Ward Swingle


Born: September 21, 1927; Mobile, AL  
The sounds of jazz floating down from New Orleans and other ports inspired Ward Swingle as he was growing up in Mobile, and by the time he had graduated from high school he was already experienced as a big band piano player. He graduated summa cum laude from the Cincinnati Conservatory, then studied piano with Walter Gieseking in France after World War II. He was in the right place at the right time. A nightclub and studio vocalist named Mimi Read more Perrin tapped Swingle to be a member of her new group, Les Doubles Six of Paris. The French vocal group experimented with studio technology as well as scat singing, with each member creating an overdubbed vocal for a total of a dozen swinging vocal eggs. This ambitious and innovative concept was the musical equivalent of a completed football pass, because with this ball in his hands Swingle started a run of touchdown projects involving intricate vocal arrangements of complicated music. When he decided to go on his own, one of the concepts Swingle tried was to take the Double Six approach and apply it to the music of Bach. He formed such an ensemble in France and then London, calling the group the Swingle Singers. The group went on to win five Grammy awards. From the London base in the early '70s he expanded the repertoire of the group to include avant-garde works as well as pieces by other classical composers. After a decade of intense activity with this group, Swingle returned to America in 1984 and stepped into a new role as the group's musical advisor, concentrating on guest conducting, specialized workshops, and publishing his own arrangements. In 2000 the Swingle Singers celebrated their 37th year, including concerts throughout Europe. Swingle is considered a pioneer in the realm of vocal techniques and choral arrangements, a reputation that has led to invitations to conduct the Stockholm Choir and the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Dale Warland Singers, the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir, the BBC Northern Singers and the MENC National Honors Choir, the latter a special performance at Kennedy Center. In the '90s Swingle focused his activities on the academic arena, setting up extended seminars and workshops at universities throughout North America and Europe. He moved back to France with his wife in 1994, where he continued to work as an arranger and in-demand guest conductor. In 1999 he published the book Swingle Singing in which he recounts the saga of his various groups and examines the techniques he developed, complete with illustrations and excerpted notation from his arrangements and compositions. Read less

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