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A Cappella? Is That How You Spell It?

The phrase a cappella is among the most butchered and misunderstood musical term s. The predominant, and most "correct" spelling, is ... a cappella - two words, two "p's", two "l's." A Cappella, A Picky Definition Musicologists have fun debating the extent to which a cappella, 'in the style of the chapel,' can include instrumental accompaniment. Some argue that early sacred a cappella perf ormances would sometimes include instruments that double a human voice part. So, the correct de finition of a cappella should be something like 'singing without independent instrumental acco mpaniment.' At Primarily A Cappella, we are trying to popularize this style of music, so we like to keep it simple. a cappella - two words, two "p's", two "l's." singing without instruments A Capella? Some musical dictionaries indicate that the Italian a cappella is preferred over the Latin a capella (one "p") yet both are technically correct. Why do those dictionaries muddy the waters with two spellings? The phrase was first used in Italian Catholic churches, where Latin was uage for sacred text. Thus, the Latin spelling for 'in the style of the chapel' - a capella historical basis. However, most other musical terms - forte, accelerando, and many others alian in origin. Since the Italian spelling is more consistent with other musical terms, een used more frequently. the lang has some - are It it has b

Given the difficulty of spelling our favorite style of music, we'd like to endor se the simplicity of a single spelling: a cappella - two words, two "p's", two "l's." singing without instruments Acappella Joining the two Italian words together to make Acappella is a popular variation in the U.S. For many streetcorner singing fans, Acappella means unaccompanied singing of 'fifties (an d early 'sixties) songs. There were a series of recordings released in the early 1960's of Mid-Atl antic

unaccompanied doo-wop groups called "The Best of Acappella." The liner notes on the first LP noted that Acappella means "singing without music." In this matter we do tend to wards being picky instruments do not alone music make! A cappella (or Acappella) singers make musi c while they are ... singing without instruments A more recent, second meaning of Acappella has emerged. The Contemporary Christi an group Acappella is the first formed by prolific songwriter Keith Lancaster. In the ear ly 1990's he added Acappella Vocal Band (now mostly known as AVB) and "Acappella: The Series" which uses studio singers (plus LOTS of electronic help) to perform songs around specific themes. All of these efforts are now combined in The Acappella Company. The good news is they have sold milli ons of recordings and have contributed greatly to the awareness of a cappella. The bad news is they have popularized a spelling variation, and through the heavy use of electronically ma nipulated voice (which can sound like any other synthesized instrument) have chipped away at the idea o f ... singing without instruments. A Capela This spelling is totally wrong, and yet has been used by those who should know b etter. The most prominent occurrence is on the re-release of first album by the Singers Unlimite d. Originally titled "Try to Remember," this very popular collection of vocal jazz arrangements by Ge ne Puerling has no doubt led some to misspell, or at least question the correct spelling of ... a cappella - two words, two "p's", two "l's." singing without instruments Occapella The Manhattan Transfer sang a song with this title on their debut, eponymous alb um. Ironically, the whole song is accompanied, as are most of their songs by this group, so one can only guess at the intended meaning. The lyrics "Everything's gonna be mellow, Listen while we sing it occapella" precede a refrain of scat-like harmony (with the band receding into the backgrou nd but still audible). Also ironically, The Manhattan Transfer are often the group music lovers think o f when they hear the phrase "a cappella." Many people associate "close harmony" with "a cappella," wh ich certainly makes a great deal of sense. Popular twentieth century a cappella is characteriz ed by extensive use of close harmony - when voices separated by small intervals (seconds, thirds, fo

urths) sing the same rhythm and words. The Manhattan Transfer sing great close harmony, but most of i t includes instrumental accompaniment. Only a handful of their dozens of songs are performe d a cappella. Oxapello? (yech!) The Blenders open their second album "From the Mouth" with a schtick by this tit le. On this brief cut, the group is trying to discuss their new recording with an unenlightened ag ent, who keeps referring to the style of 'Oxapello.' Hopefully the next time you run into someo ne similarly confused, you'll remember to politely tell them: a cappella - two words, two "p's", two "l's." singing without instruments A Cappello On the Trenchcoats' second album, "Your Joy," one of the fun originals is "A Cap pello Blues." The phrase is sung straight (that is, pronounced incorrectly) until the final chorus , when a hesitating voice-over says "uh, isn't it, a cappella, with an "a"?" By now, hopefully, you' ve got the correct spelling emblazed in your brain. Why "Primarily" A Cappella? Singing without instruments comes in many shapes and sizes. One of the attractio ns for artists is the nearly unlimited pallet the voice provides. The same singer can sound sultry and sexy one minute, cold and machine-like the next, then change to a trumpet, and morph again to a s oft harmonic background "ooooh." In short, a cappella enables "out of the box" music - art that defies singular c ategorization. It's not surprising, then, that the artists who create breathtaking, out of the box a cappella performances sometimes want to add instruments. The vocal pallet does have some limitations, after all. We endorse artistic creativity, and so we include recordings that include a ccompanied songs along with a cappella performances. Another issue debated among purists is whether a cappella allows for percussion accompaniment. While we think the Nylons, Acappella and others should be allowed to describe th emselves as "singing without instruments" without saying 'but with a drum track,' our 'prima rily' moniker allows us to step aside and let customers decide. Of course, it's not always the artists that choose to add instruments. Recording industry executives

by and large don't appreciate the marketing potential of a cappella beyond the t oken ballad cover. So, many groups performing luscious close harmony capable of standing on its own are told by their record labels in no uncertain terms that the recordings will include instruments . Still, the music is appreciated by the same fans who love pure a cappella ... and those fans are our customers, so we want to alert you to great harmony wherever it's found! Finally, some of the best close harmony in vocal jazz and doo-wop is found on 10 0% accompanied recordings. Many a cappella aficionados are also fans of the Hi-Lo's, The Four F reshmen and similar groups. We want to be your one-stop shop! In most of our recording reviews, we mention how many of the songs are unaccompa nied by instruments so that you won't be shocked.