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The best a cappella groups in NYC
Who we're hoping to see on NBC's new show.
Thu Apr 2 2009
On March 18, variety.com reported that NBC has greenlit a new competition titled The Sing-Off. The show’s American Idol--meets--America’s Best Dance Crew conceit pits groups against each other in a vocal battle sans instruments; the winners will walk away with a Sony Music recording contract. We surveyed seven a cappella groups (six local and one from Cali) we’d love to see beat boxing on national television.
Conspiracy of Beards
Behind the music: Conspiracy of Beards has a repertoire that extends from folk to cabaret, but the 30-man choir only sings songs by a single artist—the inimitable Leonard Cohen.
Singing style: “Five or so chorus members arrange and transform Cohen’s simple melodies into complex four- and five-part harmonies,” says baritone Scot Velardo. “You can hear influences of contemporary, jazz, folk, gospel, barbershop, classical and even doo-wop in the arrangements.”
Crowd-pleasers: “Hallelujah,” “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Tower of Song”
Catch ’em live: Saturday 4 at Highline Ballroom (431 W 16th St between Ninth and Tenth Aves; 212-414-5994, highlineballroom.com; 2pm, $14) and the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery at Bleecker St; 212-614-0505, bowerypoetry.com; 8pm, $10). For more info, visit conspiracyofbeards.com.
Behind the music: Kelso is still new to the New York scene, having formed just this past January to compete in this year’s Harmony Sweeps a cappella competition. It bills itself as the “anti--a cappella group,” with a focus on a vocal-band dynamic. “We run with our own energy,” says vocalist Janifer Cheng. “We’re spontaneous and react more toward each other and the music than something that’s staged.”
Singing style: Member Nicholas Fox describes it as, “unabashedly pop with rock, jazz, dance, techno, R&B, cabaret and Broadway influences.”
Crowd-pleasers: Adele’s “Cold Shoulder,” Danity Kane’s “Damaged” and Daughtry’s “It’s Not Over”
Catch ’em live: Check kelsoband.com for upcoming performances.
Behind the music: This half-male, half-female group was founded on the premise of performing a cappella songs “that don’t suck.”
Singing style: Rock, pop and R&B. “We want to stick to predominantly upbeat tracks that keep an audience engaged and electric,” says cofounder and bass Chris Serico.
Crowd-pleasers: Ben Folds Five’s “Underground,” Gavin DeGraw’s “Chariot” and Linkin Park’s “In the End”
Catch ’em live: April 30 at Ella Lounge (9 Ave A between 1st and 2nd Sts; 212-777-2230, unsung-heroes.com). 7:30pm.
Behind the music: Treble is the longest-running postcollegiate group in New York City, founded in 1996; the all-female chorus is also a registered nonprofit. In addition to paid gigs, the 12 ladies regularly perform at places like the Ronald McDonald House and are hoping to put out an album within the next year.
Singing style: “Treble-icious!” says soprano and co--music director Meredith Strang. “We are a bunch of women, so we do play up our sexy and fun side a bit.”
Crowd-pleasers: Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good,” the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home”
Join the group! Treble holds rolling auditions; aspiring singers should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catch ’em live: Check treblenyc.com for upcoming performances.
The Red States
The Red States
Behind the music: The Red States came together in 2007 with the simple goal of making “good music that people like,” says artistic director and bass Brian Chambers.
Singing style: “You won’t hear us singing 'Ave Maria,’ then Danity Kane,” adds Chambers. “You also won’t see us wearing glittery vests, top hats or doing jazz hands. I’m trying to keep us in the pocket of 'dirty’ pop and legit rock.”
Crowd-pleasers: Radiohead’s “Creep,” Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” Cobra Starship’s “Snakes on a Plane”
Catch ’em live: Check myspace.com/redacappella for performances this June.
Behind the music: Invisible Men rose from the ashes of a defunct a cappella group five years ago, and eventually expanded from a quintet to an all-male powerhouse septet. “Our goals as an a cappella group are the same as any ambitious band—to play music, put on a great show, experiment in the recording studio and develop our craft,” says tenor Jason Menkes.
Singing style: Radio-friendly rock
Crowd-pleasers: The Fray’s “Over My Head (Cable Car),” the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin’”
Catch ’em live: Check invisible-men.com for upcoming performances.
mp3s: From last album, The Feast: http://www.invisible-men.com.
Behind the music: This coed sextet has been singing together in various incarnations for ten years, and it dabbles in everything from the Beatles and Stevie Wonder to U2 and jazz standards.
Singing style: “Although we sing in many styles, 70 percent of our songs are either jazz standards or jazz arrangements of popular songs,” says bass Di Zhang.
Crowd-pleasers: Bill Evans’s “Waltz for Debby” and “Very Early”
Catch ’em live: Check myspace.com/sixplay for upcoming performances.
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