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Home > Main > A Decade of Swingledom – Willy Eteson Says Goodbye

A Decade of Swingledom – Willy Eteson Says Goodbye

Kineret Erez (Ex-Swingles alto), Florian Städtler, Jo Riley (Ex-Swingles alto)

Willy Eteson & The Swingles Choir

Ward Swingle conducting 50% of all Swingle Singers ever

by Florian Städtler

Last Tuesday I caught a glimpse of a cappella history. After more than ten years of being the high tenor (and business director) of the London based Swingle Singers, Richard James “Willy” Eteson had his leaving do: He said farewell and goodbye with an extraordinary concert and an after-show party that was both a Swingles family meeting and a summit of UK and EU a cappella luminaries. Ward Swingle himself was attending the event and conducted an amazing encore: 35 (!) Swingle and Ex-Swingle Singers sang his arrangement of “Country Dances” – the crowd went wild and will never forget this special night in a small theatre in Holborn/London.

For many people this was a night of mixed emotions: For Willy himself, who is going to run a British deli shop after the end of his pro singing career. For Jo Goldsmith-Eteson, his wife and Swingles soprano, who had her last concert with her husband and the first with his successor, new Swingles tenor Oliver Griffiths. For the six other members of the group, who will miss Willy’s experience both as a performer and as business advisor. And of course for all the people who love this wonderful chap, his wit, his humour and his friendship. Willy, we all will miss you and you are one more reason to come to London on a regular basis (even if I will never get used to lukewarm beer without bubbles).

Thinking about it from the business side of things, changes in professional a cappella groups (and in amateur groups as well) are both a natural process and maybe the biggest challenge for a musical project. How to keep the spirit, the uniqueness alive, how to follow a long-term artistic strategy, how to keep the everyday business going when long-time members say goodbye? Ask Rockapella, where Kevin Wright left after almost a decade. Ask The King’s Singers who had to replace Stephen Connolly. Ask the a cappella miracle Naturally 7, where Jamal Reed called it a day. Or what about the icon of Scandinavian a cappella, The Real Group, who will say goodbye to Peder Karlsson after 25 (!!) years?

Costa Peristianis (Swingles Agent Worldwide), Alex Godfree (Voices Festival UK), FSt

Life will go on. Because the outstanding groups have such strength and spirit (and professional organisation), that the core of what makes them unique will remain. New, talented singers will come and replace their predecessors, bringing the freshness and excitement that every running system needs from time to time. And if leaving means such fantastic events as last Tuesday’s in London, saying goodbye becomes a bit easier. By the way: I will test this kind of experience again next Sunday, flights are booked to Stockholm. For a double concert of Rajaton and The Real Group plus what seems to be a Nordic A Cappella Summit Party. I looking forward to meeting my yet virtual a cappella friends Joakim Skog, Jussi Chydenius (Rajaton) and Sebastian Rilton (Ex-Rilton’s Vänner) together with Emma, Katarina, Anders, Jalkan and (of course) Peder of the one and only Real Group. Peder Karlsson, a living legend of a cappella and a role model in music education will celebrate his career…and his birthday!

Roxorloops (Beatbox Vice World Champion, BEL), FSt (Vocal Blog, GER), Jes Sadler (Ex-Swingles baritone, UK), Michele Manzotti (Swingles biographer, ITA)

I will certainly post a little ditty about my first trip to Sweden, but before that send you some of the snapshots from Willy Eteson’s Leaving Do. Feel free to post your comments and let me know what you think about line-up changes in a cappella groups.

Last Woman Standing: Wendy Nieper (Ex-Swingles alto)

You can leave your hat on...Tobias Hug and Kevin Fox (The Swingles rhythm section)

A time (and party) to remember: FSt (Vocal Blog), Jo Eteson (Swingles soprano), CJ Neale (Swingles tenor), Kevin Fox (Swingles bass), Joanna Forbes-L'Estrange (Ex-Swingles soprano), Sara Brimer (Swingles soprano), Lucy Bailey (Swingles alto)

Florian Städtler (Vocal Blog/SpielPlanVier) with DaSwinglesBoss #goodtimes

Sara Brimer (Swingles soprano) - Happy Birthday!! (with Swiss Chocolate powered by Vocal Blog)

My favourite pic: Oliver Griffiths (new wingles tenor), Willy Eteson (Ex-Swingles tenor), Jo Eteson (Swingles soprano)

Passing on the (Chorizo) sausage: From Willy (Ex-tenor) to Oli (Oliver Griffiths, new tenor)

Tobias Hug (Swingles Bass, MC with a whig) and Julie Kench (Ex-Swingles soprano) reading a self-written poem for Willy

Clare Wheeler, Twitter Princess aka @dinkyswingle and Swingles alto & arranger

Melancholy Willy

She's got the look(s)! Lucy Bailey aka @pottylean, Swingles alto

  1. 23. Oktober 2010, 00:20 | #1

    What a wonderful evening it was! Thanks for summing it up perfectly Florian! Willy, we’ll miss you so much, and Oli – it’s already awesome working with you! I just need to clarify one thing – Wendy Nieper, although legendary, was not the last woman standing. Me and Jo (plus Willy and Roxorloops) were thrown out at closing, the last ones left at the bar!

  2. 23. Oktober 2010, 00:34 | #2

    Dear Clare,
    that’s what happens when the blogger leaves as early as 3:15hrs…I do apologize and will do better next time. Will certainly not miss Hackacappella breakfast just to catch a ridiculously early EasyJet flight after 1h 35min sleep at Tobi’s.

  3. 23. Oktober 2010, 00:59 | #3

    It’s true, that of october 19th was a very important one for Swingle history. Richard made the miracle to put on stage a fantastic and crowded Swingle bunch, from the ’60 till now with the Country Dances conducted by Ward. But we cannot forget how the repertoire of the last Swingle decade has been performed. With the jewel of Bach Sinfonia from Partita #2 performed by Joanna Forbes L’Estrange dressed as Christiane Legrand, the fantastic soprano of the french period. Sorry not to be with Willy till the end of the party but my wife and me had to come back soon in Italy. Thank you Florian for this report!

  4. 23. Oktober 2010, 01:06 | #4

    Isn’t it fantastic that people came from all over Europe, that so many Ex-Swingles still feel the spirit of Ward’s idea!? Thanks to Roxorloops for a beatbox mini concert in the bar, thanks to Michele who represents Italy, long-time Swingles stronghold and to all the others who made this night what it was: Exceptional.

  5. 23. Oktober 2010, 09:39 | #5

    More pictures in albums of Willy’s friends on Facebook:
    >> Michele Manzotti’s:!/album.php?aid=2086697&id=1537803585
    >> Alex Godfree’s:!/album.php?aid=2403146&id=36813524
    Mini rehearsal video:

    More footage? Post it here!

  6. 23. Oktober 2010, 16:30 | #6

    It truly was a superb night. You’ve captured it brilliantly, Herr F.
    Fantastic atmosphere and all curated by the big man, Willy himself. The current success and growth of The Swingle Singers is thanks in no small part to his effort, enthusiasm and insistence on prioritising FUN over all things.
    Like I said on the night: he has been the beating heart of the group.
    And now…here’s to the onward march of the Swingles, the UK vocal scene and international a cappella!

  7. Jo Riley
    23. Oktober 2010, 22:58 | #7

    Awesome night and a wonderful trip down memory lane.

  8. enzo memmo
    24. Oktober 2010, 12:05 | #8

    oh… I would have been there, for sure! But really too far! My best wishes to all of you and hope seeing you soon back to Italy!

  9. Neal O’Donnell
    24. Oktober 2010, 20:08 | #9

    This must have been such a wonderful party – still following you lot!!

  10. Kim Jasmin Kraus
    25. Oktober 2010, 13:21 | #10

    oh.. I am really brokenhearted because I weren’t there.. :( It looks like a fantastic party.
    Best wishes to Willy and his future. I hope to see you soon.
    My best wishes to Oliver, too. Try your best with the Swingles. I can hardly wait to see you on stage! =)

  11. 31. Oktober 2010, 22:50 | #11

    Our Italian friend and Swingles specialist Michele Manzotti wrote this article, for all those who speak Italian:

    Mille Grazie, Michele!

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