Roomful of Teeth to Perform Non-Traditional Vocal Music at MASS MoCA

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - Roomful of Teeth is an eight-voice vocal ensemble that embraces the full spectrum of vocal practices and, through an ongoing commissioning project, develops new compositions. Founded in 2008 by Brad Wells, conductor, singer, and music educator at Williams College, Roomful of Teeth is built on the premise that the membranes that separate one vocal technique or style from another are permeable and that any singer can learn any "non-native" singing language.

The ensemble incorporates an ever-widening circle of singing styles and invites composers to develop new works of vocal music for this new model of vocal ensemble. After a three-week residency at Williams College and MASS MoCA, Roomful of Teeth will perform a work-in-progress concert on Friday, June 26, at 8pm in Club B-10.

Eight classically trained Western singers will embark on a journey to learn the techniques of culturally diverse manners of singing.  Brad Wells calls singing styles "audible fingerprints," the markers of the human Diaspora on the world's original instrument: the voice. The vocal techniques required to create these diverse types of singing can be taught to anyone no matter what their cultural, ethnic and musical background. Wells hopes to "bring the full range of human voice back together for a family reunion" by incorporating and overlapping varied singing techniques from around the world into one ensemble performance. Beyond this residency, Roomful of Teeth's areas of exploration will include theatre and chamber opera, multimedia performance, and community music-making. The group's outreach efforts will include workshops to teach and combine vocal styles and focused symposia with choirs of different age and skill levels in which repertoire, singing styles, and cultural histories are shared.

Roomful of Teeth has a two-part residency. The singers will gather first at Williams College to receive training in three distinct, non-classical vocal techniques by an international field of experts: throat singers from Tuva, belting coaches from New York, and master yodeler Kerry Christensen. In the second and third weeks the project will move to MASS MoCA for work with composers who will create new work with the singers. Three composers, including Judd Greenstein of NOW Ensemble and New Amsterdam Records, and Rinde Eckert, composer and finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in drama, will be commissioned by Roomful of Teeth to create music particularly suited to this wider range of vocal colors. The collective will perform these new compositions at MASS MoCA and plans to record them in the future. Roomful of Teeth will convene regularly thereafter, rehearsing, performing and holding annual residencies, working with an ever-widening circle of teachers and composers and, in the process, forging a new repertoire of vocal music.

Roomful of Teeth founder Bradley Wells has built a thriving choral program at Williams College recognized for its quality of performances and breadth of repertoire. Wells has held conducting positions at Yale University, Trinity College (Hartford, CT), University of California at Berkeley and California State University, Chico. He is in frequent demand as a guest clinician and conductor. Wells has directed choirs of all ages, and his ensembles have performed throughout the U.S., Mexico and Europe. As a singer he has performed and recorded with such ensembles as Paul Hillier's Theatre of Voices, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the California Choral Company. Also an active composer and arranger, Wells holds degrees in music from Yale University, University of Texas at Austin, and Principia College.

Tickets for Roomful of Teeth are $10. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M., closed Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413-662-2111 during Box Office hours or purchased on line at www.massmoca.org.
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'Dark Waters': 'They Were All My Sons'

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
"They were all my sons." — Joe, in Arthur Miller's "All My Sons"
 
Pogo's Walt Kelly capsulized man's inhumanity to man when he coined a cynical variation on U.S. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's 1813 missive to Army General William Henry Harrison, informing, after the victory at Lake Erie, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." Kelly's version, written on the occasion of the infamous McCarthy hearings, and since employed in anti-pollution demonstrations, reads, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
 
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