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Friday
Apr172015

An Aca-Success!

 

The first annual VoiceJam festival was officially a success! A weekend of enticing performances, fun-filled workshops with a cappella experts, and groups from across the world made for the perfect introduction to a cappella for Northwest Arkansas. With Deke Sharon of NBC’s “The Sing-Off” as the host, Baum Walker Hall was echoing charisma and musicality.

Professional a cappella groups The House Jacks and Voco Novo lit up the auditorium with their impressive renditions which left the audience applauding and inspired.

The opening night competition was intense! The melodious and tunefully exciting acts by the five equally incredible competitors had talent that was hard to decipher, yet each group had its own fantastic groove. VoiceJam was lucky enough to bring in the Mello Divas of Tampa, FL, the Hibernotes of Missouri State University, DeltaCappella of Memphis, TN, Snowday of Gaithersburg MD, Above The Keys of Miami, FL and The Ill Harmonic of Champaign-Urbana, IL.

Alas, the overall champions of the competition were DeltaCappella of Memphis, TN who upon winning said,

“We are extremely honored and proud to be the inaugural VoiceJam Champions! As it was our first ever competition as a group, there were a lot of unknowns. We were really pleased with the sets we put together and the competition aspect of the festival really got us amped up once we were on the stage. It was really quite a surreal moment when Deke announced us as the winner right there on stage and it still hasn’t completely sunk in that we’re going to Shanghai!”

Toney Walsh, a member of DeltaCappella told us that he had a fantastic time in Fayetteville at the first ever VoiceJam.

“One thing that sticks out to me is the professionalism and kindness of the volunteers and employees at the Walton Arts Center. They were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The other groups were fantastic! The a cappella world is so vast and it felt great to see different types of groups represented…countless strangers came up to us, both a cappella people and non a cappella people, and told us how much they enjoyed the Friday night performance. It was great to see that level of interest from the community.”

DeltaCappella will now go on to compete at VocalAsia, Asia’s biggest a cappella festival, in Shanghai, China! 

 

Photography Credit: Noushin Bemanian

Wednesday
Apr152015

So Percussion

So Percussion

Exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam”- The New Yorker.

 

 

Amplified cactus? Bowed marimba? Aluminum pipes, and the German glockenspiel? You guessed it! Although the names of their instruments sound like a bunch of boring household knick-knacks, these 20th century luminaries and their exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy are quite the opposite!

So Percussion’s adventurous spirit has redefined the modern percussion ensemble, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Since coming together as graduate students at the Yale School of Music, they’ve graced the stages of major venues including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and have toured Western Europe, South America, Russia and Australia. Don’t miss this truly unique experience!

 

After hearing the names of the unusual instruments this band plays, I’m sure you’re dying to hear more about their less-than-ordinary artistry! In order to incorporate the focus of our 10x10 Arts Series, creating a space for audience/artist interaction, and answer all of the questions that I’m sure are running through your head, we asked So Percussion a few questions! 

 1.      What's the story behind the name of your band?

One of the first things any group needs is a name.  When our group was founded in 1999, we cast far and wide among our friends and family for suggestions.  The winner was this simple, short word offered by Jenise Treuting, Jason's sister.  Jenise has been living and working in Japan as an English-Japanese translator for 20 years.  The word "Sō" was punchy, enigmatic, and memorable. Jenise explains: "The Sō in Sō Percussion comes from 奏, the second character in the compound Japanese word 演奏 (ensou), to perform music. By itself, so mean “to play an instrument.” But it can also mean “to be successful… to determine a direction and move forward,” and “to present to the gods or ruler.”

2.       What are your favorite artists and/or soundtracks to jam to?

 We have so many!  Early on, we were very inspired by groups like the Kronos Quartet and Nexus Percussion.  Artists like Radiohead and Bjork were also very influential in our generation.  There is a solid influence of jazz artists like Miles Davis.  We're really into bands that some of our friends play in, such as Wilco and The National. 

3.       What/who has been your biggest influence as musicians and composers?

 In addition to the above, our teachers made us who we are.  Robert van Sice at the Yale School of Music really brought us together.  Otherwise, our most important mentor was the composer David Lang, who wrote the first big piece for us, and whose optimistic approach to the music business helped us form our style of engagement with the world. 

4.       Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘p’—to describe your music?

percussive , passionate, playful, pensive , pulsating

5.       Does So Percussion embody more of a “band persona” or that of an avant-garde ensemble, or both?

 Both. The identity of our group is very much wrapped up in the four of us as people and musicians, which makes it more like a band than a classical ensemble.  But we regularly play other people's music, so it sort of fluctuates. 

6.       What has been your most exciting performance to date?

 Nothing ever beats your first Carnegie Hall show, if you're fortunate enough to have one.  In 2010, our debut as an ensemble with our own program involved two big new commissioned pieces; it was curated top to bottom by us.  Having your own artistic cultivation represented at a place like Carnegie is a huge thrill.  We got one of our best New York Times reviews out of that show. 

7.       Do you have a preference for writing your own tunes, or reworking classic standards?

 It's a mixture of both, and I would add that we get other composers to write new pieces that we hope will become classics!  

8.       What is the craziest instrument you have ever played?

 A carrot slide trombone. 

9.       Is there any advice you’d offer composers writing for percussion instruments?

 Be open and communicative!  We aren't looking for experts so much as collaborators. 

10.     Whom do you define as visionary?

 I like the word "vision."  I think it simply means the ability to see something.  A visionary sees something out there, maybe in a way that others don't yet, and has the courage and passion to follow through on it.  To have vision is to see clearly, which is not a terribly easy thing to do all the time. 

Want to find out more about So Percussion?

Visit http://www.waltonartscenter.org/tickets-events/10x10-arts-series/ to learn more about this exhilarating band before the show.

*And, don't miss the Creative Conversation with the band at 6:30pm!!!

Wednesday
Apr012015

VoiceJam. It's aca-awesome!

 

 

"It's addictive in the best way." - Amanda Cornaglia (Clear Harmonies) 

According to Mickey Rapkin’s nonfiction book Pitch Perfect, a cappella music describes one of the oldest forms of music in existence, “the kind made without any accompaniment at all,” and descended from the tradition of Gregorian chant. Yet, since the release of Pitch Perfect in 2012 - the world has been going crazy over modern a cappella music. The revival of this traditional art form was the inspiration for *VoiceJam,* an exciting 2-day festival produced and hosted by Walton Arts Center featuring vocal celebrities, workshops and a competition for a cappella groups from around the world. 

We had the chance to chat with this year's competitors who will soon battle it out for a chance to compete at VocalAsia in Shanghai, China! Here's what they had to say about their passion for a cappella and its new found popularity...

Q: What differentiates a cappella from other art forms?

Mello Divas:  You have to rely on yourself and each other more than in many other art forms. You have to listen more carefully, you really have to combine lots of technical elements with stage presence. It has to look and sound effortless.

DeltaCappella:  The lack of instruments means there's no "safety net." Singers in an a cappella group have to rely on each other to stay in tune and produce the harmonies and textures in the music.

Clear Harmonies:  It's addictive in the best way. Singing, especially a cappella, is really uplifting. A few hours in rehearsal or in a show can help get through even the worst day. This art form has also cultivated a wonderful community of creative, generous and amazing people. I've found some of my best friends through a cappella. 

Hibernotes:  Every art form is unique in its own way; however, a cappella music is different in that it's all about the sounds made from the mouth and the overall story that is performed. From matching vowels, crescendos, intonation, blend, energy, beat boxing and riffing, a cappella music has so many different challenging aspects. 

Q: How accurate is the movie Pitch Perfect when it comes to the "a cappella world?"

Mello Divas:  Not terribly accurate. People don't just improvise "perfect" arrangements on the spot like in the whole song battle thing.

DeltaCappella:  I'm not sure, my gut feeling is that the movie is like most forms of mass-market entertainment in that it builds characters who represent the extremes, so the drama portrayed in the film can happen, though usually not to such extremes. 

Clear Harmonies:  It definitely captures the essence of collegiate a cappella. The humor, the camarderie, the build-up to a big competition. We just hope people don't see us as "The Tonehangers." We definitely don't sing a cappella to recapture any youthful glory! It was fun to be able to laugh at our community's idiosyncrasies, though. I'm looking forward to seeing how the second movie portrays the international a cappella community. 

Hibernotes:  Pitch Perfect is EXACTLY how the a cappella world is... Just kidding! Pitch Perfect is essentially an overly exaggerated version of what typically happens in our a cappella world. There are always challenges, especially when competition season rolls around, but in the end we all love each other and love what we do. A cappella can be a whole lot of fun and they require a lot of work and dedication too.

Q: Why VoiceJam?

Mello Divas:  Deke Sharon! We thought it would be a great opportunity to learn from the father of a cappella and really high level groups. 

DeltaCappella:  It's rare that a competition is within driving distance of our home in Memphis. When I heard about this event in Fayetteville, I asked all the members to check their calendars to see if they were free, and thankfully, all but one of us is able to be here.

Clear Harmonies:  Both the opportunity to perform for a new audience here in the U.S., as well as the chance to perform in China. I was an Asian Studies major in college, studying Japanese and Mandarin. After college, I spent 4 years living and working in Japan and traveling around Asia. The opportunity to go back to perform and introduce my bandmates to such an amazing place would be a dream come true.

Hibernotes: Back in the fall we received an email about VoiceJam, but kind of pushed it to the side because it seemed too good to be true. Deke Sharon AND a potential trip to China? We definitely thought this competition was out of our league. However, as the spring semester rolled around, we brought the idea back into the picture. We decided to be ambitious and send in a video submission for the heck of it. To our surprise, we unexpectedly got accepted and could not be more thrilled!

 

 

Come show your support for these talented and passionate individuals during Northwest Arkansas' premiere a cappella festival *VoiceJam* April 10-11 at Walton Arts CenterVisit bit.ly/VoiceJam2015 to learn more.

Wednesday
Mar182015

The Midtown Men

 

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY 

 with The Midtown Men

With the original cast of the Tony® award-winning Broadway play Jersey Boys returning to the WAC stage tonight, we decided to do a #throwbackthursday edition of our blog dedicated to the oldies-lovin' Midtown Men!

In 2005, Tony® Award-winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony® Award-nominee J.R. Spencer performed for the first time in a documentary-style, biographical jukebox musical that dramatized the formation, success and eventual break-up of the 1960s rock 'n' roll group The Four Seasons. This show would later receive worldwide acclaim, winning four 2006 Tony® Awards including Best Musical and touring the nation, turning Jersey Boys into a household name.

Most of us didn't get the chance to experience the magic of this Jersey Boys cast in action...but lucky for you, there's still a chance for you to hear them live right here in NWA! These four talented artists have reunited and are back by popular demand for two nights only. You won’t be able to resist their swingin’ tunes, as they harmonize some of your favorite '60s hits from The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Jackson Five, The Four Seasons and more!

They shared the Broadway stage for hundreds of performances of the Tony® Award-winning mega-hit Jersey Boys before reuniting as The Midtown Men to bring their magic to audiences everywhere, and now they are coming to Northwest Arkansas for a special performance just for you! Don’t miss the chance to see these Broadway legends right in your backyard.

Experience a little bit of The Midtown Men’s magic before the show! Listen to this playlist for a sneak-preview of songs you might expect to hear and don’t forget to buy tickets to see The Midtown Men live at Walton Arts Center. Their first show is tonight, so buy now before it’s too late! And if you can't make it tonight, be sure to get your tickets for Friday...it's a show you won't want to miss!

Tickets to see The Midtown Men can be purchased here.

 

Monday
Mar022015

Koresh Dance Company 

An Artistic Force
Creating Innovative & Emotional Dance Performances

This Friday, prepare to be amazed by the superb technique of the culturally-enriched dance company that keeps the artistic reputation of Philidelphia alive. Koresh Dance Company has been described as emotionally compelling and stunningly athletic, with 10 dancers that seamlessly shift from an explosive and passionate repertoire to moments of intimacy and restraint. Founded in 1991 by Israeli-born choreographer Ronen Koresh, this troupe has toured the world performing a fusion of choreographic styles including ballet, modern dance and jazz. Performing to a musical score of contrasts — Middle Eastern music juxtaposed with classical favorites — the dancers deliver an artistic experience that Northwest Arkansas won’t soon forget! If you like hard, fast, intense dancing, this is the show for you.

We love that these artists are committed to the creative economy of their hometown and really wanted to know more about the driving force behind that committment. Our 10x10 Arts Series focuses on creating a space for audience/artist interaction, giving us the opportunity to ask Koresh's artistic director and founder, Ronen Koresh a few questions to help us better understand what influences their artistry.

1)What are some of your favorite songs to jam to? 

No specific songs—I enjoy World music to jam to.  

2)What moves you to create a new dance number (e.g.: a musical piece, life experience or style of dance)?

What inspires me to create are the intricacies of life, the complexity of relationships, and the desire to add to the beauty of life.

3)Choose 5 words – that start with the letter D – to describe your company.

Daring, desirable, dynamic, dramatic, diverse 

4)What do you find most thrilling about exploring human emotions using just your body?

The body doesn’t lie. 

5)What types of the cultural spaces/places you draw inspiration from?

The street, the coffee shop, the bar—people-watching places.

6)Whom do you define as visionary?

My mom. She’s the one who made me follow my dream to dance, paid for it, sent me to America.

 7)How does your work connect to the larger world?

My work deals with humanity, human emotions and relationships, community, the individual vs. society—and most people connect to those themes. They can see themselves in it. My work is not commentary; it’s participation. A dance company doesn’t imitate life; it is life.

8)What is the best advice that you have been given?

Donald Byrd told me not to go searching for an audience—don’t try to satisfy them or be afraid that they won’t like your work. Let an audience find you. The people who like what you do will come.

9)What are some exciting things you see happening among dancers/studios today?

Dancers now are exposed to a much larger arena of dance, especially through YouTube—European, Asian, Israeli dance, etc., and as a result, their styles are becoming more diverse.

10) Why 10 dancers?

Because I can’t afford fifteen.

Still curious about this extraordinary and out-of-the-box dance company? Check out a few of their preformances here to better prepare youself for the artistic force coming to Walton Arts Center this Friday, March 6! Tickets are just $10, so buy yours today! To purchase tickets, click here.