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Archiv für April, 2013

Club for Five – A Cappella Radio History

via Jouni Kannisto, Club for Five

Finnish vocal band Club For Five is making some radio history in Finland. Since April 8th, the biggest commercial radio station “Radio Suomipop” bas been using all vocal theme music and soundscape by Club For Five in its morning program. The show “Aamulypsy” (trans. Morning Milking) is by far the most popular morning program in Finland airing daily from 6 to 10 am, so this is quite unusual and noticeable exposure for a cappella music in the country.

Since the style of the show is rather unruly and funny to begin with, Club For Five was naturally also encouraged by the station to go a little “overboard”. The band composed and produced a set of quite insane sounding comical farm/western themed music and animal noises and other sound effects for the show. Club For Five had such a blast in the studio that they decided to make a little Making of Video. It’s comprised by studio footage and some of the all vocal theme music companied by “a little out of the ordinary” use of the human voice…

The Making Of Video:

The radio program’s page, listen to the all vocal theme music:—klo-6-10

Morning Milking Teaser – audio sample featuring “Finnish cattle”:

If you want to find more about Club For Five, go to their website or like them on Facebook. Unfortunately we haven’t received their cds etc. at Acappellazone, maybe you could drop the occasional line on their social media to join the platform and make it easier for people around Europe to one-stop a cappella shop… [FSt]



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The Swingle Singers: ‘Sinfonia from Partita No.2 in C Minor’

by Jeff Meshel, originally posted on (a wonderful music blog!)

The Swingle Singers – ‘Sinfonia from Partita No. 2 in C Minor’

The Swingle Singers, 2013

I had the great pleasure last week of hanging out with The Swingle Singers. They were coming to our little corner of the globe for a couple of concerts, and graciously agreed to give a workshop for the growing local a cappella community. Both the workshop and the concert were knockouts, and I highly recommend you following their tour calendar and trying to catch them the next time they’re in your neighborhood. Here’s what they look and sound like today. Ain’t no one who won’t enjoy them, from the most casual listener to the most effete snob.

I wrote at some length in SoTW 139 about the history of the Swingle Swingers, the context in which they sprouted, the path they’ve traveled, and especially where they are today. In short, the original Swingle Singers were formed in 1963 in Paris under the direction of Ward Swingle singing Bach instrumental scores in eight voices with a jazz bass and drum accompaniment. They disbanded after a successful decade, and Ward regrouped in London. This new incarnation worked for the next thirthysomething years, into our current century, as an evolving a cappella group performing technically polished treatments of a standard range of folk, pop, classical and traditional music. In recent years they’ve become associated with the “contemporary a cappella” movement, which I’ve written about extensively, becoming a world leader in this burgeoning cult.

Ward Swingle

They’re creating new and exciting music, and they’ve just begun. They’re planning on recording a lot of new material for their 50th anniversary, and judging by the two samples from their recent concert, some new ground is about to be broken. One very impressive piece featured a fluid harmonic center gliding between keys while being driven by a programmatic rhythmic scheme. Bartok would sit up and listen intently. The other began with the bass creating a beatboxing backing loop, then added Billie Holiday’s vocal track from ‘Don’t Explain’ isolated from its backing and run through a compressor/limiter and distorted, à la ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’!! Then the group overlays this potpourri with a demure choral ‘accompaniment’
overriding Lady Day. Say wa??

The original Swingle Singers

Clare Wheeler, the very talented arranger and alto of the group, told me that for much of their audience, ‘The Swingle Singers’ means singing Bach in a jazz setting. But for her and all the current Swingles, it means creating new, innovative, interesting music. Just like Ward Swingle did fifty years ago, when he pretty much invented the mindset of crossover and opened up the music world to the potential of classical music in popular contexts, vocal jazz and so much more. In fact, she told me, the 86-year old Ward Swingle heartily approves of ‘the new stuff’ and encourages the youngsters to pursue new directions rather than slavishly copying the original Swingle music.

“For him, The Swingle Singers is about being innovative. We see ourselves as a band, striving to create good music, not a party trick slavishly adhering to a principle such as doing everything strictly a cappella.”

The Swingle Singers, 2013

I loved hearing that, and was encouraging Clare to be bold and continue taking bold chances, because they’re a hip, young, fun group of musicians. But they also carry that name, and with it a mantle of noblesse oblige and the aura of that great, groundbreaking music that I was singing twenty years before any of the current Swingles was born.

So I sheepishly asked them if they knew my very favorite piece from one of my very favorite albums, the ‘Sinfonia from Partita No.2 in C Minor, BWV 826’ from the very original “Bach’s Greatest Hits”. ‘Sure’, they said, ‘it’s still in our repertoire, but we haven’t sung it since Ward’s party a few years ago.’ Wow. I sure would get a kick out of hearing Clare and Jo and CJ and Kevin and Oliver and Ed singing that ‘Sinfonia’, with Sara singing that crazy, divine virtuoso lead which will forever be one of my very favorite pieces of music.

It begins with a formal choral introduction, then launches into an extended scat solo that makes you wonder what Johann was smoking back there behind the chapel organ. That’s followed by a long polyphonic fade (actually if you look at the score it’s only two voices, but in Bach’s hands that sounds like twenty.) I’ve listened to it some three trillion times, and I can sing about 80% of the notes. Not that it’s challenging music or anything.

Glenn Gould practicing

Just to start off on solid ground, here it is by my favorite babushka, Tatyana Nikolayeva.

And here’s the piece by our favorite Canadian whacko, Mr Glenn Gould.
It’s actually pretty restrained for him. But if you want to witness the madness lurking beneath that veneer of respectability, check out this clip of Glenn Gould practicing the Sinfonia.It’s not recommended for children or those weak of constitution. You might want to fasten your seatbelt and take a valium before watching this one.

Christine Legrand

Here’s what it looked like back when the world and I (and The Swingle Singers) were young, the original Swingles singing the original Swingle Bach. The lead soprano is Christine Legrand, Michel’s sister.

And here’s the ‘original’ recording, the one I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to sing along with for fifty years, longer than these seven whippersnapper Swingles have been swingling combined. What do they know?
Well, they’re lovely people and fine musicians, tall singers on the shoulders of giants. They actually know quite a lot, and I’m looking forward to them showing more. But nothing can alter the lifelong love affair I’ve had with the original Swingle Singers, 1963, singing ‘Sinfonia from Partita No.2 in C Minor, BWV 826’.


If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

005: Glenn Gould, Toccata in Cm (J.S.
077: J.S. Bach, ‘The Art of The Fugue’ (The Emerson
Quartet, ‘Contrapunctus 9′)
139: The Swingle Singers, ‘On the 4th of July’ (James

Ultra A Cappella – Video Tipps by Alberto Hera

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog

Albert Hera live on stage

Alberto Hera is the unsung (not really,…sorry for that pun) hero of Italian a cappella. It’s a scandal that I haven’t featured him on Vocal Blog yet. This is going to happen soon and if it’ll be in the brandnew “A Cappella Twinterviews”, his a cappella twin would probably be Bobby McFerrin. As the latter is not an easy man to track down, we’ll start with a couple of video links Albert posted on the Vocal Blog Facebook fanpage. If you’ve seen Albert doing the warm-ups at the London A Cappella Festival 2012, you know that there is no “business as usual”, when this man hits the stage. His suggestions what we, who think we have already seen it all, should watch and listen to are what I would call “Ultra A Cappella”: Fasten your seat belts and let me know if you have more video tipps like that. I’m going to share them via the Facebook fanpage and at Acappellazone‘s growing video collection.

Unbelievable, what people do with voices, isn’t it? Can’t wait for your suggestions!

I’m Florian, blogger, researcher, innovator, networker, booking agent and creative director for A Cappella Business Events worldwide. I want to meet & tweet you – so let’s stay in touch via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and in the real world when Vocal Blog is on tour. [FSt]

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The A Cappella Twinterview Project

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog

The interviews is a standard format for journalists and bloggers. If done well, an interview can give the reader an interesting perspective on the personality, life and works of the interviewee. However, very often interviews become a series of standard questions like “Where did this all start?”, “What makes you different from other vocal groups?” or “What are your future plans?” It’s not the fault of the artist if this kind of conversation is less interesting as the most simple article on the members and the history of the group.

So how about a new approach to the art of the interview? This first attempt to create something surprising and exciting is rather simple: The Twin Interview.

  • Rule No. 1: Choose two vocal groups that are either somehow very similar or very different
  • Rule No. 2: Send them the same 7 questions
  • Rule No. 3: Allow no more than 100 words for each answer
  • Rule No. 4: Present the answers in unusual ways and inspiring combinations
  • Rule No. 5: Edit the original post using comments on Vocal Blog, Facebook and Twitter

And here are the candidates – which I haven’t actually asked, please let me know who else you want in that new kind of Q&A via the comment section of this blog, or wherever you can find Vocal Blog on the web:

This will be fun. Let’s do it – looking forward to your suggestions!

By the way, I haven’t asked any of the above mentioned if they wanted to be part of the experiment. So thanks for spreading the news and posting your personal wishlist. Who can resist the pleading of a real fan?

My name is Florian Städtler, when I founded Vocal Blog in July 2009, I had NO IDEA where this would lead me to. Today the writing, the dialogue and the fantastic contributions make me a happy little blogger. If you want to join the blog party, join the Facebook group, fanpage and my Twitter account. Not to forget Acappellazone’s YouTube channel, which – with about 600 a cappella videos -  is slowly, but surely becoming a vocal music afficionado’s favourite place to hang out.


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Leipzig 2012 Revisited (2): Cadence Interview

via Festival für Vokalmusik Leipzig (GER), from the festival programme book 2012

Leipzig’s a cappella festival is a true work of art – for many years this 10-days event has presented almost every vocal star you can imagine from Bobby McFerrin to The Real Group and The King’s Singers. Hosted by Germany’s pride in classical a cappella, amarcord, the 2013 programme is fantastic as always presenting Sjaella (GER), Graindelavoix (BEL), Postyr Project (DEN), Orlando Consort (UK), The Magnets (UK), Huun-Huur-Tu (Tuwa), Latvian Voices (LAT), Naturally 7 (USA) and as the traditional opening concert, amarcord themselves. Yes, this is only ONE festival…

But before we will introduce you to this year’s line-up, we want to look back to the 2012 edition. Leipzig’s programme book is as premium as the festival and its founders and included interviews with every group performing at the festival. Vocal Blog is happy to present a series of interviews with the 2012 vocal groups who came to Leipzig and haven’t been featured on the blog yet. Thanks to Friederike Frieler and Wolfram Lattke for sharing this with the a cappella community.

The first in this series is an interview with members of the Canadian jazz and swing virtuosi, Cadence.

First, please introduce us to your group: How and when did the group form?

We are Cadence.  Four Men. Four Microphones.  No Instruments!  Our group formed out of Toronto’s York University in 1998.


With only four singers your group is comparatively small, but your goal is to push a cappella music to new heights. Was this the main goal when starting Cadence and did you deliberately decide to go as a four-piece for your mission?

Cadence has always been four men.  When you hear Cadence live, or on CD, you’ll be convinced you’re hearing more than four voices.   This is due to the advanced arrangements the that group write themselves.  Sometimes it is a challenge to fill out the sound of our songs with only four voices, but we are constantly working to push the boundaries of what a quartet of voices can do.


Actually, there’s no doubt about the success of your group since you’ve been entertaining crowds all over the world and received various prizes for your records. From all the things you’ve achieved so far, which are the ones you’re especially proud of? And what are your goals for the future, which boundaries are still to be blown up?

We all value our achievements in different ways.  Whether it’s singing along side 10-time Grammy award winner Bobby McFerrin, singing in Hollywood films featuring actors like Kevin Spacey, Jon Lovitz, Kelley Preston, or playing with 6-week old white Bengal tigers while working with the Discovery Channel, we all enjoy these experiences. Cadence is looking forward to a busy year of travelling where we hope to educate and inspire audiences with the possibilities of the human voice.


Why did Cadence choose a mainly jazz/swing sound outfit? Was it mainly a matter of personal taste or does it simply provide you with a wide musical field to operate in?

Jazz allows Cadence to show that with only four voices, you can still create amazing harmonies.  While performing for over a decade, the group has mastered a variety of genres, but the underlying flavor has primarily been jazz.  Over the recent years, the group has decided to focus more in this direction.


All members of the group do also play at least one instrument (in most cases a lot more…). Hand on heart: Do you prefer singing or playing instruments and why?

One of the great things about vocal music is the connection we get from singing together. We don’t need instruments to make that happen only our own voices so we always have our music with us.

All of the members of Cadence are multi-instrumentalists.   Between us we play the saxophone, trumpet, trombone, drums, guitar, bass, ukulele, and many more.  Even though we can make all these instrument sounds with our voices, we never stop loving to play the actual instruments we imitate.


Which musicians, composers and arrangers do inspire you and why?

People assume that because we sing a cappella, that’s our favorite music to listen to.  But Cadence listens to all kinds of music.  Our inspiration comes from a variety of sources.  People like Bobby McFerrin, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, and styles such as classical, rock, pop, jazz and gospel!

Amarcord’s Wolfram Lattke and Felix Krause with their festival BMW

We’re just curios: Will you prepare some kind of “best of” for the concert in Leipzig or we will hear mainly newer songs, especially from the “Speak Easy” album?

Cadence continues to sing songs from “Frost Free” 2000, “Twenty For One” 2005, and “Speak Easy” 2010, so audiences can expect an eclectic mix of tunes. In this sense we will be performing a collection of our favourites.


You recently also released a holiday album called “Cool Yule”. What was the idea behind it and what meaning does this album have to you?

Fans, friends, and family have been asking for a holiday album for years.  We all chose songs that remind us of that time of year.  Our goal was to create a winter album anyone can play over the holidays for years to come.


What can people expect from a typical Cadence concert?

A typical Cadence concert is an interactive and engaging experience. Rather than just singing at you, expect us to involve the whole audience in the music. You’ll also hear our usual variety of vocal instrument sounds which gives us many musical ingredients to draw from.  We’ll put a smile on your face, a tear in your eye, we’ll get your toes tapping before we say goodbye.


Is there some kind of ritual before going on stage, which is indispensable for your ensemble?

Cadence performs as many as 140 shows a year.  We each prepare for concerts in our own way, but in the end, we all come together to give audiences something to remember!

Have you visited Vocal Blog’s Facebook fanpage and group? Do you follow Vocal Blog on Twitter? Have you been shopping at Acappellazone? And have you ever immersed in the a cappella video pool (600 vocal music and counting) at Let us know what you like most, what’s still missing and what other great sources there are for contemporary, rhythmic a cappella! {FSt}