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Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory
 
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Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory [Format Kindle]

Mickey Rapkin

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Extrait

Prologue

For Denise Sandole, the forty-seventh annual Grammy Awards was something to celebrate. She was working for AOL Music at the time, as a senior manager in sales, and her boss had invited her to the star-studded ceremony. It was February 13, 2005, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and she wore a polka dot dress from BCBG. “You never know if there will be a next time you attend the Grammys,” she says.

Denise was sitting upstairs in the balcony when a then unknown singer named John Legend came out onstage to introduce his mentor, Kanye West, who was nominated for a handful of awards that night. Legend himself would be nominated for eight Grammys the following year, but for now anyway he was just that handsome, well-dressed young man standing center stage. Upstairs, meanwhile, Denise was screaming like a crazy person. The thing is, she and John Legend were best friends, and they’d been sending text messages back and forth all evening. Long before John Legend would collaborate with Snoop Dogg and Alicia Keys, he’d collaborated with Denise Sandole. Back in 1997, onstage at Carnegie Hall, Denise Sandole and John Legend competed together in the National Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

As an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, Denise Sandole majored in psychology, though her mom likes to say she majored in a cappella. Denise and John met “on the a cappella audition circuit,” she says, in the mid-nineties, when the two joined the Counterparts—the university’s oldest coed a cappella group. The Counterparts had been primarily a jazz ensemble. (Denise was no stranger to jazz—her father, Dennis Sandole, had mentored John Coltrane.) But the group’s new music director pushed for a more pop sound, and with Denise and John Legend in the stable, the Counterparts suddenly had the talent to pull it off. Prince’s “One of Us,” featuring John Legend (né John Stephens) on the solo, quickly became the Counterparts anthem.

This change was not without collateral damage. Two members of the Counterparts actually quit in protest, feeling as if the musical left turn away from jazz somehow betrayed the wishes of the group’s founding fathers. “Aca politics,” Denise says. To make matters worse, a rift soon developed between the Counterparts and UPenn’s other coed a cappella group, Off the Beat—who’d built their reputation on pop music. But the campus embraced the new sound, showing up to Counterparts gigs in record numbers. The animosity only intensified when the Counterparts decided to compete in the National Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (the NCCAs), pitting them squarely against their heavily favored rivals, Off the Beat. To everyone’s surprise, in February 1998, the Counterparts triumphed at that regional quarterfinal round—and it was more of the same at the regional semifinals. The Counterparts’ set included three songs: “One of Us,” “Route 66,” and the Sophie B. Hawkins one-hit wonder, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Denise sang that solo—this little girl belting out the angst. “That song put me on the a cappella map,” Denise says. Against all odds, the Counterparts were headed for the finals of the NCCAs on April 26, 1997, at Carnegie Hall.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? In this case, you rent two yellow school buses and fill them with your Ivy League a cappella entourage.

The excitement was short-lived. Denise remembers the precise moment she knew the Counterparts had lost at the National Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. In their own shows on campus, the Counterparts regularly performed silly skits, told bad jokes, that sort of thing. “We always tried to be funny,” she says, acknowledging that the group’s humor was always hit or miss. When it came time to compete in the NCCA finals, she says, “We wanted to be true to ourselves.” And so, onstage at Carnegie Hall, in front of two thousand eager a cappella fans, Denise’s friend Sloan Alexander of the Counterparts dropped his tuxedo pants, revealing a black lace garter belt underneath. “He made some joke about running late, and how he wanted to get dressed up for Carnegie Hall,” Denise says. This had been a gross miscalculation on their part. “We thought, We’re a college group. We entertain our peers! But that was wrong. We were there to entertain the judges.” There was a long, deadly silence from the audience. “We knew right then,” Denise says. “We’re like, oops, wrong crowd, wrong crowd.” She acknowledges they should have played it safe, “like the group that won.” That would be the Stanford Talisman. “They did, like, world music. They were very politically correct. We went for the bathroom humor. And we were outclassed!”


A cappella is Italian for “like the chapel,” and it describes perhaps the oldest form of music, the kind made without any accompaniment at all. That a cappella began with Gregorian chant in the church shouldn’t come as a surprise—what’s closer to God than the unadorned voice? The music then traveled. In time, the Puritans would embrace shape-note singing and a book of vocal spirituals called The Sacred Harp. Call-and-response singing from Africa, meanwhile, would mingle with these vocal traditions to become American gospel. Somewhere along the way, what began as a service to a higher power went secular. Then it went pop. This is how:

In 1931, the Mills Brothers recorded Swing It, Sister. The sleeve read: “No musical instruments or mechanical devices used on this recording other than one guitar.” Uh, then where did that trumpet come from? Harry Mills, as legend has it, forgot to bring his kazoo to the studio one day, which is how he figured out he could do a passable trumpet solo with just his lips. Still, some critics remained skeptical.

On September 26, 1936, Norman Rockwell’s “Barbershop Quartet” appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Two years later, at a hotel in Kansas City, two traveling businessmen from Tulsa would form the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, affectionately known as SPEBSQSA. (Both Bing Crosby and Groucho Marx were later members.) Despite the name, they took themselves quite seriously, calling barbershop singing “the last remaining vestige of human liberty,” reports Gage Averill in his book Four Parts, No Waiting. In the fifties, when Disneyland Park fi rst opened, Walt Disney himself installed a barbershop quartet, the Dapper Dans, to perform on Main Street six days a week. (When the original Dapper Dans left for a spot on The Mickey Finn Show, Disney kept the name and found four new Dans.)

Barbershop most certainly had its roots in Africa, in the chanting and the close harmony—though that genre of chant would come to be known as mbube (pronounced EEM-boo-beh) thanks to the success of Solomon Linda’s 1939 song “Mbube.” You may be familiar with this tune. Pete Seeger and the Weavers covered “Mbube” in the 1950s, singing wimoweh instead of mbube. And thus “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was born.

In 1952 Sam Cooke sang with the Soul Stirrers—perhaps the first mingling of a cappella gospel and rock ’n’ roll. In 1954, the Chordettes (the first big female barbershop quartet) released “Mr. Sandman.” Barbershop further crossed over in 1962 when the Buffalo Bills appeared in The Music Man. In 1968, Frank Zappa released the Persuasions’ first album, A Cappella.

In the seventies a group called the Nylons first got together in, of all places, a Toronto delicatessen. In 1981, the Manhattan Transfer released Mecca for Moderns, concluding the album with an a cappella track, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” which won a Grammy for Gene Puerling. In 1983, Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” blew a cappella wide, paving the way for Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in 1988. Doug E. Fresh brought beatboxing to the mainstream (or closer, anyway) with the 1986 track “The Show.” (“I am the original human beatbox,” he sang.) That same year, Paul Simon released Graceland, a collaboration with South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo (who, themselves, went on to tour the States, performing on Saturday Night Live, even recording a jingle for MTV).

A cappella continued to assault pop music. In 1990, Spike Lee produced a documentary for PBS called Do It A Cappella, which introduced the world to four very white guys called Rockapella, who would soon land a gig as the house band on the PBS kiddie show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, introducing a whole new generation to a cappella music. (The show was not entirely altruistic, for the record. Up in the control room, employees would bet on which kid would win, says Sean Altman, then the lead singer of Rockapella.) One year later, Boyz II Men had a number-one hit with “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” In 2004, Toxic Audio started an open-ended run off- Broadway at the John Houseman Theater.

Which doesn’t really explain how a cappella became one of the most celebrated pursuits on our nation’s college campuses.

There are more than twelve hundred collegiate a cappella groups in the United States alone. And the good ones, well, it’s not what you think. A cappella has come a long way in the one hundred years since it evolved from glee clubs into a traditi...

From Publishers Weekly

According to GQ senior editor Rapkin, today's lively collegiate a cappella groups boast hip-hop repertory, professional vocal arrangements, competitions at Lincoln Center and a world shrunk by the Internet. During the 2006–2007 college season, Rapkin, an alum of a Cornell all-male singing club, followed three a cappella powerhouses: Divisi, an all-girl group from the University of Oregon, the testosterone-driven Hullabahoos of the University of Virginia, and Beelzebubs, from Tufts. Each is a collective with a score to settle, a tradition to honor. Robbed of a championship in 2005, Divisi wants payback; the Hullabahoos want respect without forfeiting their frat-boy charm; and the controversial Bubs want to hone their edge. Throughout, Rapkin engages with celebrity trivia (Heroes' Masi Oka sang a cappella at Brown) and music criticism. He profiles the cottage recording industry built from college a cappella. Most notably, he riffs through signature events and crisis moments with a snarky humor (onstage Divisi looks like the women in that Robert Palmer video) that turns each chapter into a picaresque progression toward graduation. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 399 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 308 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 159240376X
  • Editeur : Gotham Books; Édition : Reprint (29 mai 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B0013TX8KG
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°228.346 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires en ligne 

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Amazon.com: 3.7 étoiles sur 5  43 commentaires
16 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 not quite as good as I expected from the other reviews... 29 juin 2008
Par ThreeLionsGarage - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I sang in my college and graduate school a cappella groups, so I was very excited to hear about this book and eager to read it hoping to relive the many unique and hard-to-describe experiences and emotions that I experienced during my years in the two cappella groups. While I think Mr. Rapkin does a good job relating some of the novel situations and inside stories of some of the best groups in Collegiate a cappella, once I finished the book (and even several times while reading it), the stories and anecdotes never sufficiently grabbed my interest. At the heart of it, that may be the biggest hurdle to overcome in relating these experiences--what happens to the members of an a cappella group is fundamentally only really interesting for those same members. The events just aren't as entertaining in the narrative as they must have been for the subjects as they occurred. Furthermore, the characters featured in the book show themselves through numerous examples to be so self-absorbed and self-aggrandizing that once I finished it, the book seemed to me to be a squandered reading opportunity--I wish I had read something else.
12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Perfect Summer Read! 31 mai 2008
Par J. Withers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
After reading about it in Rolling Stone and USA Today on the same day, I decided to buy it. AND IT'S GREAT. It reads so well and is so funny, kinda like the movie Bring It On, but this is about college singers. I had no idea that this whole world existed and I didn't even go to college that long ago. It didn't matter that I didn't know about a cappella, though, because the author gives you all the background you need, while also keeping the story going. Apparently, Mickey Rapkin's an editor at GQ; I'll have to look out for him.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Beelzebubs, Divisi & Hullabahoos -- behind the scenes 9 septembre 2008
Par Carol C. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I often wondered what became of some of the guys in my college's a cappella group -- they seemed to be so consumed by the activity, allowing it to dominate & define their entire college experience, oblivious to classes and grades and similar trivialities. How I underestimated the commitment -- for the members of the three groups featured in this book -- the Tufts Beelzebubs, the UVA Hullabahoos, and the University of Oregon Divisi, coursework and academic activities are an afterthought to their core collegiate experience -- a cappella. The groups travel extensively, train, communicate internally with special language, perform, recruit -- it's pretty all- consuming. The other thing that is particularly striking is how the a cappella experience endures -- seems like many of the alum don't want their experience to end and find some way of continuing to keep their finger in the pot -- through arranging music, participating in alumni singing activities, donations -- rather than finding a grown-up job.

This is non-fiction that reads like fiction -- the characters are well developed and the conflict is ongoing. What I liked best about this book: you really get to know the members of the three featured groups -- their goofy antics, their personality conflicts, the stars & the not-so-stellar performers, all the dirty laundry -- and (assuming you're reading this in 2008), you can go to the groups' websites and see bios of many of the individual singers featured in the book. It's like the epilogue to a movie that features "where they are now". Kind of fun. The book also reveals the quirkiness and cleverness of the a cappella crowd -- the group names are priceless.

One of the other reviewers noted that when you get right down to it, the characters really aren't all that interesting -- they're self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing college students. Perhaps that is precisely why it is so interesting. These are just quirky college kids, completely dedicated to this craft (spending hours on end rehearsing, recording, coming up with clever choreography), occasionnally professional and responsible, and, at the same time, incredibly irresponsible and immature (not showing up on time for critical engagements, getting into literal pissing contests) and lacking any business sense (not invoicing for performances). Reading this took me right back to college -- and reminded me of a number of classmates who were consumed by one activity or another.

I would have liked to know a little bit more about more groups, instead of focusing exclusively on these three -- but perhaps that will have to wait for another book. By the way, I googled the one guy I remembered from my college's a cappella group, and sure enough -- his "job" involves staging college musical productions.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 For aficionados only 25 mai 2013
Par Marc K - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
The work is certainly well-researched, and the author well conveys a lot of the atmosphere of the competitions as well as vast amounts of information. But I think the book is really best aimed at people with an intense interest in the subject. For the rest of us it might come across as dull. In other words, not nearly as approachable as the movie if that's what you are thinking. Read Chapter 1 on Kindle sample before you decide.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 couldn't stop reading 11 juin 2008
Par shainala - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
i devoured this book in one day--today--and was alternately enthralled by the stories of the individual groups, fascinated by the facts i never knew, and laughing my head off at the author's sarcasm and wit.
i have been a big follower of collegiate a cappella for a few years now; both my older brother and i are in groups at our universities and my uncle was a part of Cornell's Hangovers. I have attended countless shows, both professional (Five O'Clock Shadow is my favorite group on the face of the earth) and collegiate, including the ICCA semifinals. needless to say, i thought i had a pretty good knowledge of the world of college a cappella. this book showed me i was wrong, and in the best way! It also made me interested in groups i'd never heard of, and i will most definately be on the lookout for some CDs...
I will also be recommending this to any and all a capella fans i know and just about anyone else who likes a good story.
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