The ensemble began as a vocal exercise by a group of freelance session singers working in Paris in the early sixties. The group provided background vocals for such singers as Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf. The Swingle Singers' "Bach's Greatest Hits" album won Grammy awards in 1963 for best choral performance and best new artist.
Founder Ward Swingle describes "Swingle-singing" as the use of the voice as an instrument in a fusion of jazz and classical styles. Forty-five years after founding the original group, he continues as musical advisor to a new generation of singers.
The ensemble's complicated, technically impressive covers range from modern classics of Beatles' compositions to classical music to opera. The group sometimes uses the accompaniment of bass and drums. In the 21st Century, the Swingle Singers continue to explore new and exciting projects including a set of six Bach-inspired commissions and a partnership with the MOMIX modern dance company.
One critic noted "their singing is awesome, their technique impeccable" and described their recently released "Beauty and the Beatbox" cd with guest Shlomo, and featuring vocal arrangements ranging from Beethoven to the Bee Gees, as "a little gem."
Adults tickets are $10 and student tickets are $5. WVU Parkersburg students may purchase special advance tickets for themselves and one guest for $2 each in the business office.
The concert is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, the National Endowment for the Arts, and American Masterpieces initiative, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Additional support is provided by Artsbridge and the WVU Parkersburg Social Justice Committee.