A Mindfreaking A Cappella Chocolate Cake
by Clare Wheeler (The Swingle Singers)
Weekly “Google Search results for the Swingle Singers in my inbox. Can I be bothered? I don’t want to get out of bed yet and this could be a valid excuse to procrastinate…then I see that “Mouth Off!” have done a review of our (The Swingle Singers) new album “Ferris Wheels”, and I wanna know!
Almost 2 years from conception to realisation, this album has been a personal journey for us. Every single person in the group brought songs that were close to the heart, many members of the group did arrangements for this album (including some inspired first time efforts!
Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson’s first arrangement for the group, “No More I Love Yous” has been nominated for CARA best jazz song! You go girl!). So when we’re talking about this album, it’s our hearts on the line. More so probably than any other Swingle Singers album so far (and I when I say this I speak entirely out of turn as it’s the only album I’m on!).
After concerts the audience generally tell you – “I liked this song, so and so is my favourite singer, I wish you wouldn’t do this, I really liked the fast ones, Lucy is really hot etc etc…”. What happens when you make an album? You get short reviews from people you don’t know, and your mom tells you it’s lovely.
In my case the jazz community you left behind remains definitively quiet as you step into the a cappella world they secretly despise and/or fear. So how thrilling to hear two musicians and a cappella in-the-know fans to talk for nearly 20 minutes, in depth about what they think about it. What an insight!
Firstly, what a glowing review! If Christopher and Dave should ever read this – thank you so much, you are both delightful! (How English do I sound?) We thought of “Ferris Wheels” as a mellow, summer-time album. The kind of thing you’d maybe listen to in your car with the window down, or on your iPod in the park. “Total mindfreak for the right brain” doesn’t sound very relaxing, does it?
When having to choose a category for the album on some radio shows, we were amused to see the cheapest category was easy listening, graded up to jazz, the most expensive! How symbolic, I thought…They say the album is “weird”. But we chose the easy listening category. Not because it was the cheapest, because that’s how we saw it! But when you sing something a million times and then listen to it a further trillion for editing, you lose any sense of perspective! And I wonder too, whether this album sits in its own little box somewhere, just outside of English choral music, just outside of the American a cappella music trend, just somewhere under “vocal”.
This current incarnation of the group has more arrangers than at other times. When I joined the Swingles I came out of Music College almost entirely considering myself a composer, thinking I’d try a little more singing in my life. So it’s encouraging for us to hear phrases like “arrangers of the world – this is your rich chocolate cake dessert!” “Arrangements are 11 out of 10. They’re 20 out of 10!”
We want to express ourselves. We carry the name of a legend, and the history of the Swingle Singers will inform everything we do to a certain degree. It’s the thing that ties us together. From choral backgrounds, jazz, a cappella, and music theatre, we make our common ground in the tradition of Ward Swingle. But in the UK where the a cappella scene is young (albeit growing rapidly) there’s no firm tradition or preconceptions here. You start with a blank canvas, do your best, send it off to the printers and hope for the best!
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