnets, The Boxettes and other a cappella choirs are featured in the new flash mob video for T-Mobile. The video has gone viral with over 500,000 views in just the past 48 hours. What a fun idea and the looks on some of the arrivees faces are priceless (I particularly loved the facial expression of the guy at the two minute mark) See who's singing here.