January 29, 2011
A cappella polka
This should help kick off the weekend for you. How about a little a cappella polka from the always inventive and entertaining Perpetuum Jazzile.
January 27, 2011
LOs Angeles A Cappella Festival
Lots of workshops, classes and singing at the upcoming Los Angeles A Cappella Festival this Saturday.
January 26, 2011
Choral legend to lead community sing
Lincoln Journal Star (NE):
Choral legend Alice Parker agreed the only time people seem to sing together is during the holidays. "Even at sporting events, it's one person singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner,'" she said in a phone interview from her Massachusetts home. "Then it's usually one voice that isn't suited to it."
That's why, for the past 30 years, she's traveled the world encouraging people to sing together. She will lead a community sing Friday at First-Plymouth Congregational Church as part of the Abendmusik: Lincoln season. "The comment I hear the most is how extraordinarily fun it was," she said about past events.
The community sing will include the presentation of Parker's choral arrangements by the Abendmusik Chorus, which will feature many opportunities for the audience to join in the singing. The concert will include secular and sacred music as well as spirituals and folk tunes.
Parker, 85, blamed television for the demise of group singing. Before the advent of TV, it was common for families to gather and sing the songs they liked, she said. "It was a huge loss for our children and for our sense of community," she said.
Parker, who founded her nonprofit group, Melodious Accord Inc., in 1985, decided to do something about it. She experimented first with well-trained musicians, singing a phrase to them and having them repeat it back to her.
"They were amazed with not reading it out of a book," she said. "They were hearing and learning it by ear. It worked so well, I knew I could do this with congregations, in schools, with little children or older folks. This takes us back to the beginning of music-making."
85 and still singing. She is such a treasure.
January 24, 2011
A Remarkably Inventive A Cappella Premiere
Wall Street Journal:
Is it possible to write an opera without an orchestra? Composer Michael Ching's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," given its world premiere here by Opera Memphis and Playhouse on the Square, has a "voicestra," an ensemble of a cappella singers, instead of instruments in the pit. Popular a cappella has branched out in recent years from its old-fashioned roots (think "The Whiffenpoof Song") to all kinds of music, including elaborate arrangements of up-to-the-minute rock and hip-hop numbers, with voices re-creating the instrumental parts.
Mr. Ching's remarkably inventive opera is a celebration of what voices can do and still, with the exception of a few startling vocal percussion effects, sound like voices. The voicestra —between 15 and 20 amplified voices, depending on the performance—supports the singers on the stage, its overlapping lines and syllables weaving around them, amplifying their characters and conflicts, sometimes echoing their words (or even their thoughts), or supplying atmosphere. The voicestra gives the opera an added human dimension, and its invisibility goes with the magical nature of the story. Read more.
January 21, 2011
Swingle Singers Music Video Piazzolla 'Libertango'
Do check out this new video from The Swingle Singers. It is one of the most creative and well produced a cappella videos I have seen.
January 20, 2011
Jerry Lawson comes to town
Jerry Lawson thought he was done with a cappella groups.
He'd spent more than 30 years in the Persuasions, one of the most admired a cappella troupes of all time, and was ready for something different come 2003. So, he left the Brooklyn-born group, which had put together a string of hit albums during the first half of the '70s, and moved with his wife Julie to Scottsdale, Arizona, to focus on his solo career.
"We had our ups and downs, and ins and outs," Lawson says of his time in the Persuasions. "I was sort of washed up with the whole thing. I just wanted to be on my own, where I was the one to make my own decisions."
Lawson calls what happened next "divine intervention." He now believes it was God that set him on a path to join up with the longtime Bay Area a cappella group Talk of the Town. There were just too many signs screaming out that the two entities should combine forces for him to ignore.
"That's what happens when (God) opens the door," Lawson says during a recent phone interview from his Scottsdale home. "We don't close the door in his face. He has plans for me, and he wanted me to be associated with the a cappella world."
Lawson is no stranger to high-profile gigs. The Florida native -- who celebrates his 67th birthday on Sunday -- performed or recorded with such stars as Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Liza Minnelli and the Grateful Dead during his years with the Persuasions.
It's a pretty impressive resume for a guy who originally came to New York to try and play semi-pro football, not start a singing career. But his vocal work was even more impressive than his football moves, so he soon found himself singing on street corners with some new buddies he'd met in Brooklyn.
"We'd get a crowd around us. Boy, that harmony was lovely. People would sit around, and get popcorn and Crackerjacks, and just listen to us. Sometimes we would sing until 3 o'clock in the morning," remembers Lawson.
At the time, Lawson didn't even know there was a name for the style of instrument-less music the young Persuasions were performing. But then, "a woman looked out her window and said, 'If you don't know what you're singing, it's called a cappella.'" Read more.
January 18, 2011
The Hoff sings! (sort of)
It's never to late for The Hoff! Here he is with members of the Swingles, the Magnets and others singing a carol.
January 17, 2011
Persuasion's Jimmy Hayes and MLK linked by lunch counter sit-in
New York Post:
When the Persuasions - the a cappella group born on the pavement and in the subway stations of Brooklyn in 1962 — were asked to perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual Martin Luther King birthday tribute tomorrow, there wasn’t a second of hesitation. “These celebrations carry a special meaning with me,” says founding member Jimmy Hayes.
Hayes says he’d been involved in “the movement” in his small hometown of Hopewell, Va., trying to integrate the lunch counter at the local drugstore. He could get a little Dixie cup of Cherry Coke there, but couldn’t drink it inside the store.
“They wouldn’t let blacks sit at the lunch counter,” Hayes says. “Not at all.” He and three others from Hopewell were invited to Atlanta to participate in the student sit-in project there. It was October 1960, and Martin Luther King was set to participate in the protests, too. Hayes was just 16.
Several spots in Atlanta were picketed, all had lunch counters. Hayes was at the Kress drugstore. King was at the larger Rich’s department store. Both were among the many arrested that day, Oct. 19, 1960.
“It was on,” Hayes says, describing the feeling when he and his fellow students sat down at the lunch counter, 15 or 20 strong.
“You’re gonna leave or you’re gonna be arrested,” they were told.
“That ain’t what we asked for. We asked for bacon and eggs,” they responded.
“We don’t serve . . . ,” Hayes grows quiet, pauses. “You know — they used the N-word.”
To get inside, Hayes and the others had gone through a gauntlet of hate. “You had people on the side of the street with dogs, siccing dogs on us and throwing stuff and calling names and so forth.”
Inside were agitators who did everything the students had trained for, and more.
“It was scary, it really was,” Hayes remembers, “because you couldn’t defend yourself. That was the scary part.” Even the police, Hayes says, treated them “terrible, terrible.”
In jail, Hayes says, “we were crammed in a cell like cattle, there were so many of us.” Most were let out on bail several hours later, but Dr. King was held when a local county judge ruled he’d violated his probation from a traffic infraction. He was sent to the state penitentiary and held there until the end of the month.
January 14, 2011
A cappella from the planet Voca
"The Voca People are friendly aliens from the planet Voca, somewhere behind the sun...where all communication is made by music and vocal expressions. The Voca People believe that life is music and music is life. They visit planet Earth and they have a lot to sing about."
It's a slow a cappella news week so let's have some fun and visit the Intergalatic Superstars The Voca People. With over 7 million YouTube views of this clip they have become a popular touring act in Europe.
January 13, 2011
Bicycle Choir combines passion for singing and cycling
Ann Arbor News (MI)
When Dorothy Nordness heard about the Ann Arbor Bicycle Choir, she was intrigued. It was "just odd enough to sound really fun," she said. "When you tell somebody you're in a bicycle choir they raise their eyebrows and say, 'What? What do you do?'" said the Ann Arbor woman, who is an alto in the choir.
The choir, which has about 10 regularly participating members, was formed in 2009 and has performed at a variety of community events, sometimes with bikes, and sometimes without. The group can also be spotted singing while pedaling through town, whether on individual bicycles or on a circular conference bike that seats several.
A recent performance included The Ark's 9th Annual Concert for Peace earlier this month. The group, donning cycling helmets and apparel, performed a song called "Mass Ride." When asked why she joined the choir, Nordness said, "Biking and singing, what else?" Read more. Thank you Choralnet for the tip.
January 12, 2011
2011 Harmony SWeepstakes season begins
Twenty seven years and still going strong!
It's time again for a new season of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival and we are as excited as always. With the success of NBC's prime-time show The Sing-Off there is a noticeable wave of increased interest in a cappella music. We are proud to have presented so many entertaining and talented groups over the decades and are looking again for groups who would like to participate.
A cappella groups of all genres, ages and styles are welcome including high school and collegiate groups. Originality is always encouraged. As long as you have 10 minutes of a cappella music then we would love to hear from you.
Boston – April 17
Chicago - March 26
Los Angeles – April 9
Mid-Atlantic (DC) – April 2
New York – March 19
Pacific NW (Olympia) - March 12
Rocky Mountain (Denver) - March 20
San Francisco – March 19
National Finals May 14th
Both seasons of the Sing-Off included Harmony Sweepstakes national champions plus the show’s casting agent was a judge at the National Finals. So come join the fun, you never know where it may take you..
Entries are already coming in and we recommend submitting your material soon. Please submit an online application or contact the director of the Regional where you would like to perform.
Regional champions win airfare and hotel accommodations to compete in the National Finals held in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For more info visit the Harmony Sweepstakes National A Cappella Festival web site:-
Tickets for most events are now on sale. Order now to ensure great seats!
January 11, 2011
Eric Whitacre on why British choirs are best
Gramophone's January issue asked an international jury to name the world's leading choirs, and then invited American composer Eric Whitacre to reflect on why the list is dominated by British ensembles.
Tuning: perhaps the most powerful weapon in the technical arsenal of a choir, choristers in the UK are taught from a very early age not only to sing in tune but to listen to those around them. A perfect example is Alamire, David Skinner’s phenomenal early music group to which I have recently been introduced, a choir that sings so in tune that the music seems to shimmer and float in front of the speakers.
Sight-reading: the Brits are possibly the world’s greatest sight-readers. In my travels I’ve certainly never seen anything like it. Every time I rehearse a choir here I am astonished at how quickly they parse the music and absorb it. When we recorded “Light & Gold”, the Eric Whitacre Singers and Laudibus had just six hours to read through and rehearse 80 minutes of my music. Good singers here are simply expected to read.
Tone: bright and clear, with a healthy spin and not too much vibrato. I love the warm, long, open vowels, the purity of the vowel colour being perfect for the close harmonies in my music. I love the way the women can sing in their upper registers, rich and crystalline. And when a British choir truly dedicate themselves to the consonants – like in the line “giving their kisses like clouds exchanging foam”, a line from my a cappella work A Boy and a Girl – there is little that’s more sweet or more affecting.
Knowledge: British choirs simply get it. I’m sure it comes from the centuries-old tradition of singing but there is a seasoned polish and an attitude about the music-making that is at once soulful and unsentimental, expressive without being maudlin. They have the beating hearts of singers and the brains of trained musicians and this places them among the most potent and versatile artists on the planet. Read more and see the top 20 list here.
Well perhaps it should come as no surprise that Gramophone, an English publication should rank so many English choirs in their list. I never have been a believer in "best" of something as subjective as the performing arts so will not argue with them here. I do suggest the Gramophone judges should get out more, maybe travel to the US once and awhile. And Eric are you planning to be at the upcoming ACDA convention? I think a few folks might want a word..
January 7, 2011
London A Cappella Festival
Great happening in the UK a cappella world with the upcoming London A Cappella Festival to be held January 12th thru 15th at King's Place, London. The Real Group and The Swingle Singers headline with performances by Belgian a cappella sensation Witloof Bay (with beatbox legend Roxorloops). Other performers include the London Bulgarian Choir, British all-girl beatboxers The Boxettes, jazz a cappella group Eclectic Voices, winners of the Office Choir of the Year 2010, and Hertfordshire Chorus. There will also be workshops and seminars etc. More info on the web site.
Street Corner Symphony tours with Ben Folds
I guess they had so much fun together on the TV show that Street Corner Symphony and Ben Folds are touring together this month. Here are the dates:-
1.23.11 Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
1.25.11 Champaign, IL @ Assembly Hall at University of Illinois
1.26.11 Athens, OH @ Ohio University
1.27.11 Madison, WI @ Overture Center
1.28.11 Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theater
1.30.11 St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
1.31.11 Fulton, MO @ Champ Auditorium at Westminster College
2.01.11 Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
January 6, 2011
A chorus of old men
His long study of the choruses in Greek drama has led Umit Dhuga to the following question: “Why are so many choruses composed of men who limp and complain about their decrepitude?” he asks,
Dhuga, a Calvin professor of classical languages, has recently published a new book, Choral Identity and the Chorus of Elders in Greek Tragedy (Lexington Books) in which he rehabilitates the reputation of one particular species of Greek chorister: old men.
Old male choruses are thought by scholars to serve a merely decorative, or even comic, function in ancient Greek drama, Dhuga says: “The older chorus is marginal by mere fact of its old age. In other words, I think that scholars for too long have conflated the idea of social marginality with dramatic marginality—which, in some ways, I think, shows how scholars can be rather myopic.”
The cure for this nearsightedness, Dhuga believes, is a less-modern point of view, “One had to wonder what preconceptions an ancient Athenian had when he saw a chorus of old men walk on the stage.”
What a Greek theatergoer saw in an old, male chorus was probably wiser and more central to the dramatic action than has been supposed, Dhuga argues: “As early as Homer—even earlier—old men are traditional repositories of wisdom …It would stand to reason that our choruses of old men might also play advising roles.”
Dhuga hopes his scholarship will enhance understanding of the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy. The choral tradition was important not only to the theater of the period, but also to the ceremonies of everyday life. “By the time your average male citizen was 35, he would have experienced hundreds of choruses,” he said. Greek youth were schooled in choral fundamentals such as singing, dancing, narrating, and acting. Read more.
January 4, 2011
Agathe von Trapp dies
Agathe von Trapp (center), the eldest daughter of Captain Georg von Trapp, and a member of the singing family made famous by ‘The Sound of Music’ died on Tuesday evening in Towson, Maryland of congestive heart failure. She was 97 years old.
Agathe, who is remembered by her youngest brother Johannes as a “quite shy and very private person” who was “talented in painting and graphic arts” is probably best known as her fictional character in the popular musical, Liesel.
In ‘The Sound of Music’ Liesel is presented as the oldest child of Captain von Trapp, however she was actually the second oldest, behind her brother, Rupert. Agathe also did not have a boyfriend when she was 16 – or 17 for that matter.
“That’s entirely in the minds of Rogers and Hammerstein,” Johannes said [via the Burlington Free Press]. “That is Broadway. And then Hollywood magnified it.”
Agathe settled some 50 years ago in Baltimore, where she lived with a friend, Mary Louise Kane. Together, they ran a kindergarten at Sacred Heart Parish in Glyndon, Md.
She is survived by her brother and three sisters, including 96-year-old Maria. Agathe will reportedly be buried in the family plot at the lodge.
For the sound guys out there here's the info on the sound set-up for the live broadcast of the Sing Off finale. I think they did an excellent job.
Pro AV Products and Providers Industry News:
For the two-hour live broadcast, the program specified a full stage of Shure UHF-R wireless systems, including 28 handheld transmitters with KSM9 mic capsules and another 14 channels with SM58® heads. In addition, the show requested four channels of Shure PSM® 900 personal monitors with eight bodypack receivers, which were used by guest artists including Sara Bareilles, Sheryl Crow, Neil Diamond, and Boyz II Men. All systems were supplied by Soundtronics Wireless in Burbank.
“It turned out to be a lot trickier than we thought,” reports Jason Bellamy of Soundtronics Wireless, which supplied and coordinated all wireless systems. “We actually installed the first 28 channels of wireless, plus the in-ears, last Thursday, which was difficult enough. But on show day, the producers decided to add more performances, so we had to find room for 14 more frequencies. It was a real challenge, but we got it done.” Read more.