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Archiv für Oktober, 2011

The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 5: Highlights

26. Oktober 2011 1 Kommentar

by our Sing-off correspondent, Robert-Jon “I-adore-Sara-B” Eckhardt (originally posted at http://a-cappella.robert-jon.nl on October 23rd, 2011)

Hey guys! I hate to get all fanboyish up your ass but oh my god did you see that Pentatonix performance? Remember how four episodes ago I wrote that I knew that they could pull off crazy sound effects and skipping beats perfectly? Well, this week’s your proof.

These guys are doing everything right. First off their song choice “Video killed the radio star” was perfect for the Guilty Pleasure theme of the night. I love the silly moves, the 80′s synths and al the crazy sound effects throughout the song. Also, great choice to bring in Mitch for the bridge. He and Scott have distinctly different sounds which makes the entire thing even more interesting. They could’ve done this for 3:30 minutes easily without getting boring.

After broadcasting, the song quickly rose to #160 in the iTunes top 200 charts, which is quite an accomplishment for a two minute live recording. Well deserved.

Next up is Urban Method. They really shine in being the only group with an effective theatrical presentation. What I mean by that is that they take their choreographies beyond just doing dance moves, and actually create a scene on stage with recognizable personas. In this case, Troy has obviously fallen victim to the sultry moves of the three ladies at the center of the stage, while his friend Mike is trying to save him from taking their poison. (Never trust a big butt and a smile!)

Also, I have a soft spot for 80′s rap and dance moves. How I wish I was born 30 years earlier.

And then there’s Vocal Point. They don’t have as many tricks up their sleeves as the previous two groups, but they more than make up for it with plain skill. Two weeks ago they went all classy and jazzy, but this week they pulled off the high-energy “Footloose” just as easily. There aren’t that many groups that can hold up this beat and energy this consistently throughout a song.

The group has quite a few very skilled tenors amongst them. Just listen to the confidence and power in the ending chord, or the high climax around the 1:20 mark. What I wouldn’t give to be able to belt it out like that!

further reading

There has been quite some talking about the elimination of Sonos last week. Debating anything from their skills as singers to the relevance of the show itself. I’ve seen many interviews by Chris Harrison appear, explaining both the group’s and the show’s decisions. I can recommend these to on Digital Spy and Sin3g, the latter one actually being a personal response to a blogpost on Sin3g, rather than a formal interview.

After that, don’t forget to read Shawn’s blog. Ben’s episode 4 blog is online but through some faults in the website, you can’t read it. Again. (Get your stuff together NBC website-folks!) Luckily his episode 5 blog is available here. If you still have time left after that, know that all groups are blogging on the NBC website.

See you next week!

The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 4 – Highlights

14. Oktober 2011 1 Kommentar

 

by our Sing-off correspondent, Robert-Jon Eckhart (post originally posted at http://a-cappella.robert-jon.nl on October 14th)

Aw man! I’m kinda bummed out. I admit, I was rooting for Sonos because they were one of the few competing groups that I was familiar with before The Sing-Off even started, and I love some of the stuff they are doing online. But alas, they didn’t make the cut this week. They stuck to their signature style, but it just didn’t shine as it’s supposed to without their effects pedals.

Also, what people might not know is that last februari, only a few months before the show was taped, their sixth member left the group. A male voice they decided not to replace, and a male voice they could’ve used so well in all three songs they were allowed to perform. So much of their elimination comes down to choice. Chris was so nice to explain some of their choices in an interview with “Yakkety Yaks”. I’ll post a link to that at the end of this article.

Now let’s get going with this week’s highlights!

Mehr…

Coming together with M-Pact

by Morten Kier

There is nothing like vocal music that – when everyone and everything magically aligns – can send shivers down your spine and make you forget about everything else but the present moment. It is that almost otherworldly experience, where the music hits some kind of string inside – and outside and everywhere -, and you just want to float away on that holy, warm wave of sound. Right?

I’ve been so fortunate as to have had quite a few of those moments over the years, starting out as a soprano in the local children’s choir, surviving my weird teenage band adventures and eventually singing with, arranging for and occasionally conducting great vocal ensembles such as Vocal Line (founded and lead by Jens Johansen). And some of my most recent goose bumps have occured while performing with the legendary six-guys a cappella group M-Pact.

Don’t get me wrong; M-Pact can sound BAD; not least when sound checking early in the morning on Day 20 of some tour through the American Midwest or when we are dusting off some old, obscure jazz chart here in Los Angeles, where we all live and work in the music industry. Ew! But then; when that final chord of”What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life” locks so beautifully, or when we really nail that high ”ya dab” in our blood-out-of-the-nose 5/4 version of ”My Favorite Things”, or simply just get the party going with ”Boogie Oogie” … then everything falls into place again.

In December of 2010, I became the new baritone of M-Pact, and I feel so priveleged to be working with these bad-ass a cappella guys who have been recording and touring with their jazz/funk/soul repertoire for more than 16 years now.

 

Back to Basix

My career as a professional a cappella singer started in the late 90’s in my home country, Denmark. At the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, where I studied, we were a group of guys who started bugging our fellow students in the school cantina with a cappella songs that we had stolen from other groups. We called ourselves Basix, and we were eager to share our music with as big of a crowd as possible, moving slowly but steadily from street performances to shows in small venues and clubs. In 2001, we had a big break as we entered the national pre-competition of The Eurovision Song Contest with our own composition ”Australian Spring”, and, coming in second, we were all of a sudden popular on the Danish music scene. We got ourselves a record label, a manager, a booker, and dozens of performances on TV, radio, a cappella festivals and large venues in Denmark, Germany, and Holland, and we even won a platinum award for our debut album ”The Grass”.  Good times! The follow-up release ”Embodiment” obviously had to be good, so we sought help from overseas. We had long been fans of this innovative American vocal group called M-Pact, so we decided to ask the former soprano and primary arranger and producer, Britt Quentin, if he would produce some of our songs. He even did a brand-new arrangement for us of the Beatles classic ”Come Together”, and our recording rotated on Danish national radio in 2003. The collaboration turned into a friendship between our groups, and when, 7 years later, I decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams of being an international singer/songwriter, I knew where to go …

 

It’s a G sharp!

I joined the group in November of 2010 and had just a few weeks to prepare for the Christmas shows in Maryland and Los Angeles. Boy, was I put to a test? Although M-Pact does have a number of simple and pretty arrangements on the repertoire, the Christmas tunes (some arranged my Michele Weir, Mervyn Warren, Roger Treece, and other high-end vocal people) are NOT for beginners. I ploughed my way through stacks of sheet-music, sweating and coughing, only to realize that I was supposed to sing the #11 of the chord and not the slightly friendlier 11. And then there was the whole baritone thing. For years and years, I had been floating on high falsetto notes or crooned my way through the mid-range of my voice. All of a sudden, I had to ”man up”, take a deep breath and sing low, ”healthy” fifths with M-Pacts warm-hearted bass, Trist Curless. Christmas came and went, and I received a fresh stack of paper and a ”Here is our regular repertoire!”. Whew!

 

Hitting the highway

Touring with M-Pact is fun! Since our immediate playground involves all of the United States and Canada, there is a lot of driving involved. In February and March of 2011, we sang our way through the American Midwest, Northeast, Southern Canada, Florida, and California, giving shows at universities, fine arts venues, resorts, jazz festivals, and clubs. With winter blizzards threatening to blow our tour van off the parking lot, we stayed warm in McDonald’s restaurants, our suburban hotel rooms – or at the legendary Moose Lodge (a cozy, brown time warp of a venue in Kansas with a giant moose head on the wall) where we had the pleasure of performing disco songs with the local amateur theatre group. Good times that also included bizarre, home-made drinks with dirty names in the Moose Lodge Bar! Who says that a cappella can’t be rock’n’roll?

 

Europe dreaming

Currently, our group is not just ”California dreaming”, but also fantasizing about returning to Europe in 2012. We are planning performces at festivals and/or venues alone or in collaboration with local groups. Over the years, M-Pact has visited Italy, Holland, Sweden, and Germany several times, but we agree that it is high time for a revisit. And I have a personal goal to set up shows in my home country Denmark as well as collaborating with some of the great groups I have come to know in Germany and Holland. Therefore, it thrills us to now be working with Florian Städtler and the other good folks at SpielPlanVier.

We hope to see you all out there …

I met Morten at the premiere of Montezuma’s Revenge in Leiden, The Netherlands – and it reminded me of this post he wrote a few weeks ago. From Denmark to California and hopefully back with m-pact soon – good luck to Morten and the group. Check out www.m-pact.com for the latest news and if you are a promoter, let Morten know via M-Pact’s website or his facebook profile.

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The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 3 – Highlights

by our Sing-off correspondent, Robert-Jon Eckhart (post originally posted at http://a-cappella.robert-jon.nl on October 8th)

Although we’re clearly still in the first phase of the competition, I feel like The Sing-Off finally kicked off this week. I finally got that real Sing-Off feeling in my gut. The feeling that says: “Oh yeahh, this is so goooood!!” I won’t keep you any longer, here are the highlights of this weeks episode.

Lots of class

So. Afro-Blue doing American Boy. I think we can all agree on this one. What a stellar performance. They just did everything right. It’s a total overhaul of the original while keeping it recognizable. It’s full blown jazz while keeping it accessible to non-jazzers like yours truly. And finally a mid-song remix moment with class. After so many cheesy remix moments on The Sing-Off, this one makes me one happy acafella.

I’ve got nothing else to say. Watch it. Listen to it. Love it. Next!

Vocal Point doing Sinatra’s The way you look tonight. Daaaaaaaaaaamn! Who knew a cappella could sound like this? It just doesn’t get any classier. The lead vocal could come straight out of a Broadway production. And all those horns… wow! Those kinda complex arrangements aren’t easy to sing but they pulled it of flawlessly.

It’s interesting to note that this is an all male college group. And while most male college groups get their success from their high fun-factor, goofiness and colorful ties, the guys from Vocal Point effortlessly level themselves with the playing field of the big boys.

The big girls

Delilah might be the most talked-about group, mainly because they are the only all female group participating. And then some because they are awesome. I loved their rendition of ‘Whataya want from me’ because of their innovative way of arranging and presenting it. The line by line stacking of the vocals makes it really easy to get drawn into the song.

But still, I’m going to say it: At the transition from choral-style to track-style, when the beat drops in, I’m missing quite some low end to really get that groove going. The beatboxing is awesome though, and they make up their lack in groove with a great deal of emotion and stage presence.

Conclusion

The competition has started and the first weaknesses are starting to appear. Make no mistake, all these groups are absolutely top notch. But with the magnifying glass of television on top of them, minor flaws will be visible! Also, the judges are starting to be more critical about the performances. I’m finding all of this pretty exciting.

It is on!!

Further reading:

Besides the usual blogs of Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman, have a look at the backstage videos from Sam Tsui, they’re pretty nice! If you’re looking for more info on any group, such as facebook pages or twitter accounts, try Who’s who on The Sing-Off?.

by Robert-Jon Eckhardt, originally posted at http://a-cappella.robert-jon.nl. Check out RJ’s blog, it’s awesome and we can be so happy that he will write about the whole Sing-off season both on his and on Vocal Blog. Keep doing the Sing-thing, my dear co-blogger.

Breaking News: Vocal Line London Workshop & Concert, October 15th

by Florian Städtler

If you haven’t heard of Vocal Line…then get the hell out of this blog! – Ehem, ojust kidding. However, the Danish pioneers of “rhythimic choral music” are a MUST in h so many ways: They are the spearhead of contemporary choral composing, arranging, rehearsing, singing, blending, touring and…yes, partying. They are also amazingly nice, cool and good-looking people, whose English is great and who everybody on the continent (I mean Europe, here) wants to have in their city, on their stage and in their rehearsal room.

And now, Vocal Line with their charismatic musical director Jens Johansen is coming to London, England. On October 15th, the choir will give a workshop and perform at the Greenwood Theatre. It really amazed me, when I learned, that the British, who

Vocal Line

have  probably the longest choral tradition of all countries, are still more or less a cappella newbies: Besides a small number of pro groups (The King’s Singers, The Swingle Singers, VOCES8, The Sixteen, The Boxettes, The Magnets, The London Quartet), there is only a relatively small collegiate scene and apart from the Swingles’ London A Cappella Festival (January 12-15, 2012) few established a cappella events.

Thanks to Vocal Line’s hosts, “Sing a cappella”, there now is a real event, one, that no one who is interested in modern vocal music should miss. Find more information below or on Sing a cappella’s website:

 

Florian Städtler is founder of Vocal Blog and (positively, as he thinks) obsessed with vocal music. He loves to write about a cappella and choir music, but he even loves it more to learn from his fantastic co-bloggers here at Vocal Blog. If you want to teach him, send your ideas, drafts or complete articles to info@vocal-blog.net or contact me via Twitter or Facebook. Thanks for joining the conversation.