The House Jacks’ Newest Member Revealed!

The word is finally out! After recent news of Troy Horne’s (bass) return to The House Jacks, their final member has been revealed. Mark Joseph will bring his smooth, sultry tenor sound to complete the lineup.

11950988_1034317419914324_2032470071_nMark has been singing his entire life. In his earlier years he was always in a choir or group of some kind. His love for a cappella was cultivated in high school when he was a part of the jazz choir. There he realized that he wanted to be a part of a collegiate group in the future.

 

Mark graduated in 2014 from the acclaimed Berklee College of Music. There he was a member of Pitch Slapped, winners of the 2014 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA). He can be heard on their album, ‘Good Life’. He also won ‘best male soloist’ at SoJam 2011.

“I love how everyone has everyone’s back in a group. There’s nothing like singing and blending in harmony with other voices. That’s so much more fun than singing alone! Also, the relationships you build in a group is my favorite thing. Makes everything that much better.”

Mark is thrilled to be a part of The House Jacks! He sees the group having a great deal of versatility, as their voices are all so different. In addition, to be in a group that has been around for 20+ years, “It’s going to be a great learning experience for me because these guys clearly know what they’re doing.”

When asked what fans can look forward to with the new lineup, Mark replied, “You can expect new music, of course, and you can expect even more outside of the boxness.”

We CANNOT WAIT to see what this rebirth of The House Jacks will bring! Stay tuned to all of their social media to keep up with news, tour dates, and more! (fb/Twitter/IG: TheHouseJacks)

Gettin’ Swingle Wit It. AcaVids 7-15

On Friday CASA announced the headliner for SoJam 2013, and I was like ^^. I Carlton’d so hard because it’s the Swingle Singers from the UK! You have no idea how lucky we are that they’re bringing their beautiful euphonies to us, filling our souls to the brim with happiness.

You think I’m joking, but I’m being 100% serious.

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Let’s go into some history, shall we? The original group was created in the 1960s by Ward Swingle. (Pause and recognize how cool his name was.) Until 2011, the group consisted of two sopranos, two altos, two tenors, and two basses. The ever-changing group has collected several Grammy awards and nominations throughout the years. The Swingle repertoire is just as impressive, as they cover not only popular songs, but also classical pieces written by composers like Mozart and Bach. They really manage to cover every audience in some way. Despite having only seven people today, the Swingles manage to mesmerize with their jazzy arrangements, singing every beautiful note with purpose.

…but you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out some of the amazing music the Swingles have performed over the past few years:

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Okay, so this technically isn’t just the Swingles, but it was a cool way to open up the vid section. Note Jo’s crazy-good violin in the opening, Tobias’ impressive trumpet, and Sara’s wailing guitar. Ten points to you if you recognized The Boxette’s Bellatrix and Mo5aic’s Jake Moulton. Really a great move on T-Mobile’s part, especially now that the media has warmed up to a cappella, and how heart-warming was that? C’mon.

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I feel like this is the first time I heard the Swingle Singers, and I was completely in awe. This video truly personifies the Swingles’ ability to take a piece written for instruments and turn it into a compelling vocal production. They invigorate the music and really make it their own. Aside from the music, this video is pretty awesome. I love a good tango.

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Another well-known name in the world of a cappella, Peter Hollens and the Swingles collaborate to cover the classic Poor Wayfaring Stranger, with brilliant arrangement, vp, and baritone line provided by Tom Anderson. This is a cover that could bring your high school choir teacher to tears. The Swingles just redefined the word soprano for you. You’re welcome.

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Those sneaky Swingles. Here they are with Soul Bossa Nova on the Tube, laying down a tune on the subway. (I hope that guy turned his iPod off.) I’m always impressed by Tobias’ use of cup, so…nice one, guy. If this could happen on every public transportation ride, maybe people would grumble less. Just a thought.

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Finally, a song that could move the hardest of hearts. Björk is not an artist that people normally jump to cover because her music is so unique, using various sounds and instruments difficult to replicate with the voice, but the Swingles don’t shy away. This song really pushes them as musicians and vocalists. Just listen to all of the different noises they make on top of those beautiful chords to set the tone. The string section? It’s unreal. I cry every time I hear this piece just because it stirs so many emotions. How could your heart not feel something after such a performance, especially realizing that this was live? It’s inspiring in every way.

Hoo. Okay. Wipe those tears.

Did you fall in love at first click? Good. Then you should check out and support their 50th Anniversary Album project! Just click here to learn more about what these master musicians have up their sleeves and how you can help to get the ball rolling.

Oh, and don’t forget to come to SoJam to see them live!! Or to see me do this at their concert:

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(I just really like Will Smith, guys.)

Cheers!

– Heather

AcaVids 3/18/13: A Sing Off Tribute

The Sing Off is Back!

Well, not right now. But, eventually! So in honor of the news every Acanerd around the country has been waiting to hear I thought I’d dedicate this week’s post to the show that made a cappella cool to more than just our devout community.

Never in my wildest dreams as young a cappella disciple did I ever think the music that I loved to perform would be considered cool to more than just the people I sang with. A cappella on national television never even entered my mind. Sure, I got to sing to Katie Couric on the Today Show with my college a cappella group, [Ed.- me too! And Willard Scott was singing along with us from D.C.!] but I’d hardly call that “cool”. We just never thought that the joy we felt from our performances would translate to a mass audience. We didn’t understand why, but then again we didn’t care that much either.

Fast forward a few years (decades?) and I hear that there’s going to be an a cappella competition show on TV in the vein of American Idol. I am immediately excited and annoyed. A cappella on TV? Great! Simon Cowell-esque judges berating performers of a genre they didn’t understand? Terrible! Thankfully, nothing that horrific happened. I watched every episode with excitement. And, after what I thought was slow start with the first season, the competition just got better and better culminating with the discovery of the most electrifying a cappella group I have ever seen, Pentatonix.

So, as we await the new season coming sometime this fall, and wonder if there is a group out there that can blow our minds more than PTX, lets take a look at what some of the old contestants have been up to since then.

~p.s. – Note the professional quality videos too. Should we expect an A Cappella VH1 any time soon?

Season 2 winners Committed

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Season 2 runner ups Street Corner Symphony

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Season 3 winners Pentatonix

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Hope you enjoy them!

Comments welcome.

~Patrick

[Ed.- Couldn’t resist mentioning Delilah’s recent performances at the Texas A Cappella Celebration and Los Angeles A Cappella Festival are worth watching as well- here’s one. http://youtu.be/bCPtYnUCWmk]

PTX: Live in NYC

Sometime in the late 1990’s, I saw Rockapella in concert for the first time. I recall thinking “Wow, it’s hard to believe that they are all singing in tune and sound like a band despite no instrumental accompaniment. That Jeff Thacher guy is pretty cool, too.” It was an eye-opening experience for me, seeing a cappella like that.

Sometime the following year, I saw The House Jacks at the Bottom Line (yes, I’ve mentioned this before). This time, I can definitely remember thinking “Wow, this is rock music with no instruments. Plus, these guys are serious dudes” (for some reason I remember original bass Bert Bacco dressed kind of like a biker/rock star, complete with leather jacket and possibly boots). And they were loud, in a good way. This was a big moment for me, realizing that when The House Jacks called themselves a vocal band, they meant it and they owned it. The show proved to me that the future of a cappella was not just an updated version of doo wop, but rather a modified version of rock or pop music.

It was not until February 21, when I saw Pentatonix in concert in New York City, that I was able to see the next step in this evolution. As in, when Pentatonix came out on stage, I had this thought: “holy shit, this is like a real pop/rock show with professional lighting, professional sound, in a big ballroom with a pit and thousands of people crammed in (official capacity at the Best Buy Theater is 2,100). The bass and drums are shaking the place, and the energy here is electric.”

Now, while I have long been a fan of the live shows offered by Rockapella and The House Jacks, as well as a dozen other contemporary a cappella groups, I don’t believe there is even room for debate: this is a whole new animal of a cappella concert.

Setting aside the individuality of this particular group for just a moment, the atmosphere was unlike any I have seen at an a cappella concert, starting with this:

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You can kind of make out the “P T X” separated by lights…there was also a series of platforms with a singer on each platform. The bass immediately kicked in, and the rumble was so fierce you could feel it in your bones. Welcome, Avi. (and Liquid 5th)

Now, the uniqueness of this particular group. First of all, individual components. At one point, the group pointed out bass Avi Kaplan’s rare ability to sing overtones. Here’s what that means:

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The remainder of the group also enjoyed convincing Avi to sing the dwarf song from the recent movie “The Hobbit.” Like this:

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So, the group has a multi-talented and funny bass singer. They also allowed their uber-talented beatboxer/VP Kevin Olusola to show off his array of skills, performing a beautiful cello solo and then performing his famous celloboxing on the Imagine Dragons song “Radioactive.” Here’s the group performing that song earlier in the tour.

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Ok, Pentatonix showed that their rhythm section is comprised of two uniquely talented individuals.

What about the other three? Well, over the course of an approximately 90-minute set, the big 3 (Scott, Mitch, and Kirstie) offered one of the cleanest and most impressively tuned sets I’ve seen. They sounded a bit tired, having performed the previous night in Philadelphia, but their intonation was stellar. I’ve watched a lot of the group’s YouTube videos and thought “well, that sounds very tight without any production, but they also could have shot 15 takes before they got that one.”  In New York City, it was truly remarkable how clear and solid their tuning was. This is important. I’ve seen a lot of groups who might be considered among the best in the world suffer from tuning problems onstage. There were very few such moments for Pentatonix on this night.

A few other thoughts about Pentatonix as a performing act. First, they have charisma. They are funny, humble, and authentic, all of which are appealing, and they are so young. The group has broad public appeal, as demonstrated by their appearances at all kinds of corporate locations and on all types of television shows.

Second, they are creative about their song selection. Yes, they performed the songs from their album, but they also performed a few from their YouTube videos, a new boy band medley (‘N Sync) and a new original (the Kaplan-penned “Peaceful World”[Ed.- the song is actually called “The Peaceful War”]).

Third, they enjoy getting the crowd engaged in the show. At one point, Kevin and Avi spent time teaching the audience 3 parts to a song, then had the crowd to sing back to them in 3-part harmony. I’ve seen Ben Folds do this numerous times onstage, and while not everyone in the crowd necessarily loves it, I think it’s great- especially for the type of crowd at a Pentatonix concert. In other words, a crowd of people who love vocal music.

As should be clear by now, I was very impressed. This is a group of young performers who are talented, entertaining, and the scariest part: getting better (according to Acatribe’s Tara Ahn, who saw them on their previous tour). In addition, they have a cappella professionals (Liquid 5th) running sound on this tour.

It seems to me that if they’re not selling out amphitheaters in 2 years or less, someone in their management or label isn’t doing their job.

Final conclusion: if you can catch Pentatonix live in concert this year, do it. Their show IS the bridge to mainstream pop culture that a cappella fans have been predicting for years, and it is being executed by young, charismatic, and immensely talented singers.

AcaVids 3/11/13: Sweeps Week

Later winter/early spring is a wonderful time in the a cappella world.  You’ve got ICCA quarterfinals and semifinals, CARAs, and the longstanding Harmony Sweepstakes competition. If you didn’t realize it, the Sweepstakes has featured some pretty well-known winners over its lengthy existence, including Groove for Thought, The Idea of North, Toxic Audio, Naturally Seven, m-pact, the Coats, and North Shore, among many other talented groups. Learning about the unknown or lesser known groups competing at the Sweepstakes is always one of my favorite things about this time of year.

This past weekend, the San Francisco and Chicago regionals crowned champions, including Ro Sham Bo (SF) and The Cat’s Pajamas (Chicago). Congratulations to both groups.

But they’ve had their moment. Now it’s time to look at a few of the groups still waiting to compete in the remaining regional contests over the next month.

First up, competing at the Los Angeles regional on April 6, Veritas.

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The Rainbows, from Quebec, will be competing in NYC on March 30. Look how much fun they’re having!

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I couldn’t resist adding a second group from this competition, the lovely ladies known as The Dolls.

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Shot in the Dark will be competing at the Pacific NW regional this weekend. Bonus points for filming a video in a parking garage!

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