March 11, 2015
They want to teach the world to sing
The Telegraph (UK):
A short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral lies St Anne and St Agnes church. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it is a cavernous place with a hint of history in the air; it is here that the great poet John Milton used to pray.
In 2013, its worshippers left to join another congregation, and the church was falling on hard times. But new life now courses through its pews. Walk past at any time of day, and you are likely to hear soaring choral music echoing from inside. And it’s singing with a difference.
The church, renamed the Gresham Centre, has been taken over by the vocal ensemble Voces8, and repurposed as an “international centre for vocal excellence and outreach”.
“It is being renovated and upgraded, and when it is finished it will be glorious,” says baritone Paul Smith, 32, one of the founders of the Voces8 group. “But we’re not waiting for that. It is already open as a rehearsal and recital venue, and we are already running workshops pretty much every day.”
This is characteristic of the unusual energy and commitment that underpins Voces8. The group is a multi-award-winning classical singing ensemble in its own right. It has recently signed a deal with the Decca Classics label and released its first album, Eventide.
But the singers’ own careers are only one aspect of the Voces8 project. “We really believe in the power that music has to benefit people’s lives,” says Andrea Haines, 27, one of the group’s two sopranos.
“The group is run by a charity that we set up in 2006, and our main goal is to bring the joy of singing to as many people as possible. Voces8 is just the flagship ensemble, the figurehead.”
The church has now become the hub of a musical outreach project that reaches more than 20,000 people around the world each year.
March 7, 2015
Steve Zegree dies
Stephen Zegree, former Western Michigan University music professor and director of the vocal jazz ensemble Gold Company, died this morning at his home in Bloomington, Indiana.
Zegree, 61, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this fall. He began hospice care recently.
Zegree taught at Western Michigan University for 34 years before leaving in 2012 to join the faculty at Indiana University. While at Western, he was the WMU Bobby McFerrin Distinguished Professor of Music, he taught piano and vocal jazz, performed with the Western Jazz Quartet, and was the director of the popular vocal jazz ensemble Gold Company.
Under his direction, Gold Company won almost 50 Outstanding Performance awards from DownBeat magazine and the group performed at major jazz festivals and events such as the International Association for Jazz Education and the World Symposium on Choral Music. The group also performed with artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Janis Siegel, Kurt Elling and John Hendricks. Read more.
How sad to lose another vocal jazz great. I had the pleasure of working with Steve on several occasions and he truly was a gracious and kind man.
March 5, 2015
Stile Antico shows authority in Hapsburg music
How long should an ensemble be called “young”? The ensemble in question is Stile Antico, the British vocal ensemble founded in 2001. However short its lifespan in comparison with similar groups — the Tallis Scholars, for example — there is nothing underdeveloped about its collective talent or the distinctiveness of its approach. By now, “authoritative” is probably a more accurate label, regardless of how long Stile Antico has been in the game.
For its latest appearance in the Boston Early Music Festival series, the group brought most of its latest recording. “From the Imperial Court” samples 15th- and 16th-century works composed for the Hapsburgs, the political dynasty that ruled various parts of Europe from the 11th century through the First World War.
For all the program’s ceremonial grandeur, its most eloquent moments came in lamentational works, such as Josquin des Prez’s “Mille regretz,” with its austere four-voice texture. In an act of homage, Nicolas Gombert took Josquin’s melody and fashioned the text into a more involved polyphonic motet without losing the darkness of the original. Perhaps most affecting was Alonso Lobo’s “Versa est in luctum” (“My harp is tuned in mourning”), with its slow-moving harmonies and almost radiant sense of despair.
Stile Antico sang the Lobo with an unerring, lyrical feel for the music’s phrases, sustaining them while retaining transparency and rock-solid intonation. The ensemble showed similar virtues everywhere else in the performance: The unexpected roughness that I heard last year had vanished, and the group is again at its vital best. The singing creates a glorious sonic tapestry, but the depth of collective musicianship reminds you that these works, even those aimed at flattering the powerful, are not merely beautiful sound but something akin to living organisms.
March 4, 2015
Delta Airlines a cappella ad
Just caught this ad for Delta Airlines which I think its one of the best use of a cappella in a commercial I have seen in awhile. It is probably session singers (in NY I believe) but I wonder who arranged it?