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Thomas J. West Music

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Great Performances

Performances that inspire and impress. Enjoy.

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  • Great Performances: The Real Group Perfo...
    by ★ Owner on May 10, 2013 at 7:56 AM
    1337 Views - 0 Comments

    I am a big fan of vocal jazz, especially unaccompanied vocal jazz. My all-time favorite vocal group is and will always be The Singers Unlimited. Among their many jaw-dropping recordings, one of my favorites is this rendition of the 1947 song "Nature Boy" written by Eden Abhez and made famous by Nat King Cole.

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    The Singers Unlimited were one of the most influential groups in American history, and yet they fly under the radar for so many people who consider themselves vocal music fans. One of the many groups that The Singers Unlimited has influenced in measurable ways are Sweeden's perennial vocal jazz artists The Real Group. They have been touring the world for over 28 years and continue to deliver the kind of jaw-dropping harmony that began with the overdubbing vocal masterworks of Gene Puerling.

    Here is a new recording of The Real Group performing their own arrangement of "Nature Boy" for a live audience. The precision of intonation and artistry of this recording, especially in a live setting, is nothing short of amazing. While there certainly were post-performance adjustments and mixing made to the video, none of that takes away from this performance. In fact, it enhances it.

    "Nature Boy" is one of my most favorite songs. There is something about its melancholy words, chromatic melody, and underlying harmony that makes the main message of the lyrics that much more poignant. It's as if the song's statement of wisdom, which is "The greatest thing you'll ever learn in just to love and be loved in return", was discovered by the boy through many personal trials and tribulations despite his youth.

    I hope you take a moment to put on some headphones or go to a quiet space to listen to both The Singers Unlimited version and this new recording.

    This article (c) 2013 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: Kevin Olusola Cellob...
    by ★ Owner on May 1, 2013 at 9:50 AM
    1206 Views - 0 Comments

    Kevin "K. O." Olusola is a classically-trained cellist and a professional beatboxer. He has risen to prominence as one half of the rhythm section of YouTube sensations Pentatonix. He was first asked to join Pentatonix for their run on season 3 of The Sing-Off when they saw his first celloboxing video.

    While Kevin is touring and recording full-time with Pentatonix, he still practices cello daily and has returned with another solo cello/beatboxing performance. This time, it is a cover of Rhianna's popular "Diamonds", a song I find mind-numbingly repetitive in its original release. There is hidden emotional depth to the song, however, as Kevin demonstrated. It was also demonstrated recently by the Northeastern University's Nor'Easters a cappella group during their championship performance at the 2013 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

    Kevin's prowess on the cello is quite obvious, but to combine that with equally skilled vocal percussion is indeed a rare ability. I look forward to seeing much more from Kevin in the years to come.

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  • Pentatonix Takes Us On A Tour Of Vocal M...
    by ★ Owner on April 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM
    1188 Views - 0 Comments

    Pentatonix, the season 3 winners of NBC's "The Sing-Off" have yet again released another jaw-dropping video on YouTube. This time, they take us on a tour of vocal music history from the 11th century all the way up to today's mega-hits - all in 4 and a half minutes. Not only are their skills readily on display as usual, they do a pretty good job of encapsulating some of the most influential vocal music in the 20th and 21st centuries. Not everyone will resonate with all of their choices for the past several decades, but the video quite effortlessly shows how the experience of being human and making music has exploded and grown at a blistering pace over the last 100 years.

    This article (c) 2013 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: The Real Group Pass ...
    by ★ Owner on June 12, 2013 at 8:26 AM
    1185 Views - 0 Comments

    This has been a week of YouTube magic! This is my third "Great Performances" post in a row, because the amazing performances just keep on coming.

    The Real Group is back with their second video from their "Sodermalm Sessions" live recordings. Yep, that's right - this is from a live recording. Yes, there is post production clean-up and some camera editing, but the precision and artistry of The Real Group is hard to fathom. Attending one of their live shows is definitely on my "to do" list. Enjoy.

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  • Great Performances: Electric Guitar Perf...
    by ★ Owner on July 30, 2013 at 3:49 PM
    1172 Views - 0 Comments

    Here again is another example of what happens when a young person finds what they have a high aptitude for early on and devotes their time and energy on mastering the skills of music performance. This YouTube video, posted less that 24 hours ago, already has over 5,000 plus views and has been picked up by Lifehacker and other sites.

    Fourteen-year-old "Tina S.", a student of Renaud Louis-Servais, performs a cover of Patrick Rondat's guitar adaptation of the Presto movement of Vivaldi's "Summer". The performance speaks for itself. Pick it up on iTunes here.

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  • Great Performances: Eric Whitacre's Virt...
    by ★ Owner on July 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM
    1160 Views - 0 Comments

    Virtual Choir 4
    Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir

    I took a few moments out of my continued preparations for this weekend's VoCALnation festival to finally watch Eric Whitacre's newest Virtual Choir offering. I have featured his previous three installments on my site in the past, and was expecting another great effort. My expectations were totally shattered and I sat transfixed by Whitacre's video for his original composition Fly to Paradise.

    The numbers are staggering: 8,409 VIDEOS FEATURING 5,905 SINGERS FROM 101 COUNTRIES. What else could you do with them but build a city? The sheer amount of work that goes into sorting those videos, let alone compile them, lift the audio tracks, edit, mix, and master each of them is nothing short of mind-boggling. The computer-animated angel in the video strikes me as a bit early-two-thousands-ish, but the cityscape and the images of the featured soprano soloists on billboards is humbling.

    The song itself, in typical Whitacre fashion, features lush chords crafted with emotional direction and aesthetic beauty. Choir purists will balk at the electronica accompaniment, but Whitacre and his team (including a cappella community member Peter Hollens, who supplied the guide tracks and recorded his own performances) have produced true 21st century art with this video. It transcends the first three virtual choirs and elevates the choral art form into a place among and above the vast ocean of quarter-inch-deep, overproduced electronica, dubstep, and club music.

    Now the only question is, how do they top themselves next time?

    Fly Me to Paradise is available on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify worldwide. Visit the VC4 YouTube page for links. Enjoy this stirring video.

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  • Great Performances - US Marine Band Perf...
    by ★ Owner on November 22, 2013 at 12:48 PM
    1155 Views - 0 Comments

    John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait

    Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assasination of United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. While I am too young to have experienced this event in person, I understand the gravitas that events like this have on the consciousness of a culture. My first experience with such an event was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded during takeoff. I remember where I was when the mass school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado occurred. And of course, I remember vividly the events of September 11, 2001 when the World Trade towers fell.

    To commemorate the day, The United States Marine Band posted this recording of their performance of Robert LoPresti's most well-known work "Elegy for a Young American". It is a piece written to express the composer's own grief upon hearing the news that the President had been killed, and it encapsulates much of the sentiment of the country in the days following this tragic event.

    I myself played the third clarinet part to this piece as a member of the PMEA District 1 Honors Band at Duquesne University in the winter of 1990 under the baton of the Hartt School's Stanley DeRusha (now at Butler University). This piece, along with many others that concert, shaped my musical life in very important ways.

    On this somber occasion, music often expresses what words cannot. Allow the excellence of the Marine Band to speak of that tragic day, that we might not see another like it.

    This article (c) 2013 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: Philadelphia Orchest...
    by ★ Owner on June 10, 2013 at 8:47 PM
    1139 Views - 0 Comments

    When a group from The Philadelphia Orchestra found itself delayed on the tarmac for three hours waiting for their flight from Beijing to Macao as part of the 2013 Residency & Fortieth Anniversary Tour of China, a quartet of musicians decided to provide a "pop up" performance for the passengers.


    Juliette Kang, violin

    Daniel Han, violin

    Che-Hung Chen, viola

    Yumi Kendall, cello

    The piece is the final movement of the "American" string quartet by Antonin Dvorak

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  • Great Performances: Symphony of Science ...
    by ★ Owner on August 29, 2013 at 9:19 PM
    1133 Views - 0 Comments

    John D. Boswell is one of my favorite 21st Century music artists. He specializes in taking recorded speech and turning into singing using pitch correction software, then building musical accompaniments around the melodies he has created. His work for PBS has garnered much attention, creating songs featuring public television icons Fred RogersBob Ross, Julia Childs, and LeVar Burton.

    My favorite work of his, however, is his ongoing series entitled Symphony of Science. Boswell takes presesntations by notes quantum physicists and astronomers such as Stephen Hawking. The result is a song exploring the mystery and grandeur of our universe. His newest release is a song depicting the awesome mystery and power of black holes. Enjoy.

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  • Great Performances: Simon Fitzpatrick Pe...
    by ★ Owner on June 24, 2014 at 8:34 PM
    1091 Views - 0 Comments

    As a full time musician, I find myself enjoying and appreciating music by artists in all different types of musical genres. There's something to like in every genre (yes, even hip hop) and even if I cannot perform or write for those genres myself, I find myself drawn to the excellence and artistry that many performers put out there.

    Solo guitar performance is a particular favorite of mine. I do not have the deterity to ever achieve much on a guitar myself, but I find myself drawn in by outstanding solo guitar players. The first time I heard a Kaki King solo, I was mezmerized. I felt similarly listening to Tommy Emmanuel, Preston Reed, and even Jake Shiamburuko on ukulele. Here is another to add to that list, only this time on the 6-string electric bass.

    Simon Fitzpatrick is an up-and-coming bassist from England whose solo bass performances have been making the rounds on YouTube. This particular solo is his rendition of the Yes classic "Roundabout", which involves a little use of a looping pedal for some of the ostinati and a whole lot of amazing solo playing. Keep watching to the end - there's an applause break around the 2:45 mark. Such smooth execution - he makes it all look so easy.

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  • Great Performances: John Williams Conduc...
    by ★ Owner on July 5, 2014 at 12:18 PM
    1086 Views - 0 Comments

    I have shared two other versions of The Star-Spangled Banner on my blog before by the combined Academy Choirs from the four branches of the U.S. Armed Services along with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, and the stirring rendition by pop singer Whitney Houston.

    This new version is equally as stirring, yet faithful to the original. It was arranged and conducted by legendary film composer John Williams yesterday, July 4th, 2014 at the National Independence Day Celebration in Washington, D.C. Williams also incorporated service choirs and the herald trumpets for his arrangement, but his harmonic embellishments and dramatic portrayal are practically trademark Williams.

    It is my hope that this performance stays on YouTube, but if it is pulled down, I hope to find another performance of it soon, as I'm sure it will find its place among great versions of our National Anthem.

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  • Great Performances: Geoff Gallante Perfo...
    by ★ Owner on February 25, 2015 at 2:15 PM
    1047 Views - 0 Comments

    I am surprised that it took me this long to hear about trumpet prodigy Geoff Gallante. Close your eyes and listen to the playing of a professional trumpet player who is most likely in his 20's or 30's. Open your eyes and see an 11-year-old boy. This performance from 2012 is impressive, to say the least. Geoff picked up his brother's trumpet at age 4 and has gone on to perform all over the country with pops orchestras, military bands, and jazz ensembles of all kinds. Definitely a name that will be in public prominence in years to come.

    What amazes me about Gallante is not so much his mature sound or his musicianship, but the fact that he has already developed the breath control and muscular flexibility and strength of an adult player. It just goes to show that aptitude married with opportunity can yield amazing results if nurtured early in a child's development.



    This article (c) 2015 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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