Artist interview: The Swingle Singers

Grammy award-winning a capella group the Swingle Singers come to Town Hall on Monday 10 December to perform their own unique brand of vocal music.

Formed in 1963, the group are just about to celebrate their 50th anniversary and the current line-up features seven singers trained in a variety of styles from opera to jazz to pop. Ahead of their appearance here in Birmingham we caught up with tenor Oli Griffiths

How has 2012 been for you, Oli, any particular highlights?

2012 has been busy! We’ve recorded an album that is being mixed as we speak – we’re really excited about it, so look out for it next year. We’ve also just started recording a 50th anniversary project that’s going to be something quite different to what you might expect from a swingle album… Touring this year has been great too, with some excellent tours in north America and throughout Europe. We’re spending Christmas in Asia this year, so we’re all looking forward to some time in the sun!

What music have you been listening to lately? Is there anything you can recommend?

I’ve been listening to a lot of The Staves recently. Their debut album Dead, Born and Grown is so beautiful. Their harmonies are so rich; there is something so amazing about the sound created when siblings sing together!

What can we expect from your upcoming show at Town Hall?

You can expect a pretty diverse programme, featuring some festive classics along with some favourites from our current show and our Swingle history.

The group perform a capella – do you find it daunting standing up on stage without any instruments?

We’re pretty used to it! It’s actually a lot of fun, as there is a real sense that we are creating something unique each time we perform. The human voice is so variable, so each show is different, even with songs we have sung a thousand times.

The Swingles back-catalogue is very diverse – including covers of pieces by Joni Mitchell, Bach and Luciano Berio amongst others. Are there any pieces that you’d like the group to perform that you haven’t already?

We’ve started writing original songs recently, which is something the group hasn’t done for about 20 years. It’s pretty exciting to sing something that has been written specifically for the voices on stage, and playing to their strengths.

Next year sees the 50th anniversary of the group – any big celebrations planned?

As I already mentioned, we are just starting a big recording project to mark the 50th, and we have big plans for it, so watch this space!

And finally, as it’s nearly Christmas, what is your favourite festive song?

My favourite Christmas song, and not just because we sing a version of it, is O come, O come, Emmanuel . I like how evocative it is. It creates such an atmosphere, and reminds me of the midnight services I used to go to growing up, and the sense of expectation and wonder that surrounds Christmas.

Swingle Singers: Yule Songs
7.30pm Monday 10 December
Town Hall Birmingham

Swingle Singers official site