December 23, 2011
Singing Christmas Tree '11
Continuing my annual fascination with singing Christmas trees here is Bellevue Baptist Church's beauty - a 44 footer with 100,000 lights and 300 cast members.
Chanticleer's 2011 Christmas
Check out this Christmas Greeting from Chanticleer. Shot at various rehearsals on their 2011 Christmas tour the joy that they have singing, even during rehearsal, is contagious. What a fun group it must be to tour with!
December 22, 2011
Naturally 7 and Michael Buble @ Rockefeller Center
Here's Naturally 7 singing with Michael Buble at the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center.
Eric Whitacre announces Virtual Choir 3
Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 3 will perform his much-loved a cappella piece, Water Night. He welcomes existing Virtual Choir members and encourages singers from around the world to join together to create a film which will be released online in Spring 2012. This time, he is also going develop the film into a audio-visual art installation to be seen and heard in cities worldwide.
December 21, 2011
John Rutter: a modern hero for harmony
The Telegraph (UK):
It’s been a very good year for choral music, which took centre stage at the Royal wedding and, in the form of the Military Wives, is a rampant phenomenon in the run-up to Christmas.
On Christmas Day, BBC Two adds an extra dollop of seasonal harmoniousness with John Rutter’s A Musical Nativity. It’s a selection of the best-loved Christmas music, including In the Bleak Midwinter and In Dulci Jubilo, mingled with a selection of Rutter’s own popular carols.
Rutter, 66, is something of a godfather figure among choral composers. One of his most enduring compositions, The Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, which will feature in the Christmas Day programme, was written even before he went up to Cambridge in his teens. He gives credit for kick-starting his musical journey to Highgate School, the alma mater of numerous prominent musicians including John Tavener and pianist/conductor Howard Shelley .
“We had a concert chorus to which half the school belonged,” says Rutter . “You got the sons of professional criminals and used-car dealers from Enfield singing Bach’s B minor Mass. They might have beaten up old ladies on the way home, but they sang Bach and loved it.”
His point is that during his schooldays, classical music was just music that everybody took part in . “There was no cultural bar to classical music in the Fifties . I was brought up to feel that music was an inclusive art, and that genius speaks to everybody, like Shakespeare does. Now we live in a multicultural society, where we’re a series of subcultures overlapping a bit, but there is no cultural mainstream any more.” Read more.
December 20, 2011
The Fabulous Fingers
Ventura County Star (CA):
With a lifelong love for singing, Mary Ann Cralley found it natural to incorporate American Sign Language when she learned how to communicate with the hearing-impaired. "Music is the love of my life, so when I found out about song signing, I just absolutely fell in love with it," said Cralley, 79.
"It was very confusing at first and, of course, there's so much to remember because it's a whole new language," Cralley said. "I still have a lot to learn. But it's a wonderful way of communicating."
Her love for song signing led to the Fabulous Fingers — a handful of women who perform during holiday shows and other events at the Simi Valley Senior Center and Moorpark Active Adult Center. They also perform at the Red Hat Society's Christmas luncheon.
"Signing songs is a lot different than conversational signing," said Anita Dahl, 68, of Moorpark. "Conversational signing is close to the chest and fast. Song signing is grandiose and very graceful. People get tears in their eyes when they see the kind of song signing we do."
Dahl was singing in a choral group with Cralley when the idea to add sign language came up. "Then the two of us started getting together to practice because we both had an interest. Then others joined us. It snowballed from there," Dahl said.
Song signing "is a moving experience because songs touch people's hearts, and the two combined are the perfect marriage," she said. Read more.
Twinkle Twinkle little What!
Toddlers in North Yorkshire have been banned from performing actions while singing the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, in case it offends deaf people. Bosses at the Sure Start children's group in Acomb are reported to have introduced the ban after realising one of the hand actions could be misconstrued as a rude gesture.
The issue -- identified after staff attended a sign language course -- is said to be that the hand gesture used for diamond resembles the official sign language sign for female genitalia. As such they're worried that continued use of the gesture could offend deaf children or deaf parents -- despite their not currently being any at the group.
Unsurprisingly the move has been criticised by parents, with one mother telling the Telegraph: "These are innocent little children just making a sign to show a star. "No-one would give it a second thought. Now every parent may worry their child may be making an offensive gesture when they're singing this song."
However, a spokeswoman for City of York Council, which is responsible for the group, said it was ‘a sensible decision taken to prevent deaf children or deaf parents being offended’.
December 19, 2011
Aires perform for Obama at White House
The Dartmouth Aires did not let the temperate climate of Washington, D.C., preclude them from celebrating an early "white" Christmas on Friday, when the a cappella group performed at the White House as part of its winter tour. The Aires sang holiday favorites and some of their arrangements from NBC’s “The Sing-Off” for the last of a series of private holiday parties held by President Barack Obama.
Danny Freeman ’13 had established contacts with the White House when he interned for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ’88, D-N.Y., during the summer after his freshman year. Through those contacts, Freeman secured a spot for the Aires at Friday’s party.
Many of Obama's close friends, the entire White House staff and decorated U.S. soldiers returning from war were among the guests on Friday, according to Freeman.
At the event, the Aires sang Christmas favorites such as “Let it Snow” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” as well as two popular “Sing-Off” renditions: “Animal” by Neon Trees and “Pinball Wizard” by The Who.
Each member of the Aires had the opportunity to meet Obama, which Michael Odokara-Okigbo ’12 said was a “humbling” experience.
“He is incredibly personable and just … larger than life,” Freeman said. “To be in the heart of the nation’s capital with the president and the First Lady brings a rush of awe. It really is incredible.”
The Aires sang for nearly five hours straight, performing until 8:30 p.m. in the lower ground floor of the East Wing, a “beautiful open space with resonant sounds,” Clark Moore ’13 said. Read more.
They seem to like a cappella groups at the White House. The Whiffenpoofs performed there two weeks ago and over the years quite a few a cappella groups have had the honor of performing although not always with the President present. A gig of a lifetime I'd say.
December 17, 2011
A Cappella Radio plays Christmas
Our streaming 24/7 a cappella radio stream is now playing Christmas music exclusively. All the new releases plus plenty of the classics. Listen here.
December 16, 2011
St. Olaf Christmas Festival and Choir
Kim Lawton interviews St Olaf Choir director Anton Armstrong.
Children's Choir Riser Collapses
Students at Fargo's Carl Ben Eielson were just trying their best to get everyone in the Christmas Spirit. Sure they sounded good, but it is what happened to the risers they were standing on that has everyone talking. Those risers collapsed. No one was injured, but today that choir concert at West Acres Mall is all over the internet.
Like nearly a hundred other local choir groups, the middle school students from Carl Ben came to West Acres, to spread a little Christmas Cheer. But just as they were singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart" the holiday concert lost its bottom. The three levels of steps on the risers collapsed. Read more. Hat tip Choral blog.
December 15, 2011
Famous falsetto celebrates 50th anniversary of 'Lion Sleeps Tonight'
Jay Siegel has lived in the same house in Wesley Hills, N.Y., for 41 years, mostly because of his garage. "I can't move," he says, "my garage is the history of my career." He'd have to take it along, he says, or at least videotape it.
There's room for the cars he and Judy, his wife of 50 years, drive, his with the dead giveaway vanity plate, WIMOWEH.
But it's really a museum devoted to his music, one vocal group, its greatest hit and its enduring popularity. The group was — and still is — the Tokens, and the song is one so identifiable that almost anyone could score big on "Name That Tune," knowing it after just a note or two.
Those first notes, the ones known around the world, come from the falsetto voice of Jay Siegel, who is now 72.
At concerts, women toss undergarments at some heartthrob singers, but when Siegel is out front, they toss stuffed lions, a recognition of the song that made the Tokens and Siegel famous, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which hit No. 1 on the charts on Dec. 17, 1961 — 50 years ago this month.
There's no formal celebration in the works, no reunion of the three living members who recorded the hit, which stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks, in the Top 10 for three months and eventually hit No. 1 in 36 nations. Siegel didn't want the milestone to pass unnoticed or the role of a group that morphed from doo-wop to folk and eventually to folk-rock, to be forgotten. Read more.
So if Jay has been singing this song at least once a week (his web site shows they still tour steadily) for the past 50 years that's at least 2,500 times. Wow would you be sick of it by then? Actually I've always had rather a soft spot for the song and never mind hearing it one more time (although it better be a darn good arrangement). We currently have 64 recorded versions at singers.com.
December 14, 2011
The singing admiral
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jon Greenert sings along with his wife Darleen, backed up by the 8-member a cappella group the Navy Sea Chanters in his holiday message, posted online Tuesday. I have heard the Navy Sea Chanters several times and they really are very good. I'm also a fan of the Singing Sergeants and we carry their new a cappella Christmas CD.
December 10, 2011
New Christmas A Cappella Releases
After a rather slow summer for new a cappella recordings fortunately this Christmas season many top groups have released wonderful new titles. Rockapella, The King's Singers, Rajaton, The Blenders, Tonic Sol-fa, Cantus, Cadence, Eclipse, Chanticleer have all lived up to their stellar reputations with top notch new recordings.
So dear readers we are having a special Christmas sale on all of these new tiles. Help support the groups and us by treating yourself (or friends and relatives) to some great a cappella music this holiday season.
December 9, 2011
Justin Beiber and Boyz 11 Men sing
Well i never thought I would ever be posting a Justin Bieber video but here he is singing Fa La La with Boyz 11 Men. Shawn Stockman sounds great and wasn't he by far the best singer of the Sing-Off judges in last week's Christmas Show.
December 8, 2011
Solidarity Singers plan to fight permit policy
River Towns News (WI):
The leader of a group of protesters that's kept a steady presence at the Capitol this year says he's talking to attorneys about fighting a new policy that requires demonstrators to apply for permits and sometimes pay a fee to rally.
A group called the Solidarity Singers gathers at noon every day at the Capitol to sing protest songs aimed at Republicans, specifically at Gov. Scott Walker. Many of the songs are variations of old union or civil rights anthems.
Under a new policy by the Department of Administration, groups of four or more people would have to apply for permits 72 hours in advance of their events. The same would go for groups of 100 or more outside the Capitol. If they require extra police presence, this policy would let the state bill them for it.
The Solidarity Singers regularly have enough participants to trigger the permit requirement indoors. But group leader Chris Reeder said they have no plans to apply to demonstrate, or to pay.
The Capitol, Reeder said, is the public's house, and they have a First Amendment right to be there.
“We believe very strongly that what we do is protected speech,” said Reeder. “We believe we are protected by the United States Constitution and Wisconsin Constitution. We will continue to come here and sing.
December 7, 2011
Choir Puts Tweets to Music
To help warm up the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus this season, they asked Calgarians to tweet their tips on how to keep warm during Calgary's winter. They then put the tweets to music. Above is the CNN news segment and here is the actual musical piece.
December 6, 2011
Music teacher removes word "Gay" from carol
A Michigan music teacher's decision to censor the word "gay" from a traditional Christmas carol is being met with a frosty response.
The teacher, who has not yet been named in any of the published reports, allegedly removed "gay" from "Deck The Halls" after 1st and 2nd grade students kept giggling during preparations for a Christmas concert at Cherry Knoll Elementary School in Traverse City. Instead of the traditional lyric, the students were taught to sing "don we now our bright apparel," according to UpNorthLive.com.
The school's Facebook page has since been inundated with reactions from infuriated parents and fellow educators. "By taking the word 'gay' out of 'Deck The Halls' you are making it a big deal, one word can have different meanings," wrote one user. "Your personal opinions should not reflect what you teach other people's children. Please teach the children the classic song the way it was written." Another added: "Essentially, this teacher has now taught the elementary school children, including children as young as five, that gay means homosexual sex."
One user even incorporated a clever parody of the song's 19th century lyrics: "See the crazy school before us/Fa la la la la, la la la la/Prejudice with a thesaurus."
The story also caught the eye of famed sex columnist Dan Savage, who noted, "Someone had to straighten out that carol—can't have children donning gay apparel."
As television station WPBN has reported, however, Principal Chris Parker has said he is disappointed in the music teacher's decision to change the lyrics to the song, and the students are, in fact, now back to singing the original version.
A few minutes after posting the above I came across this news item. It brought a tear to my eye and for once politician Michele Bachmann was left speechless. Well said little boy.
December 2, 2011
Bow Bow, Chk-a-Bow: Five Voices Rise To The Top
Nice treat driving home tonight when Pentatonix came on NPR's All Things Considered and sang several songs. A quote from Melisa Block - "Rarely will you hear an interview with quite so many unlikely mouth noises — and that is, in this context, a good thing."
December 1, 2011
Grammy a cappella nominations
We have quite a streak going here as there has been a cappella Grammy nominations every year for at the least the past 10 years or so since I have been tracking this.
The nominations this time are Ladysmith Black Mambazo "Songs From A Zulu Farm" for Best World Music Album. Stephen Layton directing Choir Of Trinity College "Beyond All Mortal Dreams - American A Cappella" and Eric Whitacre "Light & Gold" for Best Choral Performance.