May 31, 2011
Nick's boozy party
Now that the Sing-Off is going big time does that mean we can have our own a cappella celebrity gossip?
According to US Magazine it seems that Sing-Off host Nick Lachey had "more than a few" at the wedding shower for his upcoming marriage to Vanessa Minnillo.
Nick - who was previously married to pop star Jessica Simpson - tweeted: "My liver is furious with me!! Great time last night at our wedding shower."
A cappella group The Backbeats from Season 2 provided the entertainment for the event.
Meanwhile fellow Sing-Off performers Street Corner Symphony were the featured entertainment at Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's wedding this past weekend.
May 28, 2011
Romanticism, Tone Paintings and Modern Takes on Folk Tunes
New York Times:
The New Amsterdam Singers have explored music ranging from 15th-century sacred works to modern secular pieces in the 40 years since Clara Longstreth founded the group, and the choir’s performances have always been spirited and finely polished. The group’s real charm, though, is its passion for contemporary American music. Having built relationships with choral composers around the country, Ms. Longstreth has made a point of building smart thematic programs around their work.
The more purely folkloric section of the program, sung mostly by the group’s expert chamber choir, included Mack Wilberg’s lively harmonization of a Scottish folk tune, “O Whistle and I’ll Come to Ye,” and Derek Healey’s dialogue-rich arrangement of “Danse, Mon Moin’, Danse!,” a French-Canadian song.
Chen Yi channeled the Swingle Singers in her bright-hued version of “Shady Grove,” and Kirke Mechem’s mawkish setting of “Let Us Break Bread Together” was redeemed by his more vital recasting of “Love and Pizen: Variations on Springfield Mountain.”
But the freshest of these pieces was the program’s finale, Abbie Betinis’s inventive, richly melodic “Long Time Trav’ling.” Ms. Longstreth led the full choir in a velvety rendering of the work, and if that may not have been what Ms. Betinis had in mind — she said that she was inspired by the rougher, more nasal sound of 19th-century shape-note singing — the performance did justice to the score’s purely musical impulses. Read more.
May 26, 2011
NY Times applauds the amateur singer
Here's part of a nice review the New York Times gave to American Idol:-
This profusion of amateur hours must be a product of the times. When business is bad, there’s still show business. In a postindustrial era, entertainment is perhaps the one field where the United States remains indisputably No. 1. And especially in this year’s refitted format, “American Idol” offers a less complicated landscape in which individuals compete and excellence is rewarded in a currency that almost everyone understands: music.
It’s often posited that “American Idol” has staying power because it’s the ultimate wish fulfillment show. Actually, not everyone fantasizes about becoming a pop star, but a lot of people sing, and a surprising number sing well, be it in the shower, a church choir, an a cappella group or a garage band. Americans love to sing and they also love a contest, and this show rewards old-fashioned values like individualism, likeability, and using one’s own voice to make good. It’s a feel-good parable of free enterprise, one that blends showmanship with a show of democracy. Each week, there is an election, and the concession speech comes in the form of a song. Read more.
May 25, 2011
Scotty McCreery invites choral teacher to finale
The new America Idol winner Scotty McCreery invited Meredith Clayton, his choral teacher at Garner Magnet High School, to tonight's finale.
“We just feel really blessed and fulfilled, and it’s exciting to be a part of,” Clayton said. “We’re so proud of Scotty. It’s just an amazing time for his family.”
Clayton has another “American Idol” connection. Her mother, Diane Covington, taught season two runner-up Clay Aiken in chorus at Leesville Road High School.
“Clay was one who was talented from the moment I first saw him. I told him he had a gift going into the 10th grade,” Covington said.
See what singing in the choir can lead to..
May 24, 2011
Arabic a cappella goes viral
The Arabic singer Alaa Wardi has an a cappella viral hit in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia with his cover of "Fi Hagat" the song originally made popular by Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram.
May 23, 2011
A Cappella Group in Controversy with "Glee"
KEZI TV (Oregon):
The blog Pop Culture Brain leaked audio from the finale of the musical show "Glee", and a local a capella group noticed it sounded eerily identical to an arrangement they had made years ago, causing a controversy over ownership. Back in 2005, University of Oregon Divisi arranged and choreographed a unique version of the song "Yeah" by Usher.
So Glee producers contacted the current group of Divisi and offered to pay for the arrangement of the song, but quickly retracted the offer.
But when Divisi members heard the leaked audio of the song from the "Glee" finale, they were worried the hit show was trying to steal an arrangement copyrighted by the group.
"We were really upset and mad about it because we were obviously just really willing to let them use the arrangement," said Katie Simon, current Divisi singer.
However, worry quickly turned to flattery Friday afternoon when a music producer associated with Divisi says 20th Century Fox said they were willing to give them credit and compensation. Watch the KEZI TV news segment here.
May 19, 2011
The Sing-Off becomes a full season series
NBC's decision to turn singing competition The Sing-Off into a weekly series might be the biggest surprise of the new fall season. But it was a move that came only after intense debate inside the Peacock network over how and when to air a second season of new hit The Voice.
According to insiders, a faction inside NBC was extremely keen to find a way to keep The Voice on the fall schedule, and the choice was heavily examined.
"It was obviously much debated," confirms NBC Entertainment alternative programming executive vice president Paul Telegdy.
Such a move would make sense: The Voice talent competition has given NBC some of its best ratings in years, and has quickly turned into a critical building block for NBC's primetime recovery. That's why many rivals and TV analysts expected NBC to rush the talent competition back on the fall schedule. "Getting The Voice on there is important," one exec said prior to NBC's announcement. "People are responding to it."
The Sing-Off, which saw big growth in its second season last December, was originally scheduled as a seasonal event during the holidays. But the show has been poised for bigger things at NBC. Telegdy said The Sing-Off was among the first shows referenced by Greenblatt when the exec arrived at NBC.
"Bob made a case that the show was robust and showing strength," Teledgy says. "He thought we should consider an elongated series, and make it more of a competition with stakes. The quality of talent and musical performances is so good. He was confident in its potential."
It quickly dawned on NBC that The Sing-Off could give NBC some schedule symmetry: Moving from The Voice in spring, then America's Got Talent in summer and The Sing-Off in fall. "That may not be the dumbest thing on the planet," Telegdy dryly remarks.
Telegdy was also bullish on the fact that The Sing-Off hosts a vibrant social media community. "As a key indicator for people's passion for the show, the social media lived on for months after the show ended," Telegdy notes. Read more.
Well how cool is this news!! More shows! More Groups! More Marketing! More Publicity! I have to sit down awhile. I'm all giddy. And do please remember how the Harmony Sweeps was very much a part of the inspiration for the show.
May 17, 2011
Bob Flanigan dies at 84; founding member of the Four Freshmen
Los Angeles Times:
Bob Flanigan, a founding member and original lead singer of the innovative vocal group the Four Freshmen, whose elegantly intricate jazz-rooted singing was a profound influence on Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson as well as the Lettermen, the Manhattan Transfer and numerous other vocal acts, died Sunday at his home in Las Vegas of congestive heart failure. He was 84.
Flanigan, who retired from performing with the group in 1992 but continued as its manager until his death, was surrounded by friends and family and had been serenaded by an ad hoc group of eight trombone players a few hours before he died, a spokeswoman for the current edition of the Grammy-winning group said Monday. The original lineup charted a handful of hits in the '50s, including "Graduation Day," '"It's a Blue World" and their arrangement of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo."
"Bob Flanigan and the Four Freshmen were my harmonic education," Wilson said Monday. "I saw them at the Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood in 1958. My dad and I went backstage and met the Freshmen. I was nervous because they were my idols. They were so nice to me. I was just 15 years old. I'll forever miss his friendship."
Wilson has long cited the Freshmen as one of the two most important influences on the Beach Boys' sound, the other being the exuberant guitar-driven rock of Chuck Berry.
Ross Barbour, 82 and now the group's last surviving original member, said in a statement: "Flanigan's voice was indestructible. He could drive all day and all night without stopping between gigs, and when our voices were on the edge, Bob was still in full form."
Flanigan, who also was a trombonist, often credited big band leader Stan Kenton as being the key influence on what the Freshmen wanted to achieve, a sound built on more sophisticated harmonies than typical of the male vocal quartets that preceded them.
"I always thought of singing as if I were playing trombone with Stan," Flanigan told The Times in 1991. "We think like horn players. The way we blend is due to our approach as instrumentalists. Also, we use no vibrato, because Kenton's trombones didn't."
All members of the Four Freshmen also played instruments, which made them unique among close-harmony vocal groups of the era. In addition, Flanigan's exceptional vocal range allowed him to take the melody above the other three voices, which also opened new vistas in male quartet singing. Read more.
May 16, 2011
Harmony Sweeps results
Vocal harmony once again ruled the night as the nine performing groups sang at their very best to help create another exciting evening of a cappella music. The judges took longer than usual to decide the winners as the field was so close. The results are:-
National Champions - Da Capo (Washington DC)
2nd - Vybration (Los Angeles)
3rd - Brass Farthing (San Francisco)
Audience Favorite - Da Capo
Best Original Song - "Monsters & Animals" - Emily Bedal, Throat
Best Arrangement - "Route 66" arr. Deke Sharon, Vybration
Although Da Capo is a barbershop quartet their winning material was more in the close harmony style and was not what is usually allowed in official barbershop competitions which have strict rules regarding how (and what) can be sung. Their rendition of "Blue Moon Over Kentucky" was stunning and the blend impeccable.
One advantage barbershop groups often have is the technique and vocal discipline that their style of singing demands and when these groups are unleashed from the constrains of traditional barbershop they can really shine. Such was the case for our winners this weekend.
I often get groups lobbying to allow effects units in the Sweeps but when I hear such sweet harmony as sung by Da Capo it reinforces my belief that the Harmony Sweeps is about that marvelous instrument the human voice and nothing sounds better then when these voices are sung in unadulterated pure harmony.
May 14, 2011
Sarah Palin's hometown high school prinicipal bans song
When members of Wasilla High School’s symphonic jazz choir heard Friday it wouldn’t be singing the popular Queen hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” at this year’s graduation ceremony after working on it all year, the students couldn’t get their heads around it.
WHS Principal Dwight Probasco reportedly had received complaints from at least one parent that the 1975 hit written by Freddie Mercury wasn’t appropriate for the ceremony simply because Mercury was gay.
“The whole thing was just ridiculous,” senior Rachel Clark said Monday. “They’d played the song on the school intercom and we played it at prom. It’s a great song and the choir was really excited to be singing it. And the senior class felt like it defined them.”
Choir member Casey Hight, a junior, was angry enough to contact a gay and lesbian support organization in Anchorage for help. They told her to contact an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I felt like the school was discriminating for sexual orientation and I felt it was wrong,” Hight said Monday. “It’s so stupid because there’s nothing sexual in the song. There aren’t even any cuss words.”
Although Probasco wouldn’t comment on the issue Monday, Senior Class Advisor Deb Haynes said Probasco has now agreed to allow the choir to sing an edited version of Bohemian Rhapsody that doesn’t include lyrics in one section about killing a man.
“The kids had put a lot of time into the song, but at graduation we really try to accommodate anything that might be a sensitive issue for anybody,” Haynes said, adding she didn’t understand why the song would have been a problem in the first place. “I’ve heard it a hundred times and it’s never bothered me.”
Hight said she believes Probasco decided to put the song back on the graduation program because he didn’t want any problems with the ACLU.
Clark said it didn’t make sense for the school district to tout tolerance for all and then turn around and allow homophobia to dictate something such as graduation music.
“We were joking about singing Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind,’ instead,” Clark said. “I guess no matter what you do, someone’s feathers are going to get ruffled.”
Clark said she’s glad the choir will be able to sing the song after all, because several of the singers have solos. “The whole attitude of the song just seems to fit our class,” she said.
What's good about this story is that the kids immediately saw how ridiculous this was and acted accordingly. Let's hope and pray that the out and out bigotry shown by some towards others in our society will one day be a historical footnote. Imagine our world without the creativity of gays. It would be a very dull place indeed.
May 13, 2011
Meredith Monk eager to perform with 'really fine' singers in Kitka
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday's unprecedented collaboration between the acclaimed Bay Area a cappella ensemble Kitka and composer and vocal voyager extraordinaire Meredith Monk was a lifetime in the making.
In a career spanning five decades, Monk has crafted a vast musical universe based upon extended vocal techniques and a gift for creating vivid, painterly aural textures. Her wordless vocabulary can express a wider and deeper range of emotions than all but the most incisive lyrics, whether she's serving as a musical muse for film directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and the Coen Brothers or composing for orchestras, chamber groups, or the Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble, which she founded in 1978.
Always looking for new outlets and avenues for expression, she's created theater pieces, directed films, recorded extensively for the ECM label and pioneered site-specific performance events. But she's never undertaken a collaboration like tonight's concert with Kitka. While Oakland's all-female octet has performed works by numerous contemporary composers, its international reputation is based upon the mastery of ancient vocal practices from the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. For Kitka, the opportunity to work with Monk, who was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" fellowship in 1995, was the culmination of years of courtship.
"I said yes to the project because these traditions and cultures are so deep and powerful," says Monk, 68. "I had heard a few Kitka CDs over the years and I thought they were really fine singers, with beautiful intonation and blend. I knew that the women of Kitka would not be afraid to explore different vocal colors. Working with singers from the classical tradition, there's often a lot of fear. Read more.
Sing-Off's champs Committed Release First Single 'Break Free'
This season's Sing-Off winners Committed have been working in the studio as part of their Sony Music contract and hope to release the full CD at the end of summer. It seems Take 6 wrote and arranged a couple of songs and I look forward to hearing the recording. Read a new interview with them and hear a clip of their new single here.
May 12, 2011
Nepali choir tells of UK ordeal
KATHMANDU: Members of a Nepali choir, which was accused of absconding from Heathrow Airport, England, on April 27, today recounted their bitter experience. The 10-member choir returned home on May 5 after successfully participating in the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival.
According to Bimal Sherchan, one of the members, they had to wait at the Indian Airlines office at Heathrow Airport for their lost instruments without any success and then waited for hours at Terminal 3 for the festival organisers to turn up.
“We contacted a Nepali known to us at Central London and he provided us lodging,” said team leader Laxman Shesh.
“As the organisers were at the programme venue, our calls to the office were not answered on April 27, then we contacted Nepalaya Lok Kalamancha in Nepal the next day and collected the mobile number of festival director Peter Davies. We called him on April 29 and we were picked up by his men six hours later and reached Cornwall at midnight,” said Sherchan. Laxman Shesh confirmed that everybody had returned on May 5.
“Embarrassed by the rumour of absconding, we shortened our stay there by five days. We also cancelled our folk song programmes for Nepalis there,” added RG Kharel, another member.
The letter awarded by festival chairman DE Peters to the team reads, “The Nepali team representing the Indian sub-continent has successfully performed folk songs. Our only regret is that although they arrived in the UK on April 27, they failed to contact us.” The team claimed that organisers searched for them at Terminal 1 despite the documents showing that Terminal 3 as their point of arrival.
As a veteran promoter I long since learnt the value of scrutinizing every detail and hammering them into participants. All this kerfuffle because of a 3 instead of a 1.
May 11, 2011
Nicole the super judge
It seems Sing-Off's Nicole Scherzinger is making a new career for herself as a judge of singing contests as it has just been announced she will be one of the judges on the much-hyped Simon Cowell show The X Factor. Now I wonder why she got the gig over the clearly better Sing-Off judge Ben Folds? I can only think of two reasons...
May 10, 2011
A couple of contests
The Harmony Sweepstakes National Finals are coming up this weekend and the excitement is building. There are also other regional opportunities for a cappella groups and here are a couple of upcoming ones. A national shopping mall chain is conducting a contest for singing groups with events around the country with a cash prize and a chance to perform with Emmy®-award-winning singer/songwriter, Kevin Briody. Info here.
The San Diego Fair now has a competition as part of it's events and does offer a $1,000 first prize. Info here.
And then there's The Vidalia Onion jingle contest. The Onion Committee in conjunction with Universal Music are also offering prizes.
May 9, 2011
Lady Gaga sings a cappella
HBO debuted the concert event “Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden” this past weekend with two hours of material from her "Monster Ball Tour". The show concluded with a backstage a cappella rendition of "Born This Way" which you can see in this clip.
May 6, 2011
Gay Men's Chorus belies its name
Los Angeles Times:
Near the end of last month's three-concert run at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles paused to share some quiet time and recognize those who contributed to the shows' success.
The tribute session took an unexpected turn when one of the group's newest singers raised his hand to speak. "I want to thank everyone for welcoming me," said tenor Chris Yraola, a 24-year-old music teacher from Eagle Rock. "It means a lot because, No. 1, I'm a little shy. And, No. 2, well, I'm a straight guy."
For a second, there was silence — "It was definitely a surprise," Yraola recalls — and then applause broke out. Some people hugged him. Some told him how proud they were. And someone yelled, "Jordan, your cachet just went down by half!" to Jordan Bell, a second-year bass who had been known as the ensemble's only openly straight singer.
"It was an important moment," says executive director Thom Lynch, one that he believes represents the evolution of his 32-year-old chorus specifically and of gay choruses in general. "There was a point in the early '80s when just having a group of gay men standing and singing was political and made a statement. These days, groups like ours are committed to making spectacular music — which attracts a wider range of singers and audiences. It's not that the political isn't there. But now, the way to make that statement is to be as good as we can be."
Bell, a 24-year-old marketing manager from upstate New York, studied voice and belonged to a men's ensemble in college. When he moved to Los Angeles in 2009, he was happy to discover the 220 plus-member chorus, which has released more than a dozen CDs and toured internationally.
"Immediately, one question popped into my head," Bell says. "Was I allowed to join?" He emailed "a sort of sheepish" query and received "a welcoming response" from the membership president. "He did ask if I'd feel comfortable if people assumed I was gay. I had thought about it, and I knew it was not going to weird me out." Read more.
May 5, 2011
Jeremy Lister follows ‘Sing-Off’ success with new album
On a 2010 flight to Los Angeles, where he was to start competing on the NBC reality show The Sing-Off, a realization hit Jeremy Lister hard and fast.
If his new a cappella group Street Corner Symphony was going to win over viewers, he’d have to come out of his singer-songwriter shell. He might even have to dance.
“We were used to performing with instruments in front of us, not moving around, and definitely not putting jazz hands in the air,” Lister recalls with a laugh. “You have to go, maybe, into a different personality. You get to a level where you just don’t (worry). You just go and have fun and do your thing.”
Four months after his group took a second-place finish in the show — a breakout ratings hit for the network, averaging more than 8.5 million viewers — Lister is at home, sitting on a back patio in East Nashville with friends to celebrate another momentous day. The Bed You Made, the singer-songwriter’s five-years-in-the-making album, has just been released. It shows Lister letting go of inhibitions in a very different sense, with a stark, intensely emotional pop/rock album that chronicles the end of a relationship.
“These are the last days for you and I,” he sings on the deceptively cheery sounding “Last Days.” “Sooner or later, gonna say goodbye/ We’re falling to pieces, and you know it’s time.” Read more.
May 3, 2011
Voca People Will Make Its Off-Broadway Debut
Producers Doron Lida, Revital Kalfo, Leeorna Solomons and Eva Price announced that Voca People, the intergalactic new musical that combines vocal sounds, a capella singing, comedy and the art of beat box, will make its Off-Broadway debut at the Westside Theatre June 23 with an official opening July 12.
Created by Lior Kalfo and Shai Fishman, Voca People, according to press notes, is "performed by eight snow-white ruby-lipped aliens with perfect harmony, [and] there are no musical instruments, only vocals. Voca People believe music is the source of life that brings harmony, joy and refueling. A performance bursts with over 70 well known songs that create vocal 'fireworks' and leave audiences clapping along and snapping their fingers. Voca People is the musical theater event that bridges languages, cultures, and planets."
The musical has played sold-out tours through Europe, South America and the Middle East. The Off-Broadway opening in New York City will mark the first time Voca People sing in America. Casting will be announced shortly.
Voca People will feature direction and choreography by Kalfo with musical direction and arrangements by Fishman. The creative team includes lighting designer Roy Milo, sound designer Naor Ben Meir and costume designer Doron Ashkenazi.
May 2, 2011
'Missing' Nepalese choir turns up – after three days
The Independent (UK):
A Nepalese male voice choir, whose disappearance left organisers of a Cornish music festival scratching their heads and sparked a Home Office investigation, was last night finally set to honour its commitment to sing.
The directors of The Cornwall International Male Voice Choir Festival were dismayed when the 10-strong choir failed to meet a minibus they had sent to Heathrow on Tuesday morning, raising concerns that they had "absconded".
It was believed the men could have breached their visas by failing to perform at their first booking, on Thursday night, and the Home Office was informed.
But three days and three missed concerts later, organisers received a mysterious phone call saying the choir, known as Nepalaya Kala Manch, was on its way. Festival organiser David Peters said that he was still in the dark as to where the choir had spent the past three days, but welcomed the blaze of publicity generated by their vanishing act.
"I will advise anyone looking to publicise a festival to lose a Nepalese choir," he said.