Choirs and Pop Music

Apr 26, 2012

For many of us singing in school or church choir was our first experience making music. By high school we had been assigned to our respective risers. BASS-- for the boys who had matured early. These tended to be football players, many with facial hair in the 9th grade. TENOR-- for those boys who were still waiting for the big change. Some tenors had voices higher than the ALTOS, who were generally more sensitive and bookish than the haughty SOPRANOS, who were generally acknowledged to be the loudest and therefore most important.

 But who would have guessed that a humble school choir could elevate a pop song to the top of the charts? Ray Stevens employed Nashville’s Oak Hill Elementary School chorus to sing on his 1970 smash hit “Everything is Beautiful”.

And Pink Floyd’s The Wall would be nothing without the school kids’ spooky chorus on “Another Brick in the Wall”. Those kids were students at London’s Islington Green School, and they are all receiving royalties from Floyd’s international hit. “We don’t need no education…” 

We always thought that the Swingle Singers was a made up name, perhaps a mix of “swing” and “jingle”, but it turns out Ward Swingle is the man who put together the popular group in the mid-60’s, cranking out many catchy vocal-ese hits. The Swingles are still together today, with a new cast. Here they are doing a mini-flash mob thing on the London Tube: 

The Hallelujah Chorus is one of the most powerful and best known pieces of choral music, and it’s easy to sing along with. Here’s most of the town of Quinhagak, Alaska providing cue cards for you to follow: