Vocalocity – ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’
Dear SoTW Fans,
I have a confession. I’ve been cheating on you.
‘Where has he been disappearing to? One week a posting, the next week bubkes. Does he think we don’t notice?’
‘You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.’ Arthur Anonymous said that. ‘SoTW readers are way too sharp to ever be fooled.’ I said that.
I have a new love with whom I rendezvous on alternate Fridays, my writing day. Hence the lacunae. I don’t love her more than you, just differently. Her name is Vocalocity.
Vocalocity – ‘Lakachta et Yadi b’Yadcha’
She’s a 40-voice rhythm choir (‘modern a cappella’) which I founded just over a year ago with my partner in crime Ron Gang. I manage her and sing second bass. I love her, I love you, and I figured it’s time to introduce you to each other.
In the beginning, God created the human voice (the only instrument He crafted by His own hand). Noah’s family wiled away the rainy days singing animal songs in close harmony. Throughout the millennia, vocalists from Gregorian monks to The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Women’s Choir and The Mills Brothers sang in block chords, sometimes with the melody inside or on top of the chord, sometimes outside it. Then in 1984, five Swedish music students started imitating Count Basie. Jalka, you sing dum-dum-dum on the bottom; Peder, you make chucka-chucka sounds with your mouth; Anders, you do the tenor sax part; Kat, you do the alto sax counterpoint to Anders; Margareta, you do the trumpet melody way up on top. We’ll call ourselves The Real Group.
059: The Real Group, ‘Joy Spring’
Modern A Cappella – Interview with Peder Karlsson
Thus was born “modern a cappella”: five vocalists singing the arrangement (of jazz standards, classic rock and contemporary rock) in intertwining parts, frequently with an emphasis on the ‘groove’ (rhythmic pattern) created by the low bass voice (that’s me!) and vocal percussion.
In 1991, Jens Johansen formed the 32-voice Vocal Line in Aarhus, Denmark, based on the modern a cappella concept of The Real Group, but now in a symphonic rather than chamber context. Six CDs later, they’re the acknowledged gold standard of the ‘rhythm choir’. The format has grown popular throughout Scandinavia, in Germany, and in Ljubljana, Slovenia with the remarkably successful Perpetuum Jazzile.
174: Vocal Line, ‘Don’t Give Up’
188: Imogen Heap/Vocal Line, ‘Let Go’
Aarhus Vocal Festival, 2013
In the spring of 2013, Ron (head of Mil”a, the Israeli Center for Choirs and Singing Groups) and I (head of nothing) hosted The Swingle Singers for a day of workshops. Inspired by the amazing response and success of the day, we invited their baritone Kevin Fox to return to Israel three times during the summer to lead a series of 10 workshops. Word went out, Erez Tal was enlisted to run auditions and prepare the group for Kevin’s visits. Thirty-five singers signed up, and Vocalocity was born.
139: The Swingle Singers, ‘On the 4th of July’ (James Taylor)
161: The Swingle Singers, ‘Sinfonia from Partita No.2 in C Minor’
There was so much magic in the air that it was immediately clear that everyone wanted to make the fling into a permanent liason. At the end of the summer, the group gave two great concerts singing eight songs and made this clip.
In September 2013 Vocalocity reformed as a permanent group with Kevin as musical director and Erez as house conductor. Ten people left, fifteen joined. During the first 12 months of activity we expanded our repertoire to 14 songs (most of them custom-arranged for us); hosted Kevin (several times), the over-talented Erik Bosio from Italy, the remarkable Line Groth Riis from Aarhus (twice), recorded backing vocals for a Swingle Singers CD, gave a number of concerts, including a first birthday celebration in Herzliya before a sold-out crowd of 800.
The first year was one of getting on our feet, getting matters organized. The second one, which began three months ago, is marked by forging a cohesive unit.
Some singers left, some joined. We now stand at 40, equally divided among the 4 (or 8) voices. A composite profile has emerged: late 20s, served in military intelligence in the army, studied computers, working in hi-tech; but along the way studied music, read notes well, with vocal training and experience singing in young groups. A smattering of others is tolerated, including professional musicians and old people.
Plans for the second year include more visits by guest conductors, two joint concerts in Israel with the Swingles in March, our international debut at the Aarhus A cappella Vocal Festival in May, recording a number of songs with Erik Bosio, and making a scripted video clip.
I love the group. Not quite as much as my wife and my family, but an awful lot. I love the music we’re making, I love the kids loving the music we’re making.
We’re still forming our personality and character and repertoire. We know we’ll continue creating innovative sounds in both English and Hebrew, young music aimed at intelligent, tasteful 30-year olds. We’re keeping our eyes and ears open to various directions while trying to enlist the finest arrangers in Israel and around the world, both from within the world of modern a cappella and without.
We’ve just started working on a great arrangement of ‘Child of Man (‘Etz o’ Perach’)’ by Noa (Ahinoam Nini) arranged for us by the mucho talented Kineret Erez; and on Shlomo Gronich’s ‘Nueiba’, arranged by the incomparable Line Groth. And we have some other surprises in the pipeline. And some more in our minds. And some that are just beginning to coalesce. In the meantime, here are some of our ‘greatest hits’:
‘Change the World’ by Eric Clapton, arranged by Kevin Fox; solo Amir Rothschild
‘It’s, Oh, So Quiet’ originally performed by Betty Hutton, made famous by Bjork, arranged by Line Groth Riis; solos Liron Morgenstern and Adi Agassi
‘Shir Makolet’ (‘The Grocery Song’), an Israeli classic, written by Danny Sanderson for Kaveret, arranged here by Erez Tal (here’s the tail at the end of the video)
‘Here’s to Life’, Line rehearsing her arrangement of the song originally recorded by Shirley Horn and Barbra Streisand
‘Mangina Avuda’ (‘A Lost Melody’), written by Matti Caspi, arranged for Vocalocity by Ohad Goldbart (check out the photo of the performance)
‘Lakachta et Yadi b’Yadcha’ (‘You Took My Hand in Your Hand’), written by Matti Caspi for Yehudit Ravitz as a bossa nova, reimagined and arranged for us by Kevin Fox; solo by Inbar Durlacher
‘Nature Boy’ – a jazz standard arranged by Anders Edenroth for The Real Group; here’s their performance, demonstrating vocal perfection
‘Nueiba’, an Israeli classic by Shlomo Gronich, here in a brand-new arrangement written for us by Line Groth
‘Eleanor Rigby’, arranged by Kevin Fox originally for The Swingle Singers and adapted by him for us; solo by Hiram Amir
And our Song of The Week? That’s like asking me to choose a favorite grandchild. Love ‘em all, completely. But this one’s young, cool, and it’s the best video, so we’ll go with it:
‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’, originally by the young British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas, arranged by Swingle bass Ed Randell; with an amazing solo by the utterly amazing Reut Levi.
So one Friday I write about music, enjoying listening to myself ramble about some of my favorite musics. And on alternate Fridays, I participate in making great music with a great bunch of great kids (and a few adults). And I even get to provoke a lot of what happens there. So don’t ask me to choose between my two lovers. I love ’em both, each one with all my heart.
great music and very exciting. i didn’t know you have ‘buisness’ in israel. where can we hear the rehearsals…?
Particularly amiable and funny at the same time, your confession. And yes, there’s no problem to give you absolution. Your blog followers will understand your love, this blog entry putting a big smile on their faces. Looking forward to the results of all of your Friday obsessions 🙂 In the internet as well as in the physical world.
Recordings that don’t make justice to the live performance.
We in the SoTW blog audience will allow you this infatuation, it’s completely understandable. But, we won’t be replaced by this rival, even if she is glamorous and exciting! We’ll be here, patiently waiting, ever loyal. (fyi…we couldn’t be happier for you!).