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A Cappella Summit joins voices in harmony

Singers November 17, 1997
Web posted at: 4:22 p.m. EST (2122 GMT)

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

SAN RAFAEL, California (CNN) -- If classical music is your true love, the phrase "a cappella" might bring to mind the high, airy voices of the Vienna Boys Choir. If modern music is more your speed, maybe you think of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" songwriter Bobby McFerrin.

The two styles may have different audiences, but they harmonized together at the West Coast A Cappella Summit this weekend.

"When a lot of people think of a cappella music, they think of just choral music or doo-wop or barber shop. But actually, every style of music you'll hear -- jazz, reggae, pop, rock, classical," said Deke Sharon, an a cappella singer and member of the Contemporary A Cappella Society.

In a cappella, a style of music where the voice is the only instrument, singers might sing words without accompaniment, or they might imitate the percussion and horns that they left by the wayside.

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"It's just kind of a magic thing that happens," said Brian Lance of the Blenders. "It's just pure vocals, it's just pure and raw."

Now that the a cappella movement has grown beyond barbershop, audiences are growing as well. The style even has its own record label -- Primarily A Cappella. Don Gooding, the label's founder, said he had about 1,000 customers at the beginning. Five years later, they have about 20,000.

Young singers

A cappella fan Taherera Smith applauded the genre's full range, from the chants of quiet minor melodies to foot-stompers. "It's really caught on over the years, and I only think it's going to grow," she said.

Sharon agreed. "With most instrumental music, people sit back and watch. But with a cappella concerts, everybody's always singing, they're clapping, humming along. That's the wonderful thing with this kind of music is that everybody gets to share in it," he said.

Gooding took a more simple view: "This is the most fun you can have legally while singing."


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