April 30, 2011
Ubi Caritas was the real hit of the wedding music
The real hit of the wedding music turned out to be another new-ish piece – not a commission – by a little known composer called Paul Mealor.
Few outside the British choral tradition will have heard of him, but he’s fairly young (born 1975 in Wales), teaches at a Scottish university, and writes music less ingratiating than John Rutter’s but still easy to assimilate.
The Ubi Caritas setting they did this morning had an austere resonance of plainsong that then flowered into the kind of cloudy harmonic suspensions of a Morten Lauridsen or Eric Whitacre: the two figures that seem to define where-it’s-at choral writing at the moment. So, not terribly original, but well put together and effective. And I confidently predict that Mealor will now leap to sudden fame on the back of it. His Ubi Caritas was certainly the closest this wedding got to the nerve-touching John Tavener moment at the last big royal ceremonial that broadcast to the world: Diana’s funeral.
Music at a royal Abbey occasion can’t help having a significance. For future generations it will stand as evidence of past taste: who was in or out of favour. For contemporary church musicians it’s a stroke of luck: a chance to ride a moment when their culture – these days relatively marginal in public consciousness – acquires a sudden spotlight.
And for proof of what it can achieve you only have to think of Crimond, the tune that everybody uses for The Lord’s My Shepherd. It’s so utterly absorbed into our singing culture that most people think it’s been there for centuries. But the truth is, it was just a small-time Scottish melody that no one south of Berwick knew about until the Queen had it at her wedding in 1947.
That’s how things catch on. Watch out for Mr Mealor.
Read more of music critic Michael White and his opinions of the rest of the wedding music including the specially commissioned piece by John Rutter "This is the Day that was".
April 29, 2011
Famous barbershop pitchman passes
Lynn Hauldren was a Chicago television icon — with international appeal. Never heard of him? Don’t fret. The mustachioed advertising man was best known as his on-screen alter ego, the Empire Carpet Man.
Strangers would stop Mr. Hauldren all over the world — Burma, Colombia, Ecuador, Ireland, Israel and even Wrigley Field — and ask the “carpet guy” to sing the jingle he made famous: “5-8-8, 2-3-Hundred, Em-PIRE.” Mr. Hauldren always obliged. After all, he wrote the little ditty that made the Empire Carpet brand nationally known.
On Tuesday, Mr. Hauldren died of natural causes in his Evanston home. He was 89.
Mr. Hauldren, whose hobby was singing baritone in barbershop quartets, also recorded the Empire jingle with his then-group, The Fabulous 40s. He even sang more than one part of the harmonized phone number.
“We re-recorded it about five years after we first ran it,” Mr. Hauldren told the Sun-Times in 2006. “The second tenor had moved out [of town] and couldn’t get back in. So I recorded that voice, too. He never knew that. He still thinks it’s his.”
Mr. Hauldren was an accomplished singer, who recorded two albums, and performed in 49 of 50 states and in Europe with his barbershop quartet, Chordiac Arrest.
“Boating, barbershopping and music were his big passions,” Joe Hauldren said. “He was a man who wanted to do things. He loved to go on walks and go to jazz clubs and to travel. He had a passion for life.” Read more.
April 28, 2011
A cappella at the royal wedding
Little-known British composer Paul Mealor has been chosen by the royal couple to compose a new choral work for the Westminster Abbey ceremony. The 35-year-old's music may have been hitherto largely unknown outside his native Wales, but on Friday April 29 it will be heard by more than a billion people watching the televised performance.
Prince William and his bride-to-be first met and fell in love at the University of St Andrews, where an a cappella choral cycle by Mealor had its premiere last year. It is through this performance that they encountered his work. There is another local connection: the royal couple resides on North Wales' Isle of Anglesey, Mealor's hometown.
The composer has adapted music from his Now sleeps the crimson petal to a setting of a 6th-century Latin hymn. The incipit of the new work, Ubi caritas, translates to "Where charity and love are, God is there". Featuring a solo for boy treble, it showcases Mealor's accessible style and luminous choral writing.
“I was thrilled to hear that HRH Prince William of Wales had chosen my music for his wedding", he said. "How humbling it is for me to know that Prince William and Catherine will celebrate the beginning of their lives together with my music . . . The ceremony is going to be, without a doubt, the most emotionally intense and exhilarating hour of my life!’’
Mealor is shaping up to be one of the most significant choral composers in Wales, lauded by the New York Times for writing "music of deep spiritual searching that always asks questions, offers answers and fills the listener with hope." Read more.
April 27, 2011
Nepalese choir vanishes
A Nepalese choir due to sing at a Cornish festival are believed to have "absconded" from a UK airport, organisers have said. Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival said the 10 singers were missing when it sent transport to Heathrow Airport to collect them. As well as singing in concerts in Cornwall, the Nepalese singers were due to hold workshops in schools.
When the Cornish festival minibus arrived at the airport to pick them up on Tuesday, the choir was nowhere to be seen.
Mr Peters said: "They did arrive at Heathrow and it seems they have absconded. It's a great disappointment as they would have added an enormous amount of colour to the festival”
"We kept on hoping they had missed the plane, but we have been in touch with the immigration authority who are now investigating what has happened. "It's a great disappointment as they would have added an enormous amount of colour to the festival."
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "We are aware of this group and are looking into the matter further.
It's a real drag when groups do this as it makes it much harder to bring in legitimate choirs from overseas. This does happen reasonably often especially here in the States when anti-Castro activists try to lure Cuban artists to defect (they can use some pretty strong tactics). Almost all the members of a Cuban dance ensemble bolted recently in Canada.
April 26, 2011
Andy and Barney Explain A Cappella
It's a slow news week so let's enjoy some nostalgia with Andy Griffith explaining a cappella to Barney from an episode called "Rafe Hollister Sings".
April 23, 2011
An a cappella Royal Romance
The latest a cappella video to go viral is this one by The Other Guys singing "Royal Romance", a spoof of the Lady Gaga song "Bad Romance". The Other Guys are from St. Andrew University (founded in 1413 in Scotland) where Prince William and Kate Middleton met. As a student production the video really is very good and doesn't St Andrews look great!
April 22, 2011
Vocalotheque is a sampler instrument, made from recorded samples of a vocal ensemble (5 men and 5 women). Our main goal was to make an instrument that was full of life and random overtones. "Vocalotheque" is made to sound more like voices of regular people than sterile, an overly polished academic choir. The voices we recorded are those of professionals and regular people that can really sing. This time we used our favourite way to recreate natural sound - a "round robin loops" of sampler groups: each note has 5 changing variations to enhance the feeling of natural singing that is never exactly the same.
- 76 presets – 18 ensemble and 58 solo presets of different articulations.
- Range – two octaves for each preset. (Men – E2-E4, women – E3-E5)
- Voices were recorded in a studio, keeping the sound pure. You can add your favourite reverb, other preferred effects or use pre-configured KONTAKT effects.
- Library contains 9500 samples (24 bit 44100 Hz .aiff). Uncompressed size is 6.52 GB.
- Dedicated to creative music and soundtrack producers, who need to add vocals with "public" character to their compositions.
April 21, 2011
Choir sings to soothe those near end of life
Sandra Ashe, a 60-year-old former first-grade teacher with advanced cancer, sat in a reclining chair in her room at Merrimack Valley Hospice House in Haverhill, three women sitting closely by her side.
“Your job is to relax and let everything in,’’ said Lisa Kynvi. “If you want us to stop, just hold up your hand and we’ll take that cue without offense.’’ Then Kynvi, Judy Whitney, and Patty Ramsden began singing “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,’’ their hushed voices blending in a slow and soothing rendition. Ashe smiled. “That’s very nice,’’ she said. The trio quietly continued.
“It was a wonderful moment; so special,’’ said Whitney. “It’s a very intimate thing.’’ Kate Munger of California founded the original Threshold Choir in 2000, based on the ancient tradition of singing for people at the end of life. Choirs have since sprung up around the country.
Merrimack Valley Hospice’s choir, which was the idea of volunteer coordinator Sheryl Meehan, started with staff and volunteers. It recently began adding outside members and rehearsing. Kynvi, the music therapist at Merrimack Valley Hospice, is music director. Meehan is the manager.
“Choir’’ may be a misnomer, as members don’t perform as a large group. Rather, two to four singers at a time perform for patients. But the base group needs to be large to meet the requests, which can come at any time and in a wide geographic location.
In her job as music therapist, Kynvi sings to patients every day. What they derive from it, she said, “depends on what they are open to getting and what they need at the moment. Hopefully, it will be a connection, a sense of beauty, a sense of real focused attention on them, a sense of presence and support. We are able to offer that.’’
Kynvi said hearing is acute at the end of life, and is the last sense people lose. “It is important to remind families that even though they can’t see a response from a person, they can hear you,’’ she said. Read more.
I have known Kate Munger for years and think the Threshold Choirs are an extremely worthwhile and rewarding endeavor. If you have a few hours or more in a month to spare how about getting involved and forming a choir in your area. More info on their website
April 20, 2011
Harmony Sweeps National Finals line up
After the Boston show this past weekend all the regional events of the Harmony Sweepstakes are over and our eight winning groups have been determined. Once again we have a diverse selection of talented group and the National Finals promises to be a blast.
Baudboys - Pacific Northwest
Brass Farthing - San Francisco
The Brotherhood Singers - Chicago
Da Capo - Mid-Atlantic
Overboard - Boston
Throat - Rocky Mountain
Traces - New York
Vybration - Los Angeles
Hosted by 2010 National Champions - The Plumbers of Rome
All the details here:- www.harmony-sweepstakes.com
April 19, 2011
Beelzebubs singing with ‘Glee’
There is something inherently wholesome about all-male a cappella. Even Katy Perry’s frothy pop anthem “Teenage Dream’’ sounds virtuous on “Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers,’’ the latest release from the chart-topping musical TV show.
Twelve of the 13 tracks feature backing vocals from the Tufts University a cappella group the Beelzebubs, who give voice to the Dalton Academy Warblers on “Glee.’’ (With the exception of Darren Criss, who plays Blaine, and Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, the Warblers who appear on the show are actors lip-syncing to the group.)
“It’s been crazy,’’ says Beelzebubs vocal percussionist Evan Powell of the group’s involvement with “Glee.’’ Powell and his bandmates recorded most of the tracks locally at Q Division in Somerville’s Davis Square, just up the street from their campus in Medford, before sending them off to “Glee’’ for finishing touches.
“It worked out so that we could record for national television in between our classes,’’ Powell says.
One of the most fascinating things for the ’Bubs, as they’re called, is getting to see how a song they’ve recorded will be used on the show, since it’s a secret to them until they watch with the rest of the country.
April 15, 2011
Barbershop: The Original Glee for Guys
Time magazine posted today on their website this quite lengthy video they shot in Philadelphia during the barbershop convention. It's a very positive piece and I'm not sure I've ever seen people look so excited while singing.
April 14, 2011
Kentuck Singers take to national stage
Soulful melodies and laughter rose from a garage in east Covington this week as the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers practiced gospel standards the group has sang with passion for 25 years.
The enjoyment of singing old spirituals, such as "Wade in the Water," to contemporary vocal pop hits, such as Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday," has only increased with time for the six singers from Covington and Cincinnati that make up the group.
"When we're together, we can sing all day," said retired police officer and founding member Eric "Ric" Jennings.
Now their music has started to soar around other parts of the globe as the singers prepare to compete for a national title in an a capella competition in Northern California in May.
The Brotherhood Singers in March won the Midwest region for the Harmony Sweepstakes, a 30-year-old national vocal group competition that inspired the NBC show "The Sing-Off."
They beat other vocal groups spanning a range of genres to get a chance at the national title.
The world now knows what people in Covington and Cincinnati have known for a long time, said Bennie Doggett, a resident in Covington's Eastside neighborhood where the group began.
"It is a wonderful feeling," Doggett said. "These guys have been together for so long. They've just struggled to get their identity out there. Now they're recognized all over the world. For us and the neighborhood, that is just a wonderful feeling to know they got first prize."
The singers' Harmony Sweepstakes performance and win at the North Shore Center in Chicago brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance. Judges told the group that they and many in the audience found the performance emotional, but Jennings probably found the experience the most poignant.
"It was a total surprise," Jennings said. "We were there just to have fun. We were from out of town. I'm up there crying. I'm like, 'We won?' I couldn't believe it." Read more.
April 13, 2011
Audience gives a hand with Handel
With overcast skies and the wind playing havoc with the National Sinfonia’s sheet music, Our Lady’s Choral Society with guest soloist Ross Scanlon took it in their stride as they lifted the hundreds of people packed along Fishamble Street with a rousing performance of highlights from Handel’s Messiah .
Georg Friedrich Handel first performed the piece in the now-defunct Musick Hall Theatre on almost the same spot on this day in 1742, and the “Messiah on the Street” has become an annual event in Dublin’s cultural calendar since 1992.
Proinnsías Ó Duinn - who has been conducting the Messiah since the 1960s - interspersed the hour-long performance with snippets of history from Handel’s life. He told the crowd that in his day Handel would have as famous as Bono and had he written his piece today he would be a multi-millionaire.
With sections of the crowd joining in as the choir sang, the street was treated to a surround sound of Hallelujahs.
For the finale Mr Ó Duinn accused the crowd of being “too passive” and challenged them to count the number of times the word Hallelujah was mentioned in the chorus. To make the task simpler he asked both the crowd and the choir to do a “Jane Fonda workout” and raise their hands every time the word was sung.
The first 20 proved easy enough, but when sections of the choir broke into different harmonies, the task became more and more difficult as a sea of hands rising and falling added a visual effect to the music. Read more.
April 7, 2011
The Vitual Choir performs Eric Whitacre's "Sleep"
Wow! And today we took delivery of Eric's brand new CD "Light & Gold". This man is a choral rock star!
April 6, 2011
Whitacre's Virtual Choir will be unveiled Thursday
Los Angeles Times
Orchestral musicians had their date with Internet destiny a few weeks ago with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Now the spotlight moves to choral singers with Thursday's release of the Virtual Choir.
Los Angeles-based choral composer Eric Whitacre created a choir that allows lone choristers from Lebanon, Kazakhstan and Madagascar to join 2,049 other singers from 50-plus countries in a performance of Whitacre's composition "Sleep."
The point of the Virtual Choir is to bring people together, but for some, watching nearly 200 people sitting alone in their homes singing in the first Virtual choir video seemed to accentuate the loneliness of modern life.
"I find this kind of bittersweet beauty in that message," Whitacre said. "When I first saw it, the first thought that popped into my head was message in a bottle. It was almost like these marooned souls on islands all over the world sending out messages in a bottle hoping to connect with someone that understood them. Everything we do is trying to overcome this abyss of loneliness."
It seems that the Virtual Choir Facebook page is what kept the project from being just 2,000 ships passing in the night, leaving only a video to mark their passage. Participants threw Internet commenting convention to the wind ("I'm doing 9th grade choir, so I know you're flat in bar 34") and actually supported each other.
"The whole thing became sort of self-policing and self-regenerating," Whitacre said. "People would leave tips with each other and lots of encouragement. Once someone would post their video, people would write 'Great Job!' and 'Really love the way you did this.' A very affirming experience. It's something I didn't remotely expect when I started this."
Technically speaking, the project represents an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work. Although there was a video of Whitacre conducting "Sleep" for participants to follow, just like in real-life choirs, every singer has his or her own internal rhythm. Even those entries that were perfectly synced to the conducting track had to be adjusted due to lags in the uploading process.
The emotional punch that all this kilobyte crunching packs is disarming for those not used to life in Choirland. For long-term observers, it's par for the course. "People in chorus tends to be much more emotional or at least wear their hearts on their sleeve," Whitacre said. "They are generally the kind to hold hands and cry. It's just a different personality type. You'd think it would be something we'd celebrate, not segregate."
Eric and the Virtual Choir was also featured today on NPR. Listen here. I'll be sure to post the video tomorrow.
April 1, 2011
Sing Off audition dates
Audition dates for the third season have been announced:-
Thursday, May 5
Emerson College's The Paramount Theatre
560 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111
NEW YORK CITY
Saturday, May 7
520 W. 25th Street
New York, NY 10001
Saturday, May 14
1101 Cherry Avenue
Nashville, TN 37203
Saturday, May 21
2744 Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60612
Saturday, June 4
3350 Winona Avenue
Burbank, CA 91504
We will be posting more info about how you can apply soon.