Swingle Singers group shot. An institution 50 years young is out on the road.

February 2013 Concert Locations: Dubai, Richardson, Texas, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas and Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas.
Concert Review---Swingle Singers
Johnson County College, Overland Park, Kansas, February 24, 2013
Swingle Singers: Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson (soprano), Sara Brimer (soprano), Clare Wheeler (alto), Oliver Griffiths (tenor), Christopher Jay (tenor),  Kevin Fox (baritone/vocal percussion) and Edward Randell (bass)
The Swingle Singers became popular 50 years ago when their founder, Ward Swingle (now 83) put together a group of Parisian session singers to sing some of Bach’s keyboard music. Their trademark is acappella and to vocalize in the high range. This requires work and unwavering attention. The now-famous album, “Jazz Sebastian Bach,” really put the group on the map. Currently, the present Singers live in London, have sung at La Scala, been on the soundtracks of “Sex and the City," "Glee," made 50 recordings and won five Grammy Awards. The group arrived in Kansas from Texas (and before that, Dubai) after one of the famous prairie snow storms, and this being their first time in the Midwest. 2013 is their 50th anniversary and travels from here will take them to South America, Russia and China.

The Swingle Singers work against a changing lighted backdrop. One comes to a Swingle Singers concert with Bach melodies in their head. Well, there was one, in the second half, “Badinerie," which was a Ward Swingle arrangement. The program ran the gamut from a traditional Turkish song (arr. K. Fox) to Chick Corea’s “Spain” (arr. S. Stroman), Mumford & Sons “After The Storm” (arr. T. Anderson), Beyonce’ Knowles “Swingle Ladies” (arr. N. Girard) to a calm “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” (arr. T. Anderson.) The intricacies of harmony is like following  threads in a tapestry. You catch glimpses of individual color and length in the whole, but can’t just reach in a grab a thread. Each singer has a chance to begin a song and that is the voice you want to follow, but as the others join in---with a nod to barbershop harmonies---you just listen to the flow.
My favorites were the beginning song, “Weather to Fly” (Elbow, arr. By C. Wheeler), that was soft and soothing, which lead to the exotic “Gemiler Giresune” the Turkish song, begun by alto Clare Wheeler. “Lady Madonna” (Lennon/McCartney, arr. by C. Canning) was a treat and a quietly moving rendition of the popular song, to go with “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” Not quite reaching the audience were the Mumford & Sons “After The Storm” that sounded colorless in contrast to the rest of the program, “The Diva Aria” that was overboard in theatrics and Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” (arr. Calum Au) in which may have had a sound problem.
Performing before the concert was The Heart of America Barbershop Choir whose “Joshua” was as intricate as a Swingle arrangement. When The Swingle Singers do a concert in a college, they also spend part of a day working with local high school choirs. No particular dress theme, but a mixture of individual fashion and I noted footwear went from Granny boots to five-inch heels to red sneakers for the guys.
Copyright 2013 Marie Asner
For another Phantom Tollbooth concert review see:
Lyle Lovett