Acapella: A Moment in Time

Back in the early 90s, those of us in my crowd (read:  Christian music geeks) got into acapella music. What is acapella music?  Glad you asked. It’s music without instrumental accompaniment. In other words, it’s a true solo. And, it’s also a real word, despite over-active WordPress spellcheck trying to correct it to “scapula”.

Pursuing my degree as a flutist, I didn’t encounter many of these kinds of pieces. There’s this one. Notice the “Syrinx for solo flute” nomenclature.

This particular performance employs a lot of rubato, which is:  the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace. In Italian, it’s literally “stolen time”. Blame it on Chopin.

Yes, I played this piece. How could I not? The repertoire of pure solo flute pieces is pretty slim. Norm, my instructor, couldn’t wait for someone besides him to play it. Anyway, it’s only 2 pages long. I’d take that over a 10-page concerto any day. Now you want to know if I waved my instrument all over the place like this guy, looking like I choreographed some freaky stationary interpretive dance? Did I employ this much rubato (playing with the song’s tempo, literally “stolen time”)? Nope to both. I didn’t really enjoy the showmanship. I was about the music. Period.

But back to acapella. Acapella Vocal Band came out with an album. The ability of the human voice to create all sorts of sounds fascinated us. Some other, more skilled groups included these guys:

Oh, and can’t forget these gentlemen:

The interest in this particular trend in music dropped off somewhere in the later 90s. The black gospel influence surged in popularity. Next, rap took center stage. Then, electronica. The music my son enjoys usually has no vocals. Enter dubstep and trap music. Machines take center stage. I find entirely too predictable, myself. But I’m not 16, either. Warning:  I did not listen to all 35 minutes. Might be profanity in the mix.

Cultural tastes in music change over time. Recently, acapella has reinvented itself. It got back in the spotlight again. It’s been highlighted on TV shows like “The Sing-Off” and others. We have a current favorite group:

I’m constantly amazed at the gift of music and the variations it takes. The ability to inspire and create beauty using only the human voice especially continues to astonish. Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

P.S. Here’s one more, a current favorite of Zac’s: 










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