WHEN VOICES BLEND PERFECTLY, THERE IS HOPE FOR ALL OF US TO GET ALONG, ACROSS THIS DIVERSE PLANET.
An attentive gathering of arranger pros, singers, composers, teachers and a cappella enthusiasts gathered at Local 47 Music Union in Hollywood on Wednesday evening, July 6th, 2016. Excitement was palpable — ACCENT was here, a stunning group of young genius arranger-singers from FIVE different countries, whose multi-tracking videos and intonation-perfect, synchronized jazz-oriented performances had mesmerized fans young and old around the planet!
They met online, how contemporary! Each one has a stellar voice with large range, impeccable rhythmic facility, superb ears for making transcriptions, top-knotch arranging chops and technological knowhow — was it fate or just a case of serendipity? Only these six handsome blokes know… or maybe they’ve been too busy creating music and performing on video — each in their own foreign-land home studio — to pay much attention to the MIRACLE group they’ve become. At last they had managed to meet in person, to workshop and record all together: Simon Akesson from Sweden, Jean-Baptiste (“JB”) Craipeau from France, Danny Fong and Andrew Kesler from Toronto, James Rose from London and Evan Sanders from Boston.
What ACCENT delivered on Wednesday evening was a brilliant, well-organized and simple-to-grasp but enlightening “History of A Cappella Groups” leading up to the present A Cappella Renaissance going on — the presentation had been imparted to a super-enthusiastic group of High School students a day or so earlier but it also lit up the room at Local 47. Imagine hearing original recordings of Mills Brothers, Pied Pipers, Mel-Tones, Barbershop, Hi-Lo’s, Singers Unlimited, The Real Group, Take 6, Rockapella/The Nylons, Eric Whitacre and Pentatonix.
After each one, ACCENT sang Simon’s clever arrangement of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in the style of that particular group, with the score shown to us so we could notice details. (Andrew also created one of the arrangements.) What a Tour-de-Force! (Mozart would have loved this — he might have stood up and improvised, singing “Ah, que vous dirais-je, Maman”, the original “Twinkle.”)
This was true musical education brought alive, glowing in the air. A perfect way to illustrate the evolution of close-harmony, block chords or development of independent lines, rhythmic focus, gospel influence, jazz explorations — instead of a walk-through, it was a SING-THROUGH! Plus, there were short but articulate thoughts ACCENT shared with the audience, and a chance to ask questions.
In the audience was multi-Grammy-award-winner Mervyn Warren, an original member of Take 6 and a genius arranger, whose arrangements (unpublished) had demanded that ACCENT practice their transcription abilities. Also sitting in the front row was ASMAC Board member Ian Freebairn-Smith who created arrangements with Gene Puerling (Hi-Lo’s and Singers Unlimited) and added insights to the discussion. (Noteworthy too: Andrew Kesler is now on the ASMAC Board — terrific!)
Meeting each ACCENT member in person made it plain that they all are DANGED NICE PEOPLE, warm, unstuffy, modest for all their talent, enthusiastic, the kind of folks that are down-home and brilliant all at the same time! They are NICE! It was such a kick to have my husband Ray Korns there because he’s been a fan online since this group started.
By the way, their new CD “Here We Are” is awesome! You need to get it, no kidding! ACCENT has its own sound and your ears will be shimmering with delight! It will touch your heart too. Check it out at www.accentvocal.com
With all the turmoil, media blasting of bad news, and general despair or puzzlement among those of good heart around the world, this is MORE than a music event — it is an EMBODIMENT of hope, of understanding, of the sheer possibility that when voices blend and cultural differences melt into understanding, music CAN make a DIFFERENCE!
ACCENT and ASMAC have outdone themselves with this event. Thank you to both!
By Carol Worthey