Why did the chicken art cross the road?

Our last afternoon in Dubai is spent talking business, rehearsing Christmas music and throwing together a hotel room iPhone cover of the Doctor Who theme, to put out in time for the 50th anniversary special. The Swingles and the Doctor share a birthday, and we’re both regenerating spacetime travellers, so it seems apt. Plus, Sara can sing real high like a theremin.

It feels good to bring an idea to fruition so quickly – even if it is just a bit of ephemeral fun – and to watch the likes and tweets and comments roll in. What did needy artists do before we had instant feedback to obsess over?  Continue reading

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Ice sculptures on the beach, and other obvious metaphors for pretend fame.

What is SoJam? It’s the biggest geek-out and knees-up on the aca-calendar, held over a weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Pitch Perfect made flesh, if that helps.) For us, it’s three days of being fussed over and enfolded in a community of talent and warmth and silliness, an artificial moment of celebrity to be savoured in small doses. The grassroots participants of a festival like this are college groups, and although I feel almost a generation removed from them, I have to remind myself that it’s less than five years since I was singing in such a group, cooing over the Swingle Singers and wondering if I’d ever get to audition for them. At least two of the festival’s staff and workshop leaders competed in the 2007 ICCA finals in New York, as I did, and the last time we hung out we were under 21 and couldn’t buy a drink. Haven’t we grown?

Singing for an entire audience of singers is scary, but we rise to the occasion and our gig is met with the rabid enthusiasm that belongs uniquely to this kind of festival. The highlight for me is having the whole crowd sing along to my song Burden. Check it.

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Tippling / toddling.

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On a crisp Sunday morning, Greeneville TN is a small town straight from a Hollywood backlot. The red-brick-and-white churches and courthouse gleam in the November sun, and the only movement is a flutter of the Stars & Stripes and a rustle of russet leaves. Nothing’s open on main street.

The lull comes after the first show of the tour, a homecoming triumph for Greeneville girl Sara. The gig, and the brunch her family laid on for us beforehand (squash casserole, biscuits and gravy, sweet potato pie) are a mighty fine advertisement for Tennessean hospitality. For Sara, the day is presumably one of those dreams in which you’re suddenly in a room with everyone you’ve ever met.

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Make like a lump, and split.

We’re at the start of an insane four week tour. Tennessee, North Carolina, Chicago, North Carolina again, Chicago again, Indianapolis, Dubai, Seoul, home. I’m pretty proficient by now when it comes estimating luggage weight, packing quarters for the coin laundry, collecting frequent flyer points and so on. As I packed I was thinking about how to be good traveller in the more, forgive me, spiritual sense. Being present, open-eyed, keen-eared, not letting experiences go to waste – it’s an ongoing project. It’s why I’ve resolved to write more about our trips (no, for real, I mean it this time.) And I’ve realised a lot of it comes back to lumping and splitting.

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This Will Be Our Year

Happy New Year! I made this for you (yes you).

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On the shoulders of giants

I’m not very good at the whole “albums of the year” thing. I only intermittently plug myself into current releases, so always miss a lot of gems and find myself playing catch-up at the end of the year. If there’s one record that grabbed me and kept me coming back for more in 2012, though, it’s Love This Giant by David Byrne and St Vincent. The songs are often as odd and misshapen as the cover art, but the hooks and the great horn arrangements bring me out in a big grin.

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Don’t be a curmudgeon! Come to Cadogan!

There will come a time, and it will be soon, when I shall bring forth an almighty brain-dump about the amazing month of travelling and performing I’ve had. Swingles spent three weeks in the US and Canada and, if I’m honest, my overriding thought at the moment is that I’m glad we were there then and not now, with Hurricane Sandy fast approaching landfall. But I have more to say than that rather selfish little nugget, and I must must do it, if only for the pleasure of remembering and re-living.

More pressing, though, is the fact that we have a HUGE MASSIVE EXCITING GIG at Cadogan Hall this Friday. Tickets are here. Best purchase you’ll ever make.

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