June 21, 2012
Spoke too soon. Ten minutes after my last post as we left to go to the resort I somehow slammed the car door on my finger. I'l be fine but I have lost the nail on my index finger and there is no way I can grip a golf club. Oh well - watched the kids swim at The Sharc instead.
We are on our annual family vacation so no postings for awhile. We just drove up the east side of the Sierras on 395 and are now in the lovely town of Bend, Oregon. Yesterday we went to the Newberry National Monument, a still active volcano, and climbed onto the incredible Obsidian Flow. Today we are going to the Lava Cave and then dad's going to play a round of golf at the Sunriver Resort while the kids swim in the brand new Sharc water park. Life is good!
June 16, 2012
Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen
Morten Lauridsen looks like Robinson Crusoe: untamed hair, bushy beard. Lives alone on a remote island. But Lauridsen is no castaway. He's the country's most frequently performed choral composer, even if you haven't heard of him. American choral composers don't exactly trip the fame meter.
But if you listen to choirs, or sing in one, you probably know his name. Lauridsen, a Beaverton native, is "one of the few living composers whom I would call great," says poet Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia talks about Lauridsen in a film documentary called "Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen.
The film, directed by Michael Stillwater, is much like the composer's music: spare, thoughtfully crafted, serene. It premiered in February at the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs, Calif., won best documentary at the DC Independent Film Festival and received honorable mention at the Los Angeles Movie Awards.
I've been a fan of Lauridsen's music since I first heard it 18 years ago when the now-defunct Portland choir Choral Cross-Ties performed his song cycle "Les Chansons des Roses." I looked over at Lauridsen, who was sitting in the audience, eyes closed, a fitting way to absorb the music's extravagant beauty.
There's plenty of Lauridsen's ravishing music in the film, including the Christmas favorite, "O Magnum Mysterium" (1994), and "Lux Aeterna" (1997). The film shows Lauridsen in rehearsals in California and Scotland.
Nothing about the 69-year-old composer is edgy or avant-garde. He shuttles between Los Angeles, where he teaches composition at the University of California, and Waldron Island (pop. 104) in the San Juans, where he lives in a renovated general store that overlooks Puget Sound. It's on the same beach he wandered as a boy, a place that means a great deal to him, he says. By the end of the film, you know why. You will also know something about his music, with its chantlike spirituality that occasionally rises in spiky dissonance.
Simplicity is one reason his music is so popular.
"I didn't want to write an elitist piece that only the very best choirs in the world could perform," he says of "Lux Aeterna." "I wanted to write a piece that would be within reach of many people, many performers. It's a piece with a message, and I didn't want to complicate that message with complicated musical language."
June 14, 2012
Pitch Perfect - a cappella movie trailer
June 12, 2012
A competitor folds
For about ten years or so my company Primarily A Cappella had a fierce competitor who started a business originally based exactly on Singers.com (he started by downloading my web site and then just changed the name). This competitor seemingly would go to any lengths to compete and some were saying was obsessed with trying to find out what we were doing and how to hurt us (arch rivals he called us). I chose the complete opposite approach and basically ignored him, rarely went to his web site and decided to never ever mention the name of this business in public. I joked to myself that the only time I would mention this company’s name is when I could tell of its demise.
Well it gives me surprisingly little satisfaction to announce that Mainly A Cappella (a-cappella.com) has officially gone out of business as of June 1st and its web site has been closed. The person who was responsible for all the unnecessary negativity did walk away a couple of years ago and the company has been run the past few years by another person who I am told was a nice guy however I never did have reason to communicate with him until recently. I have wished him well.
I never understood the over-amped competitiveness of the previous owner and spent my energies instead on managing and running my businesses and not concerning myself with the affairs of others. Had he done the same then maybe he would have had more success.
There’s no doubt that music retail has changed dramatically in recent years and what may have been a wiz bang concept 10 years ago no longer applies in these times. However we here at Primarily A Cappella are still cruising along nicely and have every intention to continue serving the a cappella community for years to come. I have some new ideas in mind and will be rolling out some new features over the summer.
I’m a product of the 60’s and the concept of harmony means more to me than just voices blending. I’m so glad that we no longer have such divisiveness amongst us and that we can pull together and help spread the joy of unaccompanied vocal harmony music.
June 8, 2012
Israel Foreign Ministry lashes out at Voca People
The Foreign Ministry recently issued an official letter to several Israeli embassies warning them that the members of the Israeli-based vocal ensemble, Voca People, have renounced their affiliation with Israel.
In their show, the members of the a cappella octet dress in all white and don white bald wigs, white facial greasepaint and cherry-red lipstick, and claim to be a group of eight friendly aliens from the planet Voca – thus disassociating themselves from Israel.
The tension between the ministry and the vocal group broke out following a complaint made by the Israeli Consulate in Saint Petersburg, Russia ahead of the group's scheduled performance in the city, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
In a complaint letter sent to the Foreign Ministry, the consulate stated that "the group does not mention in the slightest its connection to Israel and goes as far as blatantly renouncing it."
Upon receiving the letter, the ministry expressed its surprise at the harsh claims made about the group, seeing as the two have worked together on several occasions over the past year.
The ministry quickly sent a letter to Israeli delegations abroad, clarifying the identity of the band. "In an effort to prevent any unpleasant surprises or disappointment, it's best you all know that the group does not identify itself as Israeli," said Ofra Ben-Yaakov, a Foreign Ministry official charged with cultural affairs.
Lior Halfon, a co-creator of Voca People, expressed astonishment at the recent accusations. "This is the first time I've ever heard of this," he said, but later stated that "the group is not Israeli but rather aliens from the planet Voca."
An official response made by the ensemble's management stated that "wherever the Voca People perform, foreign delegations are always welcome. We will soon be performing at the 'Israel in the Park festival' in San Francisco, a show which was planned in collaboration with the Israeli cultural center." Read more.
This is so absurd that I thought it was a parody or joke of some kind. After checking it out it turns out it did indeed happen. Israel has a bad enough p.r. problem as it is and things like this makes their foreign ministry look ridiculous.
June 6, 2012
Voca People land in San Francisco
Lots of fun tonight at the San Francisco premiere of those intergalactic a cappella superstars The Voca People. It was my first time seeing them and the whole family had a good time. It was very entertaining and it was especially satisfying to see an a cappella group get the full theatrical treatment – great sound, great space, costumes, a script (sort of…) and of particular interest to me plenty of professional lighting. The Nylons, who came from a theater background, is the only a cappella group I have ever known who traveled with a lighting guy. The lighting for this show was pretty darn good.
Most all the a cappella chestnuts are included and the head occasionally spun at how fast some of the medleys whizzed by. The performers were all strong with solid voices and polished comedic skills and the “translator” Scratcher has some mighty impressive beatboxing abilities. The sound mix was a little patchy in places and some of the harmony did not quite mesh but it was opening night so I’m sure that will be settled soon.
There is plenty of audience involvement which is something I have always enjoyed and was frequently part of the new vaudeville shows I used to produce. I would watch shows night after night and no two were ever the same which helps keep things interesting. Breaking that fourth wall is always fun and it was a very willing audience tonight.
I can easily see why this show has been such a success in so many countries and I do recommend checking it out if ever you have the opportunity. The show runs thru June 17 at the Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco.
June 4, 2012
"Doo-Wop Is Not A Crime," Just Really Annoying For West Village
New York Post (NY):
Doo-wop’s dead — or at least some folks would like it to be.
West Village residents and business people want cops to permanently tune out the less-than-harmonious doo-wop singers who incessantly serenade tourists on their street corners in the summer. “I can hear these guys right outside my window, and after 15 years, I would like to shoot them all dead,” griped Rosemary Bella, who lives on Bleecker Street.
With the warmer weather, the a cappella assault reaches a crescendo on Fridays and Saturdays at the corner of Bleecker and Leroy streets, said Bella and several other residents who sounded off on the racket at a recent Sixth Precinct community meeting.
Fed-up resident Dorothy Green compiled the number of hours, days and weekends that groups perform, and she presented the stats to police brass. “It works out to about 700 hours of doo-wop a year — and it’s not very well sung, either,” sniffed Green, president of the Central Village Block Association.
The members of Spank, a doo-wop group performing in the neighborhood on a recent Friday, were quick to defend their quartet. “Bleecker Street has always been freaky to us, and by freaky, I mean great. Normally, we get a great response and a lot of business,” said tenor Herman Seay.
Residents polled by The Post, though, disagreed. “They have a limited repertoire of songs and don’t know that many. I don’t need to hear ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ 14 times,” said Kat Georges, 50, who lives on Bleecker. “I used to love doo-wop, but I can’t listen to it anymore. It’s horrible.”
Deputy Inspector Brandon del Pozo, commanding officer of the Sixth Precinct, said his officers will investigate. “It’s clear they’re decreasing people’s quality of life,” he said. “While doo-wop is not a crime, a minute or two for a fond memory for tourists is a year of aggravation for residents.” Read more.
This is pretty much exactly what I have jokingly told customers at conventions and such when they ask if they can pay by check or purchase order. "If the check bounces I'll send a not-so-talented a cappella group outside your bedroom window and they'll sing The Lion Sleeps Tonight over and over again until you pay up." I never did get any bounced checks.
June 1, 2012
New vocal group competition TV show
The "Sing-Off" may have been cancelled but there's another vocal group competition in the works. Randy Jackson has sold a singing competition show to MTV. The show has no title at the moment and will feature sibling singing groups competing with each other. Think The Jackson Five, The Beach Boys, or more recently, the Jonas Brothers. The Jackson-produced show, which is early stages of development, is getting ready to start casting and looking for family bands and groups, a source said. The American Idol judge’s Dream Merchant 21 Entertainment has partnered on the project with DiGA, the production company of former top MTV executives Tony DiSanto and Liz Gately, which is backed by Ben Silverman’s Electus. The sibling series expands Jackson’s relationship with MTV, where he executive produces America’s Best Dance Crew, currently in its seventh season.