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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January 30, 2016

Rockapella member wants Rand Paul to stop using the Carmen Sandiego theme


Attorneys for Sean Altman are threatening to file a lawsuit against the campaign of Rand Paul over the use of Altman’s “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” in a campaign ad.

Altman’s attorney, Larry Iser of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, sent a letter to Paul’s campaign manager, Chip Englander, on Jan. 19, asking the campaign to remove the ad from the campaign’s YouTube and Facebook pages as well as its Twitter account. It also asks the campaign to cease and desist from ever airing the ad again, and to contact Iser to talk about compensating Altman and his Big Sean Music for the use of the work and violations of his right of publicity.

Iser wrote that the campaign had responded to a previous letter in late December by promising to remove the ad, but he said that it still can be accessed.

In the letter, Iser wrote that should the Paul campaign not comply, they would “not hesitate” to file a lawsuit against the campaign and Paul personally. He noted that he also represented Jackson Browne when he filed suit against John McCain’s campaign and the Ohio Republican Party over the unauthorized use of “Running on Empty” in a campaign ad. That led to a settlement, including an undisclosed monetary payment, a public apology and a pledge by the Republican National Committee to license future works. Iser also represented David Byrne in his lawsuit against the campaign of then-Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida over the unauthorized use of his music, which also led to a settlement and apology.

Read more.

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January 29, 2016

The King's Singers announce new member

Countertenor Patrick Dunachie has been announced as the King's Singers' newest member. The 22 year-old will join the group in September following countertenor David Hurley's final concert in August. Hurley annnounced his retirement from the King's Singers earlier in 2015 after more than 26 years with the ensemble.

By happy coincidence, Dunachie graduated from King's College, Cambridge, where the King's Singers originated back in 1968. He is currently in the choir of Christ Church, Oxford and The Gesualdo Six and has sung with Ex Cathedra and The King's Consort.

'I am extremely excited to have been appointed to The King's Singers after such tough rounds of auditions alongside some superb singers', Dunachie said. 'I have been listening to the group's recordings and concerts since I was very young, and I have always admired David [Hurley]'s singing, so it's surreal now to be joining them. When I was about 14, I told my English teacher that my dream job would be singing first countertenor in The King's Singers, and so I feel really lucky that the dream has come true!'

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January 21, 2016

Vocalosity show kicks off tour

The exciting new a cappella production Vocalosity has kicked off it's first tour with 30 plus dates in the eastern US. Directed by Deke Sharon and produced by IMG Artists this is a show all a cappella fans should check out.
See the tour dates here.

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January 19, 2016

Rockapella reviewed in the New York Times

New York Times:

What is it about a cappella pop groups that makes their spirit so playful? As Rockapella, an influential ensemble since the early 1990s, performed a sleek set of oldies at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Friday, the show became the musical equivalent of watching the members of a basketball team happily toss a ball around. Camaraderie and comedy go together; there’s something essentially lighthearted about human voices imitating instruments.

The sound of this group, which achieved fame on the PBS series “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?,” is a nostalgic pastiche of post-doo-wop, post-Motown vocal styles infused with jazz harmonies that doesn’t aspire to mechanical precision. Its show, “Hits Like You Never Heard,” was loose-jointed and audience friendly to the extent that the group coaxed a shy audience member to join it for a performance of “Stand by Me.”

The lineup, which has changed over the years, now includes the high tenor Scott Leonard, the group’s chief songwriter and arranger; the tenors Steven Dorian and Calvin Jones; the vocal percussionist and human beat box Jeff Thacher; and Ryan Chappelle, its bassist and newest member. The concert was so rhythmically animated that in places you could almost swear they were singing along to tracks. The most impressive moments were solo turns by Mr. Thacher and Mr. Chappelle.

Read more.

A solid NY Times review is the gold standard and one can run on a great pull quote for years. "An evening of pure entertainment" - NY Times. Bingo!

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January 14, 2016

The Maccabeats and Naturally 7 - Shed a Little Light

Lovely new video from Naturally 7 and the Maccabeats of the James Taylor song "Shed A Little Light" produced in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

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January 8, 2016

"What Does the Fox Say?" group takes on a cappella

Ylvis, the Norwegian comedy group that wrote 2013’s viral song “What Does the Fox Say?” has come out with a new music video that makes gentle fun of a cappella singers. A group of the musicians help a boy who is getting beat up at school scare off bullies by their ability to sing an a cappella song in any musical style.


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December 24, 2015

A 5-story Singing Christmas Tree

Associated Press:

The Mona Shores Singing Christmas Tree combines the usual elements into an unusual show that will draw thousands of spectators this weekend. The 67-foot-tall tree features 25,000 lights, 5,000 linear feet of greenery, and 15 tiers on which about 220 choir members stand. About 50 other students sing from positions near the base of the tree.

Freshmen are relegated to the bottom of the five-story tree, while sophomores and juniors populate the middle. Seniors set up shop in the upper levels. The very top is the domain of the "Tree Angel," a senior selected by Shawn Lawton, the director of the Mona Shores High School Choir.

"It's not that kid who's the greatest singer, necessarily," Lawton said. "But instead just someone with a lot of heart and maybe has lived through a lot and still smiles."

Lawton picked two Tree Angels this year, marking only the second time that's been done in the 31-year history of the show. They are alternating shows atop the tree.

Wilcox is positioned just below the angel. "It's definitely a little scarier when you're 14 rows up than when you're standing on the ground," she said.

But Wilcox needn't worry, because Darcy Welsh and her fellow "tree monkeys" are never too far away. Welsh is one of the two dozen or so choir moms and dads who climb into the innards of the tree and stand watch on platforms located behind the singers, ready to assist those who are overcome by the height and heat from the lights shining on them.

Read more.

I confess to a certain fascination with singing Christmas trees and here is my annual posting on one of them.

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December 18, 2015

Cast sings Star Wars a cappella

Jimmy Fallon often has a cappella on his show and a here's a video with him, The Roots and cast members of "The Force Awakens" singing the theme music.

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December 17, 2015

Review: Sweet Honey in the Rocks shines

Philadelphia Inquirer:

In a period when a cappella is celebrated - platinum-selling Pentatonix, hit films in the Pitch Perfect series - it's the moment for Sweet Honey in the Rock. For 40-plus years, Louise Robinson and Carol Maillard (both founding members), and Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil, and Shirley Childress (an American Sign Language interpreter who has performed live since 1981) have displayed the gorgeous tones and textures of blues, gospel, and jazz as well as the traditions of their African heritage, sans instrumentation.

The only thing more intricate than their rhythms is their gorgeously complex harmonies, all heartily on hand at Annenberg's Zellerbach Theatre on Saturday, with a "Honeyman" - bassist Romeir Mendez - bringing an impressionistic groove to a few cuts.

Though masquerading as a holiday show - the night started with individual members strolling on stage, each clipping a line from her favorite Christmas song before launching into a percolating "Jesus, What a Wonderful Child" - the gig was a plea for peace and prayer for every season.

Once you heard their layered dynamics-rich version of "Silent Night" with its "Mr. Sandman"-ish vocal pulse and wafting new melody, you were spoiled for other groups of carolers. The glory of intercession came through as clappy gospel song on "Somebody Prayed." "Nativity Suite," penned and produced for the American Bible Association, owed as much to Philip Glass-like repetition as it did talky Winans-stylized cadence. It spoke of Caesar Augustus' census taking and the Bethlehem of Jesus' birth. Stirring stuff.

Read more.

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December 16, 2015

Swingle Singers forced to cancel tour

Very unfortunately the Swingle Singers had to cancel, at the last minute, their Holiday tour of the US due to delays in being issued visas. Several years ago I was responsible for securing their visas for a tour and can attest to the near impossibility of the US visa system for visiting artists. We applied exactly six months to the day in advance (the most allowed), used an experienced immigration lawyer specializing in P visas and every group member had been issued a visa from the previous tour. Each member still had to go to an interview which was not scheduled by the US consulate till a few days before they were due to fly. Their then manager, who had a series of important meetings lined up, was not issued a visa because there was a small tear on his passport, and therefore could not come.

Luckily that time the group were issued visas but it was unnecessarily stressful for not only the group, but for the presenters who have thousands of dollars involved in venue, advertising and marketings costs. Not knowing if a international performing artists will be allowed into the country till a few days before a tour is to start is absurd. It's also very rude!

All this recent talk in the media about making it harder for visitors to get visas has a very real negative effect on so many people. Surely such artists as the Swingle Singers should be treated with respect and a consideration made for 40 plus years they have been touring the world.

Here is a New York Times article about this issue.

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December 9, 2015

Techies tune up for ‘Pitch Perfect’-style a cappella showcase

San Francisco Chronicle:

At Airbnb’s headquarters last week, several software engineers had an important lunch meeting that had nothing to do with coding — and everything to do with singing.

“Mommy made me mash my M&M’s, oh my,” the group sang as they warmed up their voices across different scales inside a theater room in San Francisco. They were prepping for Tuesday night’s Techapella, a Bay Area showcase of eight a cappella groups from tech companies. The free concert, at 8 p.m. at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, features the vocal stylings of groups like Facebook’s the Vocal Network, Google’s Googapella, LinkedIn’s InTune and Twitter’s Songbirds.

Techapella isn’t a competition, but for vocally gifted techies, it’s a chance to showcase their talent. Many groups practice twice a week. Some even arrange mashups of pop hits. And what they’ll be singing is as top secret as details about the next iPhone — the groups do not want to give away their secrets or spoil the show.


Helen Kottenstette, Senior Director of Product Management at eBay, poses for a portrait at eBay in San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. eBay is giving employees longer maternity leave. EBay becomes latest tech firm to boost parental leave policy Robert Zimmerman (left) and Annie Pennell work in the open office space with founders, Ben Lee and Niles Lichtenstein on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 in Oakland, Calif. Oakland startup will help people preserve their pasts online Tech boards add more women, but still struggle for balance
Techapella began in 2013, when a cappella fans Aaron Roan from Google and Laolee Xiong from Facebook helped organize a joint show on their respective campuses. Since then, the Fox Theatre has been the venue for the big singing event, as part of a collaboration agreement with Facebook. Last year at least 800 people attended, and this year, organizers expect a full house, with more than 1,100 people in the audience.

“We’re all about showing that even though we’re at different companies, we’re bound by the passion of music,” said James Huang, who leads LinkedIn’s InTune group.

In a way, putting a cappella and techies together make sense, said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. Tech companies often portray themselves as extensions of college campuses, and as recent grads join their workforce, they may be looking to relive some extracurricular activities from their college days, like performing in an a cappella group, Thompson said.

“An awful lot of tech companies take pride in thinking of themselves as fun, with environments that are different than the corporate environment we see in ‘Mad Men,’” Thompson said. “Writing code all day is one thing. If you got all this (fun) stuff going on, it makes it a much more pleasant environment.”

Read more.

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December 3, 2015

Now a Trio


The vocal group Tonic Sol-fa has been performing Christmas concerts in Rochester for a decade, but there will be something different about this year's holiday show on Dec. 11.

For starters, what was once a quartet is now a trio. Mark McGowan left Tonic Sol-fa last winter, leaving Greg Bannworth, Shaun Johnson and Jared Dove to continue as a three-voice a cappella group.

"It was pretty unexpected," Bannworth said last week. "But from that, we've figured out how to work as a trio. It's actually been pretty amazing. It has really opened a lot of doors. We have a new sound."

Tonic Sol-fa, which formed when the original members were students at St. John's University in Collegeville, has spent a long time building a sound and an audience. So any tinkering could be seen as either fresh inspiration or an unwelcome change to the tried and true.

Never fear, Bannworth said. Despite the changes, you'll still recognize Tonic Sol-fa.

"For those who have seen us before, they will definitely get the same show," he said. "It's an interactive party atmosphere with lots of humor. The sound will be a little different."

Since Tonic Sol-fa spent most of the past year touring and recording a new album, "Original," finding a new singer wasn't on the radar.

"I think we would like to keep it in mind," Bannworth said of going back to four members. "But as the year has gone on, we've thought, 'Let's see where this goes.'"

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November 18, 2015

Review - King’s Singers offer their polished template

Washington Post:

Small musical ensembles — a quartet, an a cappella chorus — are inextricably bound up with their members, and as they age, they will either change members or shut down. The King’s Singers, the beloved male vocal sextet founded in 1968, has opted for the former; it has had 24 members, and the group that stood at the front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown on Sunday seemed fresh as a caterpillar that has just shed its skin.

Youth, indeed, is one of the group’s stocks in trade. Its particular hallmark is a kind of adult boy-choir sound, a sweet, sexless, tight-knit, pillowy blend. It has turned this sound into a versatile vehicle for a brand of music that dances along the line between art and artsy. Its program “Postcards,” featured on a recent CD and at Sunday’s concert, offers songs from around the world, such as the Korean folk song “Arirang,” a Welsh lullaby and the familiar strains of “Volare,” all linked by the four parts of a commissioned work by Elena Kats-Chernin, “River’s Lament.”

Choirs can be jolly, and they can be earnest, and they are the tiniest bit sanitized. The King’s Singers offer a slick package, polished to a fault — down to the boyish, G-rated banter with the audience — and beautifully balanced. They do justice to unfamiliar music (such as the stirring “Horizons” by Peter Louis van Dijk, a tribute to a lost South African tribe, that opened the program) and offer adroit arrangements, like clever little rebuses that have to be worked out to find the familiar answer, of well-known works such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (a word they unaccountably pronounced as “chari-OH”).

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November 6, 2015

TV project seeks a cappella groups

The Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival is pleased to announce that Emmy-Award-winning TV production company One Louder Productions are developing a new TV series based around our 2016 events. Now in our fourth decade of finding and presenting top vocal harmony groups we are excited that veteran TV producer Bob Kusbit (MTV) is interested in creating a reality television series focusing on the groups as they rehearse, prepare and perform in the competition.

Casting director Ellen Berkman Davis is seeking groups with big personalities, great talent, with interesting and unique musical choices. A cappella groups of all styles, genders and ages with between two to eight members are welcome to apply.

Apply here

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