Pella 'Prov by evan feist

Every now and then a gig comes along that is completely in line with your mission statement.

For me, for now, this is the Pella singers.  

They pay me (and many other talented musicians) to get all dressed up and go to fancy party to sing a cappella music.  The fantastic part is that we don't rehearse, we don't have a set plan, and we don't have repertoire.

We simply walk from table to table taking requests and improvising pop arrangements.  

This is exactly what our Organic Arranging class is all about: spontaneously creating well voiced and led arrangements that are appropriate to the style of the piece you want to create.  How do we do it, you ask? Simple.  Flexibility and sensibility.

The Pella singers understand their role in a given piece as well as overall in the ensemble.  Once someone starts singing the lead melody, it is obvious that a baseline, harmonic and rhythmic material are needed in a specific way.  So, one by one, the arrangement starts to fill out by these roles being claimed.  With singers that are comfortable and confident singing any part, it simply comes down to musical acuity and the sense of where we're going based on where we came from.

Since this is not a regular a cappella group, each gig could consist of different members who might not have sung together recently or even know each other.  This makes individual competence and intuition even more important and further proves how valuable "street corner" or organic arranging is.

CHALLENGE: At your next rehearsal, listen to a verse/chorus of a pop song most of your group knows.  Before pressing play give each singer/section a defined role i.e. Jon covers the baseline, Suzie syncopates in the middle of her range, Joan adds color tones, etc. Turn the recording off and see what you've got! 

For an added challenge, give tonal assignments to go with each role: i.e. Jon covers the baseline (mostly roots), Suzie syncopates in the middle of her range (hanging out around the 5th [sol] of each chord), Joan adds color tones (7ths, 9ths, 11th,) , etc

Mele a Hakuwale by evan feist

This site and this work was recently reinvigorated and inspired by 18 singers in Ho'okena on Hawai'i's Kona Coast.  About a week or so ago, I spent 10 days in a literal paradise called Hale Kai improvising, learning, and growing with my Kumu, Rhiannon.

I could literally go on for pages and pages about how much I discovered about music, teaching, and myself as well as share all the fantastic pictures, videos, and songs we shared, but that's not the point of this.

Rhiannon recently put out a book called Vocal River that comes with a deck of improv cards.  A lot of what the Creative Vocal Lab has become is due, in no small part, to Rhiannon, her book, and these cards.  I strongly recommend clicking the link above and at least checking them out.  They are an invaluable tool for any musician, educator, or interested person.


Rhiannon also released an incredibly clever and well thought out album entitled Flight, that allows you to learn and study with her through guided improvisations and prompts that I still use every single day.

Check it out!


PS- here are some Hawaiian translations for those interested:
Mele a Hakuwale - to sing and invent
Kumu - master teacher
Ho'okena - quenched (I've learned that the Hawaiian people take great care when giving a place a name and this one is incredibly accurate.)