February 20, 2016

Deke Sharon spreads a cappella message with Vocalosity

Boston Globe:

If Deke Sharon could “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” to quote the old Coca-Cola ad, he’d do it. “I know it sounds corny,” he says. “But the joy, power, connection, and spirituality of vocal harmony is something I want everybody to experience. Part of the brain lights up, and it’s transformative.”

While Sharon may not have reached the entire world, he’s definitely gotten the ball rolling through vocal organizations, books, some 2,000 arrangements, and live/filmed performance projects including “Pitch Perfect,” “Pitch Slapped,” and “The Sing-Off.” His most recent initiative is Vocalosity, a 12-member a cappella group that made its stage debut and released its first recording just last month. The group performs Feb. 16 at the Shubert Theatre as part of a 30-city tour.

Sharon, the brains behind the show as well as its music director, arranger, and artistic producer, says the show is selling out performances, reflecting the recent explosion in popularity of a cappella, which refers to vocal music with no instrumental accompaniment. And for Vocalosity, no lip-synching, either: The cast sings live throughout, with repertoire ranging from a “Sound of Music” send-up to tunes by Janelle Monáe and Bruno Mars. One segment traces the history of vocal music, from Gregorian chant to the present day, through Beatles songs. A Led Zeppelin tune uses distortion pedals to turn the group into a rock band.

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February 19, 2016

Oxford University research finds singing is a 'bonding behaviour'

The Independent (UK):

Singing acts as a “bonding behaviour” among adults, making it easier for people to make new friends, psychologists at Oxford University have found.

A study published in the Royal Society’s Open Science journal watched how strangers’ relationships progressed over several months of creative writing, craft and singing classes.

Out of seven courses, the singers became closer much quicker – a result attributed the ice-breaking “power of a good sing-song”.

Dr Eiluned Pearce, who led the research at Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology, said: “One of the key differences between humans and other primates is that we can exist in much larger social groups.

"Singing is found in all human societies and can be performed to some extent by the vast majority of people. It’s been suggested that singing is one of the ways in which we build social cohesion when there isn’t enough time to establish one-to-one connections between everyone in a group.

“We wanted to explore whether there was something special about singing as a bonding behaviour or whether any group activity would build bonds between members.”

“The difference between the singers and the non-singers appeared right at the start of the study,” Dr Pearce said.

“In the first month, people in the singing classes became much closer to each other over the course of a single class than those in the other classes did.

“Singing broke the ice better than the other activities, getting the group together faster by giving a boost to how close classmates felt towards each other right at the start of the course.”

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February 16, 2016

Pentatonix wins Grammy

Congratulations to Pentatonix and arrangers Ben Bram, Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Avi Kaplan, Kirstin Maldonado & Kevin Olusola for the Grammy win tonight in the Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella category with "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" from their holiday release "That's Christmas to Me". Congratulations also to Charles Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale for their win for Best Choral Performance of "Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil "

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February 3, 2016

New York Polyphony presents beautiful, authentic renditions from the Spanish Renaissance

Kansas City Star:

With clarity and immersive sonorities, New York Polyphony reminded the audience of music’s spiritual function in the 15th century, as well as its sublime beauty.

This male a cappella quartet (countertenor Geoffrey Williams, tenor Steven Caldicott Wilson, baritone Christopher Dylan Herbert and bass Craig Phillips) is nearing its 10th anniversary as an ensemble, 10 years of exploring and promoting the succinct authenticity and blend of pure voice in both ancient and contemporary settings as performers and scholars.

Opening with Francisco Guerrero’s “Regina caeli,” the four displayed their richly soaring, dedicated style, generating a startling push when the antiphonal writing resolved into unison “alleluia.”

The remainder of the concert’s first half was presented without pause, combining secular motets and Tomás Luis de Victoria’s “Missa ‘O quam gloriosum,’ ” a varied work with enticing moments: a staggered descending line topped with a gorgeous countertenor line in the Kyrie, a stentorian bass entrance on the Credo, the changing texture of the Sanctus and its sudden “Hosannas!”

These portions from the Ordinary of the Mass were divided by the secular love song “Quae est ista/Sugepropera” by Guerrero, its flowing melismas bursting with energy as the text requests, “rise up, my love.”

The first half concluded with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s “Gaudent in caelis,” which joyfully followed the plaintive calm of the Mass’ Agnus Dei with its lively, expressive text painting.

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