November 27, 2013
Where Have All the Sopranos Gone?
New York Times Magazine:
An excerpt from a lengthy and very interesting article about how the ever-earlier onset of puberty is reshaping the legendary Leipzig boys choir.
"But maintaining Bach’s legacy has become more difficult. The problem is with the sopranos. At St. Thomas, as in all boys choirs, the oldest of those singers with unbroken voices are the most prized. Like flowers that are most beautiful just before they die, these boys have the most power, stamina and technique. There are scholars who say that in Bach’s day, some boys’ voices didn’t change until as late as 17. Now boys’ voices are changing earlier, a lot earlier. Medical records tracking puberty through history do not exist, but Joshua Goldstein, chairman of the demography department at the University of California, Berkeley, has analyzed mortality patterns among boys, which can show increased risk-taking and, by extension, the onset of puberty. His research suggests that the age of puberty for boys has dropped, on average, 2.5 months a decade since the mid-1700s. That would mean that boys are sopranos for a shorter time. To maintain a well-stocked soprano section, St. Thomas needs to start with and train more boys. "
November 18, 2013
Line up announced for Season 4 of The Sing Off
The ten groups competing in the upcoming season four of the Sing-Off were announced today and include a nice mix of styles and types. We are familiar with several of them as they have competed in the Harmony Sweepstakes and we wish them all good luck!
Here is the copy from the press release:-
ACOUSTIKATS (Lexington, KY): This collegiate group has been serenading sorority girls all over the University of Kentucky campus, but now it’s their time to make it on the big stage. With their southern charm they hope to win over America’s hearts.
CALLE SOL (Aguadilla, Puerto Rico): From the island of Puerto Rico, this group of six professional musicians has only been together for a few short months. Their Latin style is sure to bring a flare to the competition.
ELEMENT (New York City): This all-female group brings a New York attitude to the stage. They all work day jobs and pursue their showbiz dreams in the concrete jungle during their time off. These powerful female voices hope to bring a buzz to the a cappella world.
THE FILHARMONIC (Los Angeles): This locally based group is made up of male Filipino singers. Their knack for ’90s R&B, mixed with their Filipino culture, is sure to bring a new twist to the music of the past.
HOME FREE (Minneapolis): This all-male group has already been on the road touring the country and the transcontinental journeys have made them all very close. Their years of performance experience add to their refreshing country sound.
THE PRINCETON FOOTNOTES (Princeton, N.J.): A 50-year-old tradition is holding strong with this Ivy League group — classically trained, perfectly polished and technically great. Although they stick to tradition, they also like to mix a modern flair.
STREET CORNER RENAISSANCE (Los Angeles): This soulful group put aside their dreams of becoming musicians to raise their families. Now it’s time to shine. Their roots are in doo-wop and they strive to pay homage to this classic sound.
TEN (Dallas): Many of these eclectic artists have experienced traveling with professionals in well-known bands. Their group leader brought them together. The gospel influence and impressive backgrounds produce a perfected sound.
VOCAL RUSH (Oakland, CA): The youngest group in the competition is a force to be reckoned with. They have won the high school a cappella groups’ international championship two years in a row. Their pop and R&B influence are sure to put a spin on modern chart-topping hits.
VOICEPLAY (Orlando, FL): These three best friends have been together since high school and expanded their group to six, added the influence of a female voice. They toured the U.S. and ended up back in Orlando performing before auditioning for “The Sing-Off.” This pop-inspired group blends the male and female voices perfectly.
November 12, 2013
John Tavener dies at age 69
Sir John Tavener, one of the leading British composers of the past 50 years, has died at the age of 69. Sir John was known for music that drew on his deep spirituality.
In 1992, The Protecting Veil topped the classical charts for several months and in 1997 his Song For Athene was played at the funeral of Princess Diana. He had suffered ill health for much of his life, including a major heart attack in 2007. He died at his home in Child Okeford, Dorset, on Tuesday.
Fellow composer John Rutter told BBC Radio 3 that Sir John "was absolutely touched by genius at every point". "He could bring an audience to a deep silence which is a very rare gift," Rutter said. "He believed that music was for everybody and was a prayer."
Sir John made his name with the avant-garde oratorio The Whale, which was released by The Beatles on their Apple label in 1968. He went on to become one of the few contemporary composers to find wide acclaim beyond the classical world.
Sir John's other well-known works included his setting of William Blake's poem The Lamb and A New Beginning, which was chosen to see in the new century at the end of 1999 in the Millennium Dome in London.
He was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize twice - in 1992 and 1997 - and was knighted in 2000.John Tavener in 1970 Sir John made his name in the late 1960s on The Beatles' Apple label.
Having started his musical career as a teenage organist at a Presbyterian church in London, he converted to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1977 and once said that "my way towards God has been to write music". Read more.
November 10, 2013
LoveNotes win gold!
Huge congratulations to the Bay Area's LoveNotes Quartet who won gold this weekend at the Sweet Adelines International convention in Hawaii. Brittany Gilmore, Mia Dessenberger, Caitlin Castelino and Stephanie Lawson are now officially "Queens of Harmony." We remember them as the Underage Quartet when they first performed at the Harmony Sweeps where they later went on to be Bay Area Champions and then Audience Favorite at the National Finals. Very well done ladies!
Bling! won silver and the a.k.a. Quartet took bronze. Winners of chorus gold is Rönninge Show Chorus, Scottsdale Chorus won silver and Toast of Tampa won silver.
November 9, 2013
Disney Channel's 'Teen Beach Movie' Songs Get A Cappella Treatment
Disney Channel has recruited three musical acts to put an a cappella spin on several Teen Beach Movie songs. Inspired by fan-created renditions of the songs from the original TV movie, which aired earlier this summer, the cable network went to a cappella group Pentatonix, YouTube sensation Sam Tsui and singer-producer Peter Hollens to create new versions.
Pentatonix covered "Cruisin' for a Bruisin'," Tsui tackled "Meant to Be" and Hollens teamed with wife Evynne Hollens for a medley featuring "Like Me," "Meant to Be" and "Surf Crazy."
The new versions will debut on Disney Channel Sunday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. during an encore of the popular movie, with a promo launching Friday around 2:25 p.m. PT during an airing of Austin & Ally.
"We've all been huge fans of Disney since we were kids, so we are all so excited to be working with them," said Pentatonix lead vocalist Scott Hoying. Watch a promo clip here.
Well this will make my 11 year old daughter happy. She watched Teen Beach Movie seemingly endessly this summer and of course she loves a cappella.
November 8, 2013
Direct From London: Mesmerizing A Cappella
There’s a hypnotic vocal harmony that is both soothing and mysterious in "Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby," sung a cappella by the Juice Vocal Ensemble on their album Songspin. It’s as if I’m standing over a child’s crib and hear warm breathing and shushing and sighing. It’s sense-o-round that wraps around me. Then, suddenly, I wonder: who are these voices? Where’s the baby? Everything, okay?! The music has moved me. And Juice has done its job.
It’s just one example of the many intimate and surprising moments that this wonderful London-based female a cappella trio deliver, with bravery and imagination throughout their entire album, in songs both original and by other artists. Their playful and serious musical variations are drawn from a variety of sources. According to alto Kerry Andrew, “We like to really sing a bit of everything. So we can sing very difficult virtuosic new music, or we can sing folky stuff, or have a go of beat-boxing, or to do an opera or improvise with electronics. We like to think that’s fairly individual for our group. We’re pretty diverse.” Read more. US tour dates:-
Saturday 9th November 2013, 8pm
Concert in Crowell Concert Hall, Wesleyan University
Tuesday 12th November 2013, 7.30pm
SubCulture, 45 Bleecker Street, Downstairs,NYC
Sunday 17th November 2013, 3pm – 4.30pm
Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYC
November 5, 2013
The Pulitzer Prize Was Nice and All, but a Work Is Finally Fully Heard
New York Times:
You might assume that any music piece that wins the Pulitzer Prize would already have had its premiere. Not necessarily, as indicated by the inspiring story of Caroline Shaw’s “Partita for Eight Voices,” an exhilarating, sensual and playful work.
Ms. Shaw, a violinist and singer who humbly describes herself as a musician, not a composer, wrote “Partita” for Roomful of Teeth, the eight-voice ensemble of which she is a member. Founded in 2009, the group has studied a wide range of vocal techniques — yodeling, belting, Inuit throat singing and more — to explore the expressive potential of the voice.
Allemande begins like a fugue for spoken voices, with the singers uttering fragments and phrases (“to the side,” “and around,” “though the middle”) in overlapping, rhythmically precise patterns. Soon the voices break into euphonious harmony, like some joyous yet jerky chorale. As the movement evolves, the singers draw upon the diverse techniques they have mastered, especially the nasal styles of throat singing that push the voice into a realm of controlled shouting.
The other movements are comparably compelling. The singers perform rising figures on “hmmm ah” sounds, episodes of spoken prattle, stretches of haunting multipart harmonies, delicate vocalizations and even expressive grunts. For all the technical craft and expressive control on display in the score, here is a composer giving free rein to her instinctive sensibilities. I hear hints of Russian Orthodox choirs, Delta blues, Gregorian chant and much more.
The only issue with “Partita” is that it is hard to imagine a vocal ensemble other than Roomful of Teeth performing it. These skilled vocalists can sing with rich-toned, full-bodied beauty and power. But the range of unconventional sounds they produce, from unearthly lows to falsetto highs, from eerie harmonics to slinky whistles, is amazing.
November 2, 2013
Trist subs for Transfer's Tim
All around a cappella super guy Trist Curless has yet another cool credit as he is currently touring with The Manhattan Transfer. Tim Hauser will be at home until the New Year in order to fully recover from a recent spinal surgery, so the group has asked Trist to tour with them for the next couple of months. A founding member of M-Pact he has also worked with Straight No Chaser, Take 6, Bobby McFerrin, New York Voices, Vox Audio, VoicePlay and many others.
Tim should be up and about real soon but we know that Trist will be doing a great job in the meanwhile. See the group’s holiday tour schedule here.