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The Swingle Singers History

The Swingle Singers

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Based in: London, England.

Members: Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson, Kevin Fox
Former Members: Ben Parry, Clare Wheeler, Christiane Legrand, Tobias Hug, Jes Sadler, Jonathan Rathbone, Ward Swingle

It is hard to comprehend that it all began as an exercise in sight-reading, to alleviate the monotony of sixties backing vocals. 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 Philips record company to record it for them as Christmas presents for family and friends. Little did they know the level of fame to which this record would elevate them: Jazz Sebastien Bach reached number one in the charts and won several Grammy awards.

Today, there are few music lovers who haven't heard the name the Swingle Singers. Since the release of that ground-breaking debut album in 1963, this virtuosic eight-voice a cappella group (complete with their own vocal rhythm section) has performed on the world's most famous stages, sustaining over four decades a level of international popularity beyond the dreams of its founder, American-born Ward Swingle. The current London-based line-up of young and talented singers is, of course, several incarnations of "Swingles" older than the original team (Ward Swingle affectionately refers to them as his "grandchildren"). They 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 also grown into a full-blown lights-and-choreography spectacle. The beauty is that however the group has changed, the sound remains unmistakeably that of the Swingle Singers, the same sound which caught the world's attention all those years ago.

The Swingle Singers offer a variety of shows, from the current a cappella programme entitled "Ferris Wheels" to contemporary opera to light orchestral works. This adaptability across the musical spectrum has resulted in many opportunities for collaboration. The late Luciano Berio was one of the first composers who recognised in the sound an opportunity to explore the combination of amplified voices and acoustic instruments. More recent commissions have been penned by such names as British Jazz legend John Dankworth, Michael Nyman, French composer Pascal Zavaro, and Berio's protege, Azio Corghi.
Group Videos

Media Articles
Obituary, Washington Post, Ward Swingle, musician who made Bach swing, dies at 87

Obituary, The Guardian, Ward Swingle

Obituary, New York Times, Ward Swingle, Who Made Classical Music Jazzy, Dies at 87

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