Live Music Review: The Swingles Return to Vancouver

Five-time Grammy winners perform at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts with a new sound.

The boundaries of vocal music have been challenged by The Swingles time and time again. The seven Swingle singers based in London are always eager to innovate and have been discovering novel ways of singing since the 1960s. The amazing a cappella singers are masters of their craft, and they proved it during their visit to the Chan Centre. “I am amazed at the vocal prowess of this group, of their arrangements, and of their steadfast pursuit of the a cappella art form in jazz and more traditional idioms,” said Willi Zwozdesky, the executive director of the British Columbia Choral Federation. Zwozdesky has been a career choral musician, and has also worked as the conductor of the Vancouver Men’s Chorus and as a well-established choral arranger. 

The Swingles have showcased their talent on various film and TV soundtracks, including Sex and the CityWedding CrashersGrey’s Anatomy and Glee. Thanks to the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, who were the presenters of this event, The Swingles were able to visit Canada once again as they have been connected to the international network of talent agents for some time. “It was through [The British Columbia Conservation Foundation] that we were made aware of The Swingles’ current tour. Also, our Vice President Paul Cummings recently heard them on stage in Eastern Europe and was completely enthralled – his enthusiasm has further inspired us,” Zwozdesky said. 

As the performance began, the audience was captured by the sound of the singers’ voices as the music lifted them up off their seats. When listening to their original content, people clapped and joined in on the songs. The stage presence from the seven singers inspired and uplifted the crowd in a very unique way. “Through my personal work in a vocal jazz quartet, I have a long established connection with The Swingles’ early roots and repertoire. My interest in a cappella ensemble singing continues, and groups like The Swingles inspire me through the possibilities I can hear in their current and developing repertoire and style,” Zwozdesky shared. The group’s versatile sound and arrangements were diverse and gripping from the first moment they stepped on stage. The Swingles have collaborated with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Jamie Cullum and Labrinth, among others. Through the performance of their arrangements and online platforms, it is evident their repertoire has grown to include a huge variety of music, including pop, jazz, folk, contemporary classical and new upbeat original songs. 

The Vancouver music scene has grown over the years, and The Swingles have been an inspiration for this growth. “I have worked in the Vancouver music industry since arriving here in 1981. I have a deep respect and admiration for the musicians and musical organizations we have here, and for the international recognition of our city’s music scene. What I’ve been taught is to expect changes in the scene, but these changes are not destabilizing – solid foundations, dedication, skilled performance and presentation practices and talent withstand changes,” Zwozdesky shared. 

The Swingles have been in the music industry for almost 60 years, and they continue to impress with their harmonies and pure sounds. Especially through their folk-inspired songs, which transmit such happiness and joy. Of course, from The Swingles stemmed a wide stream of new a cappella groups that are making the music scene thrive, such as the Canadian group Pentatonix. “The a cappella small ensemble scene is burgeoning. [To find similar a cappella groups] the first course of action would be to search online, where a wide variety of groups of varying sizes will appear. I would also search for vocal jazz.”  

After the show, The Swingles’ member Federica Basile shared her advice for younger musicians and vocalists. “Follow your gut feeling and believe you can do what you set up yourself to do. If I hadn’t followed my own gut feeling, I wouldn’t have been able to sing with these wonderful people. And here I am. So you can do it,” she said.  

To learn more about The Swingles, visit www.theswingles.co.uk/. 

 

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