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Friday, 2 September 2011

Top Ten Vocal Harmony Groups

In no particular order, here's the countdown, followed more info below.

1.  The Swingle Singers
2.  Take 6
3.  London Vocal Project
4.  Lambert, Hendrix and Ross
5.  The Boxettes
6.  New York Voices
7.  BLINQ quartet
8.  Manhatten Transfer
9.  Voxtet
10. Sector7

1. The Swingle Singers
I first heard The Swingle Singers performing on Songs of Praise (whilst channel hopping) a few years ago, where they performed a remarkably accomplished version of Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.  It was outstanding, down to the movements and facial expressions of these terrificly talented singers.  I've yet to see them live, but am sure a great big treat awaits whenever I get the chance.

2. Take 6
Videos of Take 6 went flying round facebook a few years ago when my friends first discovered you could 'share' the amazing things you spotted on YouTube.  I'm amazed at how they do a lot a capella, covering all manor of vocal ranges, and even emulating instruments (bass/trumpet) to add variety.  Some of it gets a bit cheesy for me, reminding me of Boyz II Men or other 'boy bands' that sprung up in the 90s.

3.  London Vocal Project
It was at an LVP gig where I was first inspired to create my own vocal group Sector7 (which you'll notice has also made it onto this list!)  I remember watching Jess Berry performing with her quartet, with the LVP singing harmonies behind her and I thought, this is a sound that I'm inspired by and could make work as a smaller group.  The LVP, directed by the genius that is Pete Churchill, has just got back from a tour of France, and can be heard performing live in London several times over the next few months.  Here's their website:

4. Lambert, Hendrix and Ross

I don't need to say much about these three vocal acrobats who brought the art of vocalise to the forefront of the jazz movement and explored thrilling and impressive vocal harmony.  And they love to scat!

5. The Boxettes

The Boxettes are a London-based a capella girl group, featuring the female world beatbox champion Bellatrix.  Impressive in harmonies, groove and style, this group is a force to be reckoned with.

6. New York Voices
A foursome of singers, plus rhythm section, this group is the closest in kind to my own Sector7.  They have been going for 20 years, and have won a Grammy, so it'd be great to follow somewhere in their footsteps!  Here's their website:

7. BLINQ quartet
The Brit Jazz Fest (a 2-week August festival at Ronnie Scott's) was the setting for the debut of vocal group BLINQ quartet - a combination of some of the UK's top voices: Brendan Reilly (B), Liane Carroll (L), Ian Shaw (I), Natalie Williams (N) and I expect the Q stands for Quartet.  The band also featured Gwilym Simcock on piano, I guess sharing the piano duties with Ian and Liane.  I was unfortunate to miss out on a ticket, so am very much hoping to see them live soon.

8. Manhattan Transfer
Probably my first experience of singing vocal harmony work (apart from being in a chamber choir) was at the North Herts Youth Jazz Orchestra, run by Chris Pyne.  This was a band overrun with flautists (I think there were 6 of us), who all fancied themselves as singers (bringing your flute to rehearsal could have been a condition to singing with the band).  So Chris jumped at the opportunity to bring some vocal harmony charts to the band, including the impossibly fast and difficult 'Four Brothers.'  Watch the video above to see the Manhattan Transfer singing it in style.

9. Voxtet
Clive Dunstall's Voxtet is the closest thing to a vocal big band that you'll come across - with 6 girls, 2 boys and a 7-piece band behind them.  The line-up is superb, with singers including the ex-NYJO vocalist and my teen singing idol Jacqui Hicks, along with my first NYJO vocal coach Emer MacPartland.

10. Sector7
My own band makes it into the top 10 again!  A perk of writing this blog myself.
Sector7 has been described by Ian Shaw as "Possibly the most exciting thing to happen to the London vocal jazz scene" (he said this before he created his own group, Blinq quartet!)
In our 10-month existence, we've released an EP, gigged at some of London's top venues and accumulated an impressive of forthcoming shows.
The video above is a sample of our EP.  You can find us on facebook:, and follow us on Twitter:
For all your other Sector7 needs, please visit the new website:

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