Pieces of eight

The Vocal Octet will join voices with the Latino American Folklore Ensemble in the Vocal & Beats series.

Vocal Octet (photo credit: Courtesy)
Vocal Octet
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The next installment of the Vocal & Beats series offers an exciting mix of Latin American colors, rhythms and emotions. Series artistic director percussionist Chen Zimbalista has combined the richly layered singing textures of the Vocal Octet ensemble with the Latino American Folklore Ensemble, which the publicity blurb describes as “an exciting and multi-hued evening of South American music and samba and salsa rhythms.”
Vocal Octet is one of the most durable vocal outfits in the country and has been performing and recording with a wide range of material and instrumental ensembles since 1985. Tenor Ron Gang , who has been with the octet since 1986, says the group has managed to maintain a great degree of personal and musical stability throughout.
“We have had some changes in the lineup over the years, but they have been very gradual,” notes Gang, who serves as the octet’s artistic director. “We perform several programs, including South American music, with Misa Criolla.”
The ever-popular Ariel Ramirez composition is the centerpiece of next week’s concerts. It is a work with which both ensembles are highly familiar, having performed it individually and jointly several times over the years.
“We have a Jewish music program and a show based on Beatles songs,” continues Gang. “We have performed this South American program with the Latino American Folklore Ensemble dozens of times, so we are very comfortable with each other.”
Gang says the current program always goes down well with audiences. “It is South American folklore music with all the colors you expect. It is always popular, however many times the audience hears it and however many times we perform it.”
Next week’s concerts also feature Ramirez’s Navidad Nuestra and a Hebrew version of his Alfonsina and the Sea.
Over the years Vocal Octet has specialized in a capella renditions of a wide range of material, so when it comes to sharing the stage with instrumental outfits, certain considerations have to be taken into account.
“We prefer performing without any instrumental accompaniment, but in the case of next week’s concerts that isn’t such a problem, as there are only four players in the instrumental ensemble,” explains Gang. “That isn’t the case when we perform will a full orchestra. We often like to imitate instrumental sounds with our voices, but that comes through less when there are a lot of instrumentalists involved. But when we work with an instrumental ensemble of any size, our main aim is to maintain the unique Vocal Octet a capella sound. However, we also don’t want the instrumentalists performing with us to become a sort of accompanying ensemble. We want to allow them to also produce their best and to express their own approach to the music and also as an integral part of what we do. For me that’s the challenge of any cooperation, especially this concert with Misa Criolla.”
The Vocal Octet lineup offers the group numerous permutations.
There are four female and four male singers, two each in the soprano, alto, tenor and bass categories. Besides its main repertoires, the group has also provided the Hebrew choral parts of a number of box-office hit dubbed animation movies here, such as The Lion King, Pocahontas and Beauty and the Beast.
Gang says that the vocal mix is enriched by the different musical background that each member brings with himself or herself. “We have singers who come from light music or from jazz. I grew up with The Beatles and pop music of the 1970s and 1980s and classical music like Mozart works, so we each bring something with us besides our musical skills. I am sure that the Latin American concerts will be colorful and fun.”
The four-member ensemble and the a capella octet will perform at Einan Hall in Modi’in on December 20 (8:30 p.m.); Tel Aviv Museum of Art on December 22 (9 p.m.); and Abba Hushi House in Haifa on December 24 (9 p.m.). For tickets: (03) 573-3001