Johnson County Community College
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Swingle Singers feature vocal agility and captivating showmanship
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – The Swingle Singers, an international a cappella phenomenon, will appear at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, in the Carlsen Center's Yardley Hall as part of the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College.
Tickets, which are $45 and $35, are available through the college box office at 913-469-4445 or at www.jccc.edu/TheSeries.
The group, which has been around almost five decades, now is comprised of seven London-based singers who deliver folk ballads, funk jams and fugues with equal precision and passion. They are carrying on the group's tradition of pushing the boundaries of what the human voice can achieve.
The Swingle Singers got its start in 1963 when eight Paris-based jazz session singers worked their way through some Bach keyboard repertoire one day and discovered a natural swing to the music. Without changing a note of the original score, they adapted the music for voice, added a rhythm section and persuaded Phillips record company to record it for them as Christmas presents for family and friends. To their surprise, Jazz Sebastien Bach reached No. 1 on the charts and won several Grammy awards.
The a cappella group, complete with its own vocal rhythm section, has performed on the world's most famous stages, sustaining a level of international popularity beyond the dreams of its founder, American-born Ward Swingle.
The current lineup, of course, is made up of new members since 1963. Ward Swingle affectionately refers to them as his grandchildren.
The members are Edward Randell, bass; Sara Brimer, soprano; Carrie Wheeler, alto; Oliver Griffiths, tenor; Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson, soprano; Kevin Fox, baritone/vocal percussion and Christopher Jay, tenor.
Today's Swingles represent a modern incarnation of an ensemble whose music has evolved and expanded to encompass styles far and beyond the swung Baroque and infamous "ba va da" of the 1960s, although audiences will usually hear a tribute to the original French group. Along with the repertoire, the stage show has grown into a full-blown lights and choreography spectacle.
The Swingle Singers have won five Grammy awards and released more than 50 recordings, including unique arrangements of songs by Björk, Joni Mitchell, Annie Lennox, Sting and the Beach Boys. Ferris Wheels is the group's latest recording.