January 31, 2012
A cappella Superbowl ad
Here's an advance look at the latest Hyundai ad that includes an a cappella rendition of the Rocky theme song. It is due to be aired during the Superbowl.
January 28, 2012
Arranger Clare Fischer dies at 83
Los Angeles Times:
Clare Fischer, a Grammy-winning pianist, composer and arranger who crossed freely from jazz to Latin and pop music, working with such names as Dizzy Gillespie, George Shearing and Natalie Cole as well as Paul McCartney, Prince and Michael Jackson, has died. He was 83.
Fischer died Thursday at Providence St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank of complications from a heart attack he had two weeks ago, said family spokeswoman Claris Dodge.
Although he entered professional music through jazz, his expansive creative perspective quickly grew to embrace many other musical areas.
"I relate to everything," he explained in 1987 in The Times. "I'm not just jazz, Latin or classical. I really am a fusion of all of those." He went on to describe his fascination with Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Bartok, as well as Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, Lee Konitz, Tito Puente and boogie-woogie pianist Meade Lux Lewis.
Regardless of genre, Fischer's arranging and composing invariably possessed a rich harmonic palette, one that attracted and influenced other musicians.
"Clare Fischer was a major influence on my harmonic concept," Herbie Hancock said in a statement on Fischer's website. Hancock credited Fischer's arrangements for the 1950s vocal group the Hi-Lo's with significantly influencing his 1968 recording "Speak Like a Child." Read more.
January 27, 2012
Time to book your singing valentines. A great surprise for a loved one and a good fundraiser for your local barbershop chorus.
January 20, 2012
Jonathan Harvey: spirits soar in the hands of a master
The Daily Telegraph (UK):
What does “spiritual” music sound like? Walk into any big record store, or turn on Classic FM, and you’ll find a fascinating variety of answers. It can sound like the surging, soaring choral harmonies of Eric Whitacre, the American composer who is literally the pin-up boy for new spiritual music (he used to be a male model). It can hail from the native English choral tradition, in such older figures as John Rutter or younger ones such as Gabriel Jackson. It can sound like those innumerable “Music for Healing” CDs (which you can buy in a job lot with some nice pyramidal “healing crystals”), or the atavistic drones and chants of John Tavener.
Much of this music makes my heart sink. For one thing, it tries to raise us up by looking back. In its desperate efforts to be timeless, it simply sounds old-fashioned. The other problem is that the idea of a musical genre stamped “spiritual” is deeply suspect. All music (or rather, all good music) is spiritual, in that it defies the mechanical ticking of the clock, aligns our being with its dancing motion, and gives us a delicious sense of being freed from tedious rationality. As T S Eliot put it, “You are the music, while the music lasts.” This is as true of a humble Haydn minuet or a Cole Porter song as it is of a lofty sacred piece by Tallis or Palestrina.
By that measure, much of this “spiritual” music is a dismal failure; a noxious blend of nostalgia and narcosis. Only a few composers manage to rise above its limitations. At the end of this month, the BBC offers a Total Immersion in one of them: Jonathan Harvey. His music never harks back, but neither is it self-consciously modern. It glories in the present moment, which it makes real by transfixing our senses, in the same way a rosy dawn makes us forget everything else.
How does Harvey pull off this remarkable feat? By making glowing musical images that carry an instantly perceptible symbolic value. Read more.
January 19, 2012
Hamas likes barbershop
Organizers of the Palestinian version of "American Idol" said Thursday the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers have banned residents from participating in the popular reality show.
The organizers said Hamas told them the program is "indecent," in what appears to be a new attempt by the fundamentalist militant Muslim group to crack down on behavior it sees as contrary to its conservative interpretation of Islam.
Hamas permits male barbershop style singing groups that do not use musical instruments and sing of the glory of Islam and to fighting Israel. Young, prepubescent girls also perform in their own singing groups, but teenage girls and women are never seen singing in public. Many devout Muslims believe singing by women is provocative.
Al-Abed said he was told by the head of Gaza's government press office, Hassan Abu Hashish, that the local singers could not compete because the program was not in compliance with the territory's culture and it was not morally acceptable.
So much for that Kinsey Sicks tour of the West Bank I was considering...
January 18, 2012
Vasari Singers, Kings Place - review
Evening Standard (London):
Take the instruments out of music and what's left? The singing voice in all its glory. The London A Cappella Festival embraces as many instrument-less possibilities as three days of music-making allow, and began last night with a solo, half beat-box, half doo-wop, by Albert Hera.Then the Vasari Singers took the stage. After a slightly tentative opening in a Crucifixus setting by Antonio Lotti, the Vasaris's precision-tooled harmonies and crisp enunciation took over. Pierre Villette's Attende Domine proved an unsettling blend of ancient and modern, while the clipped phrases and rousing "Amen" of Francis Poulenc's Gloria (from his Mass) suited the hall's short echo. The most moving pieces were contemporary British. In Gabriel Jackson's I Am The Voice of The Wind, the women's wordless evocation of the wind was devastating while the consonant-free ululations of Will Todd's Angel Song II were more sinister than angelic.
January 13, 2012
"Moves Like Jagger" - Pentatonix
At 3 pm Tuesday Pentatonix posted a request on their Facebook pages for suggestions on what song they should sing for their first YouTube video. They selected Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" and then over two hours did a speed arrangement and recorded the song. Already as of end of day Thursday the clip has already received over 125,000. views. This is a very talented group.
How Singing Can Reduce the NHS Budget
Huffington Post (UK):
What song do you sing in the shower? My default tune is Rule Britannia. I particularly relish the trill of notes on the word 'first' ('When Britain first at heaven's command') not least because I have recently learned the correct musical term for a syllable sung with several notes in succession is 'melisma'. Warbling first thing in the morning lifts my spirits so much that singing should be prescribed on the NHS! That may not be as daft as it sounds because singing is good for physical and psychological health.
Singing improves circulation and digestion, and being an aerobic exercise also increases oxygen levels in the blood. Lung capacity is expanded and when airflow is enhanced in the respiratory tract, bacteria have less chance to flourish so this can counter cold symptoms. And because it requires deep breathing singing is a stress-buster, lowering blood pressure, and is good for the nervous system. It boosts immunity by producing proteins that function as anti-bodies. Even muscles in the face and the stomach are toned and it improves posture. Forget Pilates - just join a choir.
And there's more - the psychological benefits. Singing triggers the release of feel-good endorphins which make a person feel happier and more positive. Those endorphins are also natural pain-killers, and natural anti-depressants. Happier people often have fewer physical health problems. All that just by opening the mouth, and it doesn't matter if you're out of tune. Sing hallejuiah come on get happy! Read more.
January 11, 2012
The Primary Season, A Cappella
Working away in the a cappella warehouse this afternoon listening to NPR's All Things Considered and news of the primaries when out of the blue came this segment. Cool.
"The next 40-some weeks are going to be a screaming tower of political babble; a cacophony of accusing and boasting, pandering and slandering. I watch the news these days with the mute button permanently depressed, lest I fall into a permanent depression myself. There's only so much contention and vitriol a sensitive soul can bear.
Fortunately, I've developed a sonic antidote to the nerve-rattling chorus of pundits and office-seekers: a cappella music. Human voices singing solo melodies or merged in harmony. Best of all, they rarely sing about downbeat temporal matters like unemployment, budget deficits or gun control.
So here's the prescription for election-year sensory overload: Silence the devil television and turn up the angelic strains of human voices united in harmony. As it turns out, we can all get along."
Barbershop Virtual Chorus
After seeing Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir British barbershopper Peter Nugent decided to create a virtual barbershop chorus. After emailing barbershop singers around the world Peter released today this video of the chorus singing the David Harrington arrangement of "If I Had My Way".
January 10, 2012
House Jacks Pair with Sony for New Soundtrack
Starting today, Sony is kicking off the 2012 Detroit Auto Show on an unexpected note, courtesy of a cutting-edge audio system. Rather than using pounding bass lines or sinuous grooves to illustrate the 12-speaker, digitally-amplified Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound system that adorns the Ford Flex crossover, they are instead highlighting the human voice's power to mimic high-end instruments.
"You hear so many demos that default to drum loops, horns and Seinfeld-style ditties as a listener showpiece," explains Austin Willacy, singer/songwriter for the a cappella rock band the House Jacks, which provided supporting vocals for this project. "What people are unused to hearing is how the fidelity of today's sound systems can capture the harmony and intricacy of the human voice, especially when multiple singers apply their talents together. It's a singularly fresh approach."
Rather than compose a stiff-sounding technical demo, the Bay Area group – whom fans of The Sing Off and Monday Night Football may recognize – instead created a more relaxed two-and-a-half minute teaser illustrating the system's capabilities. Using their elastic esophagi to replicate the sound of guitars, swelling melodies and toe-tapping percussions, Willacy says the group has assembled a funked-out, soul-tinged showpiece that pans around drivers' heads in surround stereo. Comparing its recording process to classic funk and pop albums ("like mixing a Sly and the Family Stone record"), he claims the work more elegantly underscores the innocuously-titled Audio System from Sony's reach than any computer-generated sampler. Read more.
January 7, 2012
Boyz II Men Receives Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Reality TV Magazine:
Even though The Sing Off just wrapped up its third season last month, judge Shawn Stockman has been keeping busy while not on the air for the a cappella reality competition: yesterday, Boyz II Men received a well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! The walk’s 2,456th star is the first to be placed in 2012. What does Stockman have to say for the permanent sign of the R&B group’s success after twenty years? See who showed up to the ceremony and what’s next for the band! Read more.
January 6, 2012
2012 London A Cappella Festival
Big harmony fun coming up in the UK with the London A Cappella Festival. Hosted by The Swingle Singers other headline acts include Fork, Cadence, The Boxettes and the Vasari Singers. Along with performances there also will be daytime workshops and seminars on Saturday. The festival runs January 12th thru 14th at King's Place, London. Visit web site for more details.
January 4, 2012
2012 Harmony Sweepstakes season begins
It's that time again and the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival is once again seeking groups who would like to participate in one of our regional events. A cappella groups of all genres, ages and styles are welcome to apply and as long as you have 10 minutes of quality a cappella music then we would love to hear from you. Regional champions win airfare and hotel accommodations to compete in the National Finals held in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Pacific NW (Olympia) - March 10
San Francisco – March 10
New York – March 10
Rocky Mountain (Denver) - TBA
Chicago - March 31
Mid-Atlantic (DC) – February 25
Los Angeles – March 3
Boston – April 15
National Finals May 12th
All three seasons of the Sing-Off included a Harmony Sweepstakes national champion so who knows where participating might take you.
Entries are already coming in and we recommend submitting your material soon. Please submit an online application or contact the director of the Regional where you would like to perform.
For more info visit the Harmony Sweepstakes National A Cappella Festival web site:-
Tickets for most events are now on sale. Order now to ensure great seats!
January 3, 2012
Female choir has coveted number 1 Christmas spot
Having the number one pop song on Christmas Day is always a big deal in England and is much sought after. This Christmas the top spot went to choral group The Military Wives comprised of the wives of military personnel from British Army bases in Devon with their single "Wherever You Are." The 100-strong group, who starred in a BBC documentary, sold over 650,000 copies of their single and knocked X Factor winners Little Mix off the top spot.
Choir founder and British TV personality Gareth Malone said the success of the single was ''really good news'' for choirs. He said: ''We are a nation of singers and we have one of the proudest traditions of choral singing in the world and I'm really delighted that some of that has crept over in the mainstream with the single and that people are getting out to buy it. I think it's boom time for choirs, I really do, and that's great news''.
January 2, 2012
Fred Milano, tenor with Dion and the Belmonts, dead at 72
New York Daily News:
Fred Milano, (far left photo) a city street-corner singer who became part of rock 'n' roll history as second tenor with Dion and the Belmonts, died Sunday. He was 72. His family told New York 1 he was diagnosed three weeks ago with lung cancer.
Dion DiMucci and the Belmonts, who also included Carlo Mastrangelo and Angelo D'Aleo, were one of the groups that took rock 'n' roll from its roots in rhythm and blues vocal group harmony into the smoother, pop-flavored era of the Beach Boys and Four Seasons.
They were the embodiment of late-1950s cool, famous around the country and icons in New York for a run of hits that included "A Teenager in Love," "Where or When" and "I Wonder Why." DiMucci's slick style and classic rock star looks sent him off into a solo career in 1960, but the Belmonts were a critical part of his early success and image.
In 1987, DiMucci sang "Teenager in Love" at Madison Square Garden with an impromptu backup group that included Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Lou Reed, Ruben Blades and Billy Joel. After the show, DiMucci said he had no trouble convincing any of them to do it, "because if you grew up in that era, everyone wanted to be a Belmont."