July 30, 2011

The Sing Off starts production

TV Guide:

Production began this week on NBC's a cappella competition The Sing-Off, which is being pre-taped over the next few weeks to air this fall.

That means even though the show has been upgraded to regular series status, NBC and the show's producers have opted not to try and make The Sing-Off a live TV event (in the vein of American Idol or The Voice).

That's partly to accommodate the college students who make up many of the show's a capella groups. "If the shows were live between September and December, we wouldn't be able to have them in the competition," says NBC alternative series executive vice president Paul Telegdy. "It's one of the reasons we always shoot it at a certain time of year, as we don't want to disadvantage the collegiate groups."

Because it's pre-taped, The Sing-Off also doesn't include a viewer vote as part of its elimination process. But Telegdy believes that's an advantage: A capella singing is a highly technical music form — and the executive says he wouldn't want the show to turn into another popularity contest. "This is a very specific competition," he says. "That's the differentiation, we really rely on the judges' expertise and detailed analysis. What these guys are doing is extremely complex."

The final episode of The Sing-Off will be live, however, which means viewers will indeed get to vote for the show's ultimate winner. That finale is currently scheduled to air on Monday, Nov. 28.

On Thursday, The Sing-Off's season premiere episode was taped at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif., as the first eight groups performed in front of judges and a live audience. The other eight groups were set to compete Friday night for episode two.

Two groups were eliminated on Thursday, with another two set to be cut on Friday. That will leave 12 groups heading into episode three; NBC is scheduled to air a total of 11 episodes this season. Despite the sheer number of people who will be privy to the competition's results — not only studio audience members, but friends and family of the show's 16 competing groups — Telegdy says he's not worried about spoilers leaking out. Read more.

As I am so involved in a cappella I do get the learn of things that are not always public knowledge but the last thing I want to be is a tattle tale or a spoiler. I will of course be covering the upcoming season of the series but will absolutely refrain from posting anything that might be giving something away. I'd just as soon watch along myself and enjoy the surprises of the competition.

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July 29, 2011

The Swingle Singers mix and mash

The Straight (Vancouver, Canada):

With more than 50 albums to their name, five Grammy awards, and a large base of die-hard fans spread around the world, something has been going very right for the Swingle Singers for a long time.

What accounts for the a cappella group’s extraordinary success over almost half a century? Put it down above all to impeccable professionalism and the enduring aim of keeping everything fresh, varied, and balanced. Some 80 artists have been members of the Swingle Singers since their formation in 1962, and the current eight-piece lineup has an equal number of male and female voices—two basses, two tenors, two altos, and two sopranos.

The music covers a vast spectrum, from classical and world to jazz, pop, and experimental rock. Not surprisingly, the repertoire is extensive, and divided into several programs. Classical Reinventions, the show the Swingle Singers are bringing to MusicFest Vancouver, includes such unlikely bedfellows as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, Björk’s “Unravel”, and the traditional Turkish song “Gemiler Giresuna”.

The arrangements come from several sources. “Two or three members of the group work things out regularly for us. And we have friends from around the world who’ll arrange as well. Plus there’s a massive back catalogue of arrangements from the last 50 years of Swingle history that we can turn to, and often do.” Read more.

The Swingles will always be one of my favorite groups. Fifty years, still going strong and still fresh and innovative.

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July 28, 2011

America Sings

As I don't have the GMC channel I am missing their ongoing series America Sings. Hosted by Drew Lachey (yes Nick's brother) the weekly show features singing groups in a competition setting and being voted out by viewers. Several barbershop choruses and quartets are still in the running. More here.

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July 25, 2011

A cappella at 5,000 ft

Taking flash mobs to new heights is this Italian group of a cappella singers.

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July 22, 2011

Singers shut down by cops

Nantucket Island Inquirer (MA):

Nantucket’s popular a cappella singing group The Cobbletones was shut down by police on two occasions last week and fined for performing without a town-issued permit.

The Cobbletones, an all-male group made up mostly of former Nantucket High School graduates, has been a downtown summer staple for more than a decade, attracting large crowds outside the Zero Main Street building for their nightly performances.

The issues with the police began last week when someone called the department to complain that the group did not have the necessary street-performer permit issued by the town, according to Lieutenant Jerry Adams. He added that the group had obtained permits in the past, and were fully aware they needed to obtain them for this year, but did not.

Last Thursday night, as The Cobbletones were in the middle of their performance, police officers and community service officers (CSOs) informed the group that it would have to stop singing due to the permit issue. As the crowd booed, the store manager of Shreve, Crump and Low, John Vaughn, invited the group inside the jewelry store where it finished the performance on private property.

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July 21, 2011

'In-between' vocal ranges challenge

San Francisco Chronicle:

Every summer the young singers arrive for the Merola Opera Program and fit into the neatly marked categories - the sopranos with their clarion high notes over here, the basses with their deep, resonant rumbles over there. And then there are the uncertain ones, the questioners, the singers looking for their niche. Soprano or mezzo? Baritone or bass? They're listening hard for the cues and pointers that will help them understand what it is their voices want to do.

Boudart Harris has seen the confusion firsthand. From the time she started singing, she regarded herself as a mezzo-soprano, like her mother. She has a fairly deep speaking voice, as well as the sight-reading skills that can be a boon to the altos in a choir, who often have to navigate the tricky inner voices of a choral texture. But there were signs pointing in another direction - a higher one. Her voice teacher at Cal State Long Beach suggested she experiment with the soprano repertoire and was pleased with the results.

Sometimes a voice will proclaim very clearly what it does best, but it won't lie squarely within the bounds of one of the standard vocal types. There is plenty of good repertoire for such "zwischen" (or "in-between") voices, but they can be hard to shoehorn into traditional categories.

The quest is partly pragmatic and partly psychological, Greenawald says - especially for singers who have invested a lot of time and training in a particular area of repertoire. "For some of them, switching voice types is sort of like saying, 'I've been Caucasian all my life, now I'm going to be Hispanic.' It's that much of an identity shift for them. And they have to be emotionally ready." Read more.

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July 20, 2011

90's Dance medley

Danish a cappella group Local Vocal has fun with a camera (and a banana).

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July 18, 2011

Nicks weds Vanessa

Sing-Off's Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo tied the knot on Friday evening on Necker Island - Richard Branson's private Caribbean island. Exchanging their vows on a cliff-top overlooking the ocean, the wedding was for close family only.

The couple did however invite the cameras in for their upcoming TLC reality special titled Nick & Vanessa's Dream Wedding, a decision they said they discussed heavily prior to the big day.

'We kind of wrestled with that for a while, for obvious reasons,' Nick said earlier this month. (His previous marriage to Jessica Simpson was filmed for the MTV reality show Newlyweds)

Former Miss Teen USA Vanessa told People magazine: ‘For us, this is just a stepping stone to do what we ultimately want and that’s to start a family together’

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July 15, 2011

Sara Bareilles to Join The Sing-Off

Grammy-nominated chart-topping songstress Sara Bareilles will join the Sing-Off as the replacement for Nicole Scherzinger who has moved on to the new X-Factor show.

Best known for her 2007 No. 1 hit "Love Song," Bareilles brings a cappella cred to her gig: She spent a big chunk of her college days at UCLA performing as part of the university's Awaken A Cappella, and she's been known to bust out tunes sans instruments at concerts. That experience is key, according to NBC reality chief Paul Telegdy. "I love the fact that on this show, the judges are each so rooted in the world they preside over," the Peacock exec says. "They can do what the contestants are doing."

Bareilles is currently touring with Sugarland in support of her most recent Sony Music album, Kaleidoscope Heart, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart but has yet to yield a killer single quite as popular as Love Song. With the Sony Pictures TV-produced Sing-Off returning for its third cycle September 19, don't be surprised if there's a new Bareilles single floating around pop radio right around Halloween.

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July 14, 2011

REVIEW - Harmonies From Outer Space

New York Times (NY):

There was a time when a cappella was one of music’s best-kept secrets. Relatively few people were aware of just how sophisticated the genre had become or how many sounds the best a cappella singers could draw on: not just standard notes, but vocal percussion, orchestral imitation and more.

But groups like Rockapella and Boyz II Men broke through into the mainstream, and then in 2009 NBC introduced “The Sing-Off,” a reality competition featuring a cappella groups. That exposure costs “Voca People,” a wacky new stage show at the Westside Theater featuring eight a cappellaing space aliens, the element of surprise. Probably not many people in the audience will be startled at how good much of this music sounds. So a barely-there plot and some audience-participation bits have to carry more of the entertainment burden than they should. The result: You leave the theater feeling entertained yet a little deprived as well.

The extraterrestrials, all dressed in white, have crash-landed on Earth in a spaceship powered by music, and so to get the thing aloft they have to tap into the songs of this strange land. In a funny segment they empty the contents of an audience member’s brain, and suddenly they’re able to deliver an entire history of the planet’s music in a dizzying, genre-straddling medley.

It takes a while — too long really — for these aliens to get out of excerpt mode and actually deliver a few full-length songs, but when they do, one in particular is simply great. It’s the Doors’ “People Are Strange,” with Chelsey Keding on lead. Hearing it, you realize that this song was always meant to be delivered by beings from outer space.

A few more such knockout moments would elevate this show, created by Lior Kalfo and Shai Fishman, from amusing curiosity to memorable summer discovery. So would a more elaborate story; the sketchiness of the refuel-and-leave conceit feels like a missed opportunity. But the forays into the audience are a nice touch; not many theatergoers can say they’ve had a singing space alien lying across their laps.

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July 13, 2011

The Grand Rapids LipDub

It's not a cappella nor technically are people actually singing but I came across this amazing video today and wanted to share it as it is probably the best such video I have ever seen. Made in response to a Newsweek article listing Grand Rapids as a dying city the good folks (about 5,000 of 'em) of the town helped make this video which shows the city in a most favorable light. In just one single shot the video features everything from marching bands, pillow fights and a wedding to cheerleaders, kayakers and a bridge on fire - this is a most entertaining way for folks to get together and sing.

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July 12, 2011

A cappella aliens open in NYC

"GET READY! VOCA PEOPLE, the intergalactic musical theater event that bridges languages, cultures and planets is making its U.S. debut!

An out-of-this-world experience that combines vocal sounds, a capella singing, comedy and the art of beat box, VOCA PEOPLE is performed by eight snow-white, ruby-lipped aliens with perfect harmony. There are no instruments: This purely vocal performance will send you into orbit.

Filled with songs you'll recognize, peformed in a completely original way, VOCA PEOPLE is a tuneful, funny, exotic and, most of all, hilarious musical theatre phenomenon that you won't want to miss!"

So says the show's press release. Looks like fun and I'd certainly check it out if in New York. Opens tonight at the Westside Theater. More show info here.

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July 10, 2011

Dementia choir project hailed great success

Wales Online:

A unique partnership between Welsh National Opera and people with dementia will culminate tonight with a one-off performance. For the last three months a group of more than 40 people with dementia from South Wales have been working with the opera company. Carers and family members have spoken of how their loved ones “have come back to life” as a result of the partnership.

The Alzheimer’s Awareness group will tonight perform self-penned songs inspired by the Puccini opera Turandot at a concert in Cardiff.vThe project, in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, follows on from a successful pilot in the run-up to Christmas last year. There the group took part in five singing workshops, culminating in a performance at a Christmas carol concert.

The songwriting and performance sessions have given people with dementia an opportunity to express themselves and take part in memory activities – song and music are known to be easier to recall than other memories.

Kate Woolveridge, the WNO’s choral leader, said: “As dementia progresses some people can experience difficulties with communication but the brain works in such a way that if they knew songs before they are able to sing them now.

Dr Rosie Tope, whose partner has dementia, is evaluating the project for the Alzheimer’s Society and WNO. “It’s been an absolute joy to see the people on this project who have difficulty maintaining a conversation, recalling the words of songs they have known and loved.

“Familiarity with the music and the words is also giving them the confidence to reach out physically to those they love, for example when they are singing or listening to the music, they are holding hands and putting their arms around each other, some have even taken to dancing together again. Read more.

Thanks to Choralnet.

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July 9, 2011

Old School Wins

There have been several wins in recent years of barbershop "super-quartets" and such was the case again this year with Old School taking the gold at the international competition held in Kansas City last night. Congratulations to Kip Bruckner (gold medalist with Interstate Rivals and Gas House Gang), Joe Connelly (Interstate Rivals, Keepsake, Platinum), Joe Krones and Jack Pinto. Never much for surprises the Society judges awarded the quartet silver last year which seems to follow the tradition of quartets rising up a notch each year until they win the gold. Seems there's no such thing as a "dark horse" in barbershop competition. New Zealand's Musical Island Boys took silver and Masterpiece won bronze.

Master of Harmony, under the direction of Mark Hale, won gold for the eighth time, Great Northern Union won silver and Canada's The Northern Lights took bronze in the chorus competition.

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July 8, 2011

A cappella extravaganza brings 5,600 barbershop singers to KC

Kansas City Star:

Oh where, oh where, are the handlebar mustaches?

You’d think they’d be easy to spot at a gathering of barbershop singers, but it turns out long, twirly ’staches are as rare as a barbershopper’s straw hat.

At the 73rd annual Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention, in town through this weekend, a ballroom at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown has been turned into a store for the conventioneers, but there’s nary a straw hat (they’re called skimmers) in the place.

Stop a singer or two — 5,600 are here for the all-male “a cappella extravaganza” — to ask about fancy mustaches or some such and you’ll quickly be set straight about modern barbershopping.

“We don’t hang out under streetlamps, either,” says Don Fuson of Leawood, a member of the local Heart of America Chorus.

“We try to keep it cool,” says Oliver Merrill of Manchester, Conn., who at 29 is one of the younger barbershoppers outside the collegiate competitors. Zoot suits are an example of cool, he says. Skimmers or armbands? Not so much.

“We want to show people that this is groovy,” Merrill says

Judging from a couple of hours of quartet competitions this week at the Sprint Center, barbershoppers appear to favor suits, often dark, often with ties, when trying to impress judges. Still, you hear stories about foursomes coming out in bright red or purple duds. A Nashville comedy quartet called Lunch Break, which harmonizes about food (of course), has been known to perform in pajamas.

Wednesday morning, the non-collegiate quartets sang about trundle beds, throbbing hearts, crowing roosters, a fat kid named Roly Poly and a gal (as in “Where’s my gal?”). Each quartet performs two songs.

Typically with quartets you don’t see “Glee”-style choreography, but there is movement. The four men stand close to each other in front of a single microphone, their faces full of expression and their arms often in motion. They might bob up and down. Some groups use props, such as a drawing pad on an easel.

Read more.

I'm not attending the competition this year but in previous years mustaches have been in abundance and mighty specimens they were to. It seems some must make fun of barbershoppers but, hey, leave the mustaches alone! No mundane mustaches these but rather marvelous, majestic constructions of masculinity! Wear them proudly my friends.

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July 7, 2011

Sing Off time slot

NBC has announced that The Sing Off will begin its third season on Monday September 19th at 8pm. It will be followed at 10pm by the new series The Playboy Club. Not quite sure how that lead in works but fine by me.

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July 6, 2011

Waves of emotion: what makes a great sea shanty?

The Guardian (UK):

Out on the bay, the boats are jostling in the breeze, rain speckling their pale masts and the bright red buoys. Back on land, in the low-lit warmth of the Chain Locker pub, a group called Bone Idol have just taken to the stage: eight men in jeans, polo shirts and comfortable shoes, looking entirely ordinary until they start to sing. "Let your harbour lights keep burning," they begin, a rich, stirring sound. A man in a pirate hat stops stock still in the middle of the pub, clutches his tankard to his breast and cocks his head. "Send your beam across the way," they sing on. "Some poor faint and struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save."

Now in its seventh year, the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival draws hundreds of performers to this idyllic corner of Cornwall. Organised by local shantyers the Falmouth Shout, and with proceeds donated to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, for three days the town is transformed. From the Custom House Quay down to the new harbour-front development, and all through the taverns that line the shore, some 30 shanty groups perform. Some are dancing, some in costume, others armed only with a pint of grog, but all of them are singing songs of the sea.

The festival draws a diverse crowd – music fans, seasoned cagoule-wearers, ale-drinkers, women in Breton-striped tops. They fill up the bars and join in on the choruses, tales of fair Nancy left behind, of liquor and maidens and days spent a-roving and stamping-and-hauling.

The sea shanty began as a work song, its rhythms marked by the various tasks undertaken at sea: raising anchors, hauling ropes, the emphasis falling on particular syllables. Most followed the pattern of call and response, with a shantyman calling out the line and the men joining in on the chorus – usually coinciding with a heave. They helped synchronise a team and chronicle their adventures at sea and ashore.There are various types of shanty — among them the steady-rhythmed, narrative capstan shanty, performed while raising the anchor. There is the halyard shanty, sung during the raising and lowering of the sails; and the pumping shanties, sung as the sailors pumped the handle of the windlass. Musically, the shanties vary, some sharing features in common with the gaillard or West African work songs. There are regional variations, too — the shanties of Brittany, for instance, have more in common with those of the Cornish coast than those of North East England.

Read more.

Although I strongly dislike it when people chew gum while singing I think that singing while drinking beer is most agreeable. On a close to 100 degree day here in California those pints look mighty appealing.

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July 5, 2011

Universal acquires musical 'Pitch Perfect'


Universal Pictures has acquired the worldwide distribution rights to the Gold Circle Films musical comedy "Pitch Perfect."

Jason Moore will direct from a script by Kay Cannon, which she based on the nonfiction book by Mickey Rapkin. Plot details were not released except that the pic will be set in the world of college a cappella.

Gold Circle will finance the project, as well as produce it along with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman through their Brownstone Productions shingle.

It's one of the first acquisitions for Gold Circle since signing a six-picture distrib pact with U in May.

Under the pact, Gold Circle will co-distribute two films a year with Universal starting next year with the laffer "Sammy."

Director Jason Moore received a Tony nomination for his direction of Avenue Q, with other Broadway credits including Shrek the Musical and Steel Magnolias. In addition, he has directed the new musical Tales of the City, currently playing at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

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July 4, 2011

Acoustix, Stars and Stripes Forever

It don't get much better than this. Happy 4th!

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July 2, 2011

Catching Song with Bobby McFerrin

In the Room with Bobby McFerrin from On Being on Vimeo.

"He is a genius of improvisation; a genre-bending vocal magician and conductor. And he sings the territory between music, mystery, and spirit. Who better to contemplate the human voice — its delights, its revelations, and its mystery — than Bobby McFerrin?"

So says Krista Tippett on American Public Media about her most interesting interview with Bobby. This man really has great insight and the video is a must watch for his fans. Read more.

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July 1, 2011

The Matrix action a cappella

One man a cappella group Matt Mulholland has been very busy with his video editing software and microphone as you can see on the many videos he has posted on his web site. Above is his a cappella soundtrack to the lobby shoot out scene from The Matrix.

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