August 25, 2015

A Reluctant Teenager, a Barbershop Quartet, and a Revelation

New York Times:

The memory is hazy, but I can’t imagine that I went enthusiastically into a concert hall in Portland, Maine, on May 18, 1974. The groups on the bill were not the kind that most 19-year-olds were flocking to see. Yet my mind was blown just as thoroughly as if I’d seen Kiss or Queen. It was blown by a barbershop quartet named the Gentlemen’s Agreement.

I was in my first year of college at the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham, still living with my parents. I realize that a lot about that sentence says “loser,” but I was at least making an effort to be cool. My record collection had three Frank Zappa albums in it.

Why my father secured tickets to a barbershop concert is unclear. My mother, now 94, thinks that perhaps my Uncle Larry, a barbershopper in his college days, was visiting. Also unclear is why I agreed to go along on an old-fogey outing.

It was, I believe, a concert put on by the local chapter of the preposterously named Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, which these days is generally called the Barbershop Harmony Society. As I remember it, the show included a number of groups, all building up to the headliners, the Gentlemen’s Agreement. When those four men started to sing, an unremarkable evening turned into a revelation. I don’t remember what they sang, but I remember being astonished by the seamlessness of it, the intricacy of the harmony, their ability to invest the songs with personality, no guitar or drum kit in sight. I had expected stodgy and instead got stunning.

Read more.

This is a great article and a ringing endorement of all we like about a cappella harmony. A highly recommended read.

Posted by John at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2015

Home Free cover Oak Ridge Boys, and it rules


Entertainment Weekly:

Maybe you think you don’t need to watch a cappella quintet Home Free cover the Oak Ridge Boys’ 1981 ditty “Elvira,” but that’s where you’d be wrong. The legendary gospel and country group join the season 4 Sing Off winners and it’s warm, fuzzy, borderline corny, and accented with a few amazing beards.

Home Free’s third studio album is due out this fall. And lest you forget, their 2014 debut, Crazy Life, hit No. 1 on the iTunes Country chart and No. 4 overall. On traditional charts it reached No. 40 on the Billboard 200 and No. 8 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2015

Former St. Olaf Choir conductor Kenneth Jennings dies

St. Olaf College Professor Emeritus of Music Kenneth Jennings ’50, who led the St. Olaf Choir for more than two decades, died Aug. 20. Funeral arrangements are pending.

“The world of choral music lost a great giant,” St. Olaf Choir Conductor Anton Armstrong ’78 told Minnesota Public Radio. “He was an immense influence on many of the leading choral directors of his time, both those who were able to sing under his baton or his beautiful hands, and those who experienced his performances with the St. Olaf Choir and the other choirs he conducted. We will remember him with great love and great admiration, and most of all, with great appreciation for the beauty he brought to the world of choral music.”

Jennings became the third conductor of the St. Olaf Choir in 1968, taking the helm of a renowned ensemble that up to that point had only been led by founder F. Melius Christiansen and his son, Olaf Christiansen ’25.

Read more.

August 20, 2015

Anton Armstrong celebrates 25 years as conductor of St. Olaf Choir

Minnesota Public Radio:


Anton Armstrong is celebrating his 25th anniversary as conductor of the St. Olaf Choir this year. Born in New York to first-generation Caribbean immigrants, Armstrong wound up at a Minnesota school with Norwegian roots, where he became one of the country's leading choral conductors.

MPR News' Tom Weber talked with Armstrong in the MPR studios and members of the St. Olaf choir performed a few pieces.

Listen here.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2015

Where In The World is El Chapo?

Back from a holiday visiting family and friends in England. We had a wonderful time and it was so enjoyable to see everybody again. Lots of news to catch up on but I'm glad to see that Rockapella is already on the case of the missing "El Chapo".


Rockapella Sings "Where In The World Is El Chapo?" from Funny Or Die

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2015

Pentatonix helps Macy's All-School A Cappella Challenge

Starting in September, schools across the country can submit an a cappella version of The Jackson 5 hit “I Want You Back,” for a chance to win Macy’s All-School A Cappella Challenge. Students, faculty and staff of schools nationwide can enter a video performance of the song, unaccompanied by any music or instruments. Three $25,000 prizes will be awarded – one to a school in each of the following levels: elementary through middle school level, high school level and college level. Pentatonix will appear in a national commercial spot this summer.
Learn more here.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2015

Vacation time!

A cappella can sure be a lot of work when you do it for a living and it's a job I enjoy very much. So now the Harmony Sweeps season is over and before the busy fall retail season begins I am taking a break and going to England to visit my elderly parents. They are so looking forward to spending time with the grandkids and we have several fun things lined up. As it is such a long (and expensive) flight we are going to spend over a month there and probably won't have the opportunity to post here on the blog. So this space will be quiet for a few weeks but I'm sure I'll come back to all kinds of interesting a cappella news to tell!

Have a great summer everybody.

John Neal

Posted by John at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2015

Acappella The Musical

A new musical is coming to the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) this summer called Acappella The Musical and features the songs of Keith Lancaster and The Acappella Company. The press release states - "It’s the tale of a gospel singer turned teen pop-idol who returns home to find his voice. The story is captivating and the music is soul stirring!"

The performance are July 7 thru 14th at the PTC Performance Space. My info on the web site.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2015

Auditions for a cappella tour

Deke Sharon is working on a new a cappella touring show and the production is auditioning singers for both the tour and associated recording. A great opportunity for professional level singers. Audition info here.
Posted by John at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2015

'Pitch Perfect 3' Moving Forward at Universal

Hollywood Reporter

There will be more, dear pitches, but it won't be cheap. With Pitch Perfect 2's massive $160.9 million in domestic box office (and counting), Universal and Gold Circle are moving ahead on a third installment.

Sources say negotiations have begun with Kay Cannon, who wrote the first two movies, to return for a third. It remains to be seen whether co-star Elizabeth Banks, a steward of the franchise as one of its producers, will return to the director's chair.

How a story would reunite the core Barden Bellas now that (spoiler alert) most have graduated college will be easier than making deals for such stars as Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, who sources say were paid about $2 million each for Pitch 2, which cost $29 million to make. That's a step up from their fees for the original 2012 film, which were in the low-six figures for Kendrick and less than $100,000 for Wilson, whose Fat Amy became the breakout.

Deals for a third movie will be costly because options aren't in place for the pair. In contrast, say sources, Universal and Gold Circle were smelling a franchise when they made sure to lock in series newcomer Hailee Steinfeld for a follow-up.

Photo is of Kay Cannon

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2015

VocalEssence to perform with The Rolling Stones

VocalEssence announced today that it will perform with the Rolling Stones on stage during its one-night-only performance June 3 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The VocalEssence singers will perform with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood during the Minneapolis stop of its 15-city North American ZIP CODE Tour.

The tour marks the first time the rock legends have played North American stadiums since the 2005-2007 “A Bigger Bang” Tour.

VocalEssence, founded by Philip Brunelle, got its start in 1969, at about the same time as the Stones released its album “Let it Bleed.”

“VocalEssence is honored—and thrilled—to be before an audience with the Rolling Stones. Could it get any better than this?” said Philip Brunelle, founder and artistic director, VocalEssence. “We’re proud to represent, literally, the voice of Minnesota’s incredible choral music tradition in this performance. It’s a great way to introduce choral music—and VocalEssence—to the legions of Rolling Stones fans at TCF Bank Stadium. Plus, Mick Jagger and I share a birth month and year—July 1943. Maybe we’ll have an early celebration on stage?”

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)