Your moment in choirs: Scala & Kolacny Brothers and the LA Ladies Choir
Have you found yourself wondering lately what's going on in the world of choirs? Yes, you were just saying that the other day? Wonderful, we have two to tell you about.
First, there is Scala & Kolacny Brothers, a 60-person Belgian girls' choir getting some traction on the Internet, thanks to the trailer for "The Social Network," due in theaters in October. The basic gist of this movie directed by David Fincher, from what we could suss out vis-à-vis the trailer, is that Mark Zuckerberg starts Facebook to be cool but then somehow blows up the Internet or gets his precious creation taken away from him or something like that.
"Social Network" producer Kevin Spacey has said that the movie will be "funnier than people might expect." The choice of trailer music, sparkling with a certain irreverence, certainly bears that out. Over a progression of images that will surely remind you of every sordid time you found out that your ex was now dating an underfed American Apparel employee, Scala mounts a sweet songbird attack on the Radiohead classic "Creep." It's the right tone, poised between cute-overload, over-stimulus and high-concept, all the flavors that the Internet and Hollywood expertly, sometimes insidiously, traffic in.
Having a girls' choir cover a despondent '90s anti-anthem might be a nifty gimmick, but it's also soothingly pretty and a way to transpose isolation into something ethereal. Started by the classically trained Kolacny brothers, Steven on piano and Stijn conducting, the group claims more than 200 young women on its roster. They performed for the first time in the U.S. last year and will release their first CD and DVD in the U.S., "Circle," sometime this fall. A tentative track list includes covers of Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" and Nirvana's "Lithium."
Closer to home, the Los Angeles Ladies Choir will be celebrating the release of its debut EP, "Sing Joyfully!," on Sunday at Family Bookstore. At their performance at the New Los Angeles Folk Festival last month, the ladies, outfitted in a bounty of lovely vintage frocks, sang Cohen's "Hallelujah," Yoko Ono's "Sister O Sisters" and originals composed by various choir members (such as Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark), often while member Ariana Delawari strummed on a guitar. The group claims some 30-plus singers, including the Sads' Aska Matsumiya; musician Kitty Jensen, who also runs the underground vintage paradise Secret Shop; and singer-performance artist Anna Oxygen.
"Sing Joyfully!," which will be released by L.A. vinyl/cassette label Teenage Teardrops, was produced by Jim Scott, who's lent his engineering/production skills to Wilco, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dolly Parton, among others.
Speaking about the new work, a collection of six songs, five of them originals penned by Stark, Matsumiya and Delawari, Stark said that it's recorded "about as perfectly as you can record anything," but that it captures the choir in its raw, live state, flaws and all.
"It's more the sound of friendship, community and healing energy than it is the sound of a perfectly executed choir," Stark said. "It's like a documentary recording; it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but that's what makes it amazing."
In addition to releasing "Sing Joyfully!," the choir has been busy with the Voice Project, a nonprofit organization that facilitated an exchange between the LA Ladies Choir and the Gulu Women's Choir of Uganda. The choir gave the Ugandans one of Delawari's songs to perform, and in exchange, the Los Angeles singers have been teaching themselves a song from Gulu in the Acholi dialect about leaving the refugee camps and the difficulties of returning home to villages ravaged by Africa's longest-running conflict.
"It really connected with us because they're singing songs about healing, forgiveness and reconciliation in their region," Stark said.
The choir also gravitated to the open concept of musicianship in the Ugandan culture. "They don't have a concept of being a musician or not being a musician," Stark said. "To be human is to be a musician."
The LA Ladies Choir will perform the Gulu Choir song at the Roosevelt Hotel at 11 p.m. tonight. The Family outing will also include a live performance from the group.
-- Margaret Wappler
The Voice Project performance at the Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., 9 p.m. tonight. Release party for LA Ladies Choir at Family Bookstore, 436 N. Fairfax. 5-9 p.m. Sunday.
Photo credit for LA Ladies Choir: Aaron Rose.