Perpetuum Jazzile making beautiful noise on new U.S. tour
BY Miriam DI Nunzio Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org March 13, 2013 6:42PM
The Slovenian a cappella troupe Perpetuum Jazzile headlines the Rialto Square Theatre on March 20. | Photo by Irena Herak
♦ 7:30 p.m. March 20
♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 15 E. Van Buren, Joliet
♦ Tickets, $35-$50
♦ (815) 726-6600;
So you think you know your a cappella?
Perpetuum Jazzile is ready to up-end all your pre-conceived notions about this vocal group-based music form.
The world-renowned jazz/pop Slovenian chorus, is known for its 50 member voices — and its unique “vocal orchestra” through which they create a variety of musical instruments, everything from drums to strings to guitars, by using choreographed hand/body movements. Everything from Slovenian and Balkan folk music to ’80s pop and classic rock and Lady Gaga is part of their harmonious, physical repertoire.
Perpetuum Jazzile (pronounced “jazzilay”) started out in 1983 as the Gaudeamus Chamber Choir. While the troupe enjoyed substantial success in Europe, it was their 2009 YouTube video, a cover of Toto’s “Africa,” that propelled them into the international spotlight in a big way. In 2011, new artistic director/arranger/choir director Peder Karlsson, himself a veteran of the five-piece a cappella group, took over choir’s directorship.
“Going from [a group] of 5 to [this larger group] has been very interesting,” Karlsson said, riding the Jazzile tour bus en route to a performance in Washington, D.C. “Transfering knowledge from a small group to a big group was very interesting. But they learned from me and I learned from them.”
The “large group” likes to refer to itself as “an extra large vocal group” rather than a choir, Karlsson said. Once you hear the sounds that the 50-member (only 30 are featured on the current U.S. tour) international troupe can make using only their voices and rhythmically choreographed hand movements, the resulting music is indeed extra larger than life.
“The music we do, HAS to be on the beat,” Karlsson explained. “About half the singers in group can read music very well and the other half can’t read any at all. So a small group records the parts, then we make individual mixes for each section of the choir [the sopranos, altos, bassos etc.]. Then we work with the music. The first thing we must get down is the rhythm. Then it’s on to the appropriate voice sounds. Then we work on final details. We have 9 vocal parts to each song, so the arrangements begin with a 9-part score.”
The voices of the choir must not only produce vocals, but they must vocalize musical instruments, most often the bass and drums, which are present in nearly every song they peform. “We also can recreate horns, strings, guitars and those sorts of instruments,” Karlsson said. “I don’t see really trying to recreate sounds like real saxophones or trumpets; it’s more like making an impression of those instruments. But basically you can do any instrument with the voice. You check out the actual properties being produced by the original instrument and then you find the combination of syllables and so for to recreate that instrument’s sound.”
While improvisation is easier with smaller a cappella groups, Karlsson said the Jazzile choir is no stranger to improvisation.
“With so many people in a group they tend to want to get more precise instruction on how a phrase should be interpreted,” he said. “The first thing I did wtih the group is check out to what extent they had the ability to improvise different timbre changes and dynamic changes, for example. That’s how I see a cappella music succeeding. If you reproduce the same music over and over again it becomes un-musical.”
While the group’s repertoire focuses mostly Slovenian and Balkan folk music, as well as classic chorale numbers, pop and straightforward rock, Karlsson is expanding the genres, as their world tours ecompass much more of the globe.
“When I joined the group, they had a big emphasis on pop music from the ’80s, such as ABBA, Toto, Earth, Wind and Fire, George Benson. And I coould see why; it’s melodic and harmonically interesting music. Now they have much more jazz and some Latin music that I have incorporated. Our most recent YouTube video is Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone.’ So we are doing a wider variety of music now, including country music. Our latest song is one by Tammy Wynette. It will be a surprise for our fans.”