February 25, 2011
Strike spurs Bobby McFerrin to cancel concert
The Detroit News:
The ongoing Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike has caused Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin to put off his planned 7:30 p.m. March 3 concert at Orchestra Hall.
Taking McFerrin's place in the Paradise Jazz Series concert is the a cappella jazz/gospel group Take 6.
"It's so sad that I must postpone my show at Orchestra Hall in Detroit," McFerrin said in a statement on his website.
"I was hoping a settlement between the musicians of the Symphony and their management would have been achieved by now. In Detroit and all over the world, people are hurting in this economy, and things are no different in the arts. We're all struggling to find new ways to make everything work. We all need beauty and inspiration to enrich our lives and it's really important that we figure out how to make it happen. It matters," he wrote.
"My heart goes out to all the good people affected by the musicians' strike — above all, the audiences. Detroit is such a great music city. I pray this will be resolved soon, so I can come back to Detroit and we can all sing together."
Well some people might consider Take 6 to be scabs. Can't say I think its cool for a fellow musician to cross a picket line just for a gig..
February 24, 2011
Choir captures Tahrir revolution's Utopian vibe
Al Masry al Youm:
Ever since Egyptians took to the streets on 25 January to overthrow the Hosni Mubarak regime, people have tried to document events and capture the dynamics among Tahrir Square's protesters. Accounts from the square describe a mini “Utopian” community, united by a common cause despite differences in ideology as well as social, cultural and economic backgrounds.
The Utopia Choir--which performed twice this week at Downtown’s Rawabet Theater and Al-Hanager Theater on the Cairo Opera House Grounds--stands out among these attempts, as it seeks not to document but highlight positive values from the square that its members hope will endure. The Utopian theme was conceived by choir members in early January, before the uprising began.
“The idea was originally to find alternative ways to critique the status quo by imagining a different future, despite the constraints at the time,” explained Salam Yousry, artistic director of the Choir Project.
The project, which aims to provide tools for collective self-expression, started in May 2010, when the Cairo Complaints Choir--a local rendition of the Complaints Choir project by Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kallleinen--performed as the opening act for the Invisible Publics contemporary art exhibition at the Townhouse gallery. Twenty-five young men and women developed four songs over the course of a six-day workshop wittily criticizing the Egyptian political regime and social and cultural problems in Egypt.
They brought in a foreign company to clean up Egypt’s streets
The ‘Europe 2000’ experts made them bigger garbage heaps….
God help us bro, they’ve extended the Emergency Law!
Ever since, the choir became an independent project, exploring the same issues through different themes, such as The Ads Choir last October and The Proverbs Choir last December. As new members continued to join, the choir became “a small yet growing community,” as Yousry described it. Over 50 members have so far joined the Utopia Choir. Read more.
February 23, 2011
NBC gives early pick-up to Sing-Off
It's official. The Sing-Off will be back for a third season. No other details yet available. Jolly good!
February 22, 2011
Bobby's son Taylor McFerrin teaches beatboxing at school for the blind
New York Daily News:
The students at the Lavelle School for the Blind stare, not seeing. Some silently rock back and forth. Then the beat drops and they're beaming, bouncing; cheeks puffing out, tongues doing flips, lips vibrating in time. They become a human orchestra.
Some of New York's best beatboxers are teaching the art of mouth-made percussion to the handicapped kids at the north Bronx school. "I love music," said Steven Spinelli, 21, spitting the sound of a snare drum. "Music is my life."
The students don't need good eyesight or instruments to make hip-hop music. "Beatboxing is something the kids can do," said instructor Chesney Snow, 32, a Brooklyn musician and beatboxer. "Anyone can create a sound."
Hip-hop event marketer James Kim co-founded the Beat Rockers program at Lavelle last fall, after deejay-ing a school dance there. "I had never seen blind kids react to music before," said Kim, who also runs a breakdancing program for Bronx kids. "It blew my mind. They had no reservations. The way they moved was pure bliss.
"A light bulb went off," Kim continued. "I thought it would be great to teach them beatboxing because you don't need any equipment to beatbox. You don't even need a mic."
Kim asked Snow and beatboxer Taylor McFerrin, the son of 10-time Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin, to teach at Lavelle. Two days a week, the pair lay down pulsing beats and teach the students how to sound like a bass drum or high-hat. Clapping and bobbing to the beat, the kids add their own noises - squawks, yelps and snippets of song. McFerrin records and mixes the music on his laptop. Read more.
February 21, 2011
Lauridsen talks about his life and new residency
Oregon Music News:
One America’s foremost choral composers, Morten Lauridsen, is coming to Portland State University this week for a residency that will culminate in a couple of performances. Lauridsen’s seven vocal cycles and series of sacred a cappella motets (O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, O Nata Lux, Ubi Caritas et Amor and Ave Dulcissima Maria) have been incredibly popular, garnered four Grammy nominations, and been featured on 200 recordings.
Lauridsen, who was born in Colfax, Washington, grew up in Beaverton where he attended Sunset High School. He has served on the music faculty at the University of Southern California for more than 30 years. In 2006, Morten Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007, he received the National Medal of the Arts. Read the interview here.
February 19, 2011
Singing between dark, light
Seattle News Tribune (WA):
The Esoterics are coming back to town with a harmonic bang. The Seattle a cappella choir’s concert Saturday night includes one of the most difficult choral pieces ever written, plus two more that explore the edge not just of vocal complexity but philosophy as well.
Called “Chiaroscura,” the concert features music that goes between light and dark, both musically and emotionally. The choir performed “Chiaroscura” in Tacoma in December 2009, and it’s a good show to mark the choir’s return to Tacoma after a year’s absence, said founding director Eric Banks. “We had such a good response to the concert (last time), and the music is so compelling. It’s always better the second time around,” Banks said.
At the center of the program is Richard Strauss’ “Deutsche Motette.” Strauss – known for his challenging orchestral tone poems such as “Ein Heldenleben” – wrote the piece in 1913 on a dare from the Berlin Radio Choir to write as difficult a piece as he could. The result is a 20-part motet set to a poem by Friedrich Rckert about dreaming and wakening that stretches the choir’s technical abilities more than almost any other piece and is rarely sung for that reason.
“The Strauss is impressive because the chromaticism is complex and unidiomatic today. It’s hyper-Romantic. And the range is huge. It’s very rare to hear a choir where the sopranos sing high C and D-flat and the basses a low B-flat,” Banks explained.
Banks has rearranged the parts – originally for 16-part chorus and four soloists – to a more workable 12 parts. For the 48-strong choir, this still means just four singers per part. Even that divides into two occasionally. The new arrangement is also less top-heavy than the original, Banks said. Read more.
February 18, 2011
Groove for Thought swings back to Seattle
Seattle Times (WA):
When they opened a packed-to-the-rafters concert at Benaroya Hall in January, with a jazzed-up rendition of "How Sweet It Is," the members of the Northwest vocal ensemble Groove for Thought were greeted like reigning rock stars.
A similar reception is likely when this crew of hard-swinging, be-bopping singers returns to Benaroya for an encore performance Friday night.
Groove for Thought has knocked 'em dead for several years, at music festivals from Seattle to Florida to France. In 2005 they won the National Harmony Sweepstakes Championship, a major American a cappella competition.
But it took a stint as finalists on TV's hippest a cappella vocal contest, "The Sing-Off," to get this multigenerational vocal crew some serious recognition in their own backyard.
The Benaroya concert demonstrated how wildly popular they already were with one segment of the local population: aspiring musicians in their teens and 20s who study with members of Groove for Thought at Bellevue College and other area schools. The students of the veteran educators and studio musicians turned out in force (as did many of their parents).
And their teachers did not disappoint them. In the sparkling, lush, harmonically and rhythmically sophisticated arrangements of group member Kelly Kunz, the seven singers merge into one powerhouse unit — whether they're backed up by excellent keyboard player Nick Moore, or performing sans instruments. Read more.
February 17, 2011
Sing the coffee
It's time again for the Folgers jingle contest. $25k to the winners. All the info here.
February 16, 2011
Shir Enjoyment Of Vocal Music
Why should Justin Bieber have all the fun? Instead of the teenage pop sensation chanting “Baby, Baby, Baby,” why not the words “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” sung to the same tune?
One professional Jewish a cappella group is doing just that. Six13 is part of a growing number of Hebraic harmonizers springing up across America in recent years, mostly on college campuses.
“The growth of Jewish a cappella is following the trend generally in a cappella music in America,” said Mauro Braunstein of the group Techiya at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Crossing decades, languages and styles, Jewish a cappella groups are touring, putting out CDs and bringing unaccompanied vocals to wider audiences, including senior centers.
Indeed, Jewish a cappella is no longer just for college auditoriums. Six13 has sung “God Bless America” at five Mets games during the seventh inning stretch, and the Maccabeats, an all-male a cappella group at Yeshiva University, shot to viral superstardom in Hanukkah 2010 after recording “Candlelight,” a parody of Mike Tompkins’s a cappella cover of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” The group’s music video garnered more than 4 million YouTube hits.
“I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be that kind of success,” said Joshua Jay, a member of the Modern Orthodox group.
Even non-Jews have gotten into the act, if only occasionally. At Miami University, the Men’s Glee Club sang a cappella music in celebration of Hanukkah; Harvard University’s Radcliffe Pitches have the Yiddish title “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” on their song list, and Emory University’s Aural Pleasure has been known to belt out “One Day” by Matisyahu.
Mike Boxer, director of Six13, estimates the number of Jewish groups to be about 40 today, compared with perhaps 30 a decade ago. Read more.
February 14, 2011
The Blenders Music Video Contest
One of my favorite a cappella groups has always been the Blenders and a recent development shows that perserverance and smart thinking can indeed be most rewarding. Many years ago the Blenders recorded McDonald's Girl and it soon became a regular in their performance repertoire. They always had greater aspirations for the song and plugged away at marketing it. Well they just signed a contract with McDonald's who will be using the song in a national advertising campaign.
In conjunction with this the group has released the song on iTunes and have launched a music video contest on YouTube with $2,500 in cash prizes. For more details watch this.
February 10, 2011
Andy Bernard sings
It's a slow time for a cappella news - probably too cold across most parts of the country to get out and sing. So smile again as Andy Bernard auditions his a cappella group for Jim and Pam's wedding from The Office.
February 9, 2011
New whistling a cappella group 'This Blows!' recruits
Matt Sullivan was a high school senior when he and a friend won their school's orchestra talent show. Their act? An a cappella rendition of "Love Story" by Taylor Swift - whistled.
"We were just bouncing around ideas of what we could do that was corny or funny," said Sullivan, now a Weinberg freshman. "We started whistling and were like, ‘Hey, that sounded good.'"
Later in the year, Sullivan, in a group of eight whistlers and a beatboxer, competed in another contest with a mash-up of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and Coldplay's "Viva La Vida."
Sullivan is the founder of This Blows!, Northwestern's first whistling a cappella group. He got the group off the ground this quarter with the help of Bienen sophomore Max Paymar and McCormick freshman Carson Potter.
"We wanted to have a non-singing, mainly whistling a cappella group," Sullivan said. "As it developed, ideally we want to have a lot of humming and beat-boxing all behind the whistling."
After contacting the department for student organizations and advertising with flyers and Facebook, Sullivan held auditions for This Blows! in Annenberg Hall on Feb. 5 and 6. Although he said he initially aimed to accept eight to 10 members, Sullivan decided to expand the group to 18 after 24 people auditioned. Students who had made the group received e-mails Tuesday. Read more.
February 3, 2011
The Blanks head to Shepherd's Bush Empire
The Independent (UK):
The hit US medical sitcom Scrubs was finally pronounced dead last March. While UK fans of the show cling to the lifeline of a repeat prescription of reruns, next weekend some will find further remedy for their loss with the arrival in London of The Blanks, the a cappella band who made frequent appearances on the show, led by the regular character Ted Buckland.
Sam Lloyd, who played Ted, will be joined by fellow actors and musicians Paul F Perry, George Miserlis and Philip McNiven for a one-off show at Shepherd's Bush Empire that will feature songs sung on Scrubs, including versions of the TV theme tunes for Charles in Charge and Underdog and newer material such as a version of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" The troupe won't just do do-wop, however. They promise a selection of "skits, antics and choreography" inspired by the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy. "I think an hour of a cappella is actually considered torture in some cultures," explains Lloyd.
Suggestions that another hit US show, Glee, has helped the troupe's fortunes are met by Lloyd with circumspection. "Well, it can't hurt, but when someone asked us recently what we thought about a cappella making a comeback our response was, 'doesn't something have to have been popular at some point to come back?'" Read more.