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A cappella (Italian for In The Manner of The Church) music is solo or group vocal or singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato style. In the 19th century a renewed interest in Renaissance polyphony coupled with an ignorance of the fact that vocal parts were often doubled by instrumentalists led to the term coming to mean unaccompanied vocal music. In modern usage, a cappella often refers to an all-vocal group performance of any style, including barbershop, doo wop, and modern pop/rock. Today, a cappella also includes sample/loop "vocal only" productions by producers like Jimmy Spice Curry, Teddy Riley, Wyclef Jean, and other producers.
A cappella music originally was, and still often is, used in religious music, especially church music as well as anasheed and zemirot, and in Latin music. Gregorian chant is an example of a cappella singing, as is the majority of sacred vocal music from the Renaissance. The madrigal, up until its development in the early Baroque into an instrumentally-accompanied form, is also usually in a cappella form. The original music in Judaism and then in early Christianity was a cappella and has continuously existed in both of these related religious communities as well as in Islam.
The polyphony of Christian a cappella music began to develop in Europe around the late 15th century. The early a cappella polyphonies may have had an accompanying instrument, although this instrument would merely double the singers' parts and was not independent. By the 16th century, a cappella polyphony had further developed, but gradually, the cantata began to take a cappella's place. 16th century a cappella polyphony, nonetheless, continued to influence church composers throughout this period and to the present day. Such is seen in the life of Palestrina becoming a major influence on Bach, most notably in the aforementioned Mass in B Minor.
Opposition to instruments in worship
Present-day Christian religious bodies known for conducting their worship services without musical accompaniment include some Presbyterian churches devoted to the regulative principle of worship, Old Regular Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Churches of Christ, the Old German Baptist Brethren, the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church and the Amish and Mennonite. Certain high church services and other musical events in liturgical churches (such as the Roman Catholic Mass and the Lutheran Divine Service) may be a cappella, a practice remaining from apostolic times. Many Mennonites also conduct some or all of their services without instruments. Sacred Harp, a type of religious folk music, is an a cappella style of religious singing, but is more often sung at singing conventions than at church services.
Opponents of musical instruments in the Christian worship believe that they are supported by the New Testament and Church history. The New Testament verses typically referenced are Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12, 13:15; James 5:13, which reveal a command for all Christians to sing. Further study reveals that in the New Testament, when God was worshiped in song, it was performed “a cappella” regardless of the day or setting. Paul singing praises to God in jail (Acts 16:25) and Christians singing when they are happy (James 5:13) are two examples. 1 Cor. 14:15, 26 discusses the worship service of Corinth and textually uses the words speak and sing in ways that cannot include instruments.
There is no reference to instrumental music in the worship of the New Testament or the worship of the church for the first six centuries. That being said, the reason for such absence is highly debated, though several reasons have been put forth throughout church history.[nb 1] The absence of instrumental music in New Testament worship is significant given the abundance of Old Testament references and commands. After several hundred years of Tabernacle worship without instrumental music, King David introduced musical instruments into Temple worship based upon a commandment from God. God commanded who was to sing, who was to play, and what instruments were to be used, as seen in 2 Chronicles 29:25–29.
Unlike the Israelite worship assembly, which was only able to look on during Temple worship as the Levitical Priest sang, played, and offered animal sacrifices, in the New Testament, all Christians are commanded to sing praises to God. This leaves those opposed to instrumental music in worship with the understanding that if God wanted instrumental music in New Testament worship, he would have commanded not just singing, but singing and playing like he did in the Old Testament. Though God commanded instruments to be used in Temple worship, and the daily life of Israel, the first recorded example of a musical instrument in Christian worship was an organ introduced by Pope Vitalian into a cathedral in Rome around 670. [nb 2] Thus, over time, the expression a cappella (Latin for "from/like the chapel") came to mean exclusively vocal music in contradistinction to the spreading use of the organ in cathedrals.
Unfortunately, instruments have divided Christendom since their introduction into worship. They were considered a Catholic innovation, not widely practiced until the 18th century, and were opposed vigorously in worship by the majority of Protestant Reformers, including Martin Luther (1483–1546), John Calvin (1509–1564), John Wesley (1703–1791), and Alexander Campbell (1788–1866). The fact that Christendom has periodically grafted instrumental music into the worship service probably obscures, for contemporary adherents, the long, general and conscientious teaching of a cappella. In Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian, for example, the heroine, Jeanie Deans, a Scottish Presbyterian, writes to her father about the church situation she has found in England (bold added):
Acceptance of instruments in worship
An alternate viewpoint is that limiting praise to the unaccompanied chant of the early church is not commanded in scripture, and that the church in any age has been free to offer its songs with or without musical instruments:
New Testament vocabulary of Christian praise is inclusive of instruments.
Since the New Testament never counters this instrumental language with any negative judgment on instruments, opposition to instruments instead comes from an interpretation of history. It is striking that there is no written opposition to musical instruments in any setting in the 1st century and a half of the church (including scripture). Toward the end of the 2nd century, however, Christians began condemning the actual instruments themselves. Those who oppose instruments today believe that emerging opposition of these Church Fathers demonstrates a better understanding of God's desire, but there are significant differences between the teachings of the Church Fathers and Christian opposition to instruments today.
Since “a cappella” singing brought a new polyphony with instrumental accompaniment, it is not surprising that Protestant reformers who opposed the instruments (such as Calvin and Zwingli) also opposed the polyphony. While Zwingli was burning organs in Switzerland – Luther called him a fanatic – the Church of England was burning books of polyphony.
While services in the Temple in Jerusalem included musical instruments (2 Chronicles 29:25-27), traditional Jewish religious services in the Synagogue, both before and after the destruction of the Temple, did not include musical instruments  given the practice of scriptural cantillation. The use of musical instruments is traditionally forbidden on the Sabbath out of concern that players would be tempted to repair their instruments, which is forbidden on those days. (This prohibition has been relaxed in many Reform and some Conservative congregations.) Similarly, when Jewish families and larger groups sing traditional Sabbath songs known as zemerot outside the context of formal religious services, they usually do so a cappella, and Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations on the Sabbath sometimes feature entertainment by a cappella ensembles. During the Three Weeks use of musical instruments is traditionally prohibited. Many Jews consider a portion of the 49-day period of the counting of the omer between Passover and Shavuot to be a time of semi-mourning and instrumental music is not allowed during that time. This has led to a tradition of a cappella singing sometimes known as sefirah music.
The popularization of the Jewish chant may be found in the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo, born 20 BCE. Weaving together Jewish and Greek thought, Philo promoted praise without instruments, and taught that "silent singing" (without even vocal chords) was better still. So strong was his influence that the Jewish sect of the Pharisees even came to oppose the temple instruments. This view parted with the Jewish scriptures, where Israel offered praise with instruments by God's own command (e.g.: 2 Chronicles 29:25). The shofar or keren (horn) is the only temple instrument still being used today in the synagogue, and it is only used from Rosh Chodesh Elul through the end of Yom Kippur. The shofar is used by itself, without any vocal accompaniment, and is limited to a very strictly defined set of sounds and specific places in the synagogue service.
In the United States
Peter Christian Lutkin, Dean of the Northwestern University School of Music, helped popularize a cappella music in the United States by founding the Northwestern A Cappella Choir in 1906. The A Cappella Choir was "the first permanent organization of its kind in America."
A strong and prominent a cappella tradition was begun in the midwest part of the United States in 1911 by F. Melius Christiansen, a music faculty member at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. The St. Olaf College Choir was established as an outgrowth of the local St. John's Lutheran Church, where Christiansen was organist and the choir was composed at least partially of students from the nearby St. Olaf campus. The success of the ensemble was emulated by other regional conductors, and a rich tradition of a cappella choral music was born in the region at colleges like Concordia College (Moorhead, Minnesota), Augustana College (Rock Island, Illinois), Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa), Luther College (Decorah, Iowa), Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, Minnesota), Augustana College (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), and Augsburg College (Minneapolis, Minnesota). The choirs typically range from 40 to 80 singers and are recognized for their efforts to perfect blend, intonation, phrasing and pitch in a large choral setting.
Major movements in modern a cappella over the past century include Barbershop and doo wop. The Barbershop Harmony Society, Sweet Adelines International, and Harmony Inc. host educational events including Harmony University, Directors University, and the International Educational Symposium, and international contests and conventions, recognizing international champion choruses and quartets.
In the 1950s several recording groups, notably The Hi-Los and the Four Freshmen, introduced complex jazz harmonies to a cappella performances. The King's Singers are credited with promoting interest in small-group a cappella performances in the 1960s. In 1983 an a cappella group known as The Flying Pickets had a Christmas 'number one' in the UK with a cover of Yazoo's (known in the US as Yaz) "Only You". A cappella music attained renewed prominence from the late 1980s onward, spurred by the success of Top 40 recordings by artists such as The Manhattan Transfer, but it was The Persuasions who saved the dying art and opened the door for such artists as Bobby McFerrin, Huey Lewis and the News, All-4-One, The Nylons, Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men.
In 2005, Bo Bice performed an a cappella version of "In A Dream" by Badlands when he was one of three contestants remaining on season 4 of American Idol. The show's producers warned him that it was a risky move, but his performance got great reviews from the judges and Bice advanced to the finals.
Contemporary a cappella includes many vocal groups and bands who add vocal percussion or beatboxing to create a pop/rock sound, in some cases very similar to bands with instruments. One such group is Rockapella. There also remains a strong a cappella presence within Christian music, as some denominations purposefully do not use instruments during worship. Examples of such groups are Take 6, Glad and Acappella. Arrangements of popular music for small a cappella ensembles typically include one voice singing the lead melody, one singing a rhythmic bass line, and the remaining voices contributing chordal or polyphonic accompaniment.
A cappella can also describe the practice of using just the vocal track(s) from a multitrack, instrumental recording to be remixed or put onto vinyl records for DJs. Artists sometimes release the vocal tracks of their popular songs so that fans can remix them. One such example is the a cappella release of Jay-Z's Black Album, which Danger Mouse mixed with The Beatles' White Album to create The Grey Album.
A cappella's growth is not limited to live performance, with hundreds of recorded a cappella albums produced over the past decade. As of December 2006, the Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB) had reviewed over 660 a cappella albums since 1994, and its popular discussion forum had over 900 users and 19,000 articles.
A cappella exists in Japan, with groups such as the Gospellers performing. In USA in July 1943, as a result of the American Federation of Musicians boycott of US recording studios, the a cappella vocal group The Song Spinners had a best-seller with "Comin' In On A Wing And A Prayer". A group named Dong Bang Shin Ki (DBSK) or Tong Vfang Xien Qi (TVXQ) was formed in 2006 in Korea.
Recording artist Brandy Norwood included a song on her 2008 album Human titled "A Capella (Something's Missing)". Brandy uses her voice for background music in this song, showing her capabilities of using her voice as an instrument. No instruments are used, except for maybe an electric guitar, though fans are claiming it to be her synthesized voice.
In 2010, American dance recording artist Kelis released a song called "Acapella" as the first single from her album Flesh Tone. The song is not actually performed a cappella, but rather, explains that before her son was born, her life was without music.
Barbershop music is one of the few uniquely American art forms. The earliest reports of this style of a cappella music involved African Americans. The earliest documented quartets all began in barbershops. In 1938, the first formal men's barbershop organization was formed, known as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A), and in 2004 rebranded itself and officially changed its public name to the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS). Today the BHS has over 30,000 members in 800 chapters across the United States, and the barbershop style has spread around the world with organizations in many other countries. The Barbershop Harmony Society provides a highly organized competition structure for a cappella quartets and choruses singing in the barbershop style.
In 1945, the first formal women's barbershop organization, Sweet Adelines, was formed. In 1953 Sweet Adelines became an international organization, although it didn't change its name to Sweet Adelines International until 1991. The membership of nearly 25,000 women, all singing in English, includes choruses in most of the fifty United States as well as in Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, Wales and the Netherlands. Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the organization encompasses more than 1,200 registered quartets and 600 choruses.
In 1959, a second women's barbershop organization started as a break off from Sweet Adelines due to ideological differences. Based on democratic principles which continue to this day, Harmony, Inc. is smaller than its counterpart, but has an atmosphere of friendship and competition. With about 2,500 members in the United States and Canada, Harmony, Inc. uses the same rules in contest that the Barbershop Harmony Society uses. Harmony, Inc. is registered in Providence, Rhode Island.
A list of European a cappella groups:
It is not clear exactly where collegiate a cappella began. The Rensselyrics of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (formerly known as the RPI Glee Club), established in 1873 is perhaps the oldest known collegiate a cappella group. However the longest continuously-singing group is probably The Whiffenpoofs of Yale University, which was formed in 1909 and once included Cole Porter as a member. Collegiate a cappella groups grew throughout the 20th century. Some renowned, notable historical groups formed along the way include Cornell University's Cayuga's Waiters (1949), the Columbia Kingsmen (1949) and the University of Rochester YellowJackets (1956). Women's a cappella groups followed shortly, frequently as a parody of the men's groups: the Smiffenpoofs of Smith College (1936), The Shwiffs of Connecticut College (The She-Whiffenpoofs, 1944), and The Chattertocks of Brown University (1951). The numbers of these groups exploded beginning in the 1990s, fueled in part by a change in style popularized by the Beelzebubs of Tufts University and the Boston University Dear Abbeys. The new style used voices to emulate modern rock instruments, including vocal percussion/"beatboxing". Some larger universities now have a dozen groups or more and the total number of college groups grew from 250 circa 1990 to over 1,000 now. The groups often join one another in on-campus concerts, such as the Georgetown Chimes' Cherry Tree Massacre, a 3-weekend a cappella festival held each February since 1975, where over a hundred collegiate groups have appeared, as well as International Quartet Champions The Boston Common and the contemporary commercial a cappella group Rockapella. Co-ed groups have produced many up-and-coming artists including solo musician John Legend, an alumnus of the Counterparts at the University of Pennsylvania, Sara Bareilles, formerly of Awaken a cappella at University of California, Los Angeles, and Siddhartha Khosla, lead singer of the band Goldspot, an alumnus of both Off the Beat and Penn Masala at the University of Pennsylvania.
A cappella is gaining popularity among South Asian youth with the emergence of primarily Hindi-English College groups. Examples of prominent groups include Penn Masala in the University of Pennsylvania, Chai-Town from the University of Illinois, Dil Se from UC Berkeley, Suno from Boston University, Swaram from Texas A&M University, and Raagapella in Stanford. All-female groups are less common, but still exist. Examples of all-female groups are Illini Chandani, from the University of Illinois, Awaaz, from Wellesley College and Kal Ki Awaaz from UC Berkeley. Ektaal, founded in 1999 within the University of Virginia, recently went co-ed in 2006, but prior to that, was an all-female group. While up and coming all-male groups are becoming a rarity among Desi a cappella groups, Carnegie Mellon University's Deewane (started in 2007) and Dartmouth College's Taal are hoping to reverse that trend. Co-ed South Asian a cappella groups are also gaining popularity like Northwestern University's Brown Sugar, Georgia Institute of Technology's Taal Tadka, Case Western's Dhamakapella, Johns Hopkins Kranti, University of Maryland Anokha, Drexel Shor, UCSD Sur Taal, GWU Geet, UCLA Naya Zamaana, Michigan's Maize Mirchi, Rutgers R.A.A.G., Columbia Sur, and USC Asli Baat.
These groups have attained significant critical acclaim with their distinct style of mixing songs and applying a cappella to styles of different cultures. Penn Masala has songs in Hindi, Arabic, English, Punjabi and Gujarati, with lyrics from different languages in the same song. Currently there are few South Asian a cappella competitions in the nation. Gathe Raho, the largest South Asian a cappella competition in the midwest, as well as the nation, takes place annually at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Gathe Raho has featured many top level teams throughout the nation, with UC Berkeley Dil Se and Maize Mirchi from Michigan placing 1st and 2nd, respectively in 2009. Gathe Raho 2010 was held on April 10, 2010, where Brown Sugar from Northwestern, Maize Mirchi from Michigan, and Chai-Town from the University of Illinois placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, respectively. Another competition takes place annually at the University of California, Berkeley, known as "Anahat". Anahat 2009 was won by Asli Baat from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. In 2009, Johns Hopkins Kranti plans to break tradition and host a Hindi A Cappella Charity Showcase with the Association for India's Development on the East Coast for all Hindi A Cappella groups on the other side of the country.[dated info]
Increased interest in modern a cappella (particularly collegiate a cappella) can be seen in the growth of awards such as the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (overseen by the Contemporary A Cappella Society) and competitions such as the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella for college groups and the Harmony Sweepstakes for all groups. In December 2009, a new television competition series called The Sing-Off aired on NBC. The show featured eight a cappella groups from the United States and Puerto Rico vying for the prize of $100,000 and a recording contract with Epic Records/Sony Music. The show was judged by Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and Nicole Scherzinger and was won by an all-male group from Puerto Rico called Nota.
In addition to singing words, some a cappella singers also emulate instrumentation by reproducing the melody with their vocal cords. One of the first 20th century practitioners of this method was the Russian-Jewish composer Joseph Achron in his 1925 choral work, "Dance of Salome", Op. 61. Another was The Mills Brothers whose early recordings of the 1930s clearly stated on the label that all instrumentation was done vocally. More recently, "Twilight Zone" by 2 Unlimited was sung a cappella to the instrumentation on the comedy television series Tompkins Square. Another famous example of emulating instrumentation instead of singing the words is the theme song for The New Addams Family series on Fox Family Channel (now ABC Family). Groups such as Vocal Sampling and (Undivided) emulate Latin rhythms a cappella. In the 1960s, the Swingle Singers used their voices to emulate musical instruments to Baroque and Classical music. Vocal artist Bobby McFerrin is famous for his instrumental emulation.
The Swingle Singers used nonsense words to sound like instruments, but have been known to produce non-verbal versions of musical instruments. Like the other groups, examples of their music can be found on YouTube. Beatboxing is a form of a cappella music popular in the hip-hop community, where rap is often performed a cappella also. Petra Haden used a four-track recorder to produce an a cappella version of The Who Sell Out including the instruments and fake advertisements on her album Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out in 2005. Haden has also released a cappella versions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller". In 2009, Toyota commissioned Haden to perform three songs for television commercials for the third-generation Toyota Prius, including an a cappella version of the Bellamy Brothers 1970s song "Let Your Love Flow".
Christian rock group Relient K recorded the song "Plead the Fifth" a cappella on its album Five Score and Seven Years Ago. The group recorded lead singer Matt Thiessen making drum noises and played them with electronic drums to make the song. Even synthesizer sounds imitate the a cappella sound, which is demonstrated by the Swedish vocal ensemble Visa Röster and its computer music, hymns and jazz.
The German metal band van Canto uses vocal noises to imitate guitars on covers of well-known rock and metal songs (such as "Master of Puppets" by Metallica) as well as original compositions. Although they are generally classified as a cappella metal, the band also includes a drummer, and use amplifiers on some songs to distort the voice to sound more like a real guitar.
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Beethoven, L. van
Symphony No. 7 in A major
Toccata and Fugue in d minor
Canon in D
Mary Angelina Mei