August 31, 2011
Swingles become 7
This announcement today from the Swingle Singers:-
"We are delighted to announce a fantastic new venture for The Swingle Singers. As of the middle of September, we will be changing to a SEVEN person line-up! We are hugely excited by the artistic possibilities this new line-up brings us, so come and see the Swingles soon - like they've never been seen before!"
After 40 years as an octect this is a most interesting development. Hmm.
August 30, 2011
Christian a cappella group ousts gay member
Daily Tar Heel (UNC):
The Christian a cappella group Psalm 100 voted unanimously Sunday night to remove one of its members, senior Will Thomason, because of his views on homosexuality, members said. Thomason, who is gay, said the group’s decision was based on a disagreement between him and members of the group about the organization’s constitution.
Psalm 100’s constitution mandates that members of the group act in accordance with ideology laid out in the Bible, said Blake Templeton, general director of the group. Templeton stressed that Thomason was not removed because of his sexual orientation.
“It’s really easy in this situation for the focus to be on this one thing — the homosexuality,” he said. “It wasn’t about that. “It was really about a disagreement with something that was clearly written in Scripture and in the Bible and we just have to base all of our decisions, constitutionally … on the Bible.”
The decision, along with the group’s status as a student organization, highlights a gray area in the University’s non-discrimination policy. The policy gives student groups the right to limit membership to those who share a certain set of ideas, as long as no student is excluded on the basis of personal characteristics — including sexual orientation.
Templeton said the issue surfaced after a member of the group became aware of Thomason’s view on homosexuality through a conversation with him. “For Will, (his view) was not just a talking point for the group to discuss,” Templeton said. “It was a decision he had made.”
The group’s constitution empowers its members to vote to remove members behaving in a manner contrary to the teachings of the Bible, an option the group has utilized before, Templeton said. He added that Thomason still has the option to return to the group if his views become aligned with the group’s.
Thomason said his views became an issue for the group after he came to believe that homosexuality does not conflict with Christianity. “Now, while realizing God can do anything, I also think God can use me, a non-heterosexual individual, to glorify His name. Read more.
How dreadful. I don't think this group should be called a "Christian" group as, in my humble opinion, such action as this is decidedly un-Christian. I firmly believe Jesus would never shun anybody due to their sexual persuasion.
August 29, 2011
Official Sing-Off preview
Here's the advance promo reel for the Sing-Off. I never knew a cappella could be so sexy...
August 24, 2011
Ross Barbour, a Founding ‘Freshman,’ Dies at 82
New York Times:
In 1947, Ross Barbour (photo left) and three other freshmen decided to take a year’s break from college to take their barbershop quartet on the road. They soon morphed into the Four Freshmen, a close-harmony, jazz-inflected vocal group that is still going strong — albeit with performers who were not even born at the inception.
Mr. Barbour, who never managed to make it back to school, died at 82 on Saturday at his home in Simi Valley, Calif., as the last of the founding members of the Four Freshmen. Dina Roth, a manager of the group, said the cause was lung cancer. Instead of studying, the Four Freshmen ended up teaching a fresh approach to close harmony, influencing the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, the Lettermen, the Manhattan Transfer and other groups. Their sound was characterized by long, lush chords — Mr. Barbour called them “purple chords” — and an improvisational style that made four voices seem like five or six. Each of the singers also played at least one instrument.
Brian Wilson, the genius behind the sound of the Beach Boys, was inspired by seeing the Four Freshmen when he was 15 at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood in 1958. He called them his “harmonic education.”
The others in the original group were Mr. Barbour’s brother Don, who was killed in a car accident in 1961; Hal Kratzsch, who died of cancer in 1970; and Bob Flanigan, who died in May.
The group has been widely described as the longest continuously performing vocal quartet of its kind in the United States, an accomplishment made possible by the constant matriculations of new freshmen. There have been a total of 23. Current members are Brian Eichenberger, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson and Bob Ferreira. Read more.
August 22, 2011
Singing on the Rails
City Journal: (Mumbai, India)
Dhondiram Pujari doesn't show the grumpiness expected of a typical Mumbaikar on his way to work. He jokes and indulges in loud banter, actually looking forward to the oppressive hour-long journey in a Mumbai local train.
And it's not just him. Around 30 of his fellow travelers in compartment No 2 of the 5.52am Thane-Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus Slow are set for the 34km trip. As the train enters Mulund two minutes after leaving Thane, the chatter and repartee grow louder as a stream of office-goers gushes in and occupies the few vacant seats and small empty spaces.
And then it begins. A venerable man with milky white hair, a little stoop and a vermillion mark on his forehead, breaks into an incantation, quickly joined by a chorus.
The 600-odd singing groups on the Mumbai suburban railway system - carrying around seven million people every day - are the best example of Mumbaikars' tenacity, need to belong, craving for affordable recreation and remarkable ability to 'adjust'.
"Some people play cards. Some sleep. Some play mischief standing at the exit. We do something better. We sing songs," Pujari said.
His fellow team member Dattaram Sawant has a more philosophical take. "We spend a lot of time together - an average 2.5 hours a day. We forget our grief, problems and frustrations and share our joys and sorrows through this kind of singing," Sawant said. According to historian and social observer Aroon Tikekar, president of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, this phenomenon has been in existence at least since the 1970s. It has now begun to mutate.
"It was most prominent in the Deccan Queen (that connects Mumbai to Pune). I believe it is a tension-reducing activity. People are looking for ways to escape the tedium, their frustrations and the stress of traveling in Mumbai,' Tikekar said.
"Earlier it was just bhajans. Even that is changing now. There are groups singing vintage Bollywood songs, pop songs and even Marathi bhaavgeet (light songs)," he added. Read more.
Traveling India by train 35 years ago was one of the most grueling yet fascinating experiences of my life. These singing groups might of helped make the rides bearable.
August 19, 2011
Steve Martin - Atheists Don't Have No Songs
I've long been a big fan of Steve Martin and here he is singing a cappella on a recent Letterman appearance with his group The Steep Canyon Rangers
August 17, 2011
WGMD Radio (DE):
The Deltones, hailing from the University of Delaware, will be one of 16 groups competing this September in season three of The Sing-Off. “We’re so excited that a group like The Deltones is even considered for this,” said Avi Amon, a 2008 UD graduate and “Alumnitone.” The Deltones was selected from hundreds of groups across the country that auditioned for the show.
“It all happened really quickly,” said Andrea O’Neill, incoming president of The Deltones. “This was so exciting for some of our graduating seniors who thought this past spring would be their last time singing with The Deltones.”
Five current Deltones were unable to make the venture to Hollywood, so O’Neill said they asked some of their most active Alumnitones to join them. Amon, one of the alumni competing with the current Deltones, said the producers were most impressed with the tight bond between current Deltones and Alumnitones, as well as the group’s rich vocals.
“They really liked our traditional coed sound and were totally enthralled by the power-house singers we have in the group,” Amon said.
Having alumni who still return to UD to attend every Deltones concert, the producers of The Sing-Off said, was a special connection and brought a unique quality to the group. For some of the Alumnitones, it had been three or four since they last performed with the group, but Amon said they were thrilled to participate. “For the alumni who are singing, it’s special to have this opportunity.” Read more.
August 16, 2011
Sing-Off groups announced
The 16 competitors in the upcoming season of the Sing-Off have been announced. Looks like a great line-up and am pleased to see that for a third year in a row a former Harmony Sweepstakes national champion group is included. North Shore won the Finals back in 1991 (I still listen to their fabulous version of "Marooned in a Blizzard of Lies" ).
Afro-Blue - A nine-person ensemble from Howard University
The Cat’s Pajamas - An energetic all-male group based in Branson, Mo.
The Collective - Nashville troupe formed by season-two contestant Jeremy Lister (Street Corner Symphony)
Dartmouth Aires - 15 quirky guys from the New Hampshire Ivy League school
Delilah - An L.A.-based all-female group including members from the first two Sing-Off seasons
The Deltones - Co-ed ensemble from The University of Delaware
Fannin Family - An octet of relatives from the Midwest
Kinfolk 9 - A professional group out of L.A. with members who all have the ability to share lead vocals
Messiah’s Men - Liberian refugees on a mission to serve God through music
North Shore - A Boston-based streetcorner ensemble tackling music from the ’40 to today
Pentatonix - Five-member group from Arlington, Tex., with eclectic musical tastes
Sonos - Well-known professional a cappella group who have collaborated in the past with Bareilles
Soul’d Out - Co-ed high school club from Wilsonville, Ore.
Urban Method - Newly-formed act from Denver including a rapper
Vocal Point - All-male ensemble from Brigham Young University
The YellowJackets - Contemporary crew from the University of Rochester known for wearing yellow blazers
The winning act will score $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony Music.
August 15, 2011
Cadence: 4 Men, 4 Microphones, No Instruments
Individually, they’re four of the most talented guys on the Toronto music scene. When they come together as Cadence, their reputation, and audience, extends well beyond Canada’s borders, earning them a deserved reputation as one of the finest all-male a capella jazz groups around.
The foursome, which has appeared with Bobby McFerrin at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and were part of the 2001 World Leaders Tribute to Quincy Jones, was formed a little over a decade ago when Carl Berger, then enrolled in the music program at York University, teamed with fellow students Ross Lynde, Dylan Bell and Kevin Fox. Read more.
August 13, 2011
Fork's Pink Noise a hit at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Edinburgh Evening News (Scotland):
Despite looking like Eurovision no-hopers, this Finnish foursome won't have to worry about ending their Fringe run with nul points. Camp, kitsch and knowingly arch, Mia, Anna, Kasper and Jonte deliver polished vocal performances, backed up by an impressive visual show. Clean and crisp, the tracks are terrific, leaving you wondering how it's possible to generate such a full, rounded sound without instruments.
According to the Scandinavian stars, the answer is simple - a little electronic gimmickry and a lot of practice.
Straightforward takes on hits by Madonna, Coldplay and Katy Perry are entertaining enough, but on their own wouldn't be quite enough to sustain the act for 70 minutes.
Thankfully though, the group's willingness to poke fun at the artists covered - and more importantly, themselves - is what really drives the show on. And once this kicks in, there's no stopping them, as Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga and Queen all get the full Fork treatment, before a heavy metal mash-up that would win over even the most cynical audience members.
August 12, 2011
Travelling with the Real Group
The Real Group has just posted this "backstage" video of them as they prepare for a couple of summer gigs. Looks like Anders J. is not used to the sun.
August 11, 2011
Stanford’s diverse a capella scene
The Stanford Daily (CA):
From the silly to the soulful, a cappella groups are a vital and visible part of life at Stanford from one’s first days on the Farm–surely, most students can recall hiking over to Frost Amphitheater with their new ProFro friends, taking in the diverse musical talents of the various troupes at the annual a capella show during Admit Weekend. While a cappella is far from unique to Stanford, the array of musical styles explored by the groups on campus is varied, including classic rock ’n’ roll, Bollywood and jazz, to name a few.
Stanford currently boasts nine a capella groups. Founded in 1963, the Stanford Mendicants is the oldest group on campus, an all-male crew known for its red sport coats, khakis and swoon-worthy hits like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Pretty Woman.” Mixed Company and Counterpoint are the oldest coed and all-female groups, respectively, and both sing contemporary radio tunes.
Then there are the thematic troupes: Everyday People explores R&B and hip-hop, and Talisman sings African and African American folk songs and spirituals. Testimony performs Christian music, and the Harmonics is a coed rock ensemble. Fleet Street’s tunes like “Everyone Pees in the Shower” speak for the all-male group’s goofy personality. And founded in 2002, Raagapella is the newest member of the bunch, featuring Southeast Asian sounds.
This mixed nature of the groups appeals to the similarly diverse Stanford community.
August 6, 2011
The fickle fate of singers
Check out this New York City construction worker. Watching this I can't help thinking how some talented singers get "the show biz break" and have long and successful careers. Other equally talented folk end up singing on their lunch break on a construction site. This guy has the chops, the looks and the charm. Such is life.
August 4, 2011
S.F. Girls Chorus sings praises after Cuba visit
San Francisco Chronicle:
This summer the San Francisco Girls Chorus performed what outgoing Artistic Director Susan McMane said was among its most memorable concerts: a performance of American, Latin and other songs in Santa Clara, Cuba, where McMane and 40 girls were awed by the level of musical appreciation and sophistication.
"Music is very much part of public education," said McMane. "There are 27 professional choirs in Cuba, supported by the government, in a country of only 11 million people. And those choirs are not just in the capital - they can be found all over the country."
There is also real pageantry to Cuban concerts. McMane described the SFGC's reception as being "like in a movie": The Santa Clara choir, dressed in classic red-and-black dresses and suits, escorted the girls into the packed concert hall to the roaring appreciation of the audience. They sang Cuban American composer Tania León's newly commissioned "Rimas Tropicales" as well as American folk songs and spirituals like "Hold On" and even a choral rendition of "San Francisco."
The July 2-10 tour to Cuba came by permission of the U.S. Special Interest Section Headquarters, which serves as an unofficial embassy on the island nation, which also heard a Fourth of July concert in Havana, where the SFGC performed "The Star-Spangled Banner." Other stops included the northern coastal town of Matanzas and participation in three master classes in Havana with Cuban choral conductors, including Maestra Digna Guerra of Coro Nacional de Cuba.
McMane was surprised that "such a struggling economy has such a high level of art and music. I don't think we ever had an audience as appreciative as in Santa Clara. The girls were moved by the poor conditions under which people live and the richness with which they approach music. Our country is so rich, and yet we cut money for the arts."
Imagine if our government gave proportionally the same amount of money to music education as Cuba does. We would have a society rich with the multiple benefits of group singing. I once spent time in Havana and had the privilege of attending several rehearsals of the acclaimed Cuban choir Exaudi. The country is full of such great music. Due to the ridiculous ongoing embargo it is still very difficult for Cuban artists to get US visas and there are still US imposed restrictions on US citizens ability to travel there. How great, however, is this program and is it not wonderful how harmony singing can bring different people together?
August 1, 2011
Sara Bareilles Talks About Joining “The Sing-Off”
The music for which Bareilles is now famous incorporates a lot of piano, but she still thrives on the magic of a cappella. It gave her a voice, pun intended, when she was a student.
Bareilles has a background in a cappella singing. “The name of the group was Awaken A Cappella. I participated in a talent show at UCLA, the Spring Sing. The first year I participated as a little comedy troupe and I saw Awaken perform. As soon as I saw them perform, I said I’ve got to be a part of that. So I auditioned, got in my sophomore year, it was my first year singing with the group. I felt like I found my home. I grew up in a really small town in northern California called Eureka. I felt really isolated in Los Angeles and felt I hadn’t really found my fit in terms of personalities and friendships. My a cappella group provided for me this little community of misfits that I felt like I had found my tribe.” Read more.