The Swingle Singers
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.
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, the original French group disbanded and Ward Swingle moved to London and hired members who debuted as Swingle II. The current group performs primarily a cappella.
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.
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 Klavier 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.
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 premier 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.
The Swingle Singers are curators of the London A Cappella Festival, based at Kings Place.
In July 2018, 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)
- Edward Randell (bass, UK)
- Sound engineer: Hugh Walker (UK)
Ward Swingle, who formed the group, died at the age of 87 on 19 January 2015.
The Paris-based Swingle Singers recorded regularly for Philips in the 1960s and early 1970s. The successor group continued to record, after the move to London, for Columbia / CBS, Virgin Classics and other record labels from 1974 to the present.
- Los Angeles Awards Database
- New Hit Show "Glee" Goes A Cappella
- New Tenor 1
- New Tenor 2
- "Swingle Singers Become Seven" 31 August 2011 www.swinglesingers.com. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- "A New Adventure Starting for Lucy" www.swinglesingers.com. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- 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.