An a capella double double at Gaia Java on Friday

Northern Stars Barbershop Chorus and ‘Cuppa Joe’ Vocal Jazz Quartet both play at Gaia Java on Friday, February 27.

So as you may or may not know, the owners of Gaia Java both met singing in an a cappella group (and have on rare occasions performed together in the shop!) As a result we have a very sympathetic ear for other ensembles who enjoy creating chords and songs using only their voices.

Of course that genre has been around in its broadest sense ever since humans started to sing, which according to my song books was around 1200 AD. Since it was a preferred mode of music generation for impecunious churches, the unaccompanied groups would sing in the chapels, whence the name a cappella. Then there was a big gap for centuries where nobody sang at all, until it restarted in the USA as a tributary of the music created by the slaves way back before they had walkmans to entertain themselves while picking cotton.

One strand of the development ended up happening literally in barbershops. Since there were still no radios for background music, the waiting customers would entertain themselves by making 4-part harmony, and choreography that works well with a sharp razor and a foamy shaving brush. Another direction happened in a lot of coffee houses and went more towards the jazz movement that was progressing instrumentally at the same time, giving rise to groups like ‘The Mills Brothers’ and ‘The Ink Spots’. This Friday we have great examples of both kinds of a cappella harmony for you to listen to and enjoy. The main thing is that with this music, the singers enjoy it as well – so you might as well share!

Northern Stars Chorus
Northern Stars Chorus

The Northern Stars Chorus have sung in the shop several times before, and the response to their clever harmonies and stage presence was very positive, so we are delighted that Stuart MacMartin is bringing them in again! They are based in Nepean, but come from all around the region, and present a great mix of happy, sad, comedic, and musically interesting songs that explore the barbershop genre. They don’t look like barbers (but they all have nice smiles….). You may have noticed there are more than four of them, so they are not technically a barbershop quartet, although for many of their songs they ascribe to the four-part harmony rules of SPEBSQSA. (SPEBSQSA used to be the name of the barbershop society founded in 1938, but suddenly in 2004 they realised that it is tricky to pronounce with your mouth full of cappuccino, so they changed the name to The Barbershop Harmony Society.) The Northern Stars Chorus have a webpage at:

Cuppa Joe
Cuppa Joe

Tenor John Wilson always enjoyed listening to the great jazz-tinged 4-voice harmonies of Manhattan Transfer, and discovered that he shares that with his friends Valerie Bouillant (soprano), Deanna Rozon (alto, and herself a barbershop refugee!) and their newly-acquired baritone Peter Feldman. Drawing on one of the songs made famous by first the Ink Spots and then a couple of generations later by Manhattan Transfer, they call their group ‘Cuppa Joe’, and will probably sing the signature tune ‘Java Jive’ during their set on Friday. Their repertoire rolls smoothly from jazz tunes to what we might call pop (although the ‘pop’ of the 30s and 40s is now the jazz of today – such are the blurred lines of music classification). So come along expecting to hear tunes made famous by influences as varied as Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, James Taylor and The Beatles!

Cuppa Joe has had the good fortune to do master classes with the amazing New York Voices, and they currently perform at a range of venues around the Ottawa region, most of which serve coffee in some form or other!!


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