The Swingle Singers


Approach to Bach with the Swingle Singers – with original member Ward Swingle. He says if we can listen to Bach in the morning we lead better lives because of it…

I remember hearing the Swingle Singers a LOT as a kid in the early seventies. Great stuff and some of my favorite all time renditions of Bach and Mozart. Vive la mystere.


J.S.Bach Sinfonia form Partita No.2 for Keyboard, played by the Swingle Singers. Recorded in 1963.


The Swingle Singers are a vocal group formed in 1962 Paris, France with Ward Swingle, Anne Germain, Jeanette Baucomont, and Jean Cussac. Christiane Legrand, the sister of composer Michel Legrand, was the lead soprano in the group. There are a total of 8 members in the group: two sopranos, two altos, two tenors, and two basses.


The group, directed primarily by Ward Swingle (who once belonged to the famed French vocal group Les Double Six) began as session singers mainly doing background vocals for singers like Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf. They did some jazz vocals for Michel Legrand, but when he left for Hollywood to do film scores, they were left with boring parts. Swingle cast about for something interesting to do and fell on Bach’s Well-Tempered Klavier, which led to their hit album, Bach’s Greatest Hits.

They sang with French pop star Etienne Daho on his songs “Timide intimité” and “Soudain” from his 1996 album Eden, and with the Style Council on their song “The Story of Someone’s Shoe” from the 1988 album Confessions of a Pop Group. (Style Council leader Paul Weller claims the song was inspired by the Swingle Singers’ 1967 album with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Place Vendome.)[citation needed]

* First incarnation: French, 1962-1973
* Second incarnation: English, 1973-Present (also under the names “Swingle II”, “The Swingles”, then “The New Swingle Singers”)

Each of the above incarnations included different singers at different times.


The group is now based in London, England. The Swingle Singers are an a cappella group that sometimes uses accompaniment by bass and drums. They produce complicated, technically impressive covers ranging from modern classics (The Beatles) to classical music (Tchaikovsky, Beethoven) to opera (Rossini). Their arrangements are often informed by jazz harmonies and stylings. Other influences included Nat King Cole, various smooth singers and pianists.

The Swingle Singers are also active in classical music. A hit for them was Bach’s “Air on the G String”, recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Luciano Berio wrote his postmodern symphony Sinfonia for eight voices and orchestra in 1968 with them in mind (appearing on the original recording which is now out of print). They also recorded Ben Johnston’s “Ci-Git Satie” and “Visions and Spels”. In 2005, their recording of Bach’s Prelude in F Minor was incorporated into the hit single “They”, by Jem Griffiths; the same piece was also used in the 2006 film The Gigolos. In the same year, their recording of Bach’s Fugue in G Minor (BWV 578) featured in the film Thank You for Smoking.

The group currently comprises the following singers:

* Joanna Goldsmith (Soprano, UK)
* Julie Kench (Soprano, UK)
* Clare Wheeler (Alto, UK)
* Lucy Bailey (Alto, UK)
* Richard Eteson (Tenor, UK)
* Christopher Jay (Tenor, UK)
* Kevin Fox (Bass, Canada)
* Tobias Hug (Bass, Germany)

* Sound Engineer: Hugh Walker (UK)

[edit] Selected Discography

Beauty & the Beatbox (2007) (collaboration with beatbox artist Shlomo)

1. A Fifth of Beethoven
2. Spain (I Can Recall)
3. Dido’s Lament
4. It’s Sand, Man!
5. Adagio in G Minor
6. Bolero
7. Cielito Lindo (Mexican Traditional)
8. Straighten Up & Fly Right
9. Piano Concerto No. 21, 2nd Mvt.
10. Gotcha (Theme from “Starsky & Hutch”)
11. Bachbeat

Going Baroque (2007)

1. Badinerie
2. Aria And Variations: The Harmonious Blacksmith
3. Giga
4. Largo
5. Prelude No. 19 In A Major
6. Preambulum
7. Fugue
8. Allegro
9. Prelude No. 7 In E Flat Major
10. Solfegietto In C Minor
11. Der Fruehling (Spring)
12. Prelude No. 24 In B Minor

Unwrapped (2006)

1. Concerto Grosso
2. In The Bleak Midwinter
3. Christmas Song
4. River
5. Walking In The Air
6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
7. O Tannenbaum
8. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
9. Santa Baby
10. Away In A Manger
11. Carol Of The Drum
12. Amazing Grace
13. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
14. Last Christmas
15. Happy Christmas (War Is Over)
16. Hotaru No Hikari

Dabadaba Swing (2006)

1. So What
2. Surfboard
3. Insensatez
4. Girl From Ipanema
5. Milonga Del Angel
6. Time For Love, A
7. Timeless Place, A
8. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
9. Have You Met Miss Jones?
10. My Funny Valentine
11. Lady Is A Tramp
12. Just One Of Those Things
13. My Foolish Heart
14. All The Things You Are
15. It Don’t Mean A Thing
16. Soul Bossa Nova

American Look (2005)

1. Country Dances
2. When Jesus Wept
3. Negro Spirituals
4. Patriotic Songs
5. He’s Gone Away
6. Saints Fugue
7. Stephen Foster Medley
8. Porgy And Bess Suite

Concerto d’Aranjuez (2004)

1. Romanza Andaluza
2. Adagio
3. Rondalla Aragonesa
4. Tango In D Major
5. Granada
6. Sevilla
7. Romance Espagnole
8. Spanish Tango In A Minor
9. Sonata In D Major
10. Andaluza

Compilation Album (1989)

* “Twofer” compact disc containing the albums Reflections (1985) and Live at Ronnie Scott’s (1987).

Live at Ronnie Scott’s (1987)

1. Route 66
2. Children of the Ghetto
3. Li’l Darlin’
4. Dry Cleaner from Des Moines
5. Mean to Me
6. It’s Alright with Me
7. Moon Over Bourbon Street
8. Boplicity
9. Round Midnight
10. Sweet Nothing
11. Tuxedo Junction

Reflections (as The Swingles) (1985)

1. Overture to the Marriage of Figaro
2. Organ Fugue BWV 578
3. Bist Du Bei Mir
4. Come Live with Me
5. All the Things You Are
6. Oh Johnny!
7. Fascinatin’ Rhythm
8. Just One of Those Things
9. London by Night
10. Country Dances
11. Flight of the Bumble Bee

Back To Bach (196?)

Side 1:

1. Vivace
2. Prelude And Fugue In E Minor
3. Choral
4. Gavotte
5. Prelude And Fugue In C Major

Side 2:

1. Adagio
2. Prelude And Fugue In C Major
3. Prelude For Organ Choral
4. Fugue In E Flat Major

Swingling Telemann (1966)

1. Concerto a Six: Allegro
2. Concerto a Six: Adagio
3. Concerto a Six: Presto
4. Concerto a Six: Adagio
5. Concerto a Six: Allegro
6. Couperin (Fourth Book of Pieces for Harpsichord, 21E Ordre)
7. Gigue (Suite for Strings “La Lyra”)
8. Fugue in D minor
9. Presto (Trio from Sonata in E Major)
10. Larghetto (Concerto in A Major for Hautbois d’Amour and Strings)
11. Coucou (First Book of Pieces for Harpsichord “A Mlle de Soubise”)
12. Presto (Sonata Nº 4 for Flute and Basso Continuo in E minor)
13. Sonata in C minor: Allegro
14. Sonata in C minor: Andante Moderato
15. Sonata in C minor: Vivace

Swinging Mozart (France) / Anyone for Mozart (U.S.) (1965)

1. Variations on Ah! Vous Dirais – Je Maman K265
2. Fugue (from Sonata N 37 in A Major for Guitar and Harpsichord K402)
3. Sonata for Piano N 15 in C Major K545: Allegro
4. Sonata for Piano N 15 in C Major K545: Andante
5. Sonata for Piano N 15 in C Major K545: Allegretto
6. Serenade N 13 in G Major, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K525: Allegro
7. Serenade N 13 in G Major, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K525: Romance
8. Serenade N 13 in G Major, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K525: Menuetto
9. Serenade N 13 in G Major, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K525: Rondo
10. Allegro (from Sonata for Piano N 5 in G Major K283)

Going Baroque (1964)

1. Badinerie (from Ouvertüre H-Moll, BWV 1067)
2. Grobschmied Variations (from Cembalosuite in E-Dur)
3. Gigue (from Cellosuite Nr. 1 C-Dur, BWV 1009)
4. Largo (from Cembalokonzert F-Moll, BWV 1056)
5. Praeludium Nr. 19 A-Dur BWV 864 (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)
6. Praeambulum (from Partita Nr. 5 G-Dur BWV 829)
7. Fuga (from Concerto Op. 3 ‘L’Estro Armonico’ Nr. 11 D-Moll)
8. Allegro (from Concerto Grosso Op. 6 A-Moll)
9. Praeludium Nr. 7 Es-Dur BWV 876 (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
10. Solfegietto C-Moll
11. Fruehling (Spring)
12. Praeludium Nr. 24 H-Moll BWV 893 (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)

Jazz Sébastien Bach (France) / Bach’s Greatest Hits (U.S.) (1963)

Side 1:

1. Fugue in D Minor (from The Art of the Fugue)
2. Prelude for Organ Chorale No 1
3. Aria (from Suite No 3 in D)
4. Prelude No 12 in F Minor (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
5. Bourrée II (from The English Suite No 2)
6. Fugue No 2 in C Minor (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)
7. Fugue No 5 in D (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)

Side 2:

1. Prelude No 9 in E (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
2. Sinfonia (from The Partita No 2)
3. Prelude No 1 in C (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
4. Canon
5. Two Part Invention No 1 in C
6. Fugue No 5 in D (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)


* Contrary to popular belief, the Burt Bacharach-penned song “South American Getaway” from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was not performed by the Swingle Singers, although it was supposed to be.

* They appeared on The Two Ronnies singing The Windmills of Your Mind (which was written by Michel Legrand). They were also the featured performers in the musical section of the fourth series of The Two Ronnies in 1975.

* They were part of the UK’s first human beatbox choir, ‘Shlomo and the Vocal Orchestra’ alongside some of the UK’s premier beatbox artists.

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