The Swingle Singers
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The Swingle Singers
|Genres||Jazz, classical, vocal pop|
The Swingles are a vocal group formed in 1962 in Paris, France by Ward Swingle; with Anne Germain, Claude Germain, Jeanette Baucomont, Christiane Legrand, Claudine Meunier, Jean-Claude Briodin, and Jean Cussac.
The group, directed originally by Ward Swingle (who once belonged to Mimi Perrin's French vocal group Les Double Six), began as session singers mainly doing background vocals for singers such as Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf. Christiane Legrand, sister of Michel Legrand, was the original lead soprano with the group until 1972. The ensemble sang some jazz vocals for Michel Legrand. The eight session singers sang through Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier as a sight-reading exercise and found the music to have a natural swing.
They recorded their first album Jazz Sébastien Bach as a present for friends and relatives. Many radio stations picked it up and this led to the group recording more albums and winning a total of five Grammy Awards.
Until 2011, the group consisted of eight voices: two sopranos, two altos, two tenors and two basses. The French group performed and recorded typically with only a double bass and drums as accompaniment. In 1973, Ward Swingle disbanded the original French group when he and his family moved to London. He later hired members who debuted as Swingle II with its initial emphasis moved from classical music to a cappella madrigals. The current group performs primarily,but not exclusively a cappella and has explored a wide range of styles over the decades.
The group later performed and recorded under the name The Swingles, then The New Swingle Singers and The Swingle Singers before settling on The Swingles. The group has never disbanded. As individual members have left the group, remaining members have held auditions for replacements. Ward Swingle continued as a performer in the group until retiring to the United States in 1984 and taking the role of "artistic director" of the Swingles,
An early hit for the group was Bach's "Air on the G String", recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet; it has been used as the theme tune to a popular Italian TV Show, Superquark, as well as the Swedish Children's program, Beppe's Godnattstrund, hosted by Beppe Wolgers. Luciano Berio wrote his postmodern symphony Sinfonia for eight voices and orchestra in 1968 with the Swingle Singers in mind (appearing on the original premiere recording with the New York Philharmonic). They also premiered Berio's A-Ronne in 1974, which they later recorded. They also recorded Ben Johnston's "Sonnets of Desolation" in 1984.
In 2005, their recording of Bach's Prelude in F Minor was incorporated into the hit single "They", by Jem Griffiths; the piece was also used in the 2006 film The Gigolos. The group's music has a trademark sound and is used frequently on television (The West Wing, Sex and the City, Miami Vice, Glee), in movies (Bach's Fugue in G Minor (BWV 578) in Thank You for Smoking, Mozart's "Horn Concerto No. 4" in Wedding Crashers, Bach's "Prelude No.7 in E flat [The Well Tempered Clavier – Book 2 BWV 876]" in Milk).
The London group sang with French pop star Étienne Daho on his songs "Timide intimité" and "Soudain" from his 1996 album Eden, and with the Style Council on their song "The Story of Someone's Shoe" from the 1988 album Confessions of a Pop Group. They appeared several times on the BBC Television sketch show The Two Ronnies in the early 1970s.
The Swingle Singers produce covers ranging from pop songs (Björk, Annie Lennox and the Beatles) to classical music (Bach, Mozart) to Contemporary Music (Luciano Berio, Pascal Zavaro and Azio Corghi). Their arrangements are often infused with jazz harmonies and stylings.
In February 2019, the current members are:
- Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson (soprano, UK)
- Federica Basile (soprano, Italy)
- Imogen Parry (alto, UK and daughter of former Swingle, Ben Parry)
- Oliver Griffiths (tenor, UK) (Replaced Richard Eteson mid-2010)
- Jon Smith (tenor, US) (In February 2016, replaced Christopher Jay who left in 2015)
- Kevin Fox (baritone, Canada) (In March 2019, it was announced that Fox would be leaving the group at the end of the Summer. Auditions were held in September, but as of January 2020, no replacement has been announced.)
- Edward Randell (bass, UK)
- Sound engineer: Hugh Walker (UK)
In September 2011, Lucy Bailey (alto) left the group and the Swingle Singers announced the decision not to replace her, but to continue as a seven-person line-up.
Ward Swingle, who formed the group, died at the age of 87 on 19 January 2015.
- Jazz Sebastien Bach (Philips, 1963)
- Anyone for Mozart? (Philips, 1964)
- Going Baroque (Philips, 1964)
- Les Romantiques (Philips, 1965)
- Place Vendome with Modern Jazz Quartet (Philips, 1966)
- Rococo a Go Go (Philips, 1966)
- Concerto D'Aranjuez: Sounds of Spain (Philips, 1967)
- J. S. Bach (Philips, 1968)
- Jazz Von Bach Bis Chopin (Philips, 1968)
- Noels Sans Passeport (Philips, 1968)
- Jazz Sebastian Bach Volume 2 (Philips, 1968)
- Sinfonia/Visage with Luciano Berio, New York Philharmonic, Cathy Berberian (CBS, 1969)
- American Look (Philips, 1969)
- Bitter Ending with Andre Hodeir (Epic, 1972)
- Les 4 Saisons (Philips, 1972)
- The Joy of Singing (Philips, 1972)
- Attention! The Swingle Singers (Fontana, 1973)
- Swinging Bach (Fontana, 1974)
- Jazz Meets Baroque (Fontana, 1976)
- Swingle Bells (Columbia, 1978)
- Swingle Skyliner (Columbia, 1979)
- Folio (MMG, 1980)
- Instrumentals (Polydor, 1986)
- Christmas (Polydor, 1986)
- Sinfonia Eindrucke with Orchestre National De France (Erato, 1986)
- Nothing but Blue Skies (Trax, 1988)
- 1812 (Swingle Singers, 1989)
- The Bach Album (Swingle Singers, 1990)
- A Cappella Amadeus: A Mozart Celebration (Virgin, 1991)
- Around the World/Folk Music/An A Cappela Song Collection (Virgin, 1991)
- Notability (Swingle Singers, 1993)
- Bach Hits Back (Virgin, 1994)
- Pretty Ringtime: English Twentieth Century Songs (Swingle Singers, 1994)
- New World (Swingle Singers, 1995)
- The Story of Christmas (Primarily a Cappella 1998)
- Screen Tested (Swingle Singers, 1998)
- Ticket to Ride (Swingle Singers, 1999)
- Keyboard Classics (Swingle Singers, 2002)
- Mood Swings (Primarily a Cappella 2002)
- Retrospective: The 40th Anniversary Show (Sounds Good 2003)
- Unwrapped (Swingle Singers, 2004)
- Ferris Wheels (Swingle Singers, 2009)
- Weather to Fly (World Village 2013)
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1158. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
- "Awards". Los Angeles Times.
- "The Swingles". Theswingles.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- [dead link]
- Max Dembo (9 November 2011). "Christiane Legrand est morte". Qobuz. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Francis Mermande (8 November 2011). "André Hodeir, musicien, compositeur, écrivain, théoricien du jazz". Le Monde. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Rémi C., "Unreleased recording: "Pavane for a dead Princess" (Ravel) by The Swingle Singers (1967)", Dans l'ombre des studios, 28 September 2014.