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Ward Swingle, Founder of Grammy Award-Winning Swingle Singers, Dead at 87

By Jaime Prisco j.prisco@classicalite.com on Jan 20, 2015 03:07 PM EST

Ward Swingle, founding father of the Grammy Award-winning a cappella group the Swingle Singers, died at 87 Monday, Jan. 19, in is home in England.

The Swingle Singers gained popularity with their unique musical stylings, a blend of a cappella, jazz and classical music. They are especially know for bringing new renditions of classical favorites to audiences that may not have had access to works, such as scat renditions of Bach.

Swingle was born in Mobile, Alabama, where he began taking piano lessons at a young age and would perform concerts for his schoolmates at lunchtime in the cafeteria. He then studied music at the Cincinnati Conservatory, where he won a Fulbright scholarship to continue his musical studies in Paris. It was at the Cincinnati Conservatory where he met his wife, Francoise Demorest, a French-born violinist.

After working for many years in Paris, in 1970 he began the group Swingle II or New Swingle Singers. It was at this point that he began mixing traditional swing music with an array of different jazz renditions, such as baroque and big band.

Today, a contemporary version of the Swingle Singers still exists and is a seven-member group that continues to keep the traditions of Swingle alive. There are 70 alumni of the Swingle Singers.

The group released a statement after Swingle's death:

”Ward was an inspiration to so many in the vocal community and beyond. As an arranger, composer and vocalist he redefined what singers could do, made us hear music in a new way and brought us so much joy. It has always been an immense honor and privilege to perform under his name. Even long after he retired from the group Ward was incredibly supportive of the current Swingles, always excited to hear about our latest projects and encouraging us to take risks. His passing is a huge loss and our thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time. Thank you, Ward, for everything you have given us."

Swingle has lived in Paris for the last 20 years but recently moved to England to be closer to one of his daughters.

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TagsWard Swingle, Swingle Singers, Dead, Grammy award, Grammy Award Swingle Singers

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